Sorry to keep banging on about the Keens, but an extraordinary development yesterday left me wondering just what kind of advice our Member of Parliament is receiving.
Users of the BrentfordTW8.com and ChiswickW4.com community forums will be aware that a spokesperson for Ann Keen recently threatened that his party would "work around" the resident-led Mogden Residents' Action Group (MRAG), which for many years has served as the voice of the organised community living in the vicinity of the plant and whose authority to do so derives from public meetings attended by hundreds, a petition signed by several thousand and a group action involving some 1,400 litigants.
To understand the thinking behind this one has to look back into the history of the conflict in and around Isleworth between the residents' movement and New Labour. This conflict is essentially one between two broad schools of thought. One (theirs) has it that only a small, select group of people who are essentially "in the know" and have the requisite intelligence, guile and expertise (them) are truly capable of representing the people's interests and that the role of the wider community is to elect them to positions of office - not just strictly political office but also within residents' associations, amenity groups and suchlike - and then stand back and leave it to them to do what needs to be done on our behalf.
The other (ours) has it that the community itself should aspire to take the lead on local issues and that the role of their elected political leadership is simply to provide guidance, advice and assistance where asked for.
It would have been as a direct follow-up to her spokesperson's threat that, on August 22nd (a Saturday?), Mrs. Keen allegedly met privately with an unnamed Director of Thames Water without any prior consultation with the residents. The Director, we are told, regaled her with the usual empty spiel about how concerned the company is for the plight of long-suffering residents, advised her of a meeting of the Mogden Residents' Liaison Committee to take place in September of which the rest of us have already long been aware, and informed her (and from the wording of her Press Statement it came as news) that nearly six months ago the local authority had granted permission for a 40% expansion of the plant's capacity.
According to Mrs. Keen she was "delighted" by news of the plant's expansion, and following publication of the Press Statement her spokesperson raced onto the local internet forums to announce "Ann Keen Speaks Up For Local Residents"!
And yet, of course, what she has done is added her own name to the already long list of politicians who have consigned residents already suffering the excesses of Mogden to even more misery as Thames sets about making a case for reneging on its promise not to increase intake, which anybody who is familiar with its track record knows it inevitably will.
By her actions Mrs. Keen has without question kissed goodbye to almost any remaining support she might have had within a two-mile radius of Mogden. That they consider her betrayal something to gloat about would suggest that Camp Keen is either woefully ignorant of local issues and has given her the worst possible advice or, more likely, that they have already given up and that the remainder of her campaign is to be a mere "spoiling" exercise in which she intends to wreak as much "revenge" as possible upon her ungrateful constituents.
Whichever is the case she's bought it, but on a parliamentary level at least the question remains - who will speak up for the residents living around Mogden?