Friday, 7 May 2010

Local Election Special -- the results

The first results of the Southwark local elections are in including my ward of Peckham Rye which Labour held against a strong Lib Dem challenge. Greens have failed to get elected in the Lane and Camberwell Green.

More details here:

The Nation has Mumbled

I'm kind of reminded of what happens when a stewards enquiry is called after a horse-race. The bookies tell all the expectant punters to go for a walk while The stewards decide the outcome behind closed doors. Difference is that this time we already know the outcome (give or take three seats).

And here it is: roughly one in three people who voted wanted (or said they wanted) the Tories. The other 64 per cent said they wanted some other party. Given that hundreds of people in Lewisham, Hackney, Sheffield and elsewhere were told that they couldn't vote at all, I'm not sure if its even worth talking about democratic outcomes in this country. But it is worth mentioning that it takes 284,566 votes (and some chance confluence of minds in Brighton) to get one green MP.

Anyway, while you're waiting for the final result, enjoy this rather nice film from the Guardian about three of the candidates for Camberwell & Peckham who won't be representing us this time round.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing

You may have missed an item on the London news showing the BNP candidate for Romford, Bob Bailey demonstrating the time-honoured method of political persuasion favoured by parties of that ilk. Here it is again:

In case anyone might suggest that Bailey is acting purely in self-defence, watch how one of his 'aides' kicks a man on the ground towards the end of the clip.

But you don't have to be Asian to be on the receiving end of the BNP's form of forceful argument. It is enough to be a journalist on a national newspaper as a Times reporter recently discovered.

In 1930, an obscure right-wing party secured 18.3 percent of the votes in the German elections, becoming the second largest party in the Reichstag. Three years later, the Nazi Party was declared the only legal party in Germany. The picture shows stormtroopers outside a jewish-owned Department Store in Berlin. The signs read: "Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews." The store was ransacked during Kristallnacht in 1938, then handed over to a non-Jewish family.

I heard on the radio this morning that in the last general election 4 out of 10 people didn't bother to vote. It is true of course that whoever you vote for the government gets in. Maybe you feel that all the parties are the same.

But, with the BNP fielding hundreds of candidates in local and parliamentary elections, the stay-at-home voters could be the ones that hand them power. However, cynical we might feel about the parties, the electoral system or the human race in general, there is still a very good reason to turn up and vote.

Footnote: Apparently the quotation that I've used for the title of this post is a misattribution. What Edmund Burke really wrote was:

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Greens show their colours!

In response to my questions about libraries, local shops and cycling and walking Labour Tom Chance from Southwark Green Party writes:

Here are our candidates' answers:

Libraries - yes, we would fight to protect libraries from public spending cuts. Whichever of the three grey parties form the next Government, all three are committed to large cuts in public spending and locally the axe often falls first on services like libraries. Whilst access to the internet is increasingly used as an excuse for neglected or shrinking library services, the reasons you cite in addition to the relatively low level of internet access in Peckham Rye make them all the more important.

- the Green Party has long campaigned to protect local independent shops. We have published an action plan for Peckham town centre ( and would apply the same principles to Lordship Lane, Forest Hill Road and other smaller arcades with handfuls of shops throughout Southwark.

Walking and cycling - we would press for three simple measures: first, actually implement the council's dormant policy of providing cycle lanes and infrastructure whenever road works are carried out, extending this to also include the widening of pavements for pedestrians where there is road space; second, prioritise roads on cycle routes such as LCN 22 and 25 when filling potholes and other road maintenance; third, more consistently implement a 20mph zone across the entire borough on all residential roads and ensure the police are taking road safety more seriously.

A Labour candidate answers

This is the reply I received to my questions about libraries, local shops and cycling and walking from Gavin Edwards, Labour Candidate for Peckham Rye:

1. On Libraries, All three of us recognise the importance of Libraries in our local community. I am a regular user of Peckham Library myself. We will all fight to defend funding for local libraries.

2. I agree entirely with the sentiment expressed in your question and this is precisely the approach that we would like to see taken in regard to both rents and the application of planning rules.

3. Yes. We think the cycle network in Southwark should be expanded. The more people we can encourage to cycle in our borough the better. If we were elected as councillors for Peckham Rye, this would be a policy that we would campaign for in the town hall. On a connected but slightly different issue, we have got involved in the local green chain walk. See here for more details:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Conservative response

This is the reply I received to my questions about libraries, local shops and cycling and walking from Conservative candidate for Peckham Rye, Andy Tuck:

We would wholeheartedly agree with you over their importance and recognise their role as invaluable intellectual resources for local communities. Therefore we would, if elected, fight to defend our local libraries from budget cuts and neglect.

It would be worth mentioning here that as a Conservative Team across Southwark we also plan to push for the refurbishment of Camberwell Library after the election.

We highly value small businesses and local enterprises in Peckham Rye Ward and throughout Southwark. We are keen to pursue policies that will help nurture and grow the local economy. Small independent shops are integral to this.

As part of our new purposed recycling scheme, through a voucher system, we would hope to encourage local people to spend money earned through their recycling in local shops. This will help keep money in the local economy and make small businesses more viable and competitive.

Walking and Cycling
To answer your questions in a word, yes. Encouraging walking and cycling is a great way of cutting down on both congestion and pollution. By expanding cycling routes and making sure that pedestrian needs are prioritised we would hope to achieve this.

The Liberal Democrats Reply

In answer to the questions I asked about libraries, local shops and cycling and walking, I have had the following response from Liberal Democrat Councillor James Barber:

We passionately believe in public libraries hence why we have 14 and are building a new £14M one at Canada Water. I pointedly encouraged Dulwich Library to be opened a 7th day each week and hope that the collegiate way officers, their managers and the unions agreed the re rostering to make this possible be extended to other Southwark libraries. I'm also expecting self service to help enable the same resources to allow more opening hours and more time to respond to individual queries from users who need help.

For council owned shops we are obliged to charge a market rent unless specific other non financial benefits accrue. Equally Southwark Council can't force rents specific rents on private landlords for shops. BUT through enforcing planning laws we can ensure categories of use are maintained.
However, we do have a capital programme to invest in local shopping areas and all community council areas were given devolved significant budgets to choose shopping areas to upgrade and fix. In Dulwich we chose Norwood Road shopping areas. Borough&Bankside chose Great Suffolk Street. The latter transformation has been completed and its really is amazingly better. The latter also contributed to shop fronts and we'd like to do more of this especially in East Dulwich and Peckham Rye areas.

Walking and Cycling.
Agree and yes to your points.
We're working on removing one way streets or allowing cycle contraflows. This will take some time to complete but its underway and about 15 roads have plans in place for this. Even in East Dulwich we have roads with no obvious reason for being oneway - Spurling, Crewthrew, Hindmans.
Lots and lots of cycle parking has recently been installed. More will come.
Cycle Superhighway. We negotiated funding that Southwark Bridge Road will be made 20mph. So that this type of road will feel very different to other through roads.
We're trailing average speed cameras. This will at some point be approved and I would hope we deploy lots, especially for the half of vehicles that start and end journeys outside Southwark.

One caveat to all these answers. IF central government slashes the money it gives to Southwark we will need to prioritise. I'm hopefully these things will be prioritised but really depends how deeply cuts in our funding go. Fortunately the latter two categories are capital funding which we have more control by selling assets.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Local Election Special

Well, I thought I'd come out of retirement to show my disgust at the total lack of attention being paid to the local elections here in London. OK, I know there aren't any exciting televised debates with audience participation and red buttons to press. Local politics often seems dull and all about such mundane subjects as refuse collection, recycling, planning control, parking, maintaining the roads and fixing broken paving slabs. (oh and education, social services, housing...)

But what councils do matters. It matters to the people who have the chance to choose who run them (but rarely use it) and it matters to the children who don't get to vote but do have to go to schools, some of which are actually still run by elected local authorities.

But following the themes of this blog and its forerunners, I decided to write to the local candidates for the parties standing in my ward (Peckham Rye) focusing on libraries, local shops, and cycling and walking:

Libraries: Public libraries provide not just a free leisure service but a vital lifeline to those who need internet access to apply for jobs and purchase goods, support for lifelong learning and a place to study. Children especially gain enormously from being able to choose and read the books they like, giving them the opportunity to acquire the reading habit early on. In times of recession, this service becomes even more important to help people retrain and get back into employment. If elected, will you fight to defend our local libraries (Dulwich and Nunhead) from budget cuts and neglect?

Shops: Lordship Lane is a shining example of the success of small shops providing a unique and characterful centre for the community. If elected will you ensure that independent shops are not driven out by high rents and prevent large chains from running rough-shod over planning rules?

Walking and Cycling: The cycling facilities in Southwark are reasonable but there's huge room for improvement. Will you ensure that the cycle network is expanded and existing routes improved. Will you ensure that all road schemes prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over through traffic?

So far the only party to reply is the Liberal Democrats. I'd like to hear what the others have to say.