You are sending a link to... They have a choice. Either they can stay there and live with the Bengalis, or they can go.”
The BBC ran a very interesting series last month called The Secret History of our Streets. The film makers started with Charles Booth’s 17 volumes Life and Labour of the People of London published 1889 – 1903 and selected six London streets. They then showed each street as it was, how and why it changed and what it is like now.
One of those streets was Arnold Circus in Bethnal Green just behind Shoreditch Church. It is just in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, situated yards NW of Boundary Street which as the name suggests is the boundary between Bethnal Green and Shoreditch.
Arnold Circus was built in 1892 when the slum known as either the Jago or Old Nichol was swept away in one of England’s earliest slum clearance schemes. Arthur Morrison wrote A Child of the Jago about the area in 1896, shortly after it was demolished.
Once the slum was cleared a new series of model dwellings was built, in a circle round a bandstand (where to my disappointment as a child I never once heard a band) and carefully planned to give every flat a view of a tree. However the rents, while modest, were too much for the original inhabitants so those who moved in were more prosperous; families with trades or a market stall. Many were Jewish. It was named the Boundary Street Estate and the central road was named Arnold Circus.
In the television programme there was less about the original conditions of the Jago than I expected but this was remedied in the book of the series which my husband bought me. There was more about the events of the 1970s when the area became heavily islamified, by mainly Bengali’s or as they are now called Bangladeshis.
At that time London was run by the individual boroughs but ultimately under the control of the Greater London Council (GLC). It was a scandal that due to incompetence so many council houses and flats were empty when they should have been allocated to families on the waiting list. The population suffered while the council missed out on the revenue the rents would have brought in, and thus rates rose. Squatting became quite common. The programme told the story of how the Bengali families, acting collectively and assisted by a young man (who some would describe as an anarchist) named Terry Fitzpatrick took control of one particular block in Tower Hamlets. Rather than evict them the GCL decided instead to allocate them flats and houses of their choice, wherever they wanted to live. The excuse was that they were suffering from racism and needed to live near each other in area(s) where they felt safe. The Bengalis asked for, and got the area from Brick Lane to Whitechapel and westwards to the edge of the borough which took in Arnold Circus. A map was shown on screen and the areas they wanted were inked in. Some believed that as the Jewish craftsmen and their children who moved in in 1900 were integrated in less than a generation and were now owners of their own homes in Essex, so it would be with the Bengali families.
The policy was leaked to the press who were concerned about the creation of ghettos. The leader of the GLC Horace Cutler was asked about this. He said that living together there will be no language problem and their habits and customs will be acceptable within their own community.
He was asked the question” What will happen to the existing families who are already living in these blocks?”
He answered “Well they have a choice. Either they can stay there and live with them, live with the Bengalis, or they can go!”
I managed to copy this half of the programme before it vanished from iplayer. The quality is not good but you can hear and see what I mean. The words of Horace Cutler are embedded above. The link to the longer extract is here.
Note that in 1978 the Bengali men wore the same clothes and hair as the rest of the population; the women wore shalwar kameez and a gauzy and mainly ornamental scarf. When Terry Fitzpatrick meets his old friend note that he now has his beard trimmed in Islamic style. You won’t be surprise when I tell you that the abaya and niqab are common wear for women.
I wondered what Terry Fitzpatrick is doing now in late middle age. I expected to find him active in the UAF. He was indeed active in left wing politics until about 4 years ago when he had cause to criticise Ken Livingstone’s then Senior Policy Advisor on Equalities Lee Jasper and the pressure group Operation Black Vote. His e-mails to Jasper were so angry and intemperate, that in 2011 they resulted in Fitzpatrick receiving a suspended sentence of nine months imprisonment at Crown Court Snaresbrook for racially aggravated harassment.
Lee Jasper was suspended from his post as Livingstone’s advisor over corruption allegations concerning large sums of missing money and his business links. He famously wrote to a married woman, whose group received some of the large sum, that he wanted to "honey glaze" her then "whisk [her] away to a deserted island beach" and "let [her] cook slowly before a torrid and passionate embrace." More recently he declared that no black person can be racist, although they could hold a ‘prejudice’.
Terry Fitzpatrick is now persona non grata at the Harry’s Place blog where he used to be invited to write. Lee Jasper and the black activists are disgusted at the leniency of his sentence. They describe his statements as worthy of the EDL. However I have never heard anybody in the EDL use such language.
Left wingers express their sorrow at what he has become, from what he once was. They cannot comprehend why.
I don’t know the reason because I don’t know Terry Fitzpatrick. He described himself as ‘left leaning libertarian, believing in small government and self- help. Could it be that a man who did and said what he thought was right in 1978 was still able in 2008 to say what he thought was right (albeit in appalling and abusive language) unfettered by the strictures of political correctness?