Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hounslow Labour Group - No Change, No Quarter

I commented in a previous thread about Syon Labour Councillor Theo Dennison and his noble sentiments about engaging with the community, albeit from the perspective of a Labour administration.

In that article I noted that Theo had been demoted from the Council Cabinet, and expressed the view that this did not send a good signal to those of us who might be looking for some way in which to try to subsume the now borough-wide movement for a community role in decision-making into the existing political structure so as to negate the need for perpetual electoral challenge, and all the hassle that that entails.

There have been some further developments since I wrote that article, regrettably none of them good.

An intervention on the Comments section of prominent Labour councillor Ruth Cadbury's blog by a well-known Labour supporter from Southall, whose membership status is unclear but who nonetheless involves himself heavily in Hounslow politics, prompted me to comment on the Brentford TW8 community forum.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given his positive approach to local political engagement, Councillor Dennison made it clear that he had no respect for the Southall interloper. In response the latter not only made some unflattering remarks about Councillor Dennison but presumed to do so - interestingly - in the name of the Hounslow Labour Group. In particular, he announced that Councillor Dennison had been demoted due to his colleagues having a low opinion of him as a person.

I enquired as to whether any of Theo's colleagues would be offering any words in his defence, bearing in mind that he is a colleague, anytime soon. In particular they might wish to reassure us that the interloper was not in a position to speak for the Hounslow Labour Group, bearing in mind his status as a non-councillor, non-Hounslow resident and possibly even non-party member.

In reply Theo very honourably attempted to mitigate their apparent lack of support by pointing out that no other member of the Labour Group (other than Councillor Cadbury, a now self-declared mate of the interloper despite having previously told us that she didn't know him!) ever posts on the forum.

No sooner had he done this than another member of the Hounslow Labour Group, a Cabinet member no less, further undermined Theo by herself entering the debate on the forum, not to defend her colleague but to speak out in support of the interloper!

To date neither the Hounslow Labour Group nor any member thereof has seen fit to speak up for Councillor Dennison, despite the fact that he regularly makes it his business to defend them whenever any of them come in for any criticism, even when it is sometimes well-deserved. It would appear that in the Hounslow Labour Group loyalty is very much a one-way street.

One is, very reluctantly, forced to conclude that it is very much the Taylor/Cadbury approach to local engagement, rather than the approach clearly preferred by Theo Dennison, which is in the ascendancy at Lampton Road, and that the show is being run by outside forces with their own agenda rather than by elected members in Hounslow.

It's not looking good.

That'll Be The Day

I have just had my first opportunity to see my old mate and fellow Congregationalist Nick Buss' recent performance on X-Factor, where he sadly didn't manage to progress in spite of having won the support of panelist Louis Walsh. He didn't seem very pleased with the verdict.

Nick is proud of his Buddy Holly tributes and he performs them at a lot of talent shows. I'm not sure whether he has actually won any, but he is a determined man.

Here he performs the 1957 hit Maybe Baby. I make no judgement, but the guy has got more guts than I have.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Yes, We Call it Dishonesty!

I've just read the following on the blog of Councillor Ruth Cadbury, former Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council and still obsessive partyist:

"Before I left the Civic Centre on Tuesday I signed the order to repair the roof at St John’s Community Centre in Isleworth...the issue was in my In-tray when I took over Cabinet responsibility for Assets in May this year, and as soon as committee members showed me round the centre, I ensured we had funds in the capital budget to cover the repair costs and instructed officers to go out to tender."

It would have been too much to have expected Ruth to acknowledge that this money was made available to the St. John's Centre by community councillors at the request of residents at the Borough Council Budget Meeting in April 2010, and was opposed by her and her colleagues, but for her to now effectively try to take the credit for the allocation really does take the biscuit, notwithstanding the fact that the current administration has added a small amount to the kitty presumably in order to provide a hook for such a claim.

Ruth once infamously justified the practice of telling lies during election campaigns at a Borough Council meeting with the immortal words: "You call it dishonesty, we call it politics".

Despite the noble sentiments of Councillor Theo Dennison when trying to convince us otherwise it is clear to me that Labour in Hounslow has not changed one iota.

Councillor Cadbury's article has inclined me towards the view that the ICG should involve itself once more in the 2014 local elections.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Get Well Soon Tony

Tomorrow my sister had planned to take me to an event hosted by Tony Benn, the former Labour Member of Parliament and one of the most popular and inspirational political thinkers of modern times.

I had been quite looking forward to going. In my less serious moments it has occurred to me that my sister might be trying to recruit me to the Labour Party, at least as a follower or voter. Personally I don't think I could have anything but contempt for a party that could marginalise a man of the calibre of Tony Benn whilst choosing Tony Blair as its Leader.

As well as his own qualities as a principled politician, there is another connection that draws me to Tony Benn. His mother, Margaret Wedgwood Benn, was one of the founders of the Congregational Federation, to which my own Church is affiliated, and served as its first President. Her son claims she taught him to support the prophets and not the kings, a wonderful piece of advice for everybody to heed in my book.

Sadly it would appear that Mr. Benn has had a fall, and the event has had to be cancelled. At the age of 86 caution has to be the order of the day, and this unfortunate occurrence reminds us that even high-profile "celebs" face the same inconveniences and pitfalls in life that befall the rest of us.

I hope Tony Benn makes a full and speedy recovery, and I wish him all the very best.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Hounslow Community Groups Organise for Democracy

There is a fascinating debate going on over at the ChiswickW4 community forum about a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) which it appears the Labour council is preparing to foist upon a large chunk of the town in spite of what would seem to be massive opposition from most of the residents who are likely to be affected.

I'll not rehearse the details here. Suffice it to say that the Chiswick councillors are broadly supporting the residents (except that is for the one who got confused at a Scrutiny call-in meeting and voted the wrong way!), but as they are from the minority Conservative Group they are powerless to alter council policy - a situation which, of course, they have visited entirely upon themselves although they seem strangely reluctant to remind their constituents of this fact.

People in my part of the world have little personal interest in whether a CPZ goes ahead in Chiswick or not, but the wider principle of whether it is democratic or in any way desirable for a Lead Member who represents a completely different area to impose his will over that of the locals without reference either to them or to their councillors is of course one on which we might be expected to take a view.

As it is in Parking so it is in Planning, and there is widespread concern over the actions of the local authority in abolishing the Area Committees, overriding major requirements contained in the Statement of Community Involvement and the lack of resources being allocated to Planning Enforcement.

I am now able to reveal some information which until now has been subject to something of a voluntary embargo. As I write no fewer than 15 of the most influential community groups from across the borough (the ICG being one of them) have banded together to provide a co-ordinated community response to the steady erosion of our hard-fought democratic freedoms, most particularly in the area of Planning. As a result of persistent lobbying this group has already established a positive and useful ongoing dialogue with the Borough's Chief Executive Mary Harpley.

Naturally it's early days, but I would hope and expect that this huge new borough-wide movement might become the basis of an organised and organic community-based power borough-wide to hold the political groups to account and eventually, through one means or another, to wrest control of the council bureaucracy from the politicos and timeservers and to hand it back to the local people where it truly belongs.