I'm genuinely very proud of the way the Independent Community Group's six councillors have performed over the past three and a half years, both as ward councillors and as a small but essential partner in the coalition which has managed the London Borough of Hounslow.
Like every other organisation we have our moments of introspection. We have our tactical disagreements. We have times when one member believes that another member is not pulling his or her weight, or that a colleague hasn't kept us properly informed of something that he or she has done. We are only human.
However - and I've said it before - when I think back to the humble roots of the ICG, and indeed the humble objectives that it set out to achieve, I find myself actually shaking with awe and even a little apprehension as to how far it can all go.
What began as a cry in the wilderness over the sheer unfairness of the way in which the residents' movement in our little Isleworth backwater had been stitched up by a very small but ruthless and unscrupulous political clique has developed over the space of a decade and a half into a huge, sophisticated and omnipotent community campaigning machine, practically guaranteeing that the voice of the people is heard whenever news of any local development, real or metaphorical, breaks out into the ether.
On Tuesday, when I visit the ROWE Community Centre for our monthly Worton surgery, I will be greeted by residents' leaders who have overseen the first estate-based Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in the UK, who have successfully applied for local authority funding to extend their community centre and develop it into an educational resource, and who run a successful young people's project which is the envy of the borough. On Ivybridge I am still reeling from the Anuual General Meeting, held in July, where over 100 people crammed into the hall and at least a third of them volunteered for committee duty.
I and my ward colleagues liaise with The Isleworth Society (TIS) on an almost daily basis about local issues and problems that they have identified. Where their observations are met with negativity or indifference we are usually able to grind out a result by working together and battling away until the residents' concerns are addressed. The tenacity and expertise of groups like the Four Roads Residents' Association (in Isleworth) and the St. John's Residents' Association (almost wholly in Syon), which often include people who themselves serve or have served as officers on other local authorities, ensures that the community is not short-changed.
The Mogden Residents' Action Group (MRAG), despite the fact that its concerns remain unresolved, can at least instruct elected members in the knowledge that it is our master rather than our servant, a relationship which most certainly did not exist with our predecessors. And it does so safe in the knowledge that as councillors we fight their corner every inch of the way.
In just over seven months the good people of Isleworth and Syon wards will have the opportunity to decide whether they wish this relationship to continue, or whether they aspire once again to be "represented" by people whose first loyalty is to a large political organisation whose policy programme is decided at a national level, and defined by a rigid and inflexible dogma. Aware as we are of the complications which the likely occurance of a general election on the same day will undoubtedly bring about, we will stand proudly on our record and take on all comers.
Last night several of us met at the Inverness Club in Brentford for our monthly social gathering. From the political conversation that developed over a few pints against some agreeable background music it was clear that next May will open up some very interesting and potentially exciting opportunities to advance our position and to shape a local authority which will help to develop further our community agenda. Mindful of events and developments in and around our wards, we will enter the fray better organised, better supported and with far more experience and knowledge than we have ever done previously.
This will be the fifth local election campaign to be contested by the ICG. As Shakespeare's King Henry V put it, it's once more into the breach dear friends. This coming contest should hold no fears for us in the ICG. Let battle commence.