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.