Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Statement of Community Involvement Delayed - is this Good News or Bad?

In my last update on the subject of the London Borough of Hounslow's Statement of Community Involvement I pointed out that the Cabinet, and thereafter Borough Council, was set to debate and hopefully adopt its own Statement (SCI) imminently.

I further pointed out that the powerful Group of 15 residents' alliance - in which the ICG plays a significant role - had drawn up a set of robust amendments which have all been endorsed in their entirety by the Planning Committee, and that these proposed amendments would be presented to the two meetings on that basis.

It would appear now that the Statement's appearance will be less imminent after all than first we had hoped. It would seem we are now looking at it being presented to Cabinet on March 12th.

Ordinarily it would have been our assumption, based on past experience, that the ruling administration simply didn't wish to discuss the Statement and its guiding principles and was stalling for time as a means of avoiding getting the amendements onto the statute book and rolled out into the public domain. However word has it (although admittedly from an eternal optimist) that the delay has been caused by the need to extensively revise the draft in the light of the community's concerns.

We have been around long enough, of course, not to accept such a plea at face value. Politicians generally speaking do not like community involvement unless it can be marshalled and corralled by themselves, whilst in this instance the initiative has clearly been taken by the community. But can they ignore such an irresistable and well-organised force as the Group of 15 in what is now only a little more than a year before next year's local elections?

Has the Lead Member delayed publication from a position of respect for the residents and their concerns? Or is the hold-up indicative of a leadership that is still wondering what the hell it is going to do to get itself out of this one?

We will know the answer to that question in March.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

ICG Annual General Meeting - Friday, 25th January 2013

A short post solely for the benefit of ICG members - the group's Annual General Meeting will be taking place on the evening of Friday, 25th January. As this will be a private meeting held at a fairly public venue there is a need to be a little circumspect with the precise arrangements, but if you are a member and would like to attend please contact us for full details.

Although these functions have always attracted a surprisingly modest attendance they are important meetings and I would urge anyone who has a view on the direction in which we should be heading to come along and share it with us. If you have been a member for more than 12 months you may even wish to join the Committee!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Coming Face to Face With My National Front Past...Almost!

This may seem a strange topic to choose for my first post of 2013, but I had a weird dream the other night which I want to consign to record, as much for my own sanity as for anything else, but also to provide some light amusement for those who find such things amusing.

I was somewhere in a run-down area of London, in a derelict back street. The road was busy, although it was in actual fact a cul de sac terminating at the gates of an old factory. I was lazing about on a wall, actually lying down face forward, awaiting the arrival of some people who were going to join me on a demonstration. The factory employed mostly immigrant workers, who were being exploited by their management. The purpose of the demo was to protest against their treatment by the factory bosses.

In very little time several hundred people had arrived. They were a varied and colourful bunch, made up of all types of people. There were men and women of all ages, and from a whole variety of ethnic backgrounds. There were gay people (they seemed to be there as gay people) and, strangely, there was a group of men with shaven heads and identically attired in gold whom I presumed to be a religious sect of some form or another. A similarly-clad group dressed in pink then arrived, to the apparent chagrin of the gold people. I assumed these were from a rival religious sect.

But the folk I remember most vividly were an assortment of left-wing types, not in the union militant or Rocking Russian sense but more your trendy student, look-at-me, faux alternative stereotype. Although we shared a common cause I recall feeling uneasy around these people, not so much out of fear but more a sense of insincerity and general debasement of the mission upon which I was embarked.

The protest involved a march for the length of the street, after which we would turn left into a busy main thoroughfare. There, from within the sunken depths of a major London underground station, a National Front counter-demonstration was going to emerge onto the sidelines of our route comprising two to three hundred shouting, angry neo-fascists.

There was nothing to be frightened of. The whole area was saturated with police, both either side of the march and all around the tube station where the counter demonstration would first manifest itself. Besides, I knew nothing serious was going to happen because I had been there before.

Yes, you read that correctly. This was in actual fact an identical re-run of an event that had already taken place some time previously. Only on the earlier occasion I had been a participant in, and presumably an organiser of, the counter demonstration. As such I knew the whole day was going to pass without major incident.

In fact my only fear as I approached the junction and the counter demonstration, and I recall it was a very real fear, was that I was going to meet myself!

As we turned into the main street there was, bizarrely, a “commentator” at the side of the road with a microphone, giving an account of events to the participants as it was happening. He announced something to the effect of (I can’t recall the exact words): “Of course not everyone here is really one of us, are they Phil?”.

Rather than be shaken or wrong-footed by this, I simply laughed and gave him an ironic thumbs-up as I passed without looking directly at him. One or two of those around me glanced at me, perplexed, but nobody seemed overly concerned. It was, after all, only a dream (and I am blessed/cursed with the ability to usually know that I am dreaming) and I knew this guy was completely aware of my sincerity in supporting the cause of the exploited workers and opposing the fascists, and that he was simply making mischief. Most of those around me seemed to know it too.

But notwithstanding all this I was genuinely troubled, dream or no dream, by the prospect of meeting myself as we passed the counter demo. I can remember this feeling very clearly indeed.

The feared encounter never took place thanks, I think, to the timely intervention of my alarm clock. Nonetheless I remembered the whole thing so vividly, and still do some thirty hours later, that I decided I wanted to write it all down, for posterity or for future reference.

Most people who know me at all will be well aware that I was indeed a prominent member of the National Front many years ago. Some critics of my work in the community would prefer it were still so, and like to pretend that the two decades and more that have passed since I first turned my back on the far-right and renounced its politics have never taken place. Anybody who matters, though, is well acquainted with the full facts.

There was, of course, a certain amount of licence involved where my nocturnal adventure was concerned. Even as a National Front organiser I would never, for instance, have opposed a demonstration in support of exploited workers, immigrant or otherwise. And I have never seen any significant delegation of Hare Krishnas on any anti-fascist protest of my acquaintance, although the middle-class, plastic revolutionaries in duffle coats do ring true a tad.

I like to analyse my own dreams and more often than not I am able to see where they are coming from but at the time of writing I admit to being at a loss to make head or tail of this one. Maybe a friend, or indeed a foe, would like to try and help me out here?