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.