I had an interesting conversation over a pint yesterday with somebody who has been active in the local Labour Party for some time.
Nothing particularly spectacular or out of the ordinary about that, but what was out of the ordinary was that he asked me a question. The reason that was out of the ordinary was that it was the third time that particular question - unthinkable from anybody involved with the Labour Party until very recently - had been asked of me by a party member in recent weeks. And all three were from different wards, making the prospect of collusion a bit less likely.
I won't divulge what the question was, far less the answer that I gave, but what it suggested to me was that some sections of the party are beginning to think outside the box in a quite radical way. I have always believed that there are some good people involved with the Labour Party in this borough whose creativity, independence of thought and genuine concern for the welfare of the community has been stifled for so many years. It was inevitable that, one day, a straw would break the proverbial camel's back and all that goodwill would come rushing to the surface.
It may well be that the straw in this instance was the local party's reassertion of its support for the candidacy of the awful Ann Keen at the forthcoming general election in the face of all the revelations about her expense claims, her taxpayer-funded second home, the mysteries surrounding the fact that neither she nor her husband would seem to have been anywhere near their "first" home for over a year, and the controversy around her claim for private medical treatment.
It is obvious to me that decent members were hanging on to the slender hope that the party would replace her with an electable candidate. Their hopes were cruelly dashed by the news, which for some peculiar reason the local party deemed worthy of a big publicity splash when, in strategic terms, it was about as deserving of announcement as an outbreak of flatulence in a crowded lift. The question is, now the deed has been done, do they stand and watch as what is left of the local party kisses its ass goodbye, or do they search for a radical solution to the party's predicament?
We are always willing to speak, with strictest confidence assured, with any well-meaning member of the local Labour Party who is concerned for its future. We believe that the existence of a Labour Party, in some form or another, is not only desirable but essential to our local politics. With those party members who desire to see a stronger, more vibrant and engaged community - and there are certainly some - we have a commonality of interest.
As Bob Hoskins will tell you, it's good to talk.