Monday, 28 May 2012

What If...?

Brentford Labour Councillor and former Deputy Leader Ruth Cadbury has an interesting item on her blog on the recent elections to the Greater London Authority (GLA), with a useful breakdown of voting patterns in the London Borough of Hounslow on a ward by ward basis. You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Whilst I don't believe the results from a London-wide election can be accurately projected onto the local elections to be held in 2014, they do give us some indication of how the ICG could expect to fare if, hypotheically, we were to contest them (the figures given are the "Party List" votes which probably give us a more accurate picture for the purposes of analysis, certainly more so than the beauty contest that was the Mayoral election itself).

On a similar turnout to that that we are likely to witness in 2014 Labour achieved 1094 votes in Isleworth and 1088 in Syon, the two wards which returned community councillors in 2006. These figures exclude the postal votes, which were counted separately. Allocating those postal votes proportionately from the overall total the Labour vote increases to around 1470 in Isleworth, and 1460 in Syon.

The Conservative vote is especially interesting. Just 653 people voted Conservative in Isleworth and 777 in Syon. Adding the postal votes calculated in the same manner as with Labour those figures increase to 916 in Isleworth and 1089 in Syon.

Both Labour and Conservative totals are those achieved in what was more or less a straight fight between the two (the minor parties, including the Lib Dems, shared a fairly small proportion of the overall votes cast). In other words, it is the vote the two big parties can reasonably expect in the absence of a challenge from within the community.

In both 2002 and 2006 votes for ICG candidates in Isleworth ranged between 1065 and 1266. In Syon in 2006 they ranged between 1329 and 1417. I have deliberately ignored the 2010 totals, which were higher, as the turnout was distorted by the fact of the general election being held on the same day.

Bearing in mind that the turnout in 2014 is likely to be similar to that of the GLA election, the suggestion is that any community candidates would take their votes largely from the political candidates, and proportionately this would mean for the most part from Labour and the Conservatives.

Could the ICG expect a similar vote to that which it achieved in 2002 and 2006? The feedback and general support that we are picking up from across the community leaves me in no doubt at all that we could. So what does this all mean?

Well first of all it means that, with or without a community intervention, the Conservatives have no realistic chance of making any headway in either Isleworth or Syon in spite of their bizarre bragging on Internet forums in the immediate wake of their defeat in 2010. If the ICG doesn't contest, Labour wins.

Secondly, it suggests that the ICG would, if it were to involve itself, probably be the bookie's favourite to win all six seats back. 1400-odd votes less a good few hundred lost to the ICG equals something decidedly short of the likely ICG total.

Possibly though this wouldn't be enough to seize the balance of power on the Council, as was the case last time. In the west of the borough there are a number of seats in which representation is "mixed" and current trends, coupled with the Conservatives' general lack of a gameplan other than a pie-in-the-sky aspiration for achieving an overall majority which would appear to be based solely on wishful thinking rather than any form of strategic planning, would seem to point to Labour gains in 2014, especially with the Conservatives being the major party of government. Even without Isleworth and Syon Labour currently holds 29 of the Council's 60 seats. A couple of gains in the west would secure them overall control in any event. But with a majority of, say, three seats the party would be extremely vulnerable to any eccentricites and deviations on the part of any of its own people. Party loyalty and organisational obedience would be put to the test like never before.

Like I say, this is all strictly hypothetical. The ICG doesn't have to contest elections. There is more than one way to skin a cat - if my very vegetarian daughter would forgive me such an expression. What it does mean however is that we remain in a position to use our clout within the community to wrest concessions at a time when some cutbacks are inevitable and when decisions will have to be taken between dependent and non-dependent services by an administration which institutionally feels more kindly disposed towards people and organisations that are dependent upon them. The hugely successful demos around Isleworth Library and St. John's Community Centre, coupled with our continuing active support for Isleworth Public Hall, are cases in point.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Another Isleworth Councillor on the LBH Executive

At the Annual Meeting of Borough Council on Tuesday (it's to all intents and purposes a kind of AGM but doesn't appear to have an official title) another Isleworth councillor was promoted to the Council Executive.

Councillor Sue Sampson is now the Council's Lead Member for Performance and Customer Care, joining fellow Isleworth member Ed Mayne who remains Lead Member for Community Safety and Regulatory Services (the former half of that portfolio having been held by yours truly between 2006 and 2009).

Meanwhile Syon councillor Steve Curran holds what appears to be a rather large portfolio as Lead Member for Education, Housing and Human Resources and his ward colleague Theo Dennison has the influential task of chairing the Sustainable Development Committee (with Councillor Curran as his Vice Chair).

It is pleasing to see our own local representatives having such an input and playing such an important role. I am particularly pleased for Sue as I feel she is suited by temperament for the post for which she has been chosen, and I say this notwithstanding some of the disagreements we've had over the negative electioneering methods with which she has been associated in the past, a thing which to be fair was to some extent a cultural trait inherited from some of her predecessors.

I am sure she will make a success of her new appointment and I wish her all the very best.

The full list of appointments can be viewed at the London Borough of Hounslow website.

Lance Newbigging

I was sad to learn at the weekend that my good friend and former work and ICG colleague Lance Newbigging passed away last Friday.

Lance and I were colleagues at Skycaps at London Heathrow Airport between 1989 and 1991. He would have been around 62 at the time and was regarded by many of the younger porters with affection as a kind of father figure, often bestowing the benefit of his advice based upon the legal training that he had received as a younger man in his native India.

When I lost my job there in 1991 as a inevitable consequence of an ongoing conflict with the appalling management at the company Lance took my part, which led to his own arbitrary dismissal not very long afterwards. Skycaps, run at the time by a company called Valet Services Limited, was a flawless example of the kind of "hire 'em, fire 'em" set-up that the present government is keen to reintroduce under the guise of "competitiveness". Lance and I spend many a happy afternoon together at the Industrial Tribunals, then based at London's Russell Square.

When the ICG was set up a little while later Lance liked what we were doing and joined up. Prior to that he had briefly been a member of the now-defunct Hounslow Residents' Group (HRG) but preferred the ICG model. As a passionate union man its more socially progressive outlook was more to his taste. Lance stood as a candidate for the ICG in 1998 in the old Spring Grove ward.

I had not seen Lance for some time prior to his passing, although we had spoken a few times on the telephone. I would have dearly loved to have visited him and naturally regret not having done so, however with five jobs and counting it was a physical impossibility (I did not see my own parents for six months from November last year and they live less than a mile along the road!). It is sad, but I guess inevitable, that there are some who are retired and lead a sedentary lifestyle who simply (and rather stupidly) just assume that everybody else is in the same position as themselves.

Lance, I know, understood this. He was a very intelligent man. Our friendship was one that went back a lot longer than some others and when we spoke recently we spent a good deal of time reminiscing about our times at Skycaps and about the extraordinary events of 1998 which set the wheels of a whole era in motion.

Lance was very well known, and respected, in his locality. One particularly powerful recollection I have is of boarding a 116 bus in Bedfont after having spent a good few hours at his home, working no doubt on some tribunal case and being sustained with tea and curry by him and his late partner Daphne. Lance had walked me to the bus stop to see me off (and, I'm sure, to have a crafty ciggie). As I paid my fare the driver looked to the stop behind me and asked me "Is that Lance?".

I responded in the affirmative, and for much of the journey back to Hounslow he explained to me how Lance had helped him to save his job when he had fallen foul of his own employers.

It will probably never have occurred to Lance how widely missed he will be. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Greece is the Word

I admit to some amusement over the current situation in Greece.

I am not anti-EU. I am, however, deeply opposed to the way in which faceless bankers and unelected powers behind the scenes appear to be pulling the strings ever more openly on the world scene, and am a tad frightened by the fact that they no longer seem to feel the need to even try to hide the fact. We have whole countries now being governed by "technocrats", completely bypassing the whole democratic process with barely so much as a murmur being heard in protest.

The faceless ones are demanding that Greece implements an austerity package to comply with the terms of their bailout. In other words, despite not being answerable to the Greek electorate nor even Greek they assume for themselves the right to determine Greek political and social policy.

But there was one very small impediment to their plans that appears to have seemed to them so irrelevant that it may have been entirely overlooked, and that was that the Greek electorate didn't actually want the austerity programme imposed on them. That electorate took a savage revenge on the international financial establishment by massively rejecting Pasok, the party that had dominated Greek politics for most of the past four decades, leaving it with just 41 seats in a parliament of 300.

Now the financial powers that be are left scratching their heads wondering what went wrong, and in the absence of a coalition with a working majority Greece may be heading back to the polls to see whether it can get it right the second time around.

Sadly voters in the UK are unable to exercise a similar power of veto as the faceless ones have effective control of all the major political parties, as well as the mainstream media which is able to downplay or to rubbish any attempt from beyond the approved parties to challenge their hegemony.

And so, whilst we enjoy a veneer of democracy and indeed even retain the right to bomb and invade other countries which may feel inclined to do things differently, in truth the international financial establishment enjoys a stranglehold which it doesn't yet have over the good people of Greece.

No doubt they will think of something to avert their Greek tragedy, but it has been fascinating to watch all the same. Interesting times.