Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Goodbye, nothing to say

If they were ever to introduce tolls for our roads I would find myself investing in a season ticket for the M3.

Sticking with our usual policy of little, cheap and often when it comes to our family holidays (being a community councillor is not conducive to disappearing for a fortnight at a time) the Andrews household, accompanied on this occasion by my mother and father, spent the weekend just gone at Landguard Holiday Park in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, returning on Monday evening.

Then, the very next day, it was back down the motorway to Bournemouth for the Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Conference, which is where I am as I write.

In an earlier article I spoke of how Kevin Maguire, the Political Editor of the Daily Mirror, had made an inaccurate statement about me in one of his columns implying that I still held the same views which motivated me as a member of the National Front back in the 1970s and 80s, which as anybody who knows me at all will confirm I do not. In that article I conceded the possibility that Maguire had made an innocent mistake, and in order to enable him to reflect upon the falsity of his words I forwarded the contents of my blog article to him. Needless to say I have not heard a word from him since, neither an apology for misrepresenting me nor even an acknowledgement.

As a consequence Maguire has been admitted to my Deliberate Liars Club, where he takes pride of place alongside fellow journalist and Lying-Scumbag-in-Chief Andrew Gilligan of the London Evening Standard.

Those who read that article will recall my admittedly mischievous suggestion that I might challenge Maguire over his remarks at the LGA Conference, where he was listed as a speaker at a plenary event on the subject of "Homes fit for local people".

Now to be perfectly truthful, I never really did have any intention of raising what is essentially a private matter between myself and Maguire at an open forum. It would have been hugely disrespectful of the other 250-300 people attending the session who had gone along to listen to a debate about housing. Nevertheless I did attend the session, strategically positioning myself in a row of seats all of my own at the top of the meeting where I was likely to stand out before any properly-sighted individual seated at the top table.

As soon as the session began I was disappointed to discover that Sir Bob Kerslake (to whom no offence is intended) was to be the only actual speaker and that Maguire had been relegated to a mere member of the six-person panel behind him. Unlike the other panel members, he didn't even receive a personal introduction from the Chair.

Nevertheless I couldn't resist a bit of fun, so I raised my hand and was eventually given the microphone. Congratulating Sir Bob on his speech and expressing my pleasure at seeing "an old Hounslow boy doing so well for himself" (as Chief Executive at the London Borough of Hounslow in the early 1990s it would be fair to say he was not a particularly strict observer of the statutory requirement for senior officers not to engage in political activity, but these were after all the bad old, pre-ICG days of cronyism run rampant), I introduced myself by name and office in a manner which must have left Maguire in no doubt as to who I was. Then, after asking an innocuous question (which, in the event, only Sir Bob made any attempt to answer), I shared my hope that "those on the panel who haven't spoken yet will let us have their views on this subject".

Unfortunately it was not to be. The vaunted speaker turned panel member rose from the table at the end of the 75-minute session without having uttered a single, solitary word. When, as the audience began to make its way out of the impressive Windsor Hall, I headed towards the stage in the hope of engaging Maguire in a few minutes of private conversation, he hurriedly turned around and found somebody else to speak to. Not only a conscious liar, it would appear, but a moral coward to boot.

Tomorrow David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Hazel Blears will be addressing the Conference, then it's off home for a presentation to the Heston & Cranford Area Committee.

And on Friday morning, for the first time in ages, I am minded to buy a copy of The Sun.

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