Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hoey To Join Team Boris

Boris has just said that if he wins the election on May 1st, Kate Hoey will join his mayoral team as a non-executive director advising Boris on sport and the Olympics.

Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall and Chairman of the Countryside Alliance may face expulsion from the Labour Party as a result despite Gordon Brown's 'big tent' exercise of last summer. Kate Hoey has long been seen as a potential defector with centre-right views and a healthy dose of euro-scepticism. She served as Sports Minister, has worked for several football clubs and is a former Northern Ireland High Jump champion.

Boris said "I am delighted to announce that Kate Hoey will join me in my administration if I win on May 1. She and I agree that there is much more that can be done to promote sport and to develop sporting facilities across London. Kate has a huge and well-known commitment to sport and to London, and I am determined to bring talent from across politics and the community to a new administration.”

There has been speculation over the last few days if Hoey would defect following an event at which she was due to appear with Boris but pulled out last minute. When asked if she was supporting Boris for Mayor, she answered "I am a Labour MP, I am not endorsing anyone." Scant comfort for Ken then!

I see that she is the one of the most rebellious of all Labour MPs according to Public Whip and has made plenty of noise about councils closing swimming pools. It'll be interesting to see what she makes of the LibDems' handling of Cheam Baths when Lead Councillor Graham Tope contradicted himself in a single letter to the Guardian, starting the letter saying that there were no plans to close the pool but finishing off by calling for a rational debate about what to replace it with. All of this schizophrenic behaviour whilst the Council are ploughing £500,000 of our money into the pool with no future. No doubt they'll be trying to fill it up without putting the plug in next.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I bumped into the chairman of Carshalton Athletic FC yesterday who gave me some very welcome news. The club will be submitting a planning application to replace the floodlights at the War Memorial ground in Colston Avenue this week.

Residents have complained about the old lights for a number of years as they shine into their bedrooms, especially in the winter when the trees are bare. The new lights should reduce this problem considerably as well as reducing energy costs and providing more effective lighting for the club. Sounds like everyone might be a winner.

Carshalton also avoided relegation this week so congratulations all round.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back To Moderation

Part of the problem with getting anything done in politics is that often it is the few that shout loudest that attract the attention to the exclusion of everyone else. This blog, the first in Sutton, is an attempt to exchange views with people who are interested in Carshalton and the Borough of Sutton but don't normally get involved.

I usually respond to comments quite quickly as it is important to have a dialogue rather than a polemic blinkered approach. Unfortunately one regular correspondent does not take this approach instead spending an inordinate and quite frankly unhealthy amount of time on waging a personal vendetta. This is not the place for it. I don't want to put off people that want to debate issues that affect our everyday lives but this is not a club for disaffected politicians. One of those has been set up elsewhere to continue the one-sided discussion.

Some may consider this censorship, some may wonder why I didn't do it earlier. I'm only too aware that most people in the Borough would shrug their shoulders and not care. Either way, I haven't got time to concern myself with people who are what civil servants call a vexatious persistent correspondent. I'll concentrate on trying to change Sutton for the better for the rest.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Caring About The Community

This afternoon, I spoke at a public meeting organised by the Queen Mary's Christian Care Foundation. It was open to all candidates for the London Assembly or a representative. Steve O'Connell was busy at a prearranged event in Croydon so I stepped in. Only David Campanale from the Christian People's Alliance joined me. The third person in the photo standing in the middle is Dr Richard Cooling of the Foundation.

They have a vision for a care village located on part or all of the Orchard Hill site in Carshalton that you can read about here. At present, there are two main plans being considered for the site, just housing and the new Stanley Park High School plus some housing. There are some fundamental issues that have to be resolved before anything can happen. Firstly, the NHS Primary Care Trust own the land. Their finances are not looking too clever at the moment so they need every penny to reprovision the service for the current residents of Orchard Hill. Secondly, Sutton Council have agreed that the proposal should be considered as part of the supplementary planning document which will determine what development will be allowed on the site, yet issued a document that fails to mention the Foundation. Finally, if the land is sold for housing, it is lost to public services forever. A care village can evolve over time as thoughts about service provision changes. Breaking up the plot into small parcels of privately-owned land precludes this.

Residents of Sovereign Park are happy to see this take shape. As a Governor of Stanley Park, I can see synergies between the new school and the centre with shared facilities and opportunities for vocational training and as a local politician, I would welcome any initiative that improves access to such services. The group have proved their committment over a number of years in pushing the Council and PCT to consider making them a preferred purchaser, giving them a level playing field. They are not asking for a step up. They are a good example of a group of organisations and committed individuals seeking to offer a service that Whitehall or even the Civic Office cannot provide. I say, trust people not bureaucracy to deliver.

Bit Late For Tears

Is it just me or is the spectacle of a series of Labour Ministers not quite resigning over a policy that they were cheering about on its announcement over a year ago faintly ridiculous and unedifying?

In the last budget that he delivered, Gordon Brown announced a headline 'tax cut' to great cheers from the Labour benches. Cutting the headline rate by 2p was paid for by scrapping the 10p tax bracket payable on the first £2,230 of taxable earnings. Of course commentators saw further than the back-slapping backbenchers, understanding that this would have a disproportionate effect on the less well-off. 5.3 million families will be affected by this change that has just come into effect with one in five families being worse off by anything up to £464 each year. Gordon explained it away as simplifying the tax system, despite the fact that he had introduced this extra tax bracket himself a few years before.

Smug Labour MPs looking forward to an autumn election have turned into a cynical bunch of politicians staring at the abyss. Seventy of these people have signed an Early Day Motion objecting to the move, some junior ministers have taken the commanding step that must make their constituents proud, of writing to the Prime Minister. Angela Smith, PPS to Yvette Cooper, resigned, spoke to Gordon who interrupted his photoshoot with the various presidential
hopefuls in the US and promptly caught the bottling bug explaining that 'resigning her position was not envisaged.' I love hate to say "I told you so!"

We are standing on the edge of an economic precipice. Trust Gordon Brown to want to push us forward. See you at the bottom.

A Pong For Europe

Following the mystic mayhem reported in a post yesterday,
there's a real stink coming from the European Union.
This time it's not from Brussels. Many newspapers have reported a stench carried on the winds from continental Europe to places as far west as Swindon. Apparently the culprits are German farmers spraying liquid manure. This has put paid to the original Gallic-sounding nickname of the phenomenon, Le Whiff.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Just Didn't See It Coming

The EU often come under some deserved stick for the rules, regulations and laws that it comes up with. However, when you have to spend your time legislating to prove your worth, occasionally you hit upon gold.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Britain's 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act is to be repealed next month and replaced by the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which comes into force on May 26. Under the outgoing legislation, the prosecution had to prove that a medium or spiritual healer had intended to be fraudulent in order to secure a conviction. But under the new European consumer protection directive, it will be the psychic's responsibility to prove they did not mislead or coerce credulous consumers.

This reminds me of the old joke about the psychic fair that had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Note: Only UKIP members with a sense of humour may post a comment here:-

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Boris in Sutton

A few weeks before his trip to Carshalton, Boris timed a walkabout up Sutton High Street perfectly, missing the snow flurries that gusted down the hill. The response from members of the public was phenomenal with people coming to shake his hand, have a picture taken and wish him well. He is a celebrity without doubt, but remember he is still a politician, so this treatment is testament to the refreshing approach that he takes; a sensible appraisal of the problems that Londoners face with a cheeky smirk sufficiently visible to remind us of someone that does not take himself too seriously, unlike the incumbent who has finally begun to believe his own propaganda.

The highlight for me was the impromptu ska anthem by local band the Dualers. Whilst the lyrics "New Mayor of London, Boris Johnson" won't be winning any BRIT awards any time soon, the sheer spontaeity of the occasion was excellent.

You can see this on the video which I have only managed to lay my hands on a couple of days ago, hence the delayed post. It's a little rough and ready but, like Boris, not everything needs to be perfectly polished to be effective.

Boris in Carshalton

I brought Boris to Carshalton High Street a few days ago. We discussed the contrast between the village feel of Carshalton and the different types of problems that we face here compared to Zone One.

You may recall that local business owners and residents had complained about underage drinking and vandalism in and around the High Street and the two parks. Shopkeepers articulated their concerns whilst appreciating that not all young people hanging out around the canal were looking for, or causing trouble.

Victor Eve collared Boris to highlight the bleak future for patients of Malvern Ward in Sutton Hospital, a specialist Alzheimers unit which is earmarked for closure. The owner of Village Bathrooms bemoaned the fact that since TfL had taken control of the High Street as a red route, getting anything done was both time consuming and costly. Even seeking permission for decorations at Christmas was proving to be a headache.

Finally we rested the campaign-weary feet at Harry Brooks' coffee shop where Boris chatted with John Faulkner, Chairman of Woodstock Road Residents' Association and Steve Mendat, a local Neighbourhood Watch Street Co-ordinator and caretaker at All Saints School. He also had time to spend a few minutes giving an interview to Lisa Williams of the Sutton Guardian.

I was determined that Boris would not simply be surrounded by the party faithful, instead meeting "real" residents of the village such as John and Steve who could tackle Boris on issues that concerned their friends and neighbours rather than pushing an election message to them. We have a long way to go before the result of this election is known. However, if and when Boris enters City Hall as the new Mayor, I want him to know exactly where Carshalton is and what he can do for us. Time and time again since being selected as the Conservative candidate, Boris has given me confidence that he will not ride roughshod over areas such as ours, instead seeking guidance from those who know the area best including our hard-working London Assembly candidate, Steve O'Connell. I'm looking forward to the refreshing change.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Newsnight Debate

I've just caught up with last Tuesday's debate on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman interviewing the three leading candidates which you can see on BBC iPlayer for the next two days.

Three transport points stuck out for me. Firstly Brian Paddick unequivocally stated that he would scrap the Western extension to the Congestion Charge. This is a good thing since the Mayor introduced it in the face of opposition by the majority of residents. However the LibDem candidate failed to point out that he would replace it with a peak time congestion charge stretching over the vast majority of Greater London, the boundary being the limits of the Low Emission Zone. Woe betide anyone who lives in Worcester Park which would be split in two with this proposed charge.

The second two were about bendy buses. When confronted with the fact that bendy buses kill more people than Routemasters, Ken Livingstone explained that this was not because they were long, but because more people fell underneath them; an oblique and somewhat blinkered response. I've seen a few near misses with pedestrians toes - fortunately nothing more serious- as the buses turn corners.

Boris Johnson pointed out that bendy buses were hotbeds of fraud with some £8m of fares being lost. I have rarely used a bendy bus in London but used them frequently over the last few days in Rome - did I say that I had been away on holiday:)? There, the buses were packed, making it physically impossible for anyone to validate their ticket unless they happened to be pinned against the machine and feeling dextrous.

Click on the picture to see the full transport leaflet from Boris.

Since the election imprint was on the second page of the transport leaflet, I've added one below to cover the document cover shown above.
Promoted by Ian Sanderson on behalf of Boris Johnson, both at 30 Millbank London SW1P 4DP

Welcome To Britain

I've just got back from a few days in Rome. We had a fantastic time but it wasn't without a couple of examples of Italian officials showing the worst of their bureaucracy and buses breaking down. But that only happens abroad doesn't it?

Not a bit of it. After ten years of this Government losing control of immigration policy and process, Stansted had a 3/4 hour queue for passport control (probably longer for those outside the EU). This was after midnight so hardly peak time.

The drive back along the M11 and M25 had miles of coned lanes with speed limits reduced and no visible sign of any work having taken place during daylight hours. Now we don't even have a 'Cones Hotline' to rant at (pointless at the time, definitely pointless now since you can't use a mobile whilst driving) although Big Brother watches us via digital speed cameras.

At least in Rome, an earthquake, a Pope and two thousand years of history caused the Colosseum to get to the state that it is in. Though it is ragged around the edges, it is still very impressive - I'm still talking about the Colosseum. We need a change of Government and real reform before the final shine is taken off - I'm not talking about the Colosseum any more.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Where's Livingstone?

Local Conservative campaigners in Wallington have been asking ‘Where is Ken Livingstone?’ As the contest for the next Mayor of London draws closer, people in Sutton have been campaigning to highlight Ken Livingstone’s neglect of London’s outer borough of Sutton.

Steve O’Connell, Conservative candidate for the London Assembly said:
“The current Mayor of London has been running an administration for zone 1, not for the rest of us who live in Greater London. We need a Mayor who will represent all Londoners and Boris Johnson has already demonstrated his commitment to doing this by visiting Sutton High Street and Cheam Village.

We are fed up with Ken Livingstone’s out of touch approach to running London. After eight years as Mayor all he seems to be interested in is preserving his job and looking after his cronies.

It is time for a change. Boris Johnson is campaigning on the issues that matter to the people of Sutton and offering fresh solutions on issues like Crime, Transport and back-garden development. We want to see a Mayor who cares about Sutton and is committed to working for all those who live in Greater London. Boris has clearly demonstrated he is the man for the job.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Letts v. Harman. Part II...

...This time it's personal.

I enjoy the writing of Quentin Letts (inset), sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and contributor to any number of other newspapers and magazines. He has a wicked sense of humour and a healthy disdain for most politicians. Now John Prescott has gone, he reserves his ire for replacement Labour Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman.

I must be one of the few people sad enough to sit through most of the last few No. 10 press conferences but it was worth persevering to the end to hear this question to Gordon Brown:-

"You just dodged Graham's question about Harriet Harman. We all know she is a nightmare but she is there, she is your Deputy. Can you tell us was she right to wear a stab jacket and should she wear a stab jacket next time she is in Downing Street?"

Other bloggers and the dead-tree press have covered the ridiculous sight of Harriet Harman wearing a stab vest in her own constituency. This follows Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith's admission that she doesn't feel safe when buying a kebab in her patch. Boris Johnson quipped at a recent mayoral hustings that his aim was to make the kebab the most dangerous thing in Smith's constituency.

Anyway, back to Quentin Letts. He has form. Take this earlier question to Gordon Brown at the December PM's Press Conference:-

"Shall we just try one more time, Prime Minister, on the Harriet Harman question? How much are you behind her? Are you 100% behind her, 90, 20, 10? Do you wish she would go and jump off a cliff? Do you really want her to be in this job?"

He really must stop mincing his words about Hattie:)