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Jo Cox murder suspect gives his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain"

Thomas Mair, 52, appears at Westminster Magistrates' Court charged with multiple offences in relation to the killing of Jo Cox MP.

A man has been charged with murder following the shooting of Labour MP Jo Cox. Thomas Mair, 52, of Birstall was also charged with grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon, West Yorkshire police said in a statement. Asked to give his name at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday morning, he replied: "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain". 

Cox, 41, who was MP for Batley and Spen, was shot and stabbed outside her constituency office in Birstall at lunchtime on Thursday. Police said a 77-year-old man remained in a stable condition in hospital after he was injured when he "bravely intervened" in an effort to help the mother of two.

Parliament will be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute to Cox. The Remain and Leave sides in the EU referendum have suspended national campaigning since her death. At the Joseph Priestley memorial in Birstall on Friday, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn delivered tributes to Cox. 

The Prime Minister said: "Today our nation is rightly shocked and I think it is time to take a moment to stand back and think about some of the things that are so important about our country.

"The fact that we should treasure and value our democracy, where members of Parliament are in the public, accountable to the public, available to the public. And that’s how Jo died, she died doing her job. I think the second thing is that we should recognise that politics is about public service. People who go into public life want to act in the national interest, they want to pursue the national interest, to do things for other people to make the country and make the world a better place. Politicians disagree with each other, we often disregard what politicians say and we disregard each other. But that is what it is about and that is what Jo showed it is all about."

The Labour leader said: "Ours is a country where tolerance and respect for other people and different viewpoints have always been highly valued.

"We must not allow those who peddle hatred, terror and division to poison and degrade our national and political life.

"Jo Cox stood for tolerance, justice, peace and human rights. If any good can come from her killing it should be for us to come together as a country and face down hatred and intolerance in our society."

US president Barack Obama phoned Brendan Cox, the late MP's husband, from Air Force One to offer his condolences. A White House statement said: "The president noted that the world is a better place because of her selfless service to others, and that there can be no justification for this heinous crime, which robbed a family, a community, and a nation of a dedicated wife, mother and public servant."

A fundraising appeal launched in Cox's memory has raised more than £200,000 to support The Royal Voluntary Service, anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate and The White Helmets, which provides search and rescue workers in Syria.

The Conservatives, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats have said that they will not contest the forthcoming Batley and Spen by-election. 

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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