It’s a nail in London’s coffin when gardens are covered over

The sterile fashion for hard surfaces instead of greenery is contributing to flooding and the disappearance of fauna

For the last six months the house opposite mine has been in the process of “renovation”. This means that, apart from its Victorian facade, every aspect has been “modernised” into a state of gleaming sterility. The finishing touches are being done now. The back garden is being concreted and the front garden covered with what looks like black bathroom tiles. Not an inch of ground has been left visible, let alone a hedge – indeed that was the first thing to go when the builders moved in. The developer is strolling about looking satisfied and the estate agent is in tow composing the brochure. But what he will doubtless describe as “finished to exacting standards”, I prefer to describe as another nail in the coffin of London’s environment.

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‘They have given me somebody else’s voice – Blair’s voice’

When Tuesday’s Sun featured one of the iconic images from 7/7 alongside the headline ‘Tell Tony He’s Right’, the implication was clear: the victim backed the PM’s tough anti-terror measures. There was just one problem: John Tulloch doesn’t. In fact, he tells Ros Coward he is angrier with the politicians than the bombers

On Tuesday, the Sun’s front page evoked memories of the July 7 London bombings in a shocking way. A huge picture of a blood-soaked victim dominated the page. Under the banner “Terror laws” was a large picture of the victim with the words: “Tell Tony He’s Right.” The implication was clear: this victim had spoken to the Sun and was calling on the public to back Blair’s tough terror bill, defeated in the Commons last night. The Sun’s strong and emotive front page was mentioned several times on other media including BBC Radio 4′s Today programme and the World at One. It was widely recognised as a key element in sending a message to Labour waverers that those whose opinion on the bombings is unimpeachable – the victims – were strongly in favour of the government’s hardline stance.

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Lost in London

Stockwell station is somewhere I go a lot. My family use it all the time too. It’s not somewhere I particularly like; it’s always a bit edgy. There was an armed bank robbery a few years ago and drug dealers hang around late at night. But edgy is different from what happened yesterday when heavily armed police chased a man on to the tube there and shot him dead in front of terrified passengers. According to witnesses there was blind panic and passengers emerged from the station crying and shaking. The local vet’s, better known for its sensitive treatment of bereaved pet owners, was commandeered for witnesses of a suspected suicide bomber. Surreal was the word someone used and that’s what London now feels like to me. Yesterday’s event was another in a series that is transforming Londoners’ familiar home patches into alien, unfamiliar territory.

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Slaves in Soho

Violent gangs have taken over the UK sex trade – an unacknowledged result of intervention in the Balkans

If Tony Blair took a short stroll from Downing Street to Soho, the heart of London’s sex trade, he’d find human rights abuses right under his nose every bit as terrible as those in Iraq. Increasingly, coercion, human trafficking and violence dominate the UK’s sex industry. Yet strangely, this domestic human rights issue fails to arouse crusading zeal. Women in the sex trade, however unwillingly they arrived there, don’t attract any high-minded concern.

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Wonderful, foolish dome

Since the dome’s closure, pundits and politicians have been lecturing us sternly. “This fiasco must end soon.” Their solutions vary: it should be demolished; it should be integrated into worthy urban regeneration; it should have “meaningful” exhibitions. But all agree on one point. The dome was a disaster because it had no brand.

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The green machine

Amazingly little attention has been paid to the Green’s performance in last week’s elections for the London assembly. Media commentators seem determined to overlook their strong performance as just another maverick element in a maverick contest. But in some areas, the Green vote was almost as big as that of the Liberal Democrats and, for the first time, people appeared to be voting for a “green slate”. This deserves more consideration; it may mark a shift in political perceptions and priorities far more interesting than a story of protest votes and personalities in a crazy capital city.

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