Sunday, 8 November 2009

Getting down to business

On Friday evening several members and supporters of the ICG met at the Isleworth Royal British Legion for our monthly social get-together as we approach the 2010 local elections, which are now just six months away.

Despite several notable absences we had a good crowd gathered around the extended table. Four current councillors, a former councillor, two former Labour candidates and another disillusioned Labour stalwart discussed with other community activists from a position of some authority the demise of the Labour Party in the borough, the merits or otherwise of the coalition and the work that is still clearly to be done if our empowerment objectives are to be realised in full.

No less significant was the way in which the ICG crowd and the indigenous inhabitants of the Legion blended effortlessly. There was no sense of us being in any way a different or separate entity, we were instantly welcomed and treated all evening as though we were part of the community there (which of course some of us are).

With the greatest of respect intended to all those many good people who have served their community in the past, I cannot recall a time when the ICG as an aggregate included so many of such experience and quality as it would appear to today. In and around Isleworth it would be no exaggeration to say that the ICG has drawn the largest part of the community together under its banner almost like a magnet, including former politicians and even current ones from all across the so-called "political spectrum". Those who insist upon remaining outside of the community movement - aloof and superior, legends in their own lunchtime - choose to detach themselves not only from the progress of the locality itself but, increasingly, from the reality of the situation and of the age.

We select candidates for our local election campaign shortly and it's still not entirely clear whose names will be in the ring. Speaking personally, I told colleagues after the 2006 campaign that I felt I had done my bit and that I'd fought my last election, but I look around me and I see that there is still so much unfinished business. I've not decided yet but there is a fair chance I'll have another shot, possibly in a different role to hitherto. There is so much to do and, now, so many people offering to join us in doing it.

May 2010 will be unusual to say the least. For the first time we will be defending the council's record (In some areas of the operation anyway) rather that challenging it. In all likelihood the general election will be held on the same day, which must inevitably skew the result. There is increasing evidence - at the moment circumstantial, but growing by the day - that the old enemy, Labour, is placing so much strategic priority on stopping the ICG from completing its programme that it has begun to consider whether an outright Conservative victory might not be the best achievable result and that at least some consideration is being given to working towards that end. Little wonder that the rank and file are so disillusioned - the majority of them joined the Party to fight their traditional Conservative opponents, not the residents.

There can be no doubt that the coming months will be interesting. In the meanwhile though I am preparing for a second visitation to the IRBL later this morning to attend the annual Remembrance Day parade. More on that anon.

Monday, 2 November 2009

On Nick Griffin, Question Time and Political Soldiering

Last week I was the subject of a two-page feature in the Hounslow Chronicle about my former association with BNP Chairman Nick Griffin, back in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who are interested in these things can read all about it here.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Three weeks in the life of...

I can't believe it's over three weeks since I last updated this blog. A combination of cranking things up a gear as we begin to approach the local elections and trying to earn a crust at the same time tends to relegate otherwise important work. On such occasions the protocol is to summarise.

An interesting meeting took place a few weeks ago involving several elected members, the London Borough of Hounslow's Community Cohesion officer team and a wide range of people with a wide range of views comprising the Hounslow Muslim Forum. There had been expressions of regret that the local authority had not supported a recent HMF event but the meeting gave all those present the opportunity to get to understand each other's positions a bit better.

I was pleased to be a guest at three meals in quick succession - hosted by Hounslow Community Transport (HCT), Isleworth & Hounslow Charities and Hounslow Multi-Cultural Centre respectively. Prior to the Charities gig (held at Kneller Hall) a certain Syon councillor who had arranged my attendance had forgotten to inform them that I was a vegetarian. Worse, she had forgotten to inform them that I was a vegetarian who didn't like cauliflower or green beans. On the plus side, the boiled potatoes were delicious. However, dietary idiosyncrasies notwithstanding these three thoroughly enjoyable evenings gave me and other participants an opportunity to ponder the work of some of the real, if unsung heroes of the community.

Following the dinner at the Multi-Cultural Centre I made my way back to Lampton Road to conduct a pre-recorded interview with Paul Moss for BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight, which was putting together a feature about the Corporation's decision to invite BNP leader Nick Griffin onto its flagship Question Time programme. I'd never spoken to Paul before but what intrigued me about this particular interview was that, whilst we were arranging it, Paul actually told me quite a lot about himself. He is a West London
lad, a few years younger than myself, and had actually gone to school with one of the people I had been in the National Front with back in the early 1980s. Despite the fact that Paul was an anti-fascist, he had a genuine interest in his subject and clearly wanted to know more than time would permit.

Then, at the weekend, it was away to the Isle of Wight with Caroline and Joe (Rosie, despite being only twelve, already decides for herself when she will condescend to come away with us and when she will stay at home instead with her grandparents). This time we stayed at Fairway Holiday Park in Sandown and after a light shower on the first night enjoyed some excellent weather for the time of year.

Back home on Monday, 27th October and two hours or so at a Group Meeting, then Borough Council the following evening where, for once, we argued about very little and got away at a reasonable hour. One incident which could have been a little contentious was when I presented a petition to the Mayor from 250 residents of Waye Avenue, Cranford, calling for improved public safety in the local area. Although Cranford is nowhere near my ward the residents there asked me to present the petition as they lacked confidence in their own (Labour) councillors. Whether this dissatisfaction will express itself in any particular way at next year's local elections I obviously cannot say.

With all my various work I never seem to get enough sleep these days. A couple of weeks ago I turned up at the local petrol station to wash my car, only to realise that I hadn't brought my car with me. Very worrying.

Today I drove 32 miles to take Joe to a football match at Hatch End that was postponed a few minutes before we got there, then all the way across to SW1 and along the Chelsea Embankment to collect Rosie from a "sleepover" at the home of one of her schoolfriends. Luckily I remembered my car this time.