Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cleggbama and me - witnesses at the birth of this new Coalition of Hope

by Suzanne Moore, Independent parliamentary candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Reproduced with acknowledgements to Mail Online.

Do you remember the time long ago before Cleggbama walked amongst us?

Amazingly it's less than two weeks. This Election was shaping up as deathly dull, with Brown and Cameron both flatlining.We sat through the near-death experience that is Brown's campaigning and watched bemused as Cameron failed to hide his exasperation that he just wasn't being handed what was rightfully his.The depressing arguing over cuts and the 'disappearing' of all significant women except dutiful spouses - now cast as fashion-conscious carers - made it even harder to engage.

My own frustration with the lack of choice bubbled over and my solution was to stand for Parliament myself as an Independent. Party politics had produced this stasis.

Rash, I am sure, but my form of direct action.

Even I, though, am not daft enough to think individuals can shift the system, simply that we can draw attention to its flaws. This is something most Independents have in common.

Having already expressed my preference for a hung parliament, my feeling was that the electorate was also in no mood to give one party a mandate. Such an outcome would be a way of ticking a 'none of the above' box.

This was before the TV debates. It's not that people just changed their vote on the basis of 90 minutes of telly, more that an attractive, articulate figurehead had been found for their rumbling discontent.

The Lib Dem leader was an unknown quantity. No more. Now we know his freshness makes both Brown and Cameron look stale.

He looked directly into the camera and connected viscerally with people's desire for a more direct form of democracy.

Arcane arguments about constitutional reform and proportional representation rarely excite.

But something happened visibly in the first debate: we could see the leaders of the two main parties were working overtime to maintain the status quo that Clegg was challenging.

Indeed the forces of conservatism on both sides have been ambushed by the urgency of those who now scent meaningful change. The Tories don't want substantial parliamentary reform and Labour only talks desperately of it in the dying days of its administration.

The Lib Dems may be wobbly on many issues but this is not one of them. It is wrong to suggest all have fallen in love with this party or that the Lib Dems are completely different from the main parties.

They are not. They are not clean on expenses, nor above using very dirty tricks when campaigning.

Surely the surge towards Clegg is happening because so many have felt locked out of the two-party system for many years. This sea change has been called a Diana moment and therefore irrational. But just as the outpouring over Diana reflected changes that had already happened and marked a break with a more buttoned-up past, so the Lib Dems' sudden popularity reflects years of the electorate feeling ignored by its leaders.

It doubtless helps, too, that Clegg embodies an energy and modernity that makes the twoparty system appear lethargic and creaky.

The prize now will go to those who offer actual change.

Brown can offer only more of the same as he floats among the wreckage of the latest job figures and lack of growth.

Cameron cannot hide his look of dismay that a new kid on the block may steal what is rightfully his. It's not in the script, yet it is written all over his face.

The unscripted Clegg, meanwhile, makes his success look entirely natural. You have to pinch yourself to remember that only weeks ago his party was deemed entirely unelectable.

The true measure of the Lib Dem insurgency is the reaction against it.

The unsettled mewlings about a hung parliament causing the end of civilisation as we know it emanate from those who have complacently invested in a Tory victory.

The City - that bastion of fairness and accountability - won't like it, they complain. Oh dear.

Well other countries cope and, actually, not all City people feel the same way.

Two unpopular wars, economic meltdown and huge inequality is the result of a party with a large majority. It is hard to imagine in what way a hung parliament could do worse.

I am biased obviously. I am not a Lib Dem but I share absolutely a sense that something has to shift and am excited to think it might. Standing as an Independent is part of pushing for a shift.

In my constituency other Independents have also come forward. Some good, some barmpots. I now find myself up against 'A Ripperologist'.

Well what did I expect? A clean fight? But what motivates most Independents is the same despair with our political system that Clegg is tapping into.

The practical problem for Independents, as I am finding out to my cost, is that without the teams and money that the big parties' machinery offers it is virtually impossible.

Last week, standing at a borrowed table wi th our lovely little flyers, we watched in awe as a bus pulled up.

Out got the sitting MP (Diane Abbott) and several of her staff.

They glared at us, dispensed their expensive literature and drove off. They must have stayed for all of five minutes.

Labour take my area, Hackney, for granted and clearly don't like being challenged in any way. Still they have the money to do wham-bam-thankyoumam campaigning.

No one at the top should take voters for granted. Something is shifting from the bottom up.

Brown is incapable of delivering the kind of change now being demanded.

Cameron provides only a change of leader and direction but no deep structural change of the institutions.

So forming now before us are two new coalitions.

On one side are those who want to reinvent the wheel of democracy, on the other those vested interests who like things just the way they are.

We have the progressives in the shape of Lib Dems, some Greens and many Independents now arrayed against the conservatives (small c) of the big parties. This is bad news for Labour, but they have had their chance.

Having been fed a politics of fear, something organic and long repressed is somehow manoeuvring us towards a politics of hope.

It is this coalition of hope - not Clegg himself - that is important. Such a moment may pass. But we shouldn't let it.

To witness the birth of a new political era would count as victory for many of us.

Friday, 23 April 2010

St. George's Day activities - 23rd and 24th April

I had intended to post these up several days ago, but with the pressures of electioneering never got around to it. Apologies.

Friday, April 23rd

3.30 pm to 9.30 pm - Market Place, Brentford

"What England means to me". Local musicians and bands, children's entertainer. Contact Julia Quilliam (Quilliam Property Services) on 020 8847 4737 for more information. Fire truck, farmers' market, free valuation of antiques. Fancy dress. Hog roast, pizza, champagne, oysters and real ale.

8.30 pm to 12.00 am - Isleworth Royal British Legion, North Street, Isleworth

Pie and mash, raffle, members' draw, cheap bitter, Cockney-style music.

Saturday, April 24th

12.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Bridge Link Centre, Ivybridge

Jointly organised by the Bridge Link Centre, the United Residents' Association (URA) and the Ivybridge Somali Association. Band and disco, children's games, bouncy castle, tombola and stalls, pie and mash, jellied eels, Somali food and photo exhibition.

3.00 pm - 6.00 pm - Red Lion, Linkfield Road, Isleworth

Jointly organised with the St. John's Residents' Association. Grand raffle, kid's horse racing, caricature drawing, tombola, sale, traditional music, win or water stall Bill's Insects of Interest. All proceeds to the local scouts.

Hope to see you at some or all of these.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Trying to live a normal life at an abnormal time

"You can't hide beat," according to the song.

Last night I sat up so long with my laptop doing paperwork stuff for the forthcoming local election that I didn't get around to going to bed. Then at 8.30 it was off to Hounslow Heath to collect my son from his cousin's, where he had been staying over, and a swift drive to Pinner for his last football league match of the season (in the event he was subbed early on as his asthma got the better of him and his side lost 4-1 - I'm not sure whether the two were connected).

Back home, quick sleep to try to recover from last night's data entry marathon, then off to visit several residents in Isleworth and Hounslow South.

In the meantime activists were out and about working in all three of the wards that we are contesting.

This is proving to be an unusual election. The general election being on the same day ensures a higher than usual turnout and yet there is still a great of deal of indifference and uncertainty on the doorsteps. More so, I would say, than is usually the case at this stage during a normal local election campaign.

Labour have been out and about but it all seems a bit half-hearted. They are doing more in Syon than they did last time, but then they did nothing whatsoever last time. In Isleworth they are all over the place, with 15-year-old hoodies knocking on doors and the same streets and the same residents on hostile estates being canvassed twice. Their almost complete rejection on "their" social housing estates seems too much for them to acknowledge, even to themselves, and consequently they are in denial.

At the general election the Lib Dems would appear to be riding on the crest of a wave following their success in the first leaders' televised debate. Whether it will last till polling day or not remains to be seen. In this constituency, certainly, there is plenty of political space for their candidate Andrew Dakers to move into (more observations about Andrew's campaign are to follow).

I envisage a local election turnout of around 45-48% in Isleworth and Syon, and as much as 55% in Hounslow South. It will be interesting to see whether voters' national preferences repeat themselves in their local choices, or whether electors are cute enough to differentiate between the two. My suspicion is that they will be.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Conversations like this make it all worthwhile

Out and about today with Community candidate Tricia Doran, who is proving to have been an excellent choice, and another activist canvassing doors in Hounslow South ward. Obviously a lot of people were out at work, but the responses we did get were encouraging. A conversation with one resident was particularly worth recording for posterity:

Resident: I'm not interested in politics at all, sorry.

PA: That's good, neither are we.

Resident: Ugh?

PA: We are residents, we are not interested in party politics. We believe in building strong communities with the capacity to fight their own battles, helped by councillors and activists but not ruled by them.

Resident: But if you are fighting the election you must be politicians yourselves, right?

PA: We have had to register as a political party but we prefer to think of ourselves as a community activist group. We don't have a party agenda, we believe in representing the community on the council rather than the council in the community.

Resident: But aren't you still kind of politicians?

PA: Well I guess it's a question of how you would define a politician, but if you say you won't be voting anyway...

Resident: I didn't say I won't be voting. I always use my vote.

PA: Okay. So you have the Conservatives, Labour and us. Of the three, which would you say were the least like party politicians?

Resident: Well you - of course.

PA: So as you say you're not interested in politics, does that incline you towards us or somebody else?

Resident: Well seeing as you put in like that, if I vote I will obviously vote for you.

PA: And you say you'll definitely be voting?

Resident: Of course, I always do.

PA: That's good enough for me. Good day Sir.

A short while later the three of us bumped into Brad Fisher, Conservative ward councillor and once again a candidate for his party. It was nice that we shook hands and had a good natured if rather brief chat. Nerves can become frayed during election campaigns and harsh words are somethimes exchanged, but it is worth remembering that we are all in this to do a job and most of us try our best to do the right thing for local people, whatever our angle or affiliation.

We enter the last three weeks of the campaign with cautious optimism, but if today's canvass was anything to go by we are really starting to get our hands into the meat at just the right time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

An unholy alliance begins to take shape

When I have a spare moment on my hands I like to trawl through the various comments on the local internet forums. Two of the most popular are ChiswickW4.com and BrentfordTW8.com, both of which are provided by NeighbourNet.

Often one gets drawn into participating. Sometimes a point has to be made, other times it's just for the craic - but speaking personally I find it difficult not to throw in my two penn'orth on occasions.

The exception is in the run-up to an election in which the Independent Community Group (ICG) is participating. This period tends to bring out the worst in our opponents who shift instinctively from crude and clumsy mode into cunning mode, alternately ganging up or engaging in various strategems and ruses to entrap and to compromise. Mindful of the potential the forums have to become the playthings of the unscrupulous I always withdraw from them a few weeks before a major campaign begins.

Invariably this provides a signal for critics to take a pop, in the sure knowledge that I will have rendered myself unable to respond. It would appear that opponents from across the spectrum are becoming enraged by our efforts to disassociate ourselves from conventional party politics, and all the accompanying sleaze and shame. And so now both I and my ICG colleagues find ourselves standing defiantly and unfazed in the firing line of what would appear to be becoming a cross-party offensive against the growing effectiveness of people politics in our little corner of the world.

Today on the TW8.com forum I would seem particularly to have become something of a cause célebre. Threads berating the ICG occupy most of the top ten listings on TW8.com as I write, and the onslaught has been joined by a Conservative councillor, the usual half-comprehending Labour claque and a quite obsessively embittered ex-ICG councillor who turned on his colleagues when it became clear to him that he was no longer up to the job (for what it's worth I happen to believe he had been quite a good councillor, if a tad off the wall, before he lost his self-confidence after his first couple of years in office, but as his belief in himself crumbled he characteristically looked around for somebody else to blame for his predicament). This particular recruit to the claque's destructive cause posts under his wife's name whilst accusing me of being a phoney!

Tonight a new poster, quite possibly a nom-de-plume for a more regular contributor, has taken the debate to its logical conclusion by proposing a formal local alliance between the Conservative and Labour parties in an attempt to arrest the relentless progress of the ICG.

We repeat our view that we stand separate and unashamedly aloof from the sorry, untrustworthy mess that party politics has become locally. We do not consider ourselves to be politicians, pursuing some inflexible dogma irrespective of the will of the people. We are asking "Who Needs Politicians?" and in the light of our achievements over the past four years think it is a reasonable enough question to ask.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Putting Isleworth on the musical map?

I came across this video the other day - local band The Ruskins performing "Old Isleworth", a dedication to their native Worton estate where it was filmed. Note the guest appearance by local legend Dougie Newton:

If you find the whole thing a bit scary listen to the interview with the band below. They seem like a decent bunch of lads:

It's nice to see some local talent emerging in the music world. Let's hope they get the break they deserve and help us to put Isleworth on the musical map.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Please say a prayer for Ashley

I was saddened and shocked this week to hear about the vicious attack that has left 19-year-old Ashley Williams in a coma and fighting for his life (click here for the full story).

I know Ashley, along with his father Patrick and his older brother Ricky and am proud to call them all friends. He is a smashing lad - friendly, witty, kind and totally inoffensive. It is appalling that anybody could have done something like this to such a decent and harmless young man. A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged with attempted murder - let's hope the courts get to the bottom of this incident and that justice is done.

In the meantime I dearly hope that Ashley comes through this and makes a complete recovery. I will say a prayer for him and implore others to do likewise. For those who don't believe in that kind of thing, please keep Ashley in your thoughts all the same.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Full candidate list for London Borough of Hounslow local elections 2010

No spin, no comment - just the list as it was announced today (sitting councillors in purple):


BANERJI, Reetendra (Lib Dem)
BEUMER, Alexander (Bedfont Ind Alliance)
BRABY, Patricia (Lib Dem)
BRUCE, Thomas (Labour)
GOODWIN, Margaret (Bedfont Ind Alliance)
GUPTA, Saghin (Labour)
HILLS, Peter (Bedfont Ind Alliance)
JHOOTI, Rajinder (Lib Dem)
MAMMATT, Liz (Conservative)
MEIER, Richard (BNP)
MORGAN, Norcliffe (Labour)
PRUDEN, Bernard (Conservative)
SANCHEZ, Rodrigo (Conservative)


BLEAKLEY, Tracey (Conservative)
BOURKE, Joseph (Lib Dem)
CADBURY, Ruth (Labour)
COLLINS, Mel (Labour)
DAKERS, Andrew (Lib Dem)
DYKES, Nicola (Conservative)
FIRKINS, John (Green)
FORD, Colin (Conservative)
HARMER, Matt (Labour)
NAQVI, Mona (Lib Dem)


BLEACH, Martin (Green)
HOPPER, David (Labour)
McGREGOR, Gerald (Conservative)
OULDS, Robert (Conservative)
PILLAI, Evangeline (Christian People's Alliance)
SOLEY, Anita (Labour)
THOMAS, Julie (Lib Dem)
TODD, John (Conservative)


ATKINSON, Judy (Labour)
BALLENTYNE, Phyllis (Lib Dem)
BARWOOD, Felicity (Conservative)
GOLDSMITH, Daniel (Green)
HEARN, Sam (Conservative)
LYNCH, Paul (Conservative)
O'BRADY, Niamh (Labour)
YATES, Valerie (Labour)


BOWDREY, Leslie (Conservative)
BUTT, Iqbal (Conservative)
CHATT, John (Labour)
DHILLON, Poonam (Labour)
EMMAMBOKUS, Shafick (Conservative)
GILL, Sarb (Beavers Cranford Party)
KAD, Parmod (Beavers Cranford Party)
MARAS, Sukhdev (Beavers Cranford Party)
SANGHA, Sohan (Labour)


BOWEN, Mark (Conservative)
DHALIWAL, Sukhbir (Labour)*
DUDEE, Dharmpal (Labour)
EDWARDS, Douglas (Lib Dem)
HUTCHISON, Gillian (Conservative)
WILSON, Allan (Conservative)
YATES, Syd (Labour)

* Sukhbir Dhaliwal currently represents Heston West


BENNETT, Joan (Lib Dem)
BOTTERILL, Colin (Conservative)
COOPER, John (Labour)
HARRIS, Barbara (Conservative)
KHAN, Koisor (Conservative)
MITCHELL, Alan (Labour)
SCARLETT, Sarah (Labour)


BARBER, Alan (Labour)
DARAZ, Ann (Conservative)
DARAZ, Michael (Conservative)
HUGHES, David (Labour)
MACINTOSH, Ian (Hanworth Ind Alliance)
MALHOTRA, Mukesh (Labour)
MORGAN-WATTS, Andrew (Conservative)
NAKAMURA, Linda (Hanworth Ind Alliance)
NELHAMS, Christopher (Hanworth Ind Alliance)
SMITH, Robert (Lib Dem)
TAYLOR, Maureen (BNP)
WILLIAMS, Roger (Ind)


BAYLEY, Adrian (Labour)
CHAUDRI, Abid (Labour)
JABBAL, Paul (Conservative)
MARTIN, Simon (Lib Dem)
SRA, Anant (Labour)
STEWART, Rebecca (Conservative)
WILLIAMS, Beverley (Conservative)


DHILLON, Amarjit (Conservative)
DHILLON, Gopal (Labour)
GILL, Mohinder (Labour)
LAKHANPAUL, Bhupindar (Conservative)
MALIK, Karamat (Conservative)
TRIPATHI, Vedhardhan (Ind)
VAUGHT, Peta (Labour)


BHATTI, Mohammad (Ind)*
DHIRI, Meenu (Conservative)
KAUR, Kamaljit (Labour)
KENTON, Michael (Conservative)
LAL, Gurmail (Labour)
MANN, Amritpal (Labour)
MARBROW, Nicholas (Ind)*
STEFANO-POULOS, Athanass (Conservative)
RUSHWORTH, Ian (Green)

* Mohammed Bhatti and Nicholas Marbrow are fighting on the same ticket


ATHWAL, Gubachan (Conservative)
BATH, Raj (Labour)
BRABY, Bernard (Lib Dem)
BUTT, Mohammad (Lib Dem)
ELLIOTT, Alan (Lib Dem)
GREWAL, Sukhjit (Conservative)
HUGHES, Elizabeth (Labour)
MATTU, Ragveer (Conservative)
RAJAWAT, Shantanu (Labour)


ALI, Syed (Lib Dems)
BATH, Lily (Labour)
DILLON, Prianka (Conservative)
TARIQ, Mohammad (Conservative)
GREWAL, Ajmer (Labour)*
GREWAL, Pritam (Labour)
HOLMES, Toby (Green)
QUICK, Christine (Conservative)

* Ajmer Grewal currently represents Hounslow West


BILLENNESS, Sally (Lib Dem)
CHEEMA, Dalbir (Ind)
CONNELLY, John (Hounslow Ind Alliance)
DHALIWAL, Surjit (Hounslow Ind Alliance)
ELLAR, Colin (Labour)
GILL, Pendhar (Conservative)
GODFREY, Ranjiv (Conservative)
GREWAL, Dharshan (Labour)
KATHURIA, Sneh (Conservative)
SINGH, Mohinder (Hounslow Ind Alliance)
SMART, Corinna (Labour)


DAVIES, Linda (Conservative)
DORAN, Tricia (ICG)
EVANS, Nicola (Green)
FISHER, Brad (Conservative)
FISHER, Pam (Conservative)
KHAN, Cheryl-Ann (ICG)
MALIK, Zara (Labour)
MURPHY, Martin (ICG)
WETZEL, Dave (Labour)
WHATLEY, Bob (Labour)


AGRAWAL, Vikas (Ind)
DHILLON, Ajmer (Labour)
DHIRI, Lata (Conservative)
MAJID, Abdul (Conservative)
MORSON, Winston (Green)
PASHA, Noor (Lib Dem)
SHARMA, Jagdish (Labour)
SOND, Balvir (Labour)
VINEY, Anthony (Conservative)


BAINS, Mindu (Labour)
BINNS, Andrew (Conservative)
FERRIS, John (Green)
MAYNE, Ed (Labour)
SAMPSON, Sue (Labour)
STOKER, Jennifer (Conservative)
VOUGIOUKAS, Jane (Conservative)


ATWAL, Harleen (Labour)
BEATON, Tom (Green)
CAREY, Peter (Conservative)
CHOUDHRY, Virender (Labour)
JAMES, John (Lib Dem)
MALIK, Nisar (Labour)*
O'REILLY, Sheila (Conservative)
REID, Barbara (Conservative)

* Nisar Malik currently represents Hounslow Central


ANDREWS, Caroline (ICG)
BRADLEY, John (Green)
CURRAN, Steve (Labour)
DENNISON, Theo (Labour)
ELLAR, Jason (Labour)
FISHER, Shirley (ICG)
HUNT, John (Green)
POOLEY, Brenda (Conservative)
SCOTT, Diane (Green)
STANNILAND, Helen (Conservative)
THOMAS, Victoria (Conservative)


AGIUS, Anthony (Green)
DAVIES, Samantha (Conservative)
LEE, Adrian (Conservative)
MANN, Ian (Lib Dem)
MAYORCAS, Jack (Labour)
McLOUGHLIN, David (Labour)
NATHAN, Peter (Labour)
THOMPSON, Peter (Conservative)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Community at the ready

Well, we now know for certain what everybody had already assumed - that the general election will be held on the same day as this year's local elections, on Thursday, 6th May.

Naturally this will complicate things a little, not only because it is likely to induce a higher turnout in the locals as those attending the polling station are likely, once they are there, to use their other vote, but also because voters will by May 6th have been inundated by the national media with big party politics and the challenge for us therefore is to keep them thinking local.

The ICG will not be taking part in the general election. Our leadership has made it clear that we would like to see the back of the incumbent MP Ann Keen as we feel it is important that borough residents have Members of Parliament who are prepared to work with the local authority regardless of which party or parties happen to be in office at the Civic Centre. However now it is upon us my view is that we will not be devoting too much attention to the shortcomings of our MP, but rather will be concentrating our efforts on getting our own people elected onto the council.

The ICG is fielding a total of nine candidates - Councillor Phil Andrews, Councillor Paul Fisher and Andy Sibley in Isleworth; Councillor Caroline Andrews, Councillor Shirley Fisher and Councillor Jon Hardy in Syon; and Tricia Doran, Cheryl-Ann Khan and Martin Murphy in Hounslow South.

Our policy platform is fairly simple - we wish to empower our community. Whilst recognising that the local authority has an obligation to provide for those who cannot speak out for themselves and who need help and assistance we will not use this as an excuse, as the previous Labour administration did, for exercising political control over the rest of the community. We want to see active, vibrant and independent civic societies, associations and amenity groups operating throughout the community, even if sometimes it means them challenging us as elected members. The Community Group does not consider it has anything to fear from an engaged community.

Whilst our Conservative coalition partners supported our Empowerment aspirations throughout the last four years, we feel their primary interest is low tax and that in the event of an all-out Conservative administration the community agenda is likely to be sidelined. Whilst we support the drive for low tax, we in the ICG see it as a means to an end rather than the end itself. Thus it is our view that the best result for our community at the local elections on May 6th would be once again for the ICG to hold the balance of power on an authority that is under No Overall Control.

ICG councillors will continue to put their own constituents and wards first and will fight for any resources that become available. We will not relent in identifying Section 106 and other funding for local projects, cohesion initiatives and general improvements for those we represent.

We are not satisfied that the new administration which assumed office in 2006 and of which we have been part has completely succeeded in changing the culture within the council bureaucracy. We believe the PIP process, whilst very welcome, was primarily cost driven and that the co-operation of chief officers with this project and with general budget setting has led our partners to look away while our own Empowerment agenda has been frustrated and obstructed by elements within the senior management. Some substantial rectification of this situation is likely for us to be an essential precondition of any future coalition agreement.

Lastly (for the time being) we will continue to provide a voice for the community on such vitally important local issues as Mogden. The campaign against the nefarious activities of Thames Water has demonstrated the value of elected members throwing their weight behind a successful organic initiative by residents.

At the time of writing we have less than thirty days to underscore all the valuable work that we have currently done to open up the process of our local government still further. ICG activists will be unrelenting in our efforts to secure four more years in which to implement our objectives.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Vince Cable MP supports residents' battle against Mogden Pong

Residents of Isleworth and Hounslow South received a very welcome boost yesterday (Thursday) morning when they were visited by Dr. Vince Cable MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who joined Liberal Democrat PPC Councillor Andrew Dakers and eight ICG councillors and prospective candidates at the gates of Mogden Sewage Treatment Works to support our efforts to put an end to Thames Water's callous mismanagement of the plant.

Nearly 1,400 residents are currently engaged in a court battle with Thames in which they are seeking an injunction to compel the water giant to honour its obligations to the surrounding community. ICG councillors Paul and Shirley Fisher have given evidence at the High Court in support of the residents, and Councillor Dakers has attended the court to offer his moral support.

Included in the photo above are Cheryl-Ann Khan (Hounslow South prospective candidate, third from left), Tricia Doran (Hounslow South prospective candidate, fourth from left), Martin Murphy (Hounslow South prospective candidate, ninth from left), Shirley Fisher (Syon councillor and prospective candidate, eighth from left), Caroline Andrews (Syon councillor and prospective candidate, seventh from right), Paul Fisher (Isleworth councillor and prospective candidate, sixth from left), Andy Sibley (Isleworth prospective candidate, third from right) and myself (Isleworth councillor and prospective candidate, far right - no funnies please!).

Dr. Cable's support has always been welcomed by Hounslow and Isleworth residents in the absence of any contact from their own MP.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Would David Cameron's "Neighbourhood Army" build Community Power or stifle it?

Conservative leader David Cameron has announced his intention to set up a "Neighbourhood Army" of 5,000 government trainees whose job would be to set up community groups. The full story can be read on the BBC Politics site here.

Obviously any initiative that would have the effect of helping to empower our communities is to be encouraged, and I guess it would probably be too vain for me to even consider the possibility that he may have picked up the idea from one of his visits to the London Borough of Hounslow, where he will have heard that his party has shared power for the past four years with the Community Group, which was flying the flag for localism before either of the major parties had even coined the word.

But would the recruitment of 5,000 government-trained community organisers who would then be sent into our cities, towns and villages to engender some form of Community Empowerment not be a contradiction in terms?

In short, can Community Power be imposed by government initiative, or must it necessarily be organic and rise unassisted out of the efforts of the people themselves?

Would the organisers withdraw once local people had been trained, and would there be strings attached to the continued support of the "experts" as there always is under Labour?

An interesting debate to be had.

Keep the Tropical Zoo local

An appeal by Councillor Jon Hardy (ICG, Syon ward)

Dear Friends

I don't know whether you saw the item on the BBC News recently regarding the Tropical Zoo which is currently based in Syon Park: if not it can be viewed here. Look out for Alice Purdy making an emotional appeal for the Zoo's survival.

The Zoo, a rescue centre for endangered species and environmental/educational centre which does a lot of sterling work with young people in the Borough, needs to find a new home as its lease with Lord Percy comes to an end this September. We have found them a new site in the East of the Borough but now they have to raise money to build a new centre in which to house the animals.

I know these are cash-strapped times but if you would consider making a small donation to the Zoo we can keep this valuable resource in the Borough for the education and enjoyment of our young people. For those of you who haven't been it is a great day out.

You can make donations at www.justgiving.com/Alice-Purdy.

Even if you can't afford a donation, please forward this to everyone in your contact list so it gets to those who can.