DUDE, WHERE’S MY ENERGY COMPANY?
IT’S not that anybody in Labour’s election team hates their manifesto. They are all standing for a seat in the council chamber behind the pledges. But as noted previously, some of those most enthused by the party’s direction nationally are disappointed that a more radical – or ambitious, to use another word wafting around – agenda is not being sought at a local level. What do the left caucus want? There are members who see no reason why Camden is not copying the example of neighbouring Islington and setting up council-run energy provision to compete with the rigidly expensive prices set by the big six private firms. Islington Labour has pledged to expand their scheme after the elections.
Some frustrated Labour members and candidates, understandably talking off-the-record, also wanted pledges not to demolish existing social housing, to reopen the waiting list for council homes to everybody and a more enthusiastic approach to ‘insourcing’ services. Interestingly, given the friction the Greens face when they criticise any element of the Community Investment Programme, some left-wingers also wanted this flagship policy to be placed under review. This blasphemous idea was quickly shut down.
One other one to mention: a call to abandon cabinet rule and return to a committee system at the Town Hall. The idea behind this is involving backbenchers more in council decisions. If Labour is to win as many seats as some predict on May 3, the leadership could find that it has lots of councillors on the benches behind who are happy to have been elected but quickly frustrated at finding all of the important jobs being taken by bed blockers.
None of these ideas made it into the final manifesto, an indication of where the majority power lies in the Labour ranks. It’s nonetheless irritated some of those who feel the pledges are a tad tame that the process of pulling together the final document has been presented as a brilliant listening exercise where everybody had a say.
“I am proud that we are putting forward a manifesto that pledges to put our residents at the heart of decision-making,” insists leader Georgia Gould. “The ideas in our manifesto come from lively discussions across our borough.”
COUNCIL leader Georgia Gould was back on Kentish Town Road yesterday, manning a street stall in her own ward. She was probably pushing her luck, however, asking affable former Liberal Democrat councillor Matt Sanders for support. Mr Sanders, now joining me on Team Bald, the best team, was a councillor in Haverstock until 2010 before becoming a special adviser to Nick Clegg during the coalition government. He must have some stories to tell. Later, he went to work in a similar job in New Zealand but is now back in London, although not apparently tempted to stand as a candidate again next month.
SCRATCH AND SNIFF
THE Conservative bill for campaign materials must be rising. I’ve been told at least 15,000 copies of the glossy manifesto were printed and distributed. Now, they are handing out scratchcards – yes, scratchcards – which are presumably more expensive than anything inky which spurts out of their risographs. I bet you can’t guess what happens when you scratch off the silver bits with the edge of a 2p coin. CLUE: You don’t win £1 million.
HERE’S hope for any Conservatives or Lib Dems worried that Labour are closing in on them in Swiss Cottage: Have their candidates got off at the wrong station? While Labour are clearly mounting a spirited campaign to make history by taking all three seats in a ward currently shared by two Tories and one Lib Dem, it was quickly pointed out to them by former council leader Keith Moffitt that they are standing in the City of Westminster in their latest campaign photo.
DEEPER into Westminster, Glenys Roberts, the deselected Conservative councillor in the contested Soho ward, will not be silenced. She was featured in the Westminster Extra and these pages last week calling for some support for the independents standing against the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. Today she went national in the Sunday Times, still querying why the Tories had given her the boot: “I have tried to find out why I was deselected and they won’t tell me, so I feel as if I’m in a Kafka novel… They [the council leadership] didn’t like me being involved with State of Soho [a local group that campaigns against overdevelopment], but I just wanted the best for my area and the people I represent.”
THE DESELECTED II
ANOTHER deselected Conservative councillor with a grudge is Mill Hill councillor Sury Khatri, who won’t go quietly and is now asking voters in Barnet to pick the Liberal Democrats instead. “As Cllr Dan Thomas [chair of Hendon Conservatives] lays the ground for his right wing and hard Brexit based leadership coup, he only wants ‘yes’ men in the Conservative group, and thus I have been discarded,” he rails. “Astonishing that after 8 years of serving the community, without a blemish on my record and more than a decade serving the party I have been silenced. It’s time for a change in Mill Hill. Vote Liberal Democrat.” The Lib Dems had councillors in the ward from 1994 to 2010.
LOCAL POLLS FOR LOCAL ISSUES
THE Conservatives in Camden have also been accused by their rivals (and some otr internal briefers) of being gradually taken over by people who are in favour of Brexit. Ask the party about it and you’ll be told again that no councillor elected on May 3 is going to be working on the EU negotiations and that these elections are about local issues – not Europe. Just as well given Camden’s heavy Remain vote in 2016.
MP James Cleverly, a leaver, was the latest special guest to join their campaign on Saturday, but presumably nobody mentioned Brexit on the doorstep.
GREENS v LABOUR
IT’S still going on, although now it’s councillor Adam Harrison taking on the baton from Danny Beales as Labour round on Sian Berry, the Green councillor in Highgate, over Twitter. In simple form: He accuses the Greens of courting Tory votes to get elected, and therefore the party isn’t as left wing as it appears. She says in reply, what’s wrong with that – the job of a politician is to try and persuade and convince.
The exchanges read like they could go on all week in Highgate, so I’ll spare you the full convo.
ANOTHER one from Labour’s council elections victory in 2002, as deputy prime minister John Prescott turns up outside the big Sainsbury’s in Camden Town. It wasn’t so long after his famous jab at a heckler in Rhyl and passers-by teased him that they wanted a boxing match with him. Pat Callaghan, left, was re-elected in Camden Town with Primrose Hill, but in what was a hint of things to come the Lib Dems also won a seat there, the first, I think, in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency. Sadly for the Lib Dems, the winning candidate, Justin Barnard, quit after just a week and said he was moving to Norfolk. Labour won the resulting by-election.
Cllr Callaghan’s personal vote helped her survive in 2006 when the Lib Dems returned and won two seats – Chris Naylor and Libby Campbell – but Labour have since wrested back control, and are likely to hold three seats there on May 3.