LONG time, no post. The news schedule in the CNJ office over the last few weeks may tell you why… it’s meant to be the slow, summer season. Anyway, time for a little catch-up…
MP-AGAIN Zac Goldsmith may have been a touch hopeful when he wrote to Labour’s Tulip Siddiq asking for her help in securing the chairmanship of parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee earlier this summer. “I write to ask for your support,” he said in an emailed pitch to MPs, adding: “My passion for environmental issues goes back to well before I first became an MP, and I have consistently championed green policies in Parliament and in my constituency.”
The return correspondence shows that the Hampstead and Kilburn MP wrote back with a simple reply: “Zac, I would not consider voting for you until you give a full and public apology for the bigoted and divisive campaign which you waged against our Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Thank you.” Conservative Neil Parish eventually went on to keep his position as chairman, with Zac left searching for something else to do.
TORY teacher Calvin Robinson hopped from the pages of the Camden New Journal to virtually every national newspaper after complaining that there is a left-wing bias in schools and that young people were ‘groomed’ to vote against Brexit. In some cases, the story was lifted almost word-for-word, a low practice within our industry for which I’ve complained about many times before. As for the content of the story, local Labour figures seemed less interested in getting dragged into a debate on whether such bias existed and more concerned that Calvin was specifically negative about Camden’s schools.
It’s a brave man to criticise Camden’s schools, which the council has for many years felt it has gone above and beyond to support. The schools have famously knitted together into a ‘family’ and been able to resist any possible attempts to force them into becoming independent academies by avoiding Ofsted’s lower ranks. Telling them they are in a ‘sorry state’ may become an interesting tactic as we get nearer next year’s council elections where Calvin runs in Swiss Cottage, a potential battleground ward. A few Labour opponents, meanwhile, are questioning why a Conservative candidate looking to win office was, by sheer coincidence, made the pride of a government-sponsored promotional campaign, suggesting the poster and ad campaigns were as good as an election leaflet on patch.
ON Calvin’s ‘bias’ debate-starter, there were several other local Tories who felt angry that an invitation for parents to essentially protest against Conservative education spending was sent out in some school newsletters before the Big Assembly demonstration at the (publicly-run) Talacre Gardens. These are bulletins which you’d fairly expect to be political neutral.
At the demo, Gospel Oak headteacher John Hayes said: “We know that education was a decisive factor in reducing Tory votes, leading to the government losing their majority and being desperate to cling to power.” It didn’t take Conservatives to then scan his name on Twitter and find he had run as Labour Party election candidate in Hitchin at the June 8 general election.
“I write to the parents all the time now – they are getting quite used to my commentaries on my newsletter,” he told the Hitchin Comet before the vote. And when asked whether pupils at Gospel Oak would feel abandoned by his decision to campaign for election, he added: “I would say no. I’m protecting my school and the children and the teachers and the support staff and everyone from government cuts. Sometimes you just have to say to the government: ‘Look, I’m the professional here, and you’re not listening to me. I need to take action’.” In the end, he cut the Tory majority in Hitchin and Harpenden, but was still more than 12,000 votes away from reaching the Commons.
FOR another case of tiptoeing around claims of bias, we need to cast ourselves back to election night. That night in the Somers Town sports hall already seems ages ago, but it’s only eight weeks since Camden mayor Richard Cotton declared that Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq would continue being our MPs. Although obviously he is a Labour councillor, Richard must stay neutral on occasions like this. He can’t read out Keir’s score and then fist-pump the air when he’s on the stage at the declaration. But who noticed a lefty clue for anybody who didn’t know his political leanings in what he was wearing that night? An RMT tie! A union, but one not currently affiliated with the Labour Party. No rules broken.
YOU may have seen this monstrosity in the New Journal‘s Peeps column but if the ‘councillors eating burgers’ meme is ever to take off, then it may need a little more air. After this month’s full council meeting, we tracked down Conservative councillor Gio Spinella to the O’Neils pub where he was just about to the devour this macaroni burger. Like some sort of thing you’d see in a food-eating competition on a lost cable TV channel, a dollop of cheesy spirals is put inside the normal burger.
NEWS from the north western frontier is that Flick Rea is ready to put pay to rumours that she will not stand again at next year’s council elections and confirm she will give it another whirl. As the last Lib Dem left at the council, there’s enormous pressure for her to take part. What’s left of the Town Hall press bench will miss her live commentary at full council meetings if she doesn’t. It’s better than a live blog, but almost always unprintable.
As it happens, several Lib Dems in the area were never really convinced that Tim Farron was the right man to lead a parliamentary comeback and are content with the change at the top. Ironically, those with the longest memories, will remember how Sir Vince Cable almost stood for Labour in this neck of the woods. He wanted to take on Tory MP Geoffrey Finsberg in Hampstead at the 1979 general election, but lost out in the Labour selection contest to Ken Livingstone.
HOW will the Chalcots evacuation affect next year’s council elections? It’s the kind of question considered too vulgar to talk about out loud by our local politicians, but rest assured it;s a pub topic of conversation. While the Conservatives, looking to defend three seats in Belsize next year, have been thick on the ground, Labour may be ruing the length of time it has taken to resolve who is even standing in the ward, leaving Georgia Gould on the frontline with no official candidates to introduce residents to. Will a challenge to the Conservatives come from elsewhere? The Liberal Democrats once held all three seats but have ground to make up, but what of the possibility of independent candidates emerging from within the group of evacuated residents? Over the course of the last few weeks, some relief volunteers are said to have gained all the contacts needed to make electoral campaign easier to the conduct.