I'm back from Harrogate and eager to take up where I left off but my first offering is more on the antics of my friends in the New Labour Party, I'm afraid.
When it was first announced, in May 2006, that the Conservative and Community Groups would be going into coalition to form an administration at the London Borough of Hounslow, the response from the surviving remnants of the previous administration was both predictable and entirely in character.
Having themselves walked voluntarily into opposition in preference to having to work with councillors from any Group other than their own, New Labour embarked immediately upon a clumsy but flatteringly high-profile campaign to bring the new administration down. Their instrument of choice was myself, or rather my much-publicised, well-known and unambiguously renounced former membership of the far-Right National Front back in the 1970s and 1980s.
The campaign began in the usual way, with letters to the local newspapers and postings on internet forums announcing their "new discovery" about my political history. However it soon became clear that the local Conservative Group were made of sterner stuff than Labour had previously realised and would not take fright and buckle under the strain of the resultant local publicity - which in itself was underwhelming due to the fact that it had already been done to death and was no longer considered newsworthy - and the dirty tricks machine was forced to raise its game in an effort to persuade Conservative Central Office to intervene.
And so the big guns were called in. Embarrassed and angered by the incompetent blundering of the Labour Group in Hounslow, which had voted unanimously to approve a new Executive which included two members of the Community Group (as it did again this year, having abstained in 2007), Hounslow's two alleged Members of Parliament Ann and Alan Keen wrote to the Council Leader announcing effectively that they would not co-operate with the new administration for as long as I remained a member of the Executive. When this absurd and frankly irrelevant threat was laughed off with the contempt it deserved (we had never expected the Keens to work with us anyway - let's face it, they didn't do a great deal to help their own administration!), Ann Keen made a rare parliamentary intervention to ask the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to condemn the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council for going into coalition with us, a request which he quite deftly side-stepped.
Armed with the news of her question to the Prime Minister Mrs. Keen continued to pursue her campaign with a zeal which her long-suffering constituents, many of whom have to go to extraordinary lengths just to get her or a member of her staff to even acknowledge a letter or an e-mail, can only have looked upon with envy. Next stop was the regional and national press.
Understandably the Labour's Party's own Tribune newspaper was first into the fray, the bolshie reporter interrupting my holiday with a message on my voicemail demanding that I furnish him with an explanation for my membership of the new Executive. I didn't return his call - it's not as though I didn't know where he was likely to be coming from, and he didn't disappoint.
The piece in the Tribune then in turn provided the hook for stories in other, wider-circulation rags. It was perhaps inevitable that the first to report for duty would be the completely unscrupulous guttersnipe Andrew Gilligan at the London Evening Standard.
Despite the fact that the Standard is essentially pro-Conservative Gilligan had already, in the run-up to the local elections, acquired a reputation with the ICG as a man with a suspiciously close (and one-sided) relationship with the Keens and who was pretty much indifferent to the truth or otherwise of what he wrote in his political columns, at least where we were concerned.
As well as covering the ludicrous "Reichstag Fire"* (as the alleged "firebomb attack" on a rubbish sack belonging to an Isleworth Labour Party candidate just before the publishing deadline of the election-day issue of the local newspaper has affectionately come to be known) as though it were without question the work of the ICG, during that campaign Gilligan had also wilfully repeated the New Labour lie that I had a criminal conviction for a racially-motivated assualt on a black police officer. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I wrote at the time to both Gilligan and his editor to point out that this allegation was untrue.
This didn't prevent him from repeating the accusation, which he now knew to be false, as part of Mrs. Keen's campaign against the new Executive (when, having done so, this low-grade piece of human manure had the effrontery to call me last June to request a quote for a third hatchet-job on the ICG which he was planning to write at Mrs. Keen's behest, he was offered a short piece of advice pertaining to sex and travel along with an assurance that any factual inaccuracies contained in his article would meet with a legal response. The article never appeared).
If the reason for Gilligan's apparent subservience to the Keens remains a mystery, there was nothing mysterious about the willingness of the Daily Mirror to lend their campaign a helping hand. The Mirror is an openly pro-New Labour paper which seems to have readily forgiven its political masters for their fraudulent war in Iraq, a war which has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and which to its great credit the newspaper opposed at the time). Giving pride of place in his full-page column to Labour's problems in Hounslow, Assistant Political Editor Kevin Maguire announced to the tabloid's readership that I was "a former member of the National Front and a Holocaust denier".
The word which stood out for me was the second "a", which seemed to suggest that whilst Maguire acknowledged that my membership of the National Front was something which belonged to the past, my denial of the Holocaust (which comes as part of the deal with senior membership of a fascist party such as the NF) belonged to the present, which it most certainly doesn't.
Why mention all this more than two years on? Well, while in Conference mode I decided yesterday morning to peruse the agenda for the forthcoming LGA Annual Conference in Bournemouth and discovered that on the afternoon of the second day there will be a plenary session on the topic of "Homes fit for local people". What caught my eye first of all was that the session will be chaired by Sir Bob Kerslake (to whom I was introduced in Harrogate), who is currently the Chief Executive for the Homes and Communities Agency but who also, slightly before my time in office, was once the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Hounslow.
Reading on through the list of participants involved in this session I was even more interested to see the name of one Kevin Maguire, yes he of the Daily Mirror. These kind of sessions seem to attract a modest attendance, and there is every chance that somebody in the audience with his hand raised will get the opportunity to ask a question once the speeches are done.
As we have seen above, that Gilligan is a conscious liar is a matter of demonstrable fact. But did Maguire really mean to misrepresent me in the way he did or was his just a completely innocent act of typographical clumsiness?
Seems I may get the opportunity to ask him!
* In February 1933 the German parliament building, the Reichstag, was subject to a serious arson attack. Adolf Hitler, who had only shortly before been elected Chancellor of Germany, blamed his Communist opponents and used the fire as the justification for a policy of repression against the Communists. Most historians today believe the Nazis themselves to have been responsible for the fire.