THE first Committee meeting of the Independent Community Group (ICG) after the recent local elections was held last night at a private venue in Twickenham (we just fancied a change of scenery) and I have to say I was thoroughly heartened by the positivity and enthusiasm that was demonstrated by all those who were present.
It would have been easy to have been down following our electoral reverse in all six of the seats that we held in Isleworth and Syon wards, but instead there was a recognition that the result had been entirely outside of our control, along with an acceptance that notwithstanding this fact there were aspects of our campaign that could have been improved upon and a determination, without any blame or finger-pointing whatsoever, that in the event of the ICG participating in any future elections we can and will be more professional and more sophisticated in the way in which we do things.
A lot of thought and deliberation was given to the question of the coalition of which we had been a part between 2006 and 2010 and the wisdom of our participation in it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most if not all shared my view that our involvement in the coalition had not adversely affected us in voting terms, other than for the fact that our erstwhile partners had quite ruthlessly, and in my view dispicably, tried to squeeze us at the election and to create a political environment in which the Labour/Conservative hegemony was restored and in which there was no place for a community alternative. It was an astounding but nonetheless quite self-evident fact that our partners had been calculatedly willing to risk a return to a Labour administration - which, of course, is what happened - in preference to permitting the return of community candidates. I was quite surprised to discover that amongst those present my own regret at our not having been tougher and a tad less trusting in our dealings, especially over the last year or so of the coalition, was not only shared but surpassed by most if not all of my colleagues.
An internal reshuffle saw Ian Speed (above left) being promoted to Chair and Andy Sibley (right), having been formally co-opted to the Committee, taking over the role of Vice Chair. The meeting expressed its gratitude to Jon Hardy for his leadership as the outgoing Chair.
The social event held at the same venue after the Committee meeting was pleasingly well attended, and reports were received from the first meeting of the new Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee (IBAC), which is now being chaired by Councillor Matt Harmer. It is no secret that we had feared the role of the public, which in our view remains inadequate even after four years of coalition administration, would be further diminshed under Labour "control", but thus far the signals would appear to be mixed.
As I expected we have ruled nothing in or out with regard to our future strategy, and in particular in respect to whether or not we contest elections. But we will ensure that our electoral machine is polished and ready, maybe involving ourselves in by-elections as a means of keeping ourselves fresh, a bit like an air force that is perpetually on red alert but hopes it will never be used in anger. It was understood that our very presence as an organised body might have the effect of altering the attitudes of others towards the community in a positive way.
We expect one or two people to fall by the wayside, having been accustomed to us playing a certain role and now seeing us in a different and to them unfamiliar position. Those who walk away with honour and in a dignified manner will not be thought the worse of. But the emphasis over the coming years will be to consolidate, to build, and to become better organised and more efficient still. We will look to extend our operation into areas previously unconsidered, and to take a more holistic and borough-wide view of all that we do.
All in all quite a constructive night out, and a very big thank you to everyone whose contribution enables us to look forward with optimism and confidence.