Big Phil

From the Labour Party's website

GUESS who’s back for more..? Here’s a few clues: 1.) He’s an old Labour warhorse whose got more experience of Camden Council than virtually the whole Lib Dem gang put together. 2) His lasting fingerprints can still be detected on controversial old headaches like the Swiss Cottage leisure centre redevelopment. 3) He’s very tall.

Yup, big Phil Turner’s back..

A man who divides opinion on all sides of the council chamber, Camden’s Labour Party have confirmed he will stand again for election at the next council elections next May. Unlike other parties, they have helpfully posted up their candidate list. And there he is, looking relaxed in his mugshot, as if a few years out of the Town Hall have done him the world of the good. He has after all done 30 years service on council benches.

The recollections you hear from the 1980s about Phil suggest he oversaw some colourful arguments within the Labour group and across the council chamber, but if you speak to people about him now, grudges seem to have dissipated with time and lots agree, he’s a pretty affable chap. I began reporting on the council for the Camden New Journal in 2002, maybe I missed his boldest, best bits.

When I first met him, I got the impression that behind the polite banter he had been stung by criticism in the local press and I was the last person he wanted to see. Although there was a bit of polite banter, he was colder than others. He was notoriously hard to get hold of. To get a comment on stories from him, you usually had to chase him down a corridor or hang around outside meetings waiting for him to come out. He must have hated a lot of the stories I wrote about the pool in Kentish Town, but the truth was there were plans to sell the baths off and the people who used them were horrified at the thought.

So what are all these election larks about now? Well, it would take an amazing Labour comeback in Camden if Phil was to win in Fortune Green, a Lib Dem fortress of a ward. Rather than a full on blast at trying to retake a place on the council, the idea is surely to bring some gravitas to campaign, not just in the effort to claw a bit more of control back at the council but also in the defence of Glenda Jackson. She could do with an old pal to help out.

There needs to be a sense, despite its recent disappointments locally, that Labour is taking this seriously and that it believes it is electable in the north west of the borough. Phil will provide a steady hand and a familiar face.

And there’s another point to make in Turner’s credit: at least he’s still in the mix. What’s happened to some of the other councillors that relished running the council when they were in charge but seemed less interested in responding once Labour had been rejected by the voters. Phil endured the embarrassment of that night in May 2006 when Labour was routed, I remember his impossible attempt at putting on a brave face at the count in Somers Town. He was actually a picture of disbelief. Yet, he was with his party for the highs, and there for the lows. Not everyone in the Labour group can say that. Some ran as fast as they could and were never seen of again.

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