THE council which held a minute of silence for Nelson Mandela months before he actually died forgot about somebody closer to home last night. Due to a cock-up rather than an anti-Corbyn conspiracy (let’s no go there), Gloria Lazenby became the first former mayor to pass away and not be given a tribute at the following full council meeting.
The mistake now realised, this is apparently to be rectified in November, when some five months will have passed since her death. Maybe this unwitting break of full council etiquette reflects how many restructures the council has been through in recent years and the long-serving figures who have departed, or that councillors are getting younger and may not even have heard of her. Her name was not mentioned in open session either and it all seemed a shame, for even if her relations with the Blair years Labour Party had became so strained they eventually broke, Gloria’s campaigning spirit and community service deserved some recognition.
As it goes, the council, similarly to the way it hoists flags up above the Town Hall on some issues but decides not to on others without any obvious consistency, seems to lack any real protocol over when to stand in silence, and when not to. At the last meeting, the room fell silent for the victims of the horrific shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the shock of the atrocity still raw from a few days earlier, and for Jo Cox, who never represented a Camden ward or constituency but whose death resonated across the country with an almost unique sense of collective grief.
Good cases can be assembled for marking both, but there are confused precedents now being set, and somebody or a group must find themselves arbitrarily making a judgement on who we commemorate in the chamber, and who we don’t.
The fear that hangs over us is that there will be more terrorist attacks, but hopefully Camden won’t have to figure out why it publicly marks one and not another, when it reality I know these councillors feel devastated about them all. And then there are the people, like Gloria; the councillors past and present who give up inexplicably large portions of their free time to serve on Camden’s green benches. She’s a former mayor, the borough’s first citizen for a year with her name etched into the Town Hall marble, but what about if you serve as a councillor but do so without seeking or obtaining a year in the mayor’s parlour. If the Lib Dem group was still strong, for example, or if the meeting had not clashed with their conference, maybe the recent passing of former councillor Sidney Malin, who beat Labour’s Rudolph Champagne and the Conservatives’ Michael Bottom in Hampstead ward in 1998, would at least have been noted last night.
Who decides? How many years as a councillor do you have to serve to qualify for the due respect that comes with a hushed council chamber? Or maybe it is gauged on what you do during your time as a councillor. Sidney was there just before my time, stepping down in 2002, but the consensus is that he was hard-working, colourful local representative. I doubt Flick would have let it past if she hadn’t been stuck in Brighton, and maybe that’s another reason why she is fuming about the uncharitable scheduling clash last night.