A Stir in the Suburbs

By KB Player:

A question – does pro-Palestinian activism make people barmy or are barmy people attracted to pro-Palestinian activism?

Here’s a case. I live on the western side of Edinburgh, in a suburb called Roseburn, and I follow the Friends of Roseburn Park Facebook page. A post caught my eye. It was advertising a “Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism” event in London.

That’s a change from bulb-planting and mural painting.

I guessed this was Pete Gregson – who Shiraz Socialist has covered here and Tendance Coatesy here. Expelled from the Labour Party, expelled from the GMB for anti-semitism, fired from the Council, a 24/7 activist.

Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (LAZIR) was summed up here:-

A new campaign group, “Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism”, or LAZIR, has been set up to support Jeremy Corbyn and campaign for the International Definition of Antisemitism to be dropped and for the Jewish Labour Movement to be thrown out of the Labour Party. The group’s logo is a laser beam smashing the logo of a Jewish Labour group.

The founder appears to be Pete Gregson, who was reportedly expelled by the GMB Union after he claimed that Israel was a “racist endeavour” that “exaggerates” the Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million Jews “for political ends.” According to a post on his Facebook page, Labour Against the Witch Hunt, are seeking to expel him from their group. If he is expelled, Mr Gregson has vowed to hold a launch event for LAZIR outside Labour Headquarters in London.

Interestingly, this is the second time that Labour Against the Witch Hunt has split, the first time being when Gerry Downing was expelled and founded Labour Against the Witch Hunt Within Labour Against the Witch Hunt, both of which met at opposite sides of the same pub at the same time. Mr Downing, who was himself expelled from the Labour Party due to his views on the Holocaust, now appears to be advising Mr Gregson on policy for LAZIR.

Other Friends of Roseburn Park thought the post on Facebook inappropriate and one commented:-

The Friends of Roseburn Park SCIO is a Charity who’s sole purposes are “The provision of recreational facilities, or the organisation of recreational activities, with the object of improving the conditions of life for the persons for whom the facilities or activities are primarily intended”. Political statements of any kind have no place here and admin should immediately remove this post in my opinion.

The post was taken down. Gregson is a Friend of Roseburn Park and in fact does some useful work like finding grants for a new play park and a carved seat – as an ex-shop steward he does know how to pull the levers, as I have found with my own special focus of interest.

A word picture. On the western side of Edinburgh is Murrayfield, a leafy conservation area of handsome townhouses and villas, climbing up Corstorphine Hill, above the Water of Leith. On the flat floodplain below, are Roseburn and Saughtonhall, not so grand nor so leafy, but pleasant enough. Roseburn is the shopping area. It’s prettily situated by the river, has an eighteenth century bridge and some attractive buildings, and would be totally delightful if not cut through by the A8, the main road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, so it thunders with traffic and wafts with fumes all along the section called Roseburn Terrace.

Roseburn-visualisn-CROP-300x142
Visualisation of Roseburn Terrace with cycle route

On this arterial route, Edinburgh Council proposed a cycle way at the end of 2014. I was thrilled by this; many of the residents were not, and I began to attend the Murrayfield Community Council where I observed the Edinburgh high bourgeoisie acting like Celtic supporters after a trouncing by Rangers at the thought of (a) losing a parking place; (b) being swarmed by bicycles; (c) having money being wasted on an unused cycle route. The cycling and planning officers who have had to deal with constant baying and table thumping have remained amazingly civil and patient throughout.

There were years of consultations, opposition, further consultations and furious public meetings. Pete Gregson emerged as the chief organiser, whipping up the traders and getting the local media on the case (he is very good at raising the media) showing pictures of traders with folded rejecting arms and posters of Save our Community. Eventually the route did get through the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee and now there is only a Scottish Government hearing to come. Work should begin at the end of the year.

Gregson though has not been defeated. He produced leaflets of a post-apocalyptic Roseburn with boarded up shops, while he led his dwindling band of traders to call for compensation.

He then found a new front for attack. A local resident, a retiree from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, concluded that the cycle route will push the traffic further to the north side of Roseburn Terrace, and with the air movement, will raise the levels of NO2. Gregson duly produced leaflets of people in gas masks. The last two Murrayfield CC meetings have been filled with a sudden outrage that car pollution is responsible for asthma, dementia, and early deaths. (When I get time I’ll check through the Murrayfield CC minutes to see if the air quality on Roseburn Terrace has ever been an issue of any concern before a cycle route was mooted.)

As well as putting in a cycle route and more pedestrian crossings, the Council is also doing some place-making and general refurbishment. The information boards for a consultation were put on the historic bridge. The night before the officers held a drop-in event these boards were spray-painted quite carefully so the bridge itself was not hurt, and Gregson’s posters stuck over them. At the next Community Council meeting a Police Sergeant gave us a lecture on the selfishness and anti-democratic nature of such an act, and indeed vandalism and anti-social behaviour are usually exclaimed over at community council meetings. Gregson changed the subject to the theft of his bicycle.

Roseburnvandalism
Vandalised information boards on Old Colt Bridge

At this meeting, which was a few days ago (14 May) Gregson said he would be holding a demo about the cycle route causing a rise in pollution levels when the Transport and Environment Committee (TEC) met on the Thursday. Someone in the community council stressed very firmly that this was not officially from the Murrayfield CC, but through another one of his organisations, the Roseburn Vision Group.

So on the day of the TEC meeting at the City Chambers, there was a demo of 3 people –Gregson and 2 local traders, one in a gas mask, the other holding a poster saying Save Baby Finn.

Baby Finn? Well, Ruth Davidson, MSP for this constituency and the Scottish Conservative leader, has her HQ on the north side of Roseburn Terrace. She has a new baby called Finn. Gregson handed out the following press release:-

Edinburgh Council plans to asphyxiate Ruth Davidson’s Baby

Evidence has come to light to suggests Council mandarins seek to prevent the rise of the Conservatives in Scotland by suffocating them at source.

Their scheme requires increasing the levels of nitrogen dioxide at Ruth’s Edinburgh Constituency office on the south side of Roseburn Terrace to deadly levels. They know that Ruth, like most modern mums, will probably take her baby to work if she can. But pollution levels at Ruth’s office are already at their legal max of 40 ug/m3 for toxic nitrogen dioxide and are set to shoot up to around 60/ugm3 if Council plans to pollute Roseburn come to fruition.

I suppose this is supposed to be satirical. I can’t think of any other explanation except that it is the wildest conspiracy theorising.

Gregson was allowed his ten minutes at the TEC meeting. He made a rambling speech, referring to him being sacked by the Council, and repeated the accusation that the Council is trying to suffocate baby Conservatives. Cllr Lesley Macinnes, the Transport and Environment Convener, told him off, saying his press release was “utterly shameful” (applause from the Committee). Gregson shouted, “Let Baby Finn live.” The Committee adjourned and found the standing order which allowed them to tell Gregson to exit. Gregson tried to sit in the public benches, then left waving a gas mask. About 20 minutes later a security guard came in saying he had been listening outside. He was banned from the building. The police were called but were not needed.

As I said, Gregson is very good at getting media attention and this was splashed everywhere. Google it if you will under Pete Gregson Ruth Davidson. His being sacked from the Council (which is thought to be one reason for his unrelenting campaign against a cycle route) was noted, as was his being expelled from the GMB.

He did take exception to being called an anti-cycling campaigner and has now got the media outlets to change this to a “pro-cycling campaigner”. That is, at anti-cycle route demos he wears an ancient cycling helmet while standing on the pavement waving a placard or shouting through a megaphone, and he proposes the worst kind of convoluted back routes with the prefix of Speaking as a Cyclist.

I know these are the days of self-identity, but if you identify as something e.g. a Russian, if no Russian thinks you are Russian you are unlikely to be one. Spiked identifies as being on the left, no leftist agrees. Any Edinburgh cycling campaigner would see Gregson as a vexatious force against decent cycle provision, who is paying off his grudge against the Council by fanning anxiety among the traders and rage from the nimbies who cherish their parking places as their only children

You can see him on the webcast of the meeting at around 1:20.

Highly conservative Murrayfield coming under the influence of an ex-shop steward anti Zionist is certainly full of comedy.

And the question still remains – does anti-Zionist obsession turn people into loons, or are loons attracted to anti-Zionism?

8 thoughts on “A Stir in the Suburbs

  1. anti-cycling?
    the man seems to be on a permanent cycle
    round and round

    not so much on a bender as on a permanent bend

    Oh, Murrayfield, oh, Murrayfield,
    to proles will you folk ever yield,
    or MorningSade, the Marquis’ glade
    where when a thing is sayed it’s sayed

    in excents most peculiar
    like have a jar is have a jerr
    the best hope of your turning red
    is who you’re caught with in whose bed…..

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  2. Seriously, he does need some help. His latest stunt is a crowd-funder for the local news reporter, at the meeting who he says mis-reported him. He’s raising money to send the young guy to journalism school. Also a crowd-funder to buy a gas-mask for Baby Finn.

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  3. Gregson is in the news again – however it’s £s to read beyond the 2nd paragraph:-

    “A LABOUR party activist who claims the ‘Holocaust was exaggerated’ set up a new anti-Zionist organisation at the party’s London HQ…while suspended.

    Pete Gregson, from Edinburgh, was suspended from Labour following his expulsion from trade union GMB for his remarks, and abusive behaviour towards a female Jewish Labour member and union employee.”

    Presumably this is “LAZIR” & this looks like old news to me, covered in the OP.
    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17769276.labour-anti-semitism-row-scots-activist-claims-holocaust-exaggerated-formed-anti-zionist-group-hq-suspended/

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