|Former councillor Paul Fisher|
with Linford Christie on Ivybridge
On Ivybridge the Labour offensive was helped along by the fact that one of the people who had been elected to serve on the fledgling Committee was a member of the fascist National Front. Alan Minehan was himself an inoffensive and mild-mannered man, a fact conceded even by his critics, but nevertheless he was a member of an avowedly racist party serving on a tenants’ association on a multi-cultural estate. There were quite valid concerns about the message that his presence on the Committee would send out to estate residents.
Not that I accepted them as valid at the time. For in 1987, when it all began, I was still the NF organiser in the area. Taking its cue from Labour the local NF had also developed a strategy of attempting to infiltrate residents’ groups, and it was not unreasonably assumed that his presence on the NITA Committee had been part and parcel of that strategy.
As it happens though the assumption was incorrect. The first I knew of Alan Minehan’s involvement with the association was after he had been elected to the post. I distinctly recall my sense of surprise when he strolled into the Victoria Tavern in Isleworth that very evening, after the meeting, and told me all about it. He said they had asked him to be Treasurer - I advised him against it, counselling that the man holding the purse strings would be the easiest person for an adversary to set up once his presence on the Committee had become known to the local political establishment. But I told him also that he should hold firm and resist any attempts by anyone to boot him off on the grounds of his politics.
Sure enough, a storm blew up and the appointment made the headlines of the local newspapers. The councillors objected to his appointment and a number of his fellow Committee officials, most but not all of them Labour members, called upon him to stand down. Acting on my advice, he stayed put.
Looking at those events in retrospect I see them now in a very different light. Were a similar thing to occur today I would oppose the presence of a member of a racist political party at the top table of a local residents’ group with every fibre of my being.
However none of this detracts from the fact that Labour’s motivation in opposing Minehan, as both he and I suspected at the time, was primarily a cynical and self-serving one. This was borne out by subsequent events. Just as I had predicted, once he had been removed from the Committee a similar purge was conducted against other non-Labour members, none of whom had anything to do with the NF or held racist views of any kind. And the defection of one of the "approved" group's number to the cause of the purged residents confirmed the accuracy of our suspicions for once and for all.
In those days, as now, there were divisions within the ranks of the Labour Party locally. When a Feltham councillor by the name of David Archer, now sadly deceased, wrote to a local newspaper urging Alan Minehan to leave and denounce the National Front as a resolution to the estate’s sorry predicament I wrote back to attack him for his comments. It is only now that I understand his motive for making the suggestion, far from being hostile, was to offer us a way out of the impasse that had been created which would have well and truly scotched his party colleagues’ plans for the association. Through my own limitless arrogance and stupidity, a golden opportunity fell to waste.
Now let us fast forward 26 and a bit years, and to an incident which has truly demonstrated not only the paucity of Labour’s claim to have been acting out of the loftiest principle back in 1987, but that they have learned absolutely nothing from the emergence of the ICG and its not inconsiderable success, notwithstanding our election defeat in 2010, during the long intervening period.
A couple of months ago former ICG councillor and leading local activist Paul Fisher was co-opted to the Committee of the United Residents’ Association of Ivybridge (URA), the successor organisation to NITA. Unlike Alan Minehan, no claim of racism or fascism could conceivably be laid at Paul’s door. Nevertheless, prior to the URA’s last meeting its officers had been contacted by the local Labour group demanding that it reverses its decision to co-opt Paul.
Apparently Labour in Isleworth still operates under the peculiar misapprehension that it can decide who may or may not serve on the management committee of a local residents’ association. However, unlike in 1987 the association today is truly independent. Even the one high-profile member that Labour has on the Committee, who had been pressured by his party to lead the charge against Paul, told them to do one, and Paul’s continued presence on the Committee was reconfirmed by a unanimous show of hands.
Anybody who doubts that, even if the wake of 2010, the goalposts have moved significantly in the community’s favour in its dealings with the dictators should consider the experience of Paul and the URA and reflect upon it.