Friday, 26 November 2010

A privilege and an honour

I was humbled one again on Wednesday night to have been re-elected by members of my Church to serve for another year as a Deacon.

A cynic could argue that it isn't difficult to win the support of the required two-thirds of the membership at a meeting when everyone has an unlimited number of votes. But that threshold has been missed by others before now and, more importantly, members could and would have been forgiven for rejecting me on the grounds that for a variety of reasons (Joe's football, work, community commitments) my attendance at Church services and other functions has not been as good as that of some others.

It is a source of real comfort and gratitude to know that, in spite of my shortcomings, my fellow Church members have sufficient faith in whatever it is I do to want me to serve them for another twelve months and I will do my very best not to let them down.

Friday, 19 November 2010

We Will Remember Them (Part 2)

In the course of remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in two World Wars, it would be remiss not to remember those who work so hard year in and year out to keep the memory alive.

It is obviously with a certain bashfulness that I pay tribute to my own father, but I have done already in any case in a previous post. For many years he has organised the poppy sales that have thus far produced a higher yield with each year that passes. The poppies may only go on sale a week or so before Remembrance Sunday, but the preparation work begins long before.

Similarly one must mention the Branch at the RBL and particularly the indefatigable Linda Green who, despite having difficulties and hardships of her own which would have deterred most other people from becoming actively involved, has been in the thick of the preparations as always.

Lastly one must give thanks to all those volunteers who took the time to stand outside supermarkets and other outlets, sometimes unprotected in inclement weather, to sell poppies and to collect money for the cause.

A big well done to everyone who took part in this excellent effort, and here's to many more in the future.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We Will Remember Them - Sunday, 14th November 2010

This year's Remembrance Day Parade, although sadly shortened by the rain, was probably the largest that I have ever attended.

Some years ago the general public would just stand and watch as the ex-servicemen and a few local dignitaries marched past them. One of the achievements of the "Community Culture" heralded by the rise of the ICG over the past decade or so has been to turn this occasion into a public event. Nothing, after all, was ever more public than a war in which millions of "ordinary" people made the ultimate sacrifice.

At the War Memorial ICG Vice Chair Andy Sibley (above right) laid a wreath on behalf of the community. All the new ward councillors from Isleworth and two from Syon were present; the Isleworth councillors laid wreaths on behalf of the Mayor, the Labour Party and the new Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth, Mary Macleod.

Following the parade there was the familiar gathering at the Isleworth Royal British Legion, which was enjoyed by many. The Mayor of the London Borough of Hounslow paid a visit and met many of the local ex-service people and organisers of the parade.

This major and sombre event on the local calendar always presents a welcome opportunity to meet colleagues and other friends, some of whom are not as regular at the IRBL as others amongst us!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lib Dems call for action on Gunnersbury

Reproduced with acknowledgements to

Hounslow Liberal Democrat campaigner Joe Bourke has called for the Gunnersbury Joint Advisory Committee to reconvene urgently. It has not met since the May local elections. Meanwhile he claims the park, mansions and museum - containing local history collection - continue to decay.

In early September the Hounslow Liberal Democrats offered to work with Council leaders to engage ministers in the Coalition Government. The Lib Dems have still not received any response. Since the election Ealing Lib Dems confirmed that the new administration in Ealing stands by the previous Ealing leadership's commitment to put £5m into the regeneration project. Hounslow has to date failed to match this commitment.

Joe Bourke, Hounslow Liberal Democrat Campaigner, said, "We are deeply disappointed that the Council was not prepared to take action earlier this year and invest the money required to stop the decline of the park, local history museum and mansions. This is a site of local and national importance. We put forward carefully costed proposals and used the work of the consultants employed by the Council to chart a way forward.

"The indecision that has blighted the park and its mansions for years seems to be continuing with no meeting yet agreed of the Joint Advisory Panel on Gunnersbury Park, Museum and Mansions.

"The arguments have gone on for too long. Whilst we accept a lot of money is required at a difficult time, we are very worried about the future of the Local History Museum in view of the deteriorating fabric of the building it is in. Leaking roofs threaten the collection. This project and investment could develop local skills and provide employment."

Some people just don't get it

An excellent analysis of the Woolas ruling by blogger Cory Hazlehurst. There's nothing that really needs to be added:

Revolting Labour backbenchers fight for the Right to Lie

Their protests against the illegal war in Iraq amounted to nowt but a damp squib. Concerns over student loans and the introduction of ID cards were whispered briefly about the place before fizzling out with a phut.

But at last Labour backbenchers have found a cause around which to rally with gusto, indignation and shrill vengeance in unprecedented measure. The second largest party in the UK and aspirant government of the future is furious that a decision by two High Court judges could compel them to conduct their future election campaigns without knowingly making false and malicious statements about their opponents without running the risk of losing their seats.

The "Right to Lie" campaign is in full flow and Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the party who has very decently made clear her view that dishonest politicking of this kind is in her view unacceptable, is its target.

Nobody, as far as I am aware, has disputed the fact that Phil Woolas not only lied about his Liberal Democrat opponent during his general election campaign but did so wilfully. None of his supporters, as far as I can tell, would appear to feel at all uncomfortable about the fact that Woolas would seem to have based his campaign on stirring up racist sentiment in his constituency.

As is the case here in the London Borough of Hounslow the party that publicly preens itself on its "enlightenment" and its commitment to equality, which it would have us believe is totally unique to itself, evidently has no qualms about provoking racial tensions if there is a perceived electoral benefit to be had.

That in Hounslow their tactic is to try to frighten minorities into voting for them by invoking threats to their safety that do not really exist, whilst in Oldham it is the white racists to whom they pander, would appear to be no more than a matter of simple demographics.

I dearly hope that decent elements within the Labour Party rally round Harriet Harman in the same way that the politically unscrupulous have gathered around Woolas. A fight for the soul of a once great party and a subsequent triumph of honest values of such a magnitude that it reverberates throughout the party would have a seismic effect on the future political landscape in our borough.

Despite the fact that this is not on the surface of it a local issue to us here, the ICG will for obvious reasons be watching how this one plays out with an enormous amount of interest.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Politicians squeal over loss of their right to deceive the electorate

The fallout from the Phil Woolas ruling was never going to be long in coming.

Woolas himself, whilst not appearing to deny that he wilfully lied about an opponent in order to gain a political advantage, whined that the judgement "raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question politicians.

"Those who stand for election...must accept that their political character and conduct will be attacked.

"It is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."

One needs to remember that "speaking freely" in this context means actually telling deliberate lies about the character of an opponent.

Some might be surprised that the Labour Party itself has not rallied round Woolas, indeed Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has stated in quite unambiguous terms that telling deliberate lies about opponents is not a part of the party's modus operandi (it would of course be very interesting to hear what she would have to say if she knew half of what her party members got up to in our little corner of the world).

It was "not part of Labour's politics for somebody to be telling lies to get themselves elected," she insisted.

Woolas not unreasonably complains that he has been hung out to dry. Clearly there are those in his party who exude an aura of relief at having been gifted such an opportunity to show him the door. One is reminded of the words of the late Alan Clark, who once famously observed: "There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling, and waiting, for traces of blood to appear in the water".

Amusingly, Woolas bewails the fact that his party will not be funding his legal challenge to the ruling and that it will cost him some £50,000-£60,000 from his own pocket. I would guess the irony of the fact that that places him in the exact same boat as most of us victims of his party's routinely libellous campaigns will have been lost on him entirely!

Predictably other members of the political establishment have weighed in to his defence. Conservative MP Edward Leigh complained: "What worries me about this is that, if this is allowed to stand, it will be virtually impossible for there to be really robust debate during elections.

"People will be terrified of attacking their opponents."

No you moron, it means you will have to start considering whether the things you are saying to the electorate actually have a grain of truth in them!

The most telling comments of all however are those of former Labour Party General Secretary Peter Watt, who asked: "He was definitely found guilty of breaching electoral law by telling untruths about one of his opponents. But does that overwrite his history and contribution to the party of so many years?"

Not to the likes of you probably Mr. Watt, who seem to take it for granted that everyone in your party will put tribal loyalty before principle - party before people. But thankfully the days of creatures such as you exercising complete dominance over our body politic would seem to be drawing to a close at long last.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Comment would be superfluous...

Trebuchet or not Trebuchet?

One or two people have commented that since I changed the layout of this blog the enlarged Trebuchet typeface doesn't look quite right for what is supposed to be a medium of serious comment (well, sometimes anyway!).

I am thinking of switching over to Verdana.

This paragraph is an example of the Verdana typeface. I use it on a number of other blogs that I run for sundry different projects which are probably of no interest to readers of this one.

Does anybody have a view on this please?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Elwyn Watkins' statement

Further to the item below, Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins has released the following brief statement:

"This verdict is a historic victory for the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth, a victory for fair play and a victory for clean politics.

"Anyone who knowingly lies to the voters or looks to set constituent against constituent has no place in a democracy.

"I hope this judgment makes it very clear that if you deceive your constituents you should be kicked out of Parliament.”

Ruling could pave the way for a return to honest politics

I don't imagine I'll have to explain to anybody from around these parts the significance of the verdict in the Phil Woolas case heard by two High Court judges:

Phil Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth (and former party activist in Hounslow), beat his Liberal Democrat rival by 103 votes at the recent general election. The Lib Dem, Elwyn Watkins, claimed that Mr. Woolas had knowingly made false statements about him in his election material that may have had a decisive impact upon the result.

He took legal action against Mr. Woolas under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act and the case was heard before a special elections tribunal, the first of its kind to sit for almost a century.

The Act makes it an offence to publish "any false statement in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct" in order to prevent their election - unless they believed it was true and had "reasonable grounds" for their belief.

Having considered the evidence, the judges found in favour of Mr. Watkins and a re-run of the contest has been ordered.

I've not yet studied the Act to ascertain whether or not it applies to local elections as well as to general elections. Natural Justice would suggest that it should.

As we know, Labour in Hounslow not only regularly produces material about its opponents during elections that it knows to be untrue, it even openly boasts of the fact.

There are several examples from Isleworth during recent contests to which I can point. The alleged "firebomb attack" on a Labour candidate's house in 2006 followed almost instantly by a leaflet suggesting that the ICG was responsible. A leaflet circulated in 2010 claiming that I owned a holiday home in Portugal when its originators knew at the time that I was in an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) with my creditors which would have made it impossible for me to so. Another leaflet circulated during the same campaign alleging that ICG candidates had held a meeting discussing plans to sell off local authority housing stock. There are countless examples of which these are just a tiny few.

That the circulation of untrue and sometimes malicious allegations about opponents is deliberate local party policy was confirmed in a debate at Borough Council when the Deputy Leader of the then Labour opposition, Councillor Ruth Cadbury, casually dismissed criticisms of dishonest campaigning with the immortal words: "You call it dishonesty, we call it politics".

Anybody who has ever spoken to these people on a personal level will confirm that when confronted about their actions they appear genuinely confused as to what all the fuss is about. They almost all give an impression of regarding dishonest campaigning and vicious personal smears against their opponents as being an integral and quite normal part of the process of political campaigning, and that the end result completely justifies the means. One must assume that such a peculiarly mercenary approach to human engagement is instilled in them by the organisation the service of which would appear to dictate their every deed and emotion.

Away from politics many of them are actually quite decent, trustworthy, friendly, sometimes helpful. I have found myself especially impressed that they always seem to stand their round. And yet when they don the rosette...

For what it is worth, I would like to state publicly that I do not believe local Labour's dishonest campaign methods cost us the seats that we lost in Isleworth and Syon back in May. The political conditions under which that election was fought did for us, and in my considered view we would have lost all six seats even had the Labour campaign been a paragon of honesty and honour. Let me be quite clear about that.

However in another place and in another time it is conceivable that a small reverse could be brought about as a result of local Labour's policy of deliberately smearing and misrepresenting its opponents in the most crude and malicious manner.

I hope the electorate punishes Labour dearly in Oldham East and Saddleworth in a determined expression of righteous anger. If there is any justice the Lib Dem victim of Labour's smears will be selected by his party and elected by the voters. As victory was probably rightfully his in May it would be nice to see the Conservatives stand down and give him a clear run, but I doubt whether they will.

It will also be interesting to see whether Labour have the nerve, not to mention the contempt for the electorate and for the integrity of politics, to field Mr. Woolas once again.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Thames Water's and LBH's faecal attraction

The consultant Entec has been commissioned to hold a public consultation tonight on the odour nuisance created by the activities of Thames Water at the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works in Isleworth.

Although residents suffering the Mogden Pong for the most part reside in Isleworth, Whitton or Twickenham the meeting is being held at the Civic Centre in Hounslow, at least two miles away from most of Mogden's victims.

It begins at 7.00pm - not that most residents will know that, as the start time was accidentally omitted from the mailout that was allegedly delivered to 10,000 households in the area.

Most of the people within the claimed distribution area that MRAG (Mogden Residents' Action Group) have spoken to have not received a newsletter.

Questions sent by MRAG to Entec have not been responded to. We were told yesterday that Entec had taken a "policy decision" not to respond to individual questions. Apparently a question from a residents' group demonstrably representing thousands of households still constitutes an "individual question".

A cynic would suspect that tonight's meeting will be nothing but a stage-managed public relations exercise. A cynic would expect that the inevitably low turnout will lead the organisers to publicly aver that Mogden is not an issue for most residents.

And what, I wonder, would the same cynic make of the fact that Entec and Thames Water have chosen the Civic Centre as a "home" venue, when so much hot air has been expended over many years by successive administrations about the local authority being on the side of the residents?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Collectors wanted for Poppy Day 2010

Once again we approach the time when we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.

On Sunday 14th November 2010 local people will join the annual Remembrance Day parades in various towns around the borough. In Isleworth the local community pays tribute to its fallen at the War Memorial at the junction of Twickenham Road and South Street.

As in previous years my father has been entrusted with the task of organising the poppy collections in the run up to the main event. Each since he started he has managed to better the previous one in terms of the total amount collected.

However he could always use more volunteers to assist the fund raising effort by giving up a few hours to collect money outside local supermarkets and from local businesses.

If you can spare any time to help between now and November 13th please call Ron Andrews on 020 8892 4260 and leave your name and contact details.

Thank you.