Friday, 22 October 2010

The dark soul in our midst that cannot move on

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.


Anonymous said...

Well, I've just managed to 'acquire' a somewhat weather-beaten copy of "Village Voice - the REAL voice of the Isleworth community".


For starters, it clearly rips off the format and presentation style of "Village News" and as for the material - gold medal bitch-fest standard.
A really nasty piece of work, complete with a suspiciously 'doctored' authorship credit.
Handy for issuing a disclaimer, I suspect !

Anonymous said...

"The Village Voice", such wonderful tat, truly the work of the devil
Made to look like "The Village News", so you KNOW it's not on the level
What's it about, why issue it now, will it go out all over the town ?
A genuine, informative missive, or an excuse to rake up old ground ?
The sneering tone, the snidey comments, character assassination
Bilge from the gutter committed to print and offered for our libation
Poisonous barbs dipped in acid, extremely personal remarks
Anything goes, feed the fire and enjoy the smoke and the sparks
Spiteful stuff, libellous perhaps, its creator devoid of shame
But 'blur' the authorship credit and it's easy to shift the blame
Political posturing, one-upmanship, willy-waving supreme
ICG out, Labour back in, a chance to become the new queeen
Bask in the glory, it may not last long, us plebs are notoriously fickle
This time next year your name could be mud, your reputation not worth a nickel

Anonymous said...

"Just before he was elected as the borough's first ICG councillor...., Phil Andrews said:
Money is far from being my motivation".

Not sure how the credited author would've known that, I suspect a more 'senior' hand - don't you Phil ?

Anonymous said...

Raking up muck from the past, it's the fascinating new local sport
As Labour have thrown down the gauntlet, how's their old friend Gloria Shortt ?
She's such a loyal supporter, you couldn't ask for much better
Total commitment, salt of the earth and prepared to sign any letter

Our local bus service, the 267, has always been somewhat dodgy
We recall their campaign for a much better deal, very stilted and stodgy
Posed for the press along Twickenham Road with clipboards in their hand
Then did little else, but claimed success, the perfect masterplan

And let's not forget about Mogden and the way they dealt with Thames Water
Far too weak, easily duped, like sacrificial lambs to the slaughter
Yet "The Isleworth Rose" or a similar tract, told a different story
They held the whip hand, Mogden under their thumb and they revelled in the glory

A few examples just off the cuff, but there's so much more I could say
Tales of their exploits elsewhere will have to wait for another day
Ivybridge and Worton Green, the deceit you'll find hard to abide
Labour in Isleworth historically, have taken most people for a ride

Anonymous said...

Really Philippe, you terrible tease, you promised and haven't delivered
Hot news last week, cold porridge now, our interest has wilted and withered
When you mentioned the dirt, our eyes all lit up, eager with anticipation
Freestyle bitching we could access at home, we're the Jeremy Kyle generation
Enrapt by such dreadful behaviour, should we really show more decorum ?
Or is our sense of decency being eroded by internet forums ?
TW8 and W4, insults fly thick and fast every day
The usual suspects making most of the noise, never short of something to say
Yet some of these scribes become heroes, winning their own bands of supporters
Then rivalry rears its ugly head and the hostility never falters
A climate of pique is established and nastiness becomes second nature
More and more people line up to sling mud, even though they've no reason to hate yer
But when will it stop, have we gone too far, way beyond the point of return ?
Or is it a hopeless scenario because some of us don't WANT to learn ?