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Showing posts from April, 2007

Pelargoniums - that's the spirit

On Friday night water began leaking into my flat from the one above - not a good start to the weekend. At least the smell of wet ceiling plaster encouraged me to escape to Abbey Road for more leaflet-delivering.
St John's Wood was a wood a long time ago. Now it is housing, much of it large family houses but (typical of London) council estates are never far away. Many affluent households have concreted over their front gardens to park their cars on. Some council flat households green over the stained concrete approaches to their front doors with pelargoniums. I disapprove of the garden-wrecking and I like the pelargoniums. They prove that all the surrounding shabbiness cannot discourage the occupiers from trying to live.
One thing the inhabitants have in common is fear of crime. In the affluent places this manifests itself by sharp railings, locked gates, entryphones and, instead of doorbells, gatebells; but the Townshend Estate council tenants have only stickers announci…

More treasured campaigning moments.

Yesterday was, shall we say, interesting. I was out delivering at what passes locally for the Final Frontier (the boundary between Westminster and Camden). You can tell a lot about a place by people's front doors. I feel particular sympathy with the elector who had put a notice above his doorbell stating simply: "This is not a brothel!"
Further up the same street a distinctly worse for wear and far from clean individual asked me whether there was an off licence down the road. I said I didn't know, but that there was a pub. This aggrieved him somewhat (perhaps he'd been evicted from it?) but he was persuaded that there might be an off licence in that direction, so off he went. With a sense of relief I managed to gain entry to a block of flats and was delivering my leaflets there, but my sense of security was shortlived. I inadvertently rattled someone's letter box, the door opened and the occupier emerged to ask whether I wanted to come in. That was f…

Never mind the snapshot, it's a video

Only a few days of campaigning to go in our two by-elections here in the City of Westminster. Three things to remember about campaigning. First, enjoy it. Second, enjoy it. And third - you guessed! From that flow good things: the team works well together, we keep going, and new helpers come forward. They can see we are effective and doing stuff that's worthwhile.
Out delivering in Marylebone again yesterday, how could I not enjoy it? Finding a quiet garden off Paddington Street. Meeting the kind people in the Blandford Cafe who gave my dog a treat. Seeing voters reading with genuine interest the leaflets I've just delivered. Knowing that democracy is always ready to flourish again given a little TLC, even in unpromising places, like the little streets that have been turned into oases overflowing with plants in containers.
Whatever the results on 3rd May,it's the starting point for future campaigns and future victories. Never mind the snapshot - it's the video…

Labour gets desperate in City of Westminster

Labour fights dirty (so what's new?) - the smoking gun this time is a leaflet in Abbey Road Ward by-election. I've seen the evidence! It falsely claims that London Assembly Lib Dems want to abolish the Freedom Pass. Does this mean that Labour fears meltdown in Abbey Road on 3rd May? Mm, what a delicious thought. Labour can't win in Abbey Road and doesn't deserve to, especially when it stoops to "dodgy dossier" tactics like these.
It is so obvious that in the long run Labour will never get control of the City of Westminster. They practically bust a gut trying to win in 1986 - I was there in Victoria Ward, I witnessed it - and yet they still couldn't win, though they scared Shirley Porter enough to come up with her gerrymandering plan. (Now that was a humdinger of a dirty trick! It is a curious fact that the Tories have never suffered for it at the ballot box as they deserved.) Yes, dirty tricks go back a long way here.
If one glorious day the Tori…

ELDR Council, Zagreb, Croatia

To Zagreb and back in less than three days for the ELDR Council to which I was elected last year (thank you, by the way, if you voted for me). Got up in the small hours, took the night bus to Heathrow, departed a little late due to fog, changed planes at Vienna. On the second plane I was given a traditional Croatian sweetmeat; the message on the wrapper conveyed a touch of Croatian self-satisfaction at having their country to themselves at last - a veiled triumphalism about the outcome of the vicious wars that convulsed this region only a few years ago?
Colleagues arrived on a slightly later plane and we all piled into taxis and away to the conference hotel - a glorious place, built in 1924 for travellers on the Orient Express and refurbished beautifully.
To work immediately: a pre-Council meeting over sandwiches on the sun-soaked terrace. Then off to the Council for the afternoon.
There was discussion of the worsening conditions for opposition parties in Russia, which include Yab…

Save Manor Garden from the Olympic quangos

Just as well that I took time off this Easter to plant things on my allotment, because there was an official Inspection on Sunday afternoon, shock horror! Bad marks get you a notice to quit. My patch had just enough signs of being tended to be acceptable: phew. My neighbour Ron generously shared a bottle of cider, quaffed from enamel mugs in the late afternoon sunshine - very nice too.
The friendship, gentle humour and community spirit among allotment gardeners has to be experienced to be properly appreciated.
Which is one reason why I am saddened, angered and bewildered by the Olympic Games quangos' efforts to evict all the tenants from the 80 allotments at the Manor Garden site in the Lea Valley, East London (featured in the Observer on 9th April; see to read more). I may be wrong, but I thought the whole point of the Olympic project was urban regeneration. As far as I am concerned the Manor Garden is the only place in the area that doesn't need reg…

More excitement in City of Westminster

The council is the Tories' flagship, the ward is Marylebone High Street, the cause is resignation, the circumstances are intriguing (allegedly missing cash) and there's another council by-election in my patch. To lose one councillor is unfortunate but to lose two...? The story made it into the Evening Standard yesterday. Apparently the police have been called in.
We have had our work cut out to select our candidate and collect the nomination signatures. Nominations close tomorrow at noon. Fingers crossed, despite the extremely short notice we will have made it just in time.

Abbey Road campaign under way

On Sunday morning the Force was with local party colleague Albert Kemp and me in Abbey Road: tradesmen's bells worked, friendly residents let us in, we got almost all our Focuses delivered in record time and the weather was almost perfect. Delighted to learn that illustrious colleagues from other parts of London had come to help the previous day, including Jonathan Fryer and Monica Whyte. Thank you! Please come again.
Beforehand, I took a walk with the dog in Regent's Park. Politics extend there too - the Royal Parks have applied for planning permission to bulldoze an area of semi-wild vegetation and build five-a-side football pitches covered in artificial turf and enclosed with wire netting. This strikes me as odd when Regent's Park already has a large area of very nice real grass football pitches open to the public. I am not convinced that that there is a shortage of five-a-side football pitches, especially ones made of rubber crumb. In fact the only person I h…