Monday, 10 May 2010

"It's ironic that the outcome of a local election should be determined by a group of voters with no interest in local elections"

That was my soundbite when I sent off a press statement earlier trying to explain how the ICG came to lose all six of its council seats in Isleworth and Syon wards at last week's local elections.

It wasn't, in my view, an unreasonable thing to say. In 2006 I had topped the poll in Isleworth with 1240 votes, this year in the same ward 1741 votes was not enough to get me onto the scorescheet. The general election increased the turnout in Isleworth from 37% to over 62%, and in Syon from 36% to over 58%. Obviously an increase in turnout is good for democracy inasfar as it goes, but if the cause of the extra numbers is that the additional voters are in attendance for a reason other than to vote in a local election it does mean that the local election result is essentially being decided by those who don't really give much of a toss about local community business. That most of those fitting this description would appear to have been Labour voters could be argued to vindicate the ICG's whole raison d'etre.

No matter, we have six new Labour councillors on the manor - Mindu Bains, Ed Mayne and Sue Sampson in Isleworth and Steve Curran, Theo Dennison and Jason Ellar in Syon, and I wish them every success in their new roles over the next four years. They are all new councillors which hopefully means they will bring fresh enthusiasm to the job, and in the case of two of them at least they bring extreme youth as well. Jason is, I believe, the youngest councillor ever to be elected to the London Borough of Hounslow, and I'm just too kind to ask how he intends to juggle his casework with his homework, or whether he'll have to be home from meetings by nine o'clock!

All joking aside, I am naturally being asked where the ICG intends to go from here, and whether we'll be looking to try to recapture the seats in 2014. The simple truth is that I don't know, and much is likely to depend on how the new councillors engage with the population that we as a local community group still serve and the approach the new administration in general takes to the whole area of Community Empowerment. If they take advantage of our contacts, our insight and the relationship that we enjoy with residents active in the community to try to create their own bond of a kind that is beneficial to the community they will have our support and assistance. If, on the other hand, their approach will be to treat local residents and their organisations as conquered serfs they will find in us a formidable adversary.

The is little doubt in my mind that, but for the extraordinary conditions created by the holding of the general election on the same day as the local elections, we would have comfortably held all our seats in both Syon and Isleworth. Good sitting councillors of the caliber of John Connelly, Peter Hills and Linda Nakamura were absolutely annihilated in their respective wards, coming in fourth behind the three major parties, each of them coincidentally taking about 14% of the poll. Even the excellent Andrew Dakers, standing for the Liberal Democrats in Brentford as well as representing his party in the parliamentary contest, was beaten down into third place.

The ICG, by contrast, were still knocking at the door in defiance of the artificial turnout, and of all logic. We came second in both Syon and Isleworth, in the latter failing to hold a seat by just 78 votes. In Isleworth we took over 29% of the vote, in Syon nearly 25% in spite of the unhelpful and pointless intervention of a full slate of Green Party candidates and one from UKIP. Our percentage of the vote in Hounslow South, where we have never held a seat, was roughly equal to those of the defeated independent councillors in Hounslow Heath, Bedfont and Hanworth.

The ICG's Committee will be getting together shortly to assess the situation. I cannot second guess the outcome of that meeting, but the mood is not one of defeat but of acceptance of the freak conditions which fired this eccentric result, coupled with a cool determination to defend everything we have built in our community, to ride the storm if a storm is to be, and to mobilise residents to resist any attempt to dismantle what they have built should such an attempt be forthcoming. Colleagues also however seem to have a genuine desire to give the new regime a chance before jumping to any conclusions and, if needs be, to redeploy the organisation into a supporting role outside of the electoral arena.

Meanwhile it feels odd not being an elected member after twelve years of continued service. I was going to go to the office today to do some constituency work, then realised that I no longer have any constituents nor for that matter an office! I'll get used to it, and four years will pass like it is no time at all.

It has been suggested elsewhere that the ICG "paid the price" for having entered into coalition with the Conservatives. The election results don't support this theory. Neither John Connelly nor Andrew Dakers had ever been in coalition with the Tories, whilst Peter Hills and Linda Nakamura severed their connection some time ago. Yet all of them were defeated more heavily than we were.

Do I have any regrets about the coalition? Well, I don't regret entering into it. Having been elected to office to make a difference I feel we had a duty to place ourselves into a position that enabled us to do that. My one regret is that, once it had become obvious to us that chief officers were prioritising Conservative objectives over ours, we didn't - I didn't - do enough to rectify the situation. Vague promises that our complaints would be "looked into" as they stalled for time (as we knew they were doing) stretched things out until they were effectively timed out and we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that we would deal with it all after the election as a condition of any new coalition agreement. Which would have been fine had we had the opportunity.

Lots of questions will be asked, and answered, over the weeks and months ahead. As long as we remain solid, as we intend to, the long-term future of our community will remain entirely in its own hands.


hinate said...

Phil do you hve any regrets about going into coalition and do you think you might have held on to your seats if you had not?

Phil Andrews said...

@ hinate

I don't think entering the coalition was the wrong thing to do at the time and I don't think having been in the coalition affected our result adversely.

But I do regret not having been tougher about two and a half years in when it became clear to us that we were being obstructed and that our partners were, at best, allowing it to happen.

Possibly we were too busy fulfilling our various functions to pay too much attention to what was going on around us but what it meant at the end of the day was that Labour inherited the old bureaucracy intact, which it will now take pains to strengthen and reinforce with its own cronies.

Bearing in mind also the way the coalition finished up I can't personally see it ever being re-established. Once trust has gone it has gone. Which means of course looking for other ways and means to empower communities in our borough.

No ideas at the moment, but still plenty of enthusiasm. It's going to be an interesting four years.

Anonymous said...


I don't accept your congratulations are sincere. You have a history of attacking the Labour party dating back to your days in the National Front and the ICG will always be on the right of the political spectrum and will never be any friend of Labour.

This is only my personal view and I can't speak for the new Labour councillors but I would advise them to avoid you and shun any offers of support or help from the extreme right ICG. That would apply too to your friends in the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

Phil Andrews said...

Go away Robin, you total nutter.

Anonymous said...

The Southall Dipshit strikes again,

Anonymous said...

I've just been having a look at some of his ravings on the Brentford site and your not kidding, that bloke's a real fruitloop ain't he?

Phil Andrews said...

My thoughts at the moment are that one's enemy's enemy is not always one's friend.

Anonymous said...

Phil, The man on the street was as surprised as Labour that they got elected. The fact that they did not have a cohesive manifesto to publish and only did so some three weeks after taking office is testimony to this. Their five pledges are half the Tories "Promise 10". For the sake of Hounslow I hope they come good but I fear local administrations that are a different hue to the national coalition government will suffer in the grant settlement - disguised as the need to clear the deficit. Their aim should be to keep things ticking over and don't do anything drastic or stupid. Do you think they can manage that for four years?