Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year, New Challenge

In late November Caroline spent some time in hospital recovering from a malady known as cellulitis. It is a condition that I'd previously never heard of, but apparently it is completely unrelated to the skin problem of a similar name. Whilst in itself it is not life-threatening, it can if not diagnosed in time lead to septicaemia, which of course is, so we had an anxious couple of weeks.

No sooner had she recovered than my own 73-year-old father was taken ill. Thankfully, it transpired, he was only suffering from stomach ulcers.

Then, after having spent a few weeks in West Middlesex Hospital with an illness which we still haven't got to the bottom of but which was likely to have been pancreatic cancer, my step father-in-law, until a few weeks ago an apparently fit man and outwardly a very young 66, passed away just after Christmas.

Under the circumstances my short attack of gout seems to have been the best deal going this holiday season. I've had better ones (holiday seasons that is, not attacks of gout). But now that it's over with, it would be appropriate to look ahead to the New Year and the challenges and opportunities that it is likely to bring.

I find it difficult to believe that we have been in administration at the London Borough of Hounslow for some thirty months. When we first negotiated the terms of the coalition and took up our respective portfolios I was confident that we had all the time in the world to exorcise the organisation of the old ways of thinking and of doing things. Whilst I believe we have made great strides towards that objective, it becomes increasingly clear to me as the months roll on that we will not have completely finished the job by the time the borough goes to the polls again in May 2010.

My goal is to create an authority which could not, upon re-electing an unreformed Labour majority at some future time, switch effortlessly back to the old ways of patronage, political matesmanship and institutionalised inequality. Everything that the Community Group has done as a partner in this coalition administration has been with that purpose in mind.

Of course, we don't know what will happen in 2010. We are thankful that the opposition remains lucklustre, disorganised and demoralised, a situation doubtless induced by its rejection locally coupled with its cyclical unpopularity on the national stage at this present time. Whilst there are no signs of a change of attitude locally, the national pendulum will in not too many years' time swing the other way once again.

Quite possibly we could, if we stand for election again and retain our seats, find ourselves as a minority Group under a fully-fledged Conservative administration. A Conservative administration would quite naturally wish to pursue a Conservative political programme and our role under such a set-up, I imagine, would be to ensure that the decronification process in which we have led the way does not get left by the wayside or end up playing second fiddle to ideology, a thing which we believe to be of lesser importance at a local level.

Whatever happens, for the first time we find ourselves facing a situation which is not entirely in our own hands, one of which the outcome is not one that we can predict with confidence. All we can do is continue to do our job (a job which has been done fantastically well by our first-time councillors in particular), improve where necessary, and last but not least ensure that we use our remaining time under the current term to maximum effect to help move the authority closer to where we always wanted it to be, at the very heart of our community.

Happy New Year.

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