Tory peer says dickish thing about Lewisham

The Telegraph reports that Lord Maples, who was MP for Lewisham West in the 1980s, dismissed the borough of "three miles of concrete" with no sense of identity compared with the Stratford-Upon-Avon constituency he represented in the nineties and noughties.


Showing customary Conservative affinity for city life, he told the House of Lords that in contrast to the immigrants and the poor of Lewisham, the electorate of Stratford were "very articulate". The voters of Lewisham articulated their view of Maples in 1992, when they booted him out. Lewisham West has been a safe Labour seat ever since.

Read the report, including a response from ex-Councillor Sue Luxton, here.

42 comments:

max said...

There was a phone in on LBC about it last night and I phoned in to defend Lewisham.

darryl said...

Amazing to think there were two Tory MPs in Lewisham until the 1990s.

While it's obviously dumb and tactless, he has got a small point though... isn't *any* London constituency going to be X miles of concrete, because they're just drawn up by planners' pencils and seem to get altered at will?

davidoff said...

Frightening stuff - would he have dared reveal these thoughts whilst still in the Commons? Has anyone got copies of his campaign literature from 1983, 1987 or 1992 - I wonder what he said about Lewisham West as its parliamentary candidate?

Davidoff said...

Maples's comments in full here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2010-11-16a.718.2&s=speaker%3A10642

Brockley Nick said...

@Darryl - if his point was that constituency lines in a city like London are arbitrary and that communities in London are actually structured around individual locations like Forest Hill or Catford, that's what he should have said. Three miles of concrete isn't even an accurate description. Would he have said that about Hampstead or Westminster?

It's not a big deal, it just reinforces what many people think about the Tories, which is that they don't like or understand cities.

Anonymous said...

But Lewisham does have housing problems, during the recent economic good times the housing waiting list increased to almost 18,000 and B&B for homeless families was re-introduced.

Although tucked away in council reports the borough does have problems related to immigration, the dramatic rise in spending by social services is just one example.

Look around Lewisham it often delights in being unsightly/industrial...the sea container on Lewisham Way, the waste compressor by the main entrance to the borough's main shopping centre, commercial sized rubbish bins stored at the front of residential buildings or left on the pavement.

I regard main roads through the borough as providing advertising for the borough and I'm not impressed much by what I see.

Take a trip along Bromley Road where on numerous sites blocks of flats are being built. Individually each site is ok but put them side by side and it's a mish mash of ideas.

In the town centre stand and look at the buildings between Jimmy White's snooker hall and Primark...yuek!

What the heck is the corrugated fencing doing above BHS?

Street signs are another example, the 'it's only one more sign' mentallity where the negative impact of yet another sign isn't noticed because the other 30-40 other signs.

Anonymous said...

Could the reason the council refers to the borough as a string of villages is because people would rather say they live in Forest Hill, Sydenham, Grove Park, Brockley, Blackheath, Hither Green, Deptford rather than Lewisham?

Lou Baker said...

He has a point.

Lewisham is mainly concrete and large parts of it are dire. Lewisham itself is a dump, ditto Catford. Deptford is supposed to be hip (that's a nice way of saying a dump) and New Cross is dangerous. And a dump.

Yes, there are pockets of niceness. Telegraph Hill, Hilly Fields, Blackheath but there is much rubbish here too.

And Maples correctly identifies one of the problems: the people. I'm sure in Stratford you don't get people who think it's ok to dump matresses on the road, or to let their dog poo on the pavement. I doubt language is a problem - which it is sometimes here. There are far too many people round here who don't know how to be good neighbours - and that is a problem.

I wouldn't live in this area if I didn't like it. But if you think Maples is completely wrong your rose tinted specs need a wipe.

Anonymous said...

Housing the homeless in B&Bs is not unrelated to the policy of 'Right to Buy'....except that there was no affordable house or social housing being built in it's place. Thanks Mags, half a policy. Along with 'Care in the Community' sold as a way if integrating people with mental problems back into mainstream society but actually a cynical cash saving measure with money not spent on ensuring that there is adequate support.

Problems with immigrants? Problems with poverty and lack of opportunity are more to the point.

Anonymous said...

How the hell he can compare Lewisham to Stratford Upon Avon i'll never know.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 0813 - A string of village is how Boris describes the whole of London, never mind Lewisham.

@Lou - it's besides the point really, but there is relatively little concrete in Lewisham. Tarmac, brick and stone mainly - and of course, plenty of grass and trees if you care to look.

Anonymous said...

I would probably have to agree with him.

There is an issue with immigration and there is also an issue with terrible concrete buildings.

Kidbroke, Lewisham Center etc are not exactly examples of architectural greatness. The new schemes to replace them seem to be designed just to increase concentrations and save developers from bankruptcy.

I can bet that most of what is beeing built will turn shabby and uncared soon.

Brockley Nick said...

Kidbrooke isn't even in Lewisham, it's in Greenwich, and the Lewisham shopping centre and Citi tower are hardly typical of the whole borough. Westminster has lots of concrete eyesores, you wouldn't call it three miles of concrete. And you'd expect better of someone who was paid to represent it.

Like I say, his underlying point that people don't necessarily think of themselves as Lewisham residents is not necessarily wrong, he just chose to express himself in a rather dickish way, which betrays a lack of love for the place and the people whose votes he once asked for.

Tamsin said...

A mind-bogglingly crass thing to say. I can't imagine Colin Moynihan being so stupidly offensive.

I expect the "articulate" voters in Stratford are the only ones Lord Maples ever heard. But last May there were nearly 5000 Labour voters in Stratford and over 1000 BNP who undoubtedly reflect the same problems that beset Lewisham.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:38

Margaret Thatcher was 20-30 years ago, the audit commission showed the previous Labour government built the lowest number of homes since 1945.

In recent years our council has replaced existing council properties with flats that have smaller rooms and in some cases fewer bedrooms.

Another Lord said, "Lewisham is a wonderful borough - it has a vibrant, multicultural community."

Usually the word 'exciting' is included in that phrase....

It's a coded message for drug fueled community with entrepeneurs on every street corner where the language is extremely colourful and you are likely to witness a crime or an arrest.

Anonymous said...

Some wonderful Lewisham land marks...

Forest Hill Station, portacabins.
Eros House, Catford
Civic Centre (22 years in the making), Catford
Car Park rear of Laurence House
Capital House, Rushey Green
Fire Station, Lewisham High Street
Academy Central, Lewisham High Street
Data Center, Moleworth Street
Citi Tower, Town Centre
St John's medical centre, Lewisham way
New block of flats, Lewisham Way

Anonymous said...

Head to some northern town with high unemployment, poverty and a white underclass. You'll see plenty of crime. It's not skin colour related.

Now stop being a nasty ignorant bigot.

Anonymous said...

@Nick
Don't think themselves of Lewisham or don't want to be?

max said...

If you read the full text you'll realize that he's not at all complimenting the people of Stratford-Upon-Avon for being articulated, he's speaking from the point of view of the MP concerned about the workload they generate, here's the full specific paragraph:

"One was three square miles of concrete and the other was, I think, 600 square miles of south Warwickshire farmland with the town of Stratford-on-Avon in the middle. Each presented its own problems and difficulties. There were certainly more people with social problems and more immigration and housing cases in Lewisham. But a constituency such as Stratford-on-Avon has a very articulate electorate who write lengthy letters to their Member of Parliament demanding their opinions about this and that. When they decide to get a local campaign going about something, they are incredibly well organised."

Anonymous said...

Lewisham has some horid archetecture, also has some great roads and parks. Is there a point struggling to get out? You could say that about London as a whole. And the solution is? cut investment, cut benefits across the board regardless of need and plunge already poor areas into greater poverty.

Anonymous said...

yep, some people are not articulate or confident about challenging 'the system' We need Citezens Advice bureaus and other such groups to help vunerable groups. My dad would never think of challenging an 'official' was not equiped or confident enough. It's not that these state systems don't want to help it's just that they are not set up to do so.

Now I wonder what the present administration thinks about that? leagal aid anyone?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a pretty accurate summary to me.

Truth hurts eh?

Sue said...

Sloppy journalism from the Telegraph - the journo just swiped it from the (probably much harder-working and less well-paid)SLP journalist I spoke to, without so much as a by your leave. A chunk of Catford Centre probably fits in with his concrete description, but vast swathes of Sydenham, Forest Hill, Bellingham, not to mention Beckenham Place Park and the neighbouring Crystal Palace Park do not.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon1113 St John's Medical Centre is a perfectly handsome piece of architecture. Don't know what block of flats you are talking about on Lewisham Way, but there was quite a good one built fairly recently.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon1114, rather. Please give yourselves names people.

Anonymous said...

Ive been to Stratford Upon Avon and by comparison he is telling the truth!!

Brockley Nick said...

But he could equally have said that Stratford Upon Avon was just three miles of twee tourist traps. Both descriptions have a sort of truth about them, but neither is fair nor tells the whole story. And neither is good to hear from someone who stood as MP for the place...

Paddyom said...

Nick the truth certainly hurts but he is just saying what most of us already know, Lewisham is pretty dire by comparison to most of the UK. I think as he is someone who stood as MP, he should tell the truth about how it is. And by comparison to S-U-A, Lewisham is a concrete jungle.

Brockley Nick said...

There are parts of Lewisham I'd not choose to live in and parts that I think are brilliant, in particular the parts this blog tends to cover. So no, I don't think it's a fair or accurate assessment.

You choose to live here, do you not? Why not commute from Stratford?

John said...

What he said was correct but perhaps a little flippant and hypocritical. Saying that Tories don't have time for cities is hardly 100% accurate either.

Concrete Mungle said...

This site seems to see-saw between condemning Lewisham as a shithole that desperately needs doing-up to make it something more like Stoke Newington and vociferously defending the place against those who agree.

Brockley Nick said...

@John, that's not what I said. I said that there is a perception that Tories don't get or like cities - something which took root in the 80s, when many of our major cities depopulated fast, aided by the fact that the Conservatives were wiped off the Parliamentary map in many cases and encouraged by their close links with groups like the Countryside Alliance, who took up much of the Telegraph letters page, complaining about how Labour-voting towny types simply didn't understand country folk's ancient rights to kill foxes and drive under the influence.

Just a perception thing, of course ;)

Brockley Nick said...

@Concrete Mungle - consistently over four years, this site has argued that the area is great and worth celebrating, but that, like everywhere, it has its flaws and wouldn't it be great to try and make it better.

I know people prefer black and white to shades of grey, but it's not a difficult position to understand if you try.

Monkeyboy said...

Please don't start the Black & White thing again...!

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Some (Nick seemingly) might regard the St John's Medical Centre as a handsome piece of Architecture but to my mind it is totally out of context.

The same could besaid of the new Ashmead School building set as it is in the St John's Conservation area suurounded by Victorian Terraces.

Blue sky said...

I don't mind the medical centre at all. I also think Ashmead school works fine - except that as soon as it was built it was already too small. Another ridiculous oversight.

THNick said...

Lewisham maybe be a concrete jungle but Stratford is mile after mile of ugly brick barrat homes estates. And for most of the summer is unbearably busy with crowds of tourists and piles of rubbish left on every green space. And it's bordered by Redditch which is every bit as horrible as worst of catford etc.

On the upside, a quick bit of googling shows they have recently built a skatepark in the NW park of the area......

Brockley Nick said...

Sometimes it's important to blend in, other times, it's nice to have contrast.

London is a city of extraordinary contrast - where buildings that look like stealth bombers can be built next to St Paul's Cathedral, where brick megaliths like Tate Modern can brush up against lovingly-rebuilt Elizabethan theatres.

In this case, I think the contrast works well, especially as it nestles up against the multicoloured house that looks like its been decorated with iced gems.

Anonymous said...

As Michael says it's all about context.

Anonymous said...

"When they decide to get a local campaign going about something, they are incredibly well organised."

Equally there are similar people in Lewisham, library closures come to mind.

Significant cuts over recent years to childrens social services have gone without protest.

Mazer said...

Reading the full quote, I dont find the peer's comments offensive. Also, Lou is spot on really in his summary of the area, - although I would add the Lee Manor conservation area to the list of very pleasant parts of the borough.

Osh said...

Lou's wrong about new cross and deptford. Great places especially deptford

he's also missed off nice places like Hither Green conservation area, forest hill and honor oak.

So not very accurate, no

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