A LITTLE quote at the end of a recent news story in the Camden New Journal might have passed a few of us by – but it’s worth flagging up as perhaps the frankest comment uttered by a councillor all year. Talking about the sudden discovery at City Hall to fund a lift at Hampstead Heath overground station, Conservative councillor Jonny Bucknell said:
This is the really amazing thing about mayoral elections. One comes along and suddenly the money is there – even though they have been saying they can’t find it or it’s too expensive for years and years.
And he’s dead right. There is nothing like an election to focus the mind and loosen the purse strings of power. Look at how the Victorian baths in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, were saved from a potential sale to developers amid the fast-approaching council elections in Camden back in 2006. Then, ahead of the 2010 general election, threatened services at the Whittington Hospital were suddenly the subject of pledges of protection by both the then Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham and the Tory who replaced him, Andrew Lansley. This, only after thousands had marched through the streets in protest at the suggestion that the hospital might lose its Accident and Emergency department.
So, with Ken and Boris (and Brian) about to fight out the mayoralty of this great city again, let’s start drawing up our election wishlists now and send them loud and clear to the candidates. If we don’t ask now, we might as well never ask. If they don’t listen now, they’ll never listen. I choose cycle safety and more and better affordable housing. What about you?