Friday, 31 December 2010

Those were the days

As the final hours of 2010 tick away and we prepare ourselves for an evening of merriment, followed just a few hours later by the cold realisation that we have entered another uncertain year, I am chilled by the knowledge that something truly terrible is about to happen.

Something about which no new administration at the council, coalition government nor even Santa can do anything. Something more terrible than the rising National Debt, student fees or the prospect of Boney M topping the first New Year chart on a wave of sympathy.

On a certain fateful day during the latter part of this coming year, 2011, I will be fifty.

That is 5-0 folks. Half a century.

I often find myself reflecting rather too deeply upon these things. Fifty years before I was born the First World War, let alone the Second, had not yet even begun. We had still to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Waterloo. Winston Churchill, at 36, was little more than a lad. The Russian Revolution was six years away, the March On Rome - which was to set in motion a train of events culminating in the horrors of World War Two - eleven.

Even the day when I was born seems such an eternity away. Churchill was still alive. The Beatles had just been formed but nobody had yet heard of them. Her Maj had been on the throne for less than a decade. Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. England had yet to win the World Cup. Most of McFly's parents had probably not even been born.

I used to tell my kids that until I was about ten the whole world was in black in white. They still don't believe me when I tell them that we had only three television channels to choose from and that it all finished at about 10.30 at night with the playing of the National Anthem followed by a white noise and a fading spot of light in the centre of the screen.

I cuss when the disco boy arrives on my estate at three o'clock in the morning, car windows wound down in the height of winter so as to enable the entire neighbourhood to share in the delights of his repetitive, crappy "music". Then I find myself wondering whether I have started to become my father, who used to come up to my room and shout at me whenever I played my Slade, Sweet or that bloke whose name we're no longer allowed to mention at a volume that he considered excessive.

For many years I've told myself that I'll see the world, get some security and a decent roof over our heads, things that normal people think about doing when they are in their twenties. Sadly when I was at that age I was clowning around involving myself in extremist politics, which even when I had renounced it led in turn to a "career" in community activism which, whilst entirely fulfilling, has kept me and my family in poverty in a way to which even my very closest friends appear utterly oblivious.

I don't feel fifty. Twenty years or so ago I would walk over to the gym at Isleworth Recreation Centre and would feel really freaked out when I saw men in their forties and fifties working out on the weights. One of the guys whom I used to feel this way about is still at it, in his mid-seventies. I don't know whether people are just staying young for longer, or whether my view of what constitutes an "old" person has changed instinctively as I head relentlessly towards becoming one myself.

Some people try to reassure me that 50 is but a number. Most of them, being over that age themselves, could be said to have a vested interest in believing that. But I find myself looking at some of them and thinking, well, he or she may be 51 or 52 but now I think of it they don't look that old.

But then maybe a person of 100 won't look that old when I am 99? In the extremely unlikely event...

I probably spend too much time thinking about these things. But what is inescapable is the fact that time "accelerates" the older one becomes. When I was fifteen I would think back to things that happened when I was fourteen that seemed to belong to some blissful, bygone age. Now whole decades seem to pass by in the blinking of an eye.

If you are a youngster and you are reading this, please take my advice and use your time wisely. Get some security behind you and then, if you like, set the world to rights. If only because you will then be in a stronger position to do so.

If however you are an old-timer like myself then you'll have all the time in the world to read blogs, write your memoirs and plan out your career.

If, like me, you've ever wondered why 17-year-olds with their first car whizz around fearlessly like there is no tomorrow whilst old people at the wheel trundle nervously along the middle of the road like they have all the time in the world you will appreciate the paradox that is modern life.

Happy New Year.

Charity chief warns cuts could 'kill off' Big Society

Reproduced with acknowledgements to BBC News

A leading charity figure has warned David Cameron that the pace of cuts could "kill off" the groups he needs to build his "Big Society".

Community Links co-founder David Robinson was invited to Downing St in May to discuss the social policy idea.

But in an open letter he urged the PM to "allow us to draw breath" and phase in plans to remove Legal Aid funding.

The government said charities could not be immune from cuts but it aimed to open up new funding sources.

Mr Cameron has championed the concept of the "Big Society", which encourages greater personal and family responsibility and community activism.

Community Links, an east London-based charity which provides welfare services, such as housing and debt advice, employment support and youth clubs, was praised by Mr Cameron as an "inspiring" organisation.

Mr Robinson was among charity representatives invited to Downing Street to discuss it with the PM and Deputy PM Nick Clegg after the general election.

In his letter, he said he admired the prime minister's "big hearted vision" and respected his "clear sighted perseverance" in pursuing it.

But he said he was worried about the impact of spending cuts and that organisations like his, which should be the "bedrock of the Big Society", were "wobbling".

Legal Aid

Mr Robinson drew particular attention to changes to Legal Aid and the New Deal which, he said, put most of Community Links' budget for 2011-12 at risk.

With big changes to the welfare system due to come in, he said the government had acknowledged there would be initial confusion - and expected agencies like his to provide support.

"Removing legal aid funding for advice on welfare benefits will wipe out agencies who would otherwise resolve these problems and there is next to no chance of local councils picking up the tab when most are stopping funding, not increasing it," he said.

He said many of the disadvantaged - particularly the elderly - would instead struggle on until they reached crisis point - illness or eviction.

Warning against a "barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest" he urged the PM to phase in planned cuts and do a "serious and urgent impact assessment", giving groups more time to adjust. He proposed allowing Legal Aid to support groups giving advice until welfare reforms were "bedded down".

"Allow us to draw breath or you will kill off the agencies you need to build the society you seek," he said.

"You've staked your political future on the prospect of a stronger, more compassionate society. Don't let your own government's policies undermine it."

'Appalling financial mess'

Plans for a Big Society Bank were announced by the prime minister in July. The independent organisation would help generate income for voluntary groups and social enterprises, using funding from money reclaimed from dormant bank accounts - the aim was to have it established by April 2011.

Mr Robinson said £5bn was needed for the sector, not including the unclaimed assets, to fund preventative work with people "at risk" from social problems.

The Cabinet Office said Britain was "in an appalling financial mess" and charities and social enterprises "cannot be immune from the necessary reductions in spending".

But a spokesman said: "Despite having had to take difficult decisions, the government is determined to open up new sources of funding for charities and voluntary groups to give them independence from state hand-outs and cut away the red tape that holds them back.

"The Big Society Bank will use money from dormant bank accounts to help capitalise the sector and we have worked quickly to open up a £100m short-term fund to help charities and voluntary groups through this transition period."

He added that a total of £470m would be invested in the four years to 2014-15 to support charities and voluntary groups and money would be "targeted where it is needed most" - including a £50m Community First Fund for the most deprived areas and, £10m to match fund private donations.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody

I would like to wish all this blog's visitors, readers and contributors a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Evans Above!

When I was first elected to Hounslow Council on 7th May 1998 as a community councillor there were a number of individuals who tried to make capital from the fact that I had been a member of the National Front back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Of course having a history as a senior activist in a fascist party is a cause for concern, but only if there is any reasonable suspicion that the ex-activist in question still holds views of that kind. My renunciation over several years of racist and fascist opinions on the other hand had been very, very unambiguous and very, very public. Anybody who knew me even at that time knew full well that by 1998 I was about as far removed from being a racist or a fascist as it was possible to be.

This is precisely why most of my critics emerged from within the ranks of those people who didn't know me. And this in turn is the reason why I had, and still have, no respect for those individuals who tried to use my history either for political advantage, or just for a soundbite.

Amongst the ranks of the latter was the broadcaster Chris Evans, who for some reason best known to himself felt the need to express an opinion on the "real" views of somebody he had never met and about whom he knew absolutely nothing.

I am not a person who particularly holds grudges, but try as I have I have found it difficult to like this talentless, pointless and opinionated pillock ever since his completely unnecessary intervention in the political discourse of a borough he had nothing to do with and which he had probably never even set foot in.

So when he appeared tonight on a live celebrity version of the excellent TV Quiz Show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? I braced myself for two and a half minutes of undiluted embarassment, and the ginger whinger did not disappoint.

However even I didn't expect a radio disc jockey to fail on a question about the lyrics of a hugely successful Christmas song, Fairytale Of New York.

After having asked the audience which words followed "And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing...", and after having been told by 69% of said audience that the correct answer was "Galway Bay", he then decided the plebs obviously didn't know what they were talking about and instead went 50/50.

Needless to say he went out on the following question, having raised just £1000.

Sad though I feel for his charity of choice, I do feel strangely reassured by the fact that the man who made some inane and ill-informed references to me on his radio show over twelve years ago is still just as big a moron today.

Apparently this waste of space celebrates his birthday on April 1st. Why am I not surprised?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

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The dilemma of having a nuclear option without a gun

Of all the big party politicians (that's big parties, not necessarily big politicians) my favourite by some margin is Dr. Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for nearby Twickenham and currently the government's Business Secretary.

Not only is he a brilliant economist and a political big player by anybody's standards, but the man also has a likable manner, exudes honesty and integrity and generally comes across, in the simplest of parlance, as being "a nice bloke".

It is not only his televisual persona that persuades me of this. I have met Vince Cable on a few occasions, chatted to him in Marble Hill Park when I happened upon him on a family outing, and also had the chance to exchange a few brief words when he came to offer local residents his support at two brief public gatherings outside West Middlesex Hospital and Mogden Sewage Works earlier this year.

What really warmed me to him on those occasions was his very genuine humility. The body language was that of somebody who considered himself to be a guest on our turf and, whilst of course not deferential, his manner was respectful in a "thanks for inviting me into your living room" kind of way.

It didn't have to be like that of course. A man of his political stature could have strutted into focus, stood in front of the residents who had gathered to meet him with a pretentious "look at me" kind of grin as the cameras clicked away, then hopped into a big black car and been whisked off with an insincere royal wave to his next photo opportunity. Let's face it, it's been done in these parts before and not so very long ago.

Instead once the formal business had been done he hung around and chatted to ICG members every bit as much as to his own party folk who had turned out for him.

Today it would seem he is to be found wiping a little egg from his face. Not in the literal sense in the manner of a John Prescott or a Nick Griffin, but egg of a metaphorical kind following a report in the Daily Telegraph that he has allegedly made comments to the effect that he has the power to bring the coalition down and could walk away should the relationship between his party and the Conservatives begin to go rotten.

His exact comments, which he seems to admit to having made, include the following:

“Can I be very frank with you ... I have a nuclear option, it’s like fighting a war. They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out of the Government and bring the Government down and they know that.”

Speaking personally, I don't feel there is anything particularly dishonourable about what Dr. Cable has said.

I can of course understand why, as a member of the government, he is a tad embarrassed. But my immediate feeling was one of "I know just how the man feels".

Not that I am making a comparison of scale or importance between the coalition of which I and the ICG were a part when managing Hounslow and the one that governs our country today, naturally. But whilst the scale might be vastly different, the principle remains the same. It is a peculiar feeling indeed to have at one's disposal the means to cause a nuclear explosion without being in possession of the necessary tools to swat a troublesome fly.

I have related before how the senior officer team during the 2006-2010 coalition administration in Hounslow was mobilised to action the demands of the senior coalition partner and to frustrate those of the junior partner (the ICG). Whether this situation was deliberately inspired by our partners, or whether it was officer-driven insubordination that our partners simply ignored, is largely immaterial. Historically speaking the only fact worthy of record is that it happened.

It was 12-18 months before the local elections that the first signs of this bad faith began to make itself obvious to us. It was probably less than twelve months before we went to the polls when it had become a problem of such magnitude that ICG members began to speak openly of walking away.

We had the nuclear option, and more than once we considered using it. We knew our partners were desperate to deliver a fourth 0% budget in 2010, a few months before a general election at which they had high hopes on both a constituency and a national level. We knew we could damage these hopes and dent our partners' aspirations within the borough.

On the other hand we had a responsibility to those who had elected us to exercise power wherever we could. We were making some good progress in our own backyard, and on the Area Committee, in spite of the quite brazen and blatant non co-operation of the Environment Department at and between its meetings.

My colleague Paul Fisher had just completed a year on the Executive in which he had performed magnificently and had every reason to look forward to a second. Another colleague, Jon Hardy, had just joined the same body and both I and he were keen to showcase his undoubted talents. Call it poor leadership if you will, but it just did not seem right to me to pull them away in their prime, and that is even assuming I could have done so.

As the months rolled on the nuclear deterrent failed increasingly to deter. The closer the election came, the more cynical it would have appeared to have pulled out. Chief officers made noises to the effect that it was all a misunderstanding and that they would like to talk through our difficulties with us, although clearly they were simply playing for time and we knew that was the case. If I had had a political pistol I could have held it to certain people's heads and had a good chance of achieving some justice. But all I had was a nuclear trigger which, if detonated, would have blown us up along with the quarry.

Fortified by the belief that the local elections of 2010 would once again result in No Overall Control and that there was a good chance we would be in a position to return to the negotiating table with a much stronger hand than we had played before, we let it ride. In the meantime our partners and the chief officers both impatiently counted the days until the election of the Conservative majority administration they both assumed was on the cards had come about.

In the event of course we had miscalculated, and our partners had miscalculated even more so. The rest is history, but valuable lessons have been learnt.

In the meantime I find myself reflecting upon the fate of the Liberal Democrats in the current government coalition. The equivalent situation, I suppose, would be the Civil Service openly undermining the Lib Dems but I don't think the comparison is an exact one. There is too much scrutiny around the place for this to be permitted to happen.

Instead the Fifth Column the Lib Dems need to be looking over their shoulders at is, in my view, the national press. There is a strong Conservative bias in these circles and, if the same tricks are used against the Lib Dems as were used against us, this is whence the real poison will come.

It would appear that the big man from Twickenham was deliberately set up by the guttersnipes of the Telegraph. It is going to be a long four years.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Axeman Cometh

We are fast approaching that time when the London Borough of Hounslow delivers its budget for the coming year. In early March 2011 Borough Council will debate and vote upon a series of proposals that will, it hopes, enable it to reduce the local authority's annual spending by £18m. Inevitably valuable provision will be cut and the public will see a reduction in the services it receives.

The Axeman is an avowedly non-party political being. Up until 2006 he slashed services under a Labour administration, causing much angst as he closed John Aird House (a residential care home in Brentford), threatened to privatise vital health care services and hacked £1m in a single blow from the Education budget at a time when monies provided by the government for that very purpose were not ring-fenced. I attended more than one demonstration against what appeared to me to be acts of almost gratuitous inhumanity.

Then in 2006 a new administration took office of which the Independent Community Group (ICG) was a part. Almost immediately our Conservative coalition partners announced the launch of a drastic cost-cutting initiative called the Performance Improvement Programme (PIP) and declared its intention to freeze Council Tax levels, which we generally supported and between us actually managed to do for four years in a row. But there were casualties, not least the Hounslow Language Service, and from opposition Labour opposed many of the savings made by the coalition Axeman, campaigning against cuts in public services as we ourselves had done in opposition.

Now Labour is back in office, and the Axeman is once again playing for the team in red. Granted the impetus for the drastic programme of cuts upon which Hounslow is about to embark comes from central government and its savage Comprehensive Spending Review, but nonetheless the Labour administration has to deal with the same reality as the coalition administration before it and the old Labour administration before that. That reality is that the level of central government support for local councils declines year upon year no matter who is in charge at the Exchequer.

What happens at the stage we are at now is that Lead Members will have asked Chief Officers to identify potential savings in their own departments. Some of those suggested savings are included in this document, which will be discussed by the Executive next week.

The flaw in this process, and which has always been the case, is that Chief Officers will invariably identify those savings that they themselves are comfortable with, and omit those that they are not. For instance, rarely if at all will Lead Members be presented with a proposal to reduce Chief Officer salaries, or to merge departments so as to reduce their number. Unless the Lead Member is unusually hands-on, he or she will almost always accept the options presented as being the only ones realistically available.

The ICG has not had the opportunity to formally discuss these proposals as yet, but what I imagine will concern my colleagues in particular are the various implied assaults on local democracy. In particular the suggestion that Area Committees could be abolished or curtailed. My guess is that these were probably amongst the first proposals to have been mooted by certain of our Chief Officers and I would be surprised if much sleep was lost as they found their way onto the list.

It would be tempting, of course, to consider Area Committees as a luxury by comparison with frontline services to the really needy such as Older People or Children's Services. By that logic we might just as well do away with elections to the council as well - the potential saving involved would be considerable.

But the whole rationale of local government is that it enjoys a democratic mandate. This is precisely why elected members, as opposed to the more "expert" officers, are ultimately responsible for making decisions. Once that principle has been compromised we are embarked upon a journey down a very slippery slope with no handbrake. One cannot put a price on democracy.

I am also concerned by the suggestion that local community centres may be cut adrift. Sure, I do note from the document that the need for local community groups to be given time to build the capacity to take them over is acknowledged, but knowing as I do the complete lack of interest in resident involvement or even opinion that exists in certain departments there is little doubt in my mind that, were such a proposal to be taken up, our community centres would be abandoned with indecent haste and indeed closed down as soon as it was felt it could be got away with.

This is not about empowering communities, this is about certain senior officers seizing a perceived opportunity to remove themselves forever from meaningful public scrutiny.

These are difficult times, and I am reluctant to try to score points by blaming the current administration for the predicament it finds itself in (although it has to be said, under the circumstances, that some of the ruling party's election promises were reckless to say the least - everyone knew there would be cuts whoever triumphed at the general election). However I do believe that the organised community must lobby hard to protect itself from any attempt to use government cuts as a convenient excuse for curtailing its freedoms and its ability to organise.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Isleworth residents brave the cold

There was a fairly good crowd at the annual Carols in The Square event, organised by The Isleworth Society (of which I am proud to be a Life Member), in Old Isleworth last night despite the treacherous cold. The Mayor of the London Borough of Hounslow, Councillor Colin Ellar, was there and stayed until the end in spite of the weather.

After the event my ICG colleagues Paul and Shirley Fisher and I had the opportunity of a long chat over a pleasant drink with two of Isleworth's three ward councillors (Councillor Mindu Bains has by all accounts suffered a dislocated shoulder after a fall, I wish her a speedy recovery).

It was really useful to get a perspective from the new administration, and in particular to see how these two "newbies" were settling in to their respective roles. It is clear that they are both very keen to succeed and to do a good job on behalf of their constituents, and my feeling is that they will succeed in spite of the difficult situation in which the new administration finds itself with the central government cutbacks.

All in all a good, constructive evening on every front.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Some boom amid the gloom

Andrew Stunell: "The Localism Bill presents a lot of positive news for local government. We are devolving power back to local authorities, communities, and individual people up and down the country. Lib Dems have long campaigned for power to flow from the bottom-up not top-down. The “Man in Whitehall” doesn’t know best, and the publication of the Localism Bill marks the end of Labour’s top-down presumption they know more than local people about how their area should be run."

Andrew Stunell is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government. The above is reproduced with acknowledgements to Liberal Democrat Voice.

Monday, 13 December 2010

D'oh! (Part two)

Now that I've discovered how to set the text size on this new Blogger format, I'm going back to Trebuchet.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Q: When is a racist not a racist? A: When he is in your party

Liberal Democrat MP Mark Hunter has challenged Ed Miliband to condemn the racially divisive tactics used by Phil Woolas in his General Election campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Mark Hunter said:

“It is becoming more and more apparent as the weeks pass that Ed Miliband just doesn’t have the clout within his party to show some leadership and admit that Woolas was wrong. If he did he’d be shot down in flames by other Labour MPs.

“I was genuinely shocked that Miliband didn’t make a statement as soon as he became leader that this sort of racially divisive politics will not be tolerated.

“For him to then make the monumental misjudgement of appointing Woolas to his frontbench team speaks volumes.

“If Labour is to draw a line under this scandal, then Ed Miliband needs to shout from the rooftops that the kind of campaigning used by Phil Woolas - intended to ‘get the white folk angry’ - can never again be any part of Labour politics.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to

Saturday, 4 December 2010


This made me laugh:

A trail of footprints in the snow led police to catch a burglar shivering in a bush.

The 17-year-old was spotted by a homeowner stealing a bicycle from a garage in Sutton, south London.

Police noticed his footprints and followed them for several streets until they found him cowering under frozen foliage.

The officers then followed the trail back - to discover several other garages had been targeted.

Insp Colin Baker, of Sutton Police, said: "This burglar left great big footprints for officers to follow.

"So, despite the difficult weather conditions, officers were able to track him down, following the tracks in the snow."

The teenager was arrested on suspicion of burglary at about 0300 GMT on Friday and was released on bail pending further inquiries.

It is not the first time snow has helped police in Sutton defeat criminals.

Two teenagers were caught stealing electronic goods from a garage in January after officers followed their footprints.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to BBC News.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

United in celebrating a wonderful community effort

Two years ago, when my father Ron in his capacity as Poppy Organiser for the Isleworth Royal British Legion organised a social evening to thank those who had sold poppies, not even the lure of a free bar persuaded more than about seven or eight people to come out and join in the celebration.

However last Saturday scores of people came out to the Legion to enjoy a great evening at which it was announced that in 2010, for the first time, the local community had collected over £22,000 for the Poppy Appeal. Two Isleworth ward councillors joined us and stayed for most of the evening (certain of them had helped us to collect money outside supermarkets in the build-up to Remembrance Sunday), and the Mayor made a welcome speech before himself joining local community activists at the bar for a drink and a pleasant chat.

There is nothing to be feared or ashamed of on the part of people in positions of office supporting and encouraging community-led activity such as this. Everybody wants to do well by those who have given their lives, those who have suffered injury, their families and their loved ones.

This year, once again, I like to think the community did those people proud, and we are very grateful and appreciative for having received the support of all those who gave up their free time to help.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A privilege and an honour

I was humbled one again on Wednesday night to have been re-elected by members of my Church to serve for another year as a Deacon.

A cynic could argue that it isn't difficult to win the support of the required two-thirds of the membership at a meeting when everyone has an unlimited number of votes. But that threshold has been missed by others before now and, more importantly, members could and would have been forgiven for rejecting me on the grounds that for a variety of reasons (Joe's football, work, community commitments) my attendance at Church services and other functions has not been as good as that of some others.

It is a source of real comfort and gratitude to know that, in spite of my shortcomings, my fellow Church members have sufficient faith in whatever it is I do to want me to serve them for another twelve months and I will do my very best not to let them down.

Friday, 19 November 2010

We Will Remember Them (Part 2)

In the course of remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in two World Wars, it would be remiss not to remember those who work so hard year in and year out to keep the memory alive.

It is obviously with a certain bashfulness that I pay tribute to my own father, but I have done already in any case in a previous post. For many years he has organised the poppy sales that have thus far produced a higher yield with each year that passes. The poppies may only go on sale a week or so before Remembrance Sunday, but the preparation work begins long before.

Similarly one must mention the Branch at the RBL and particularly the indefatigable Linda Green who, despite having difficulties and hardships of her own which would have deterred most other people from becoming actively involved, has been in the thick of the preparations as always.

Lastly one must give thanks to all those volunteers who took the time to stand outside supermarkets and other outlets, sometimes unprotected in inclement weather, to sell poppies and to collect money for the cause.

A big well done to everyone who took part in this excellent effort, and here's to many more in the future.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We Will Remember Them - Sunday, 14th November 2010

This year's Remembrance Day Parade, although sadly shortened by the rain, was probably the largest that I have ever attended.

Some years ago the general public would just stand and watch as the ex-servicemen and a few local dignitaries marched past them. One of the achievements of the "Community Culture" heralded by the rise of the ICG over the past decade or so has been to turn this occasion into a public event. Nothing, after all, was ever more public than a war in which millions of "ordinary" people made the ultimate sacrifice.

At the War Memorial ICG Vice Chair Andy Sibley (above right) laid a wreath on behalf of the community. All the new ward councillors from Isleworth and two from Syon were present; the Isleworth councillors laid wreaths on behalf of the Mayor, the Labour Party and the new Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth, Mary Macleod.

Following the parade there was the familiar gathering at the Isleworth Royal British Legion, which was enjoyed by many. The Mayor of the London Borough of Hounslow paid a visit and met many of the local ex-service people and organisers of the parade.

This major and sombre event on the local calendar always presents a welcome opportunity to meet colleagues and other friends, some of whom are not as regular at the IRBL as others amongst us!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lib Dems call for action on Gunnersbury

Reproduced with acknowledgements to

Hounslow Liberal Democrat campaigner Joe Bourke has called for the Gunnersbury Joint Advisory Committee to reconvene urgently. It has not met since the May local elections. Meanwhile he claims the park, mansions and museum - containing local history collection - continue to decay.

In early September the Hounslow Liberal Democrats offered to work with Council leaders to engage ministers in the Coalition Government. The Lib Dems have still not received any response. Since the election Ealing Lib Dems confirmed that the new administration in Ealing stands by the previous Ealing leadership's commitment to put £5m into the regeneration project. Hounslow has to date failed to match this commitment.

Joe Bourke, Hounslow Liberal Democrat Campaigner, said, "We are deeply disappointed that the Council was not prepared to take action earlier this year and invest the money required to stop the decline of the park, local history museum and mansions. This is a site of local and national importance. We put forward carefully costed proposals and used the work of the consultants employed by the Council to chart a way forward.

"The indecision that has blighted the park and its mansions for years seems to be continuing with no meeting yet agreed of the Joint Advisory Panel on Gunnersbury Park, Museum and Mansions.

"The arguments have gone on for too long. Whilst we accept a lot of money is required at a difficult time, we are very worried about the future of the Local History Museum in view of the deteriorating fabric of the building it is in. Leaking roofs threaten the collection. This project and investment could develop local skills and provide employment."

Some people just don't get it

An excellent analysis of the Woolas ruling by blogger Cory Hazlehurst. There's nothing that really needs to be added:

Revolting Labour backbenchers fight for the Right to Lie

Their protests against the illegal war in Iraq amounted to nowt but a damp squib. Concerns over student loans and the introduction of ID cards were whispered briefly about the place before fizzling out with a phut.

But at last Labour backbenchers have found a cause around which to rally with gusto, indignation and shrill vengeance in unprecedented measure. The second largest party in the UK and aspirant government of the future is furious that a decision by two High Court judges could compel them to conduct their future election campaigns without knowingly making false and malicious statements about their opponents without running the risk of losing their seats.

The "Right to Lie" campaign is in full flow and Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the party who has very decently made clear her view that dishonest politicking of this kind is in her view unacceptable, is its target.

Nobody, as far as I am aware, has disputed the fact that Phil Woolas not only lied about his Liberal Democrat opponent during his general election campaign but did so wilfully. None of his supporters, as far as I can tell, would appear to feel at all uncomfortable about the fact that Woolas would seem to have based his campaign on stirring up racist sentiment in his constituency.

As is the case here in the London Borough of Hounslow the party that publicly preens itself on its "enlightenment" and its commitment to equality, which it would have us believe is totally unique to itself, evidently has no qualms about provoking racial tensions if there is a perceived electoral benefit to be had.

That in Hounslow their tactic is to try to frighten minorities into voting for them by invoking threats to their safety that do not really exist, whilst in Oldham it is the white racists to whom they pander, would appear to be no more than a matter of simple demographics.

I dearly hope that decent elements within the Labour Party rally round Harriet Harman in the same way that the politically unscrupulous have gathered around Woolas. A fight for the soul of a once great party and a subsequent triumph of honest values of such a magnitude that it reverberates throughout the party would have a seismic effect on the future political landscape in our borough.

Despite the fact that this is not on the surface of it a local issue to us here, the ICG will for obvious reasons be watching how this one plays out with an enormous amount of interest.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Politicians squeal over loss of their right to deceive the electorate

The fallout from the Phil Woolas ruling was never going to be long in coming.

Woolas himself, whilst not appearing to deny that he wilfully lied about an opponent in order to gain a political advantage, whined that the judgement "raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question politicians.

"Those who stand for election...must accept that their political character and conduct will be attacked.

"It is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."

One needs to remember that "speaking freely" in this context means actually telling deliberate lies about the character of an opponent.

Some might be surprised that the Labour Party itself has not rallied round Woolas, indeed Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has stated in quite unambiguous terms that telling deliberate lies about opponents is not a part of the party's modus operandi (it would of course be very interesting to hear what she would have to say if she knew half of what her party members got up to in our little corner of the world).

It was "not part of Labour's politics for somebody to be telling lies to get themselves elected," she insisted.

Woolas not unreasonably complains that he has been hung out to dry. Clearly there are those in his party who exude an aura of relief at having been gifted such an opportunity to show him the door. One is reminded of the words of the late Alan Clark, who once famously observed: "There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling, and waiting, for traces of blood to appear in the water".

Amusingly, Woolas bewails the fact that his party will not be funding his legal challenge to the ruling and that it will cost him some £50,000-£60,000 from his own pocket. I would guess the irony of the fact that that places him in the exact same boat as most of us victims of his party's routinely libellous campaigns will have been lost on him entirely!

Predictably other members of the political establishment have weighed in to his defence. Conservative MP Edward Leigh complained: "What worries me about this is that, if this is allowed to stand, it will be virtually impossible for there to be really robust debate during elections.

"People will be terrified of attacking their opponents."

No you moron, it means you will have to start considering whether the things you are saying to the electorate actually have a grain of truth in them!

The most telling comments of all however are those of former Labour Party General Secretary Peter Watt, who asked: "He was definitely found guilty of breaching electoral law by telling untruths about one of his opponents. But does that overwrite his history and contribution to the party of so many years?"

Not to the likes of you probably Mr. Watt, who seem to take it for granted that everyone in your party will put tribal loyalty before principle - party before people. But thankfully the days of creatures such as you exercising complete dominance over our body politic would seem to be drawing to a close at long last.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Comment would be superfluous...

Trebuchet or not Trebuchet?

One or two people have commented that since I changed the layout of this blog the enlarged Trebuchet typeface doesn't look quite right for what is supposed to be a medium of serious comment (well, sometimes anyway!).

I am thinking of switching over to Verdana.

This paragraph is an example of the Verdana typeface. I use it on a number of other blogs that I run for sundry different projects which are probably of no interest to readers of this one.

Does anybody have a view on this please?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Elwyn Watkins' statement

Further to the item below, Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins has released the following brief statement:

"This verdict is a historic victory for the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth, a victory for fair play and a victory for clean politics.

"Anyone who knowingly lies to the voters or looks to set constituent against constituent has no place in a democracy.

"I hope this judgment makes it very clear that if you deceive your constituents you should be kicked out of Parliament.”

Ruling could pave the way for a return to honest politics

I don't imagine I'll have to explain to anybody from around these parts the significance of the verdict in the Phil Woolas case heard by two High Court judges:

Phil Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth (and former party activist in Hounslow), beat his Liberal Democrat rival by 103 votes at the recent general election. The Lib Dem, Elwyn Watkins, claimed that Mr. Woolas had knowingly made false statements about him in his election material that may have had a decisive impact upon the result.

He took legal action against Mr. Woolas under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act and the case was heard before a special elections tribunal, the first of its kind to sit for almost a century.

The Act makes it an offence to publish "any false statement in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct" in order to prevent their election - unless they believed it was true and had "reasonable grounds" for their belief.

Having considered the evidence, the judges found in favour of Mr. Watkins and a re-run of the contest has been ordered.

I've not yet studied the Act to ascertain whether or not it applies to local elections as well as to general elections. Natural Justice would suggest that it should.

As we know, Labour in Hounslow not only regularly produces material about its opponents during elections that it knows to be untrue, it even openly boasts of the fact.

There are several examples from Isleworth during recent contests to which I can point. The alleged "firebomb attack" on a Labour candidate's house in 2006 followed almost instantly by a leaflet suggesting that the ICG was responsible. A leaflet circulated in 2010 claiming that I owned a holiday home in Portugal when its originators knew at the time that I was in an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) with my creditors which would have made it impossible for me to so. Another leaflet circulated during the same campaign alleging that ICG candidates had held a meeting discussing plans to sell off local authority housing stock. There are countless examples of which these are just a tiny few.

That the circulation of untrue and sometimes malicious allegations about opponents is deliberate local party policy was confirmed in a debate at Borough Council when the Deputy Leader of the then Labour opposition, Councillor Ruth Cadbury, casually dismissed criticisms of dishonest campaigning with the immortal words: "You call it dishonesty, we call it politics".

Anybody who has ever spoken to these people on a personal level will confirm that when confronted about their actions they appear genuinely confused as to what all the fuss is about. They almost all give an impression of regarding dishonest campaigning and vicious personal smears against their opponents as being an integral and quite normal part of the process of political campaigning, and that the end result completely justifies the means. One must assume that such a peculiarly mercenary approach to human engagement is instilled in them by the organisation the service of which would appear to dictate their every deed and emotion.

Away from politics many of them are actually quite decent, trustworthy, friendly, sometimes helpful. I have found myself especially impressed that they always seem to stand their round. And yet when they don the rosette...

For what it is worth, I would like to state publicly that I do not believe local Labour's dishonest campaign methods cost us the seats that we lost in Isleworth and Syon back in May. The political conditions under which that election was fought did for us, and in my considered view we would have lost all six seats even had the Labour campaign been a paragon of honesty and honour. Let me be quite clear about that.

However in another place and in another time it is conceivable that a small reverse could be brought about as a result of local Labour's policy of deliberately smearing and misrepresenting its opponents in the most crude and malicious manner.

I hope the electorate punishes Labour dearly in Oldham East and Saddleworth in a determined expression of righteous anger. If there is any justice the Lib Dem victim of Labour's smears will be selected by his party and elected by the voters. As victory was probably rightfully his in May it would be nice to see the Conservatives stand down and give him a clear run, but I doubt whether they will.

It will also be interesting to see whether Labour have the nerve, not to mention the contempt for the electorate and for the integrity of politics, to field Mr. Woolas once again.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Thames Water's and LBH's faecal attraction

The consultant Entec has been commissioned to hold a public consultation tonight on the odour nuisance created by the activities of Thames Water at the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works in Isleworth.

Although residents suffering the Mogden Pong for the most part reside in Isleworth, Whitton or Twickenham the meeting is being held at the Civic Centre in Hounslow, at least two miles away from most of Mogden's victims.

It begins at 7.00pm - not that most residents will know that, as the start time was accidentally omitted from the mailout that was allegedly delivered to 10,000 households in the area.

Most of the people within the claimed distribution area that MRAG (Mogden Residents' Action Group) have spoken to have not received a newsletter.

Questions sent by MRAG to Entec have not been responded to. We were told yesterday that Entec had taken a "policy decision" not to respond to individual questions. Apparently a question from a residents' group demonstrably representing thousands of households still constitutes an "individual question".

A cynic would suspect that tonight's meeting will be nothing but a stage-managed public relations exercise. A cynic would expect that the inevitably low turnout will lead the organisers to publicly aver that Mogden is not an issue for most residents.

And what, I wonder, would the same cynic make of the fact that Entec and Thames Water have chosen the Civic Centre as a "home" venue, when so much hot air has been expended over many years by successive administrations about the local authority being on the side of the residents?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Collectors wanted for Poppy Day 2010

Once again we approach the time when we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.

On Sunday 14th November 2010 local people will join the annual Remembrance Day parades in various towns around the borough. In Isleworth the local community pays tribute to its fallen at the War Memorial at the junction of Twickenham Road and South Street.

As in previous years my father has been entrusted with the task of organising the poppy collections in the run up to the main event. Each since he started he has managed to better the previous one in terms of the total amount collected.

However he could always use more volunteers to assist the fund raising effort by giving up a few hours to collect money outside local supermarkets and from local businesses.

If you can spare any time to help between now and November 13th please call Ron Andrews on 020 8892 4260 and leave your name and contact details.

Thank you.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Sorry I'm away for a week, see you in a month

Anybody who has ever been a councillor will tell you that the weeks roll very seamlessly into the months.

So Isleworth councillor Mindu Bains could be forgiven for leaving this rather confusing message for constituents who may have been trying to get hold of her between September 26th and October 26th (although this Out Of Office Auto-Reply came in response to an e-mail sent to her on October 28th).

Maybe they will have had better luck following the link to "Councillor Sue Smpson"? Or does this mean poor old Ed copped all the casework for a whole calendar month (click above image to enlarge)?

Friday, 22 October 2010

In Memory and Honour of Cameron Short - "A true inspiration to us all"

Please donate to Charlton Farm Children's Hospice in Cameron's memory

I have found myself strangely and deeply affected over the last two days by the very sad death of a young man whom I didn't know and never met.

Cameron Short was just ten years old when, in September 2009, doctors discovered a tumour in his brain. Sadly doctors who performed tests on the growth confirmed it was cancerous.

Cameron, or Cam, was treated and operated on at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where he lived. He battled on for a whole year and returned to school. In September this year he became a one year survivor. Those who knew him and cared for him were amazed by the courage that he consistently showed, never complaining about his ordeal, no tantrums or tears.

Regrettably it was recently discovered that another tumour had developed and he began undergoing treatment for this.

Cam passed away peacefully and painlessly in his sleep at Charlton Farm Hospice on 20th October 2010, a place where he had spent many happy hours during his last year and in his final days, making friends with the staff who cared diligently for his every need and even helping other children to cope with their illnesses. He appeared in a film helping children to come to terms with radiotherapy and not be daunted by it.

You can see his story at Cam's Place, a lasting tribute to the life and the extraordinary courage of this wonderful boy.

My only connection with Cam was that I attended primary school with his grandmother Sharon. I hope she'll forgive me for saying that was quite a long time ago. It was through Sharon's posts on Facebook that I followed his story, and was devastated when she posted recently that doctors had given his family the news that he had only days to live.

Sharon's brother David posted on Wednesday that Cam's courage had been "a true inspiration to us all". I wouldn't try to put it better myself.

Cameron's friends and family have launched an appeal to raise funds for Charlton Farm Hospice to help them with their work for children suffering with terminal illness. Please give generously in Cam's memory to help other children to enjoy their last days in an atmosphere of love and laughter.

Please click on the button below to make your donation through JustGiving. Your details are safe and secure,the process is simple and Gift Aid will be reclaimed on every eligible donation. Thank you.

The dark soul in our midst that cannot move on

I suggested a couple of days ago that I might try to get hold of the appalling Labour Party leaflet that is (very) slowly doing the rounds in Isleworth right now. However in the absence of half my family I have placed myself under virtual house arrest this week whilst trying to get things done, and so I still don't have a copy to hand. For those who await visual confirmation of this literary masterpiece with baited breath I urge patience. It is coming.

In the meantime I find myself reflecting with some amusement upon the various grumbles and allegations contained therein.

The main thrust of the attack was as follows:

1. When in office ICG councillors received the standard members' allowance, paid for from the local authority's budget. This included a Special Responsibilities Allowance (SRA) for those holding certain offices such as Executive members, Area Committee Chairs and so on.

2. I personally have become exceptionally wealthy as a consequence of having received these allowances, and simultaneously have been forced to enter into an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) with my creditors following personal and business difficulties arising from the recession.

The indignation over ICG councillors receiving members' allowances tells us quite a lot about the mindset of those behind the leaflet. All councillors receive these allowances. The Labour councillors who succeeded us as representatives of Isleworth and Syon wards - and in whose name this leaflet was published - receive them. As Executive members Isleworth councillor Ed Mayne and Syon member Theo Dennison each receive around £22k per annum. Should they remain Executive members for the duration of their terms of office, both will have received more from the taxpayer than any ICG councillor did during the administration of 2006-2010.

Similarly, Isleworth councillor Mindu Bains draws nearly £16k each year when her SRA as Vice Chair of the Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee is factored into the equation.

So how then do the authors of the leaflet have the brass neck to complain about the fact that ICG councillors, like all other councillors the length and breadth of the country, received an annual allowance? The answer is simple - in the minds of these people Labour councillors are "real" councillors and are thus entitled to be remunerated for their time and effort, whilst non-Labour councillors are in some way unreasonably occupying seats which rightfully "belong" to them.

Worst of all ICG councillors are not even politicians, not members of any of the exclusive little clubs that by right of birth govern our localities and impose their ideologies and their expertise upon us lesser mortals. ICG councillors are mere residents, upstarts from amid the ranks of the hoi polloi. How dare we gatecrash their little set-up and claim for ourselves anything whatsoever that was really intended for them?

On the subject of my own personal finances and indeed of all aspects of my private life much angst apparently abounds in Local Labour Land. Wild and usually inaccurate speculation about my working arrangements, an unhealthy interest in my children and the educational provision we have made to protect them from the deranged attentions of the kind of scum who disseminate the bilious filth that pervades these leaflets, unashamed lies about properties that I am alleged to own in sundry far-off lands - all of this competes for valuable space on a newsletter that could otherwise have been devoted to the cause of explaining to us what positive things our newly-elected councillors plan to do for their constituents over the three and a half years between now and the next local elections.

Some might consider it odd that newly elected councillors, supported by an administration of their own colour with a clear majority, should have nothing better to offer than bitter, ranting and spluttering attacks upon those they defeated several months ago. Especially when the object of their vitriol has made clear its preference for reverting to a role within the community which does not entail involvement in the electoral fray.

Others might think it even more strange that the individual singled out for particularly personal abuse (moi) is one who has clearly expressed his desire not to stand for election again.

But in actual fact a very clear pattern is emerging wherein the level of abuse and harassment that local Labour tries to mete out stands in directly inverse proportion to the willingness of the ICG to involve itself in electoral politics. This is a point worth reminding ourselves of over and over again when considering the actions of those concerned, and what our response to it ought to be.

A recent very good example arrived in the form of a letter sent to all sixty elected members at the London Borough of Hounslow, the Chief Executive, the Borough Solicitor and the borough's two Members of Parliament. Ostensibly from an Ivybridge-based individual (actually a former member of the ICG whose estate-wide and thoroughly deserved reputation as a fantasist, an incontinent liar and a general loony prevented him from achieving the high office he clearly felt he deserved), the letter brought to the attention of its recipients my personal financial difficulties and, characteristically confusing an IVA with bankruptcy, demanded the "resignation" of a backbench opposition councillor on the grounds that he had apparently somehow been responsible for a non-existent "constitutional breach" on my part.

Nobody who received the letter will have been in any doubt as to its true origins. The reasons for using the Ivybridge Idiot as a patsy were twofold:

Firstly, apart from the well-known fact of my having entered into an IVA the majority of the content was self-evidently libellous, making all manner of allegations. Whilst my critics know I am not litigious, and in any case will for obvious reasons have taken it as read that I could not afford the legal costs usually involved with an action for defamation, its authors will also have known that in the most obvious and clear-cut instances of libel a successful action (on prima facie evidence) can potentially be mounted for as little as £300. There is also the small matter of probably libellous remarks about a current councillor (Peter Thompson) and a former councillor (Jon Hardy) contained in the document. Much better to get a stooge to sign the letter who can be left to take the rap if the smelly stuff hits the fan.

Secondly, and more significantly, the fact of my IVA does not run comfortably alongside the picture they prefer to paint - that of the good-living, property-owning, champagne-swilling man of permanent leisure, shanting it up on the proceeds of my £26k per year (£18k during the last year) as an elected member.

It takes some chutzpah, not to mention a little imagination and creativity, for the same people to run two mutually contradictory smear stories about the same person, at the same time and in the same neighbourhood. It will be interesting to see how long they can keep both balls in the air without the whole thing coming crashing down around them.

In the meantime those of us with constructive work to do in the community will continue to do it, whether our doing so "intimidates" our poor elected members or not.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Britain just became a colder, crueller country - and for nothing

By Johann Hari

Johann Hari is an award-winning journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, and the Huffington Post. He also writes for a wide range of other international newspapers and magazines. Publication of this article does not necessarily imply endorsement of every comment expressed therein.

Margaret Thatcher is lying sick in a private hospital bed in Belgravia – but her political children have just pushed her agenda further and harder and deeper than she ever dreamed of. When was the last time Britain’s public spending was slashed by more than 20 percent? Not in my mother’s lifetime. Not even in my grandmother’s lifetime. No: it was in 1918, when a Conservative-Liberal coalition said the best response to a global economic crisis was to rapidly pay off this country’s debts. The result? Unemployment soared from 6 percent to 19 percent, and the country’s economy collapsed so severely that they lost all ability to pay their bills and the debt actually rose from 114 percent to 180 percent. “History doesn’t repeat itself,” Mark Twain said, “but it does rhyme.”

George Osborne has just gambled your future on an extreme economic theory that has failed whenever and wherever it has been tried. In the Great Depression, we learned some basic principles. When an economy falters, ordinary people – perfectly sensibly – cut back their spending and try to pay down their debts. This causes a further fall in demand, and makes the economy worse. If the government cuts back at the same time, then there is no demand at all, and the economy goes into freefall. That’s why virtually every country in the world reacted to the Great Crash of 2008 – caused entirely by deregulated bankers – by increasing spending, funded by temporary debt. Better a deficit we repay in the good times than an endless depression. The countries that stimulated hardest, like South Korea, came out of recession first.

David Cameron and George Osborne have ignored all this. They have ignored the warnings of the Financial Times, the newspaper most critical of their strategy. They have dismissed the warnings of Nobel Laureates for Economics like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, whose warnings have consistently been proven right in this crisis. They have refused to learn from the fact that the country they held up as a model for how to deal with a recession – “Look and learn from across the Irish Sea,” Osborne said – has suffered the worst collapse in the developed world. They have instead blindly obeyed the ideological precepts they learned as baby Thatcherites: slash the state, and make the poor pay most.

Osborne galloped through his Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) speech, failing to name almost any of the services that will be slashed or shut down. It’s revealing that he doesn’t want to publicly name them while the nation is watching.

But beneath the statistics, there was a swathe of human tragedies that will now unnecessarily unfold across Britain. PriceWaterhouseCooper – nobody’s idea of a Trotskyite cell – says that a million people will now lose their jobs as a direct result. My father lost his job at the height of the last Tory recession, and had to leave the country to get another one. I remember how that felt. I remember what that did to my family. Now it’s going to happen to a million more families – and probably more after that. For the private sector to get all these people into work, as Osborne claims, there would have to be the most rapid business growth in my lifetime. Does anyone think that will happen?

Osborne has chosen the weakest people to take the worst cuts. The poorest sixteen year olds were given £30 a week to stay on in education, so they could afford to study – until Osborne’s team dismissed it as a “bribe” and shut it down. The most frail old people depend on council services to wash them and feed them – yet Osborne just slashed their budget by 30 percent, which service providers say will mean more pensioners being left to die in their own filth. Every family living on benefits is set to lose an average of £1000 a year – which, as I’ve seen from living in the East End of London, will mean many poor kids across Britain never getting a birthday party, or a trip to the seaside, or a bed of their own, or a winter coat. This isn’t just On Yer Bike, it’s On Yer Own.

The irrationality of this approach is perhaps plainest when you look at housing. We badly need more affordable housing in Britain. Some 4.5 million people are stuck on waiting lists, and the average age of a home buyer is now 37. It’s a cause of constant stress to the real middle class and despair for the poor. By a happy coincidence, house-building is one of the best stimulators of the economy: it employs a lot of people on average wages, who then spend their money quickly in a “multiplier effect.”

Yet Osborne has chosen the opposite. There will be on average one new home built per week in the whole of London and the south-east. That’s one. Indeed, instead of building homes, he’s driving people out of them. By slashing housing benefit, London councils alone say 83,000 people here are going to be forced to leave their homes, with 1.3 million ending up in more debt. Cameron has revealed that his baby daughter sleeps in a cardboard box decorated for her by her big sister. Thanks to him, a lot more people are going to be sleeping in cardboard boxes soon.

It can’t be coincidental that this is being done to us by three men – Cameron, Osborne, and Nick Clegg – who have never worried about a bill in their lives. On a basic level, they do not understand the effects of these decisions on real people. Remember, Cameron said before the election: "The papers keep writing that [my wife, Samantha] comes from a very blue-blooded background", but "she is actually very unconventional. She went to a day school." Osborne lives in a £4m trust fund he did nothing whatsoever to earn, and which is stashed offshore to prevent it being taxed. Clegg actually thought the state pension was £30 a week, a level that would kill pensioners.

These attitudes have real consequences. We’re not in this together. Who isn’t in it with us? Them, their friends, and their families. They were asked to pay nothing more in this CSR. On the contrary: they are being let off left, right and centre. To pluck a random example, one of the richest corporations in Britain, Vodafone, had an outstanding tax bill of £6 billion – but Osborne simply cancelled it this year. If he had made them pay, he could have prevented nearly all the cuts to all the welfare recipients in Britain. You try refusing to pay your taxes next time, and see if George Osborne shows the same generosity to you as he does to the super-rich.

There is one stark symbol of how unjust the response to this economic disaster caused by bankers is. They have just paid themselves £7bn in bonuses – much of it our money – to reward themselves for failure. That’s the same sum Osborne took from the benefits of the British poor yesterday, who did nothing to cause this crash. And he has the chutzpah to brag about “fairness.”

Britain just became colder and crueler country. And for what? To pantingly follow a disproven ideology over a cliff. On the eve of the general election, Cameron told us: "There'll be no cuts to frontline services," "we're not talking about swingeing cuts,” and “all cuts will be fair.” Is it possible to call him anything but a liar and an ideologue today?

You can enjoy a long rest, Baroness Thatcher – your successors have embarked on a Mephedrone-charged imitation that exceeds your most fantastical dreams.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

While the cat's away...

My son Joe and I have recently returned from a brief weekend stay at Gurnard Pines, on the Isle of Wight. I am a little envious of Caroline and my daughter Rosie who will still be there until Friday afternoon.

I've mislaid the mobile phone cable again so I'll post up a few photos if and when I manage to locate it.

While I was away I received a message from one of our Worton members advising me of what would appear to be a spectacularly appalling Labour leaflet, even by the standard of its authors, which has evidently been distributed on part of the Worton estate (they appear to lack either the manpower or the stamina to be able to circulate all 500 doors on the estate in one day as we frequently do).

I don't have a hard copy to hand, but by all accounts it consists solely or at least mainly of a bilious attack on the ICG in spite of the fact that we no longer have any councillors and have stated publicly that we would prefer henceforth to pursue our community objectives in a non-political way and outside of the electoral process. For those inclined to wonder why this statement of intent would appear to have especially irked them, a clue lies in the word "community" - it can reasonably be deduced that the scum element remains in control of the party in Isleworth at the time of writing.

When I take physical possession of the item I'll scan it and post it up. Presumably its originators will snigger that we will have given them free publicity, whilst the grown-ups amongst my readership will have the opportunity to behold precisely what it is we are dealing with today in local Labour.

For now, for me, it is on to more pressing things, such as the need to earn a living. So with the promise of more soon, I will away.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Isleworth councillor meets US anti-graffiti campaigner

What a splendid initiative by Isleworth councillor Ed Mayne (left), taking advantage of a private visit to New York to meet up with a well-known US anti-graffiti campaigner to pick up some advice on fighting crime at no cost at all to the Hounslow taxpayer.

Councillor Mayne, who is Lead Member for Community Safety (a post I held between 2006 and 2009), met with Council Member Peter F. Vallone Junior (!) during his trip to the States and was also able to discuss issues surrounding possession of firearms and relationship between civic leaders and police.

Speaking to the Hounslow Chronicle (click here for full story), Cllr. Mayne commented: "It was enlightening to meet such a high profile councillor who was happy to engage and share ideas. Councillor Vallone has been a major part of New York's drive for public safety and decreased levels of crime. It was exciting to have him agree with many of the ideas I was proposing and share some of the ways he has made his city significantly safer for residents".

Let's hope that some of the lessons learned by Cllr. Mayne during his visit can be put to good use for the benefit of Hounslow residents.

Photograph reproduced with acknowledgements to the Hounslow Chronicle.