What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “london labour”

Boris’ Best Mates – Number One: BRIAN COLEMAN

 Londoners will be pretty familiar (and pretty fed-up) with Brian Coleman, the Barnet Councillor, ex- Mayor and London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden, at least until next week. We are used to his habitual rudeness to members of the public, and his total disregard for anyone who disagrees with him. His casual insults are legend.

Now we all know that in politics, as in life, choosing your friends is an important indicator of your character, perhaps as important as your actions. In all honesty we in Labour have our reservations as to some of Ken’s allies, and most of us are pretty open about this, so maybe we should just take a peek at one of Mr Johnson’s closest political allies…

Mr Johnson put Mr Coleman in charge of the London Fire Brigade and Emergency Planning, taking Mr Coleman’s salary to over £120,000 per year, meaning he is one of the five top payed councillors in Britain. Yesterday he gave us an insight into why Johnson so values his services, when his attitude towards the Firefighters he bosses about, and their elected representatives was reported in an interview to be thus:

Most of the Union officials, if they had half a brain cell, they’d be dangerous… We have to break the FBU frankly… 

He also confirmed that there would “inevitably” be job losses, confirming that 27 fire engines, that is 16% of London’s total, could be cut. This is in direct contradiction to  Mr Johnson’s claims.

Let us take a moment to inspect this man’s record, after all, should Boris Johnson win on May 3rd, he will be a key player in the running of London:

Between April 2006 and March 2007, Coleman spent £10,000 on taxi fares. The average taxi spend of all GLA members for this period was £845. Granted, during this time, Brian was banned from driving for speeding, but has he never heard of the Oystercard?

In 2009, in the wake of the national expenses scandal, he was the only Assembly Member to refuse to voluntarily publish his expenses:

I won’t do it voluntarily. Its none of the publics business

Despite a salary of £128,000, Mr Coleman lives in a subsidised Housing Association flat, with a monthly rent of just £546. His landlord is the  Finchley Methodist Church charity. Lucky him. Recently, a single mother, faced with an increase on her rent of £150, taking her monthly rent to £1,100 contacted Mr Coleman see if he could in any way help. His answer, which speaks volumes, was thus:

…live in the real world…

Like many in the Boris camp, he really hates criticism, and just this week it was reported in The Barnet Times that he had called Friern Barnet resident & Psychiatric Nurse Paul Merchant a “twat”, then urged this voter to “clear off out” of a packed public meeting at Hendon Town Hall.

This is the third such incident in the past twelve months alone.

On May 3rd, this man is standing once again as GLA Member of Barnet and Camden. His Labour opponent, ex-local MP Andrew Dismore needs only a 5.5% swing to oust him. Time to eject this pompous, arrogant man from the Assembly chamber I think.

If, like me, you would also like to see this odious creep banished from City Hall, then best you vote for Ken Livingstone as well.

An Evening with Bananaman…

A cunning email has reached Clem from Hackney and Shoreditch Labour Party, inviting me to the annual dinner – guest speaker a certain David Miliband.

I’m all a fluster at this tempting offer, but who should I take? Lady P says no, and her redoubdtable mother will be too busy (I would have loved to witness the heckles), so that only leaves Hillary Clinton. Who gets embarrassingly “Mrs Robinson” when David hoves into view ( “Oh David, show me your Whitewater…”)

And there is one other problem – what do I call him? I have settled on Bananaman, after that photo – as “Monkeyboy” is too close to “Monkey”, and I liked the TV series as a kid – chop-sockey heaven at teatime.

The menu includes Banana Fritters, there would be the chance of making another weak joke, or even telling him I voted for Ed, it could make decent copy…

Oh, what to do? Any ideas comrades? Should I stay in, or should I go? 

Boris Johnson, Saviour Of The Poor?

For those of you who don’t look at the blogs of the deluded and misguided Boris fans across the nation (yes, it is sad, but its a hobby..), you may have missed this little nugget that appeared on “The Wonder of Boris Johnson” a site published by Anne Sykes, dedicated to her love for you-know-who…

“BORIS JOHNSON – £8m Hero to the Homeless”

The Government has given £8m to the Mayors office to sort out rough sleeping in London by 2012. Anne then tells us that the latest figures show that there are 415 sleeping rough in the capital, although a link on her site to Homeless Link states that the actual number is nearer 3,000.

“Imagine how cold and ill they get with no hope to better themselves, caught in a vicious trap.” Well said Anne, I can hear the strains of Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” as she opines…

Yet £8 million, although a lot to you and me, is, to quote our saviour, “chickenfeed”. Per person, it amounts to £2666.66 – rather less than the average rent a Londoner pays in the private sector a year. Perhaps Boris shall buy each rough sleeper a flat? With a one bedroom flat in Hackney costing somewhere between say £120,000 and £160,000, thats 67 homes at the very best. This money, very welcome though it is, is a sticking plaster, and will provide no permanent solution.

Rather this money is being used to improve Londons image for The Olympics. This kind of cynical move is not new, indeed it has gone on at every modern games since at least 1936 – with possibly the 1948 austerity Games as an exception. Bejing, Moscow, LA, Berlin all received money to hide unpleasant aspects of themselves, and when the show moved on, all their dirty little secrets returned.

Londoners perhaps saw a prototype of the clean up when St Pancras Station and the surrounding area were tarted up for Eurostar. Suddenly, as if by magic, beggars and the homeless disappeared. A senior retired mental health professional warned me about renting in Camden at the time – “thats where the Police have shifted them all” he said despairingly.

I do hope that that along with the charities involved, such as Crisis, St Mungos and Homeless Link,  Boris’ Director of Housing Richard Blakeway spends this paltry sum well, and that some good comes of it. Yet rough sleeping is only the worst of our housing problem.

As Boris himself says ” It is scandalous that in 21st Century London people have to resort to sleeping in the streets..” But this is nothing compared to the hideous overcrowding that people endure at the lower end of the rented private sector. Anyone who has delivered a leaflet at election time knows that many houses, designed for an average family of four are now “multi-occupied”. In Haringay, I lived in one, at £450 per month,that had been converted to hold nine bedrooms. The highest body count was sixteen, including a young family with a baby. With a shower, a bathroom, one kitchen, and one separate toilet as our only communal spaces. Along our street of pre-war terraced houses, at least half had been converted this way.

In another wretched post elswhere, Anne says ” I adored Margaret Thatcher – she also had IT- lets say the X factor.” well, there is no accounting for taste, but I must point out that it was her adored Margaret’s flagship policy of destroying social housing that has led to massive overcrowding in unsanitary conditions across the nation. The reciepts from Council House sales were kept by the Treasury until after 1997. Local Authorities had little option but to borrow money against them to protect vital services in the meantime. With the destruction of an accountable authority for London in1985, seemingly to spite Ken Livingstone, the capital had no co-ordinated housing policy. In fact, the housing policy of this country since 1983 can best be summed up as “do you know what my house is worth now?”

With recent changes and caps to housing benefit, under Boris overall this will get worse. Boris and his chums at local level are creating a highly divided London, where if you are not wealthy, your place is an overcrowded slum.

Essex Girls, Union militants and a bit of history…

In the last few decades, a small cottage industry has grown up in Britain, developing a certain type of film, one which I would categorise as the “feel good working class defeat movie”. This started back in the late 1980s, with “The Big Man”, and has continued through “The Full Monty”, and “Brassed Off”, “Up and Under”, and a number of other films or TV movies, that share a number of attributes.

Firstly, they are all records of defeat – the miners strike, the destruction of the Steel industry, the general victory of Thatcherism over social democratic values are always the backdrop to this kind of film – introducing tragedy and pathos as major themes.

Secondly, the solution to the characters problems is often communal, but always entrepreneurial; win a Brass band competition, win a bare knuckle fight, start stripping – “just get back on your feet boys, you can do it!” is the subliminal message we find more often than not.

An idealised picture of working class life, mainly centring on male roles, and how these have changed. The working class all live North of the Watford Gap.

These films are not in the same category as those by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and the excellent Shane Meadows, all of whom have been able to capture snapshots of ordinary life with humour and emotion, as well as accuracy.

A general line throughout these films that the Unions cannot win – however brave and honourable the struggle, it is always doomed, however much we regret this. The concurrent to this is that the only way to salvation is to escape your class.

These film have made us feel good by touching a nerve – we wish things were different, but they aren’t. The escapism is no less than when watching “Four Weddings” say, or “Notting Hill”, or any Merchant Ivory confection.

“Made in Dagenham” however, looks like a film that bucks this trend. Set in the huge Ford plant in Essex at the end of the sixties, it follows the true struggle of women workers for equal pay for equal work. This battle was not only successful, but led directly to the first sexual equality legislation since the emancipation of women in the 1920s, brought in by Barbara Castle. It was a Trades Union battle par excellence, with right on its side, led by the women themselves.

It comes out this week, and I urge you all to see this film, which I will review soon…

So, its Ken again…

London will face a 2012 election for Mayor between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, who overwhelmingly won the race for candidate against Oona King today.

I will go on record in saying that I don’t believe that this was the right choice, but, now its made, we have to work hard to get Ken elected, and for success in the GLA elections as well.

In my view, it wasn’t a case of differing so much on policy, more that by fielding Ken we would be presenting the same old face, when a newer accomplished candidate was on offer. there is also the suspicion that Ken will use his position to ride roughshod over differing views within the London Party.

Both candidates were strongly against the Coalition cutbacks, and we can only hope that they can work together to defend services in the Capital. Ken and Labour need to concentrate on outer rather than inner London, as the public perception us that we simply do not give a damn about anything past Zone 3. This is what hurt us last time, but these areas will also be hit by the cuts from this coalition. If we head into double-dip, then we are all in the same boat, unless your boat is moored in Barnes.

The media will as usual be ranged against us, but the Lib Dem Vote may be squeezed both ways – lets see.

What is clear is that simply relying on a little “Ken magic” will not work in 2012, and that we have to work very hard for every vote. This will not simply be an ersatz referendum on the coalition, it will be the decision of Londoners for Londoners as to how they want London run. Ken and the rest of us need to take notice of our failings in the past and work hard to correct them. We cannot rely on two factors that helped Ken to two victories – the unpopularity of the Tories and him not being Tony Blairs’ choice – both conditions were finite, and are now irrelevant. Unless we can show both a clean pair of hands and a willingness to serve, then we may very well be defeated once again – by the biggest political joke in recent times.

Anyway, thats by-the-by now, and I look forward to bashing Boris…

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