Tuesday, July 31, 2007

All Saints Centre Wimbledon

In recent days many Merton Labour councillors have been sent various e-mails and letters from local residents about All Saints Centre in Wimbledon.The All Saints centre is operated by Merton Council and offers a day facility for people aged 16-65 with a physical disability. It also provides access to community-based and other related organisations that can assist with education and social needs.

With Merton Council planning to make various savings in next years budget, strong rumours have been circulating for a number of weeks that the Merton Tory administration is planning to close the All Saints Centre next year. A statement has been issued today by the Director Simon Williams which fails to deny that it may be closed. If it does close, it will affect some of the most vulnerable people in the Borough and provides an invaluable service to many people across the borough with disabilities. The Labour councillors on Merton Council will be closely monitoring what the Tories come forward with in their proposals when they are published and the consultation on their proposals.

Statement by the Director of Community and Housing Simon Williams.

“Merton Council is currently carrying out a review of all its adult social services. This is being driven partly by the need to contribute to financial savings but also to look at modernising services to ensure that we continue to provide effective services that are right for the residents of Merton.

As part of the review we are looking at all our day services, which include the services we provide at All Saints Centre. We are still some way off from making any firm proposals and to date there are no concrete plans for the services provided at All Saints to close.

As we begin to shape the potential options, we will be consulting with key stakeholders, including service users. Proposed changes will also go through our usual governance processes and elected members will have the opportunity to discuss and debate. Throughout the review we are committed to inform service users at every step and it is hoped that consultation on any proposal will take place by the autumn.”

Monday, July 23, 2007

500 blog posts

Well I've hit five hundred blog posts after seventen months, I started this blog off in March 2006 and I'm still blogging away. Now it's time to target 1000 which I'll make in December 2008 on current rates.

Summer floods & Merton

Whilst Merton has had a lucky escape compared with some parts of the country, nevertheless the floods on Friday have caused various problems in the Borough along with implementation of emergency plans(the first time I've known this to happen). Thankfully the flooding did not cause widespread damage or full implementation of plans but a number of roads were inaccessible due to blocked drains and the Wandle along with the Pylbrook rose to dangerous levels. A large part of the borough also has water restrictions due to contamination at the Cheam treatment plant of Sutton and East Surrey Water which services the Morden area of the Borough, this was only lifted earlier this afternoon.

Clearly lessons need to be learned from the recent flooding though the rainfall that happened on Friday was pretty much unprecedented. It is clear that flood defences in parts of the country will have to be improved further. The drainage system also needs to be improved, I've knows from experience that even minor rainfall causes blocked gullies which leads to flooding. Many were built over sixty years ago, some even in Victorian times and are in need of modernisation though from experience Thames Water are slow to do anything where particular problems exist.

This summer will certainly go down as being remembered for the floods, the damage caused will probably run into billions given the floods last month, hopefully the rain will stop soon but my sympathy lies with all those who've been affected by these floods.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Padraig Harrington wins British Golf Open

This afternoon I was glued to the TV watching what had to be one of the best ever British Golf Opens. Normally I don't tend to watch golf on TV very often but with all the twist, turns and excitement that happened at Carnoustie I got hooked and watched it right to the end.

The British Open also saw the first triumph for a European since the last time the British Open was held at Carnoustie eight years ago. For the Irish in Padraig Harrington it was their first winner in sixty years which knowing Ireland as I do their will be a great sense of national pride and he'll be treated as a hero. He thoroughly deserved his success even when it looked like he'd blown his chances at the 18th hole.

For Sergio Garcia it was a disappointing end but a vast improvement on his performance at Carnoustie in 1999 where he came last, in effect he blew his change of winning in the final round but as golf is such an unpredictable sport this often happens. He is a great golfing player and I've no doubt he will enjoy success in the future.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ealing Southall and Sedgefield by-election results

The result of the by-election in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield were both extremely encouraging given the potential difficulties that by-elections can cause and the inevitable swing that nearly always takes place against the party in government.
Compared to the results of previous by-elections in the last ten years when Labour was defending, the swing against Labour was small and both seats were held with good majorities given the drop in turnout.

The big loser of last nights election was David Cameron and the Conservative performance was nothing short of disastrous especially in Ealing Southalll, the excuses they've peddled out can't get away from the fact that only a few days ago the party were talking of success in this by-election. Within the constituency of Ealing Southall the Conservatives had more councillors the Labour at 19(taking into account the five defectors) and without them they still had 10 councillors(14 if you include the wards split by constituency boundaries). They also won a number of Ealing council wards at the May 2006 elections. Indeed just last year they polled 32% across the seat and were only 5% behind Labour. Whilst Ealing Southall does contain pockets of deprivation, within the seat are some very comfortable middle class London suburbs with semi-detached/detached houses along with 2 or 3 cars that are more reminiscent of Surrey then London. For the Tory vote to barely rise over 2005 and to run 10% behind their 2006 showing is a truly dismal performance. I could think of a number of seats in London including my own seat of Mitcham and Morden(and still the last Tory by-election gain in 1982) where the Conservative are in a far weaker position electorally.

Given the time commitment and money Cameron put into this seat their failure to advance shows the weakness of the Conservative party. Coupled with the Conservative candidate Tony Lit and his attendance at a Labour Party fundraiser along with having his photo with Blair was an absolute PR disaster for Cameron and the Tories. They will no doubt learns the lessons from this campaign and I have no doubt be a bit more careful of their choice of candidate in the future, the Labour party certainly learned that lesson the hard was back in the eighties. Reading Conservative Home and Iain Dale today, Conservative contributors are scathing about their performance and the campaign in Ealing Southall.

The other great thing about the election is the defection of Gucharan Singh and his four colleagues from Labour to the Conservatives seemed to have had very little impact within the Sikh community, the Conservatives have probably done ourselves a great favour in ridding us of these divisive and polarising councillors.

While the Liberals may be crowing about getting second in Sedgefield and Ealing Southall their performance was a poor showing compared to other by-elections. The decision to have a short campaign I believe was the right decision, it was the failure of the Labour party to have an early campaign in Brent East in 2003 that contributed to the Liberals winning the seat In the election itself they had their usual dirty tricks including putting 12 years on Virenda Sharma saying he was 72 along with their bogus opinion polls showing them neck and neck with Labour. In many previous elections Liberals have come from far worse positions then in Ealing Southall to win the seat and unlike in previous elections they failed to squeeze the Conservative vote though I have no doubt that if it had been a longer campaign the Tory vote would've been squeezed. The result will also lead to Ming Campbelll being kept in post longer though I have no doubt that his long-term future as leader is not good.

Many are talking about an election in the autumn or next spring, it's important not to get carried away with our success last night and put at risk our majority in Parliament. I still think that June 2009 is the most likely date though I believe we are in an excellent position to win a fourth term and that if our poll ratings remain high then I can see some logic in an election next year. If I was David Cameron I would be a very worried man as it is clear that the Tories are certainly not on course to win the next election.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Boris Johnson running for London Mayor

It took a long time but it seems that the Tories have attracted at last someone who we've heard of to stand for London Mayor, after pontificating for most of the last week Boris finally took the plunge this morning and we're probably set for Ken V Boris provided Boris wins the Conservative primary.

This is actually welcome news, Boris Johnson is a character and politics does need them but is he really a serious politician or a buffoon? most in the Labour Party would say the latter. Still if it motivates people to vote in the Mayoral election and makes it more lively campaign then that has to be welcome though I would be shell-shocked if Boris does become Mayor of London.

Finally what happens if a General Election takes place next May, will he retire as MP for Henley? he surely can't run for two positions at the same time(two jobs Boris!). A possibility does exist that a General Election will happen on the same day(which will be a challenge from a London perspective given all the ballot papers) no wonder Boris took so long to decide and I bet he is praying that Gordon does not call a snap election for May 1st next year.

Like everything in politics things can change, but if it does come down to Ken V Boris it won't be short on the entertainment factor.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Southall campaigning tales

I went over to help in Southall on Saturday evening and the by-election and with it being the final few days, leaflets from the three major parties are in abundance along with a large number of posters displayed. From being in Southall today you also have the bizarre situation of a number of shops containing both Conservative and Labour posters, something I've never seen before in any previous elections I've been involved in and the list is long. Although the odd shop may display a poster in Mitcham and Morden you get very few shops putting up posters unlike in Southall where it seems to be a tradition. Clearly awareness of the by-election is growing and I cannot see turnout being rock bottom or as low as in some previous elections.

Out and about, I also had a bizarre encounter with some christian religious zealot who tired preaching to me about God along with his theories of religion in the world. He claimed to support Labour and being a man of God I take him at his word, but like any election you sometimes meet some very interesting characters and he was certainly one.

Large number of activists were also about and I also met Harriet Harman Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. The National Policy Forum which was meeting nearby at Heathrow also came in two coachloads to help. The one downside is that getting anywhere was not an easy task and not knowing the area I got lost a few times(not having sat nav I had to rely on my AtoZ), traffic in Southall is also a nightmare even on a Saturday evening but it's a very colourful and lively place.

The mood within the Labour party is pretty upbeat about our prospects and morale is high. However, we cannot be complacent as by-elections are never easy and present many challengers but in Virenda Sharma we've an excellant canidate.

Labour 7% lead in ICM poll

The ICM poll in the News of the World makes very encouraging reading with Labour at 40% and the Conservatives at 33%. This is the biggest lead since Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister and from a pollster that tends to give us the lowest ratings it's even better news. I have said previously in this blog that Gordon Brown would have a honeymoon effect and that October will be a better time to judge the polls but it is encouraging to see them moving significantly in our favour.

Already the indications are that the wheels are starting to come off the Cameron bandwagon. After seeing the poll I decided to have a look at Conservative Home and seeing the comments section it's pretty scathing of David Cameron and his policies. The comments section also mentions Tony Lit the Tory candidate in Ealing Southall who last month attended a Labour Party fundraising event(and has his photo taken with Tony Blair), clearly his commitment to the Tory cause seems to be very weak indeed. The link is below.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mitcham Common open day

Today I also attended an open day for Mitcham Common which was held at the Ecology Centre in my ward and involved a variety of activities including walks and an exhibition on the Common organised by The Friends of Mitcham Common.

The Common is an area that contains many different plant species and various wildlife, ecologically it's a goldimine and brings with it a huge open space that is available to local residents to use. In terms of running the Common it is run by a joint board called The Mitcham Common Conservators which contains representatives from Merton, Sutton and Croydon who together help fund the Common.

One of the concerns at the moment is inevitably the new Windmill Trading Estate development and impact it will have on the Common. As part of the development S106 money(which the developer has to contribute from any large development) will hopefully in part be received by the Conservators to make environmental improvements.
This is something I welcome as the impact of this development will be considerable and it's important that the Common is protected.

Eastfields Station meeting

This morning I attended a meeting at St Marks Academy organised by Siobhain McDonagh into the proposed new station at Eastfields. The meeting had representatives from both Merton Council and Network Rail, the meeting discussed a number of issues relating to the station including planning, access to the station by public transport, security, service frequency, planning issues, name and the construction timetable. The application has been submitted to Merton Council and it's hoped that it will be considered by planning in September following the 21 day consultation. If everything goes through it is hoped that the station will open in December.

In terms of the station name, four possible names are now on the shortlist, the name will be determined by Network Rail after the plans are approved. The names are as follows 1) Mitcham Eastfields 2) Mitcham East 3)Mitcham Vale and 4)Lonesome(which is the name of a local school and has some historical significance), personally the first name Mitcham Eastfields is the best of all of them.

Another issue raised was the zone for the station and whether it would be in 3 or 4, this matter will be determined by Tfl but I hope that it's in zone 3 given that neighbouring stations like Streatham Common and Tooting are in that zone. Given the fare difference as well, having it zone 3 would increase the attractiveness of the station to local residents.

Parking was also raised and Merton Council are consulting with local residents on the matter as a new station will inevitably have an impact on the local area.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Merton Neighbourhood Governance report

At Overview and Scrutiny Commission on Thursday night we debated the report into Neighbourhood Governance which looked at ways of engaging with the public but also considered out current structure of area forums. I, along with Conservative Councillor Henry Nelless and Commission Chair Peter Southgate who is also a Merton Park Independent Resident councillor were members of the task force.

The report was amended considerably by scrutiny and a wide range of view were aired, indeed on certain issues I expressed views that differed from my Labour colleagues on the way forward(we are not whipped on scrutiny). We also had a long debate about allowing a pilot devolution of £10,000 budget to two wards, following debate this was amended as concerns were expressed on implications of devolving budgets. Within the report consideration was also given to the new Community Call for Action proposals and the implications it will have on the Council but also in how it empowered local residents and councillors in raising issues.

Following scrutiny amending the recommendations, it will now go to Cabinet which next meets in September. I enclose a link to the report

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Merton Full Council meeting

The Merton Full Council was a subdued affair for Labour Councillors, many of our thoughts was with one of our colleagues whose daughter was having her life support machine switched off at 10pm last night. At the end of the meeting at 10pm all Labour councillors remained in the Council chamber to remember her, a very upsetting moment for many of us and one that cast a shadow over the whole meeting. My thoughts and prayers are with my colleague at this difficult time.

In terms of the meeting itself, David Williams the Council leader announced a new initiative to start in September to engage with Merton residents and to hear their views on Council services. It remains to be seen how this process will be conducted and how the process will work but it will apparently involve a series of roadshows across the Borough. Time will tell whether this will actually involve genuine dialogue with Merton residents or turns out to be an expensive PR gimmick.

In terms of the main debate, it was on Corporate Capacity following the recent publication of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment which rated Merton as a three star authority. Most of the improvements were down to the previous Labour administration and our contribution towards the improvement rating has been recognised by the Conservative Council Leader David Wiliams and Merton Park Resident leader Peter Southgate who said that the improvement is "80% down to Labour and 20% to the Conservatives". The period in which the assessment covered fell predominately during the time the Council was controlled by Labour. However, in the speech I made to Council I raised concerns about the drop in Council Tax collection, the rise in processing Housing Benefit claims and increased waiting times in Merton Link. At the Way We Work Panel next Thursday we'll be looking more closely at performance in these areas. The main motion which was proposed by the Leader of Labour Councillors Andrew Judge and amended by the Tories which we accepted, the motion was passed unanimously.

With regard to the two other motions consensus was certainly not in the air. The Council debated a motion on Assistant Cabinet Members which we opposed along with expressing concerns about the way it had been handled at Standards Committee by the Conservative administration. The debate contained two excellent speeches by my colleague Peter Mc Cabe and Richard Williams my ward colleague in Pollards Hill.

The other motion that was debated was on the Freedom Pass and the on-going funding guarantees between the Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone and London Councils the umbrella body that represents London Boroughs. This relates to funding increases that have taken place in recent years in what Tfl charge London Boroughs, although the figure has increased by 52% since 2000 this includes inflation, the increased National Rail charges(which is nothing to do with Tfl) and the extension of the pass to men over 60. In real terms the increase is 7% and given the huge expansion and improvement in bus services under Labour Mayor the increase been stated was distorted. Indeed Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond recently described the scheme as "onerous" which is code for saying that costs need to be reduced, while the motion pledge support for the Freedom Pass nevertheless it called for powers to be removed from Ken Livingstone and given to the Secretary of State for Transport in terms of guaranteeing the scheme, so much for local democracy. With the mayoral campaign coming up it was an opportunity for the Tories to indulge themselves in another Ken bashing session and given that they've still not found a mayoral candidate part of their campaign to paint Ken in a negative light.

In terms of other issues, the stock transfer to Raven Housing for Council housing stock in Tadworth(which is outside the Borough) was agreed, at a meeting on Tuesday night the proposal was amended at scrutiny to allow 100% nomination rights for Merton instead of the proposed 70%. The revised Code of Conduct was also agreed at the meeting.

The next meeting of Council will take place in September with the main item being Health. Council allowances will also be debated as the current scheme expires in October, a cross-party group is to be established on allowances and will report to the meeting.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ealing Tory defections & Gurcharan Singh

The defection of five former Ealing Labour councillors to the Tories is nothing to do with politics but more akin to sour grapes and Southall internal politics on behalf of Gurcharan Singh who failed to be shortlisted as the Labour candidate for the Ealing Southall by-election. If him and his colleagues have suddenly undergone an overnight conversion to the cause of David Cameron why did he not defect sooner? The decision of the Labour party last week not to shortlist Gurcharan Singh was quite correct and justified given his defection, his commitment to Labour was indeed very shallow and the party is better off without them if they behave in this manner.

It will also be interesting to see whether any of the five attain in the next few weeks a position of influence in the Conservative administration that runs Ealing Council which carries a special responsibility allowance.

The Tories maybe crowing about the defections today but come July 19th I remain confident they'll not be celebrating success in Ealing Southall and that Vivendra Sharma will be elected.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Campaigning in Ealing Southall

This morning 12 of us from Mitcham and Morden went over and helped Virenda Sharma in the Ealing Southall By-election. With this being a short campaign and polling day being only 11 days away, it will be an intensive campaign between now and polling day.

From being on the doorstep this morning in one of the more Tory parts of Ealing Southall, the reaction was generally positive though awareness of the by-election is still low with some people(though no doubt they'll be getting deluged with leaflets over the next 11 days). The area canvassed was also high on multiple-occupation which is never easy to canvass especially when you have a number of doorbells on each door. In terms of presence within the area, I saw no signs of any Tories in the area, the Liberals had delivered in the area and all the running seems to have been made by Labour to date.

All is to play for but I'm quietly confident that Labour will win on July 19th, key will be getting the vote out in the Southall wards where the main Labour vote is within the constituency.

Federer makes it five in a row

Having not watched a great deal of tennis over the last fortnight, I watched the Men's Final today at Wimbledon and found it to be on of the most brilliant finals that I've watched. Nadel played superbly and if he'd broken Federer when he had the opportunities in the final set he could have won, however Roger Federer bounced back magnificently and showed what a tremendous player he is by fighting back and winning the final set to become champion again.

Roger Federer is one of the greatest players to have won Wimbledon and to win it five times in a row is a huge achievement. Nadel will be back, but Federer could still be around for a long time to come and being only 26 he still has a few years left in him yet. After all the rain of the most fortnight it was a fitting end to Wimbledon which is the greatest tennis tournament in the world.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Samantha George website

I happened to stumble across the website of the Deputy Leader of Merton Council Samantha George earlier tonight(no doubt set up for her Parliamentary selection campaigns and I understand that she is still busy looking for a seat). On the front in has a picture of her situated outside Rowley Regis Hospital(which happens to be in over 120 miles away in the West Midlands), clearly no local hospitals were suitable for picture opportunities.

Anyway what makes interesting reading is the two endorsements, one was from Maria Miller MP for Basingstoke(who also failed by one vote to be elected to Merton Council back in 2002 and is ex-Chair of Wimbledon Conservative Association) and Stephen Hammond (and lets face it he basically has to endorse her as the local MP and former ward colleague in Village). The site also makes mention of her Sheffield campaign but fails to mention that the Conservative vote actually fell in the seat despite a national rise in the Conservative vote.

The site is still under construction but the link is www.samanthageorge.com

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Boris Johnson for Mayor of London??

Despite trying the very best to recruit as candidate for Mayor of London, the Tories have now seemingly turned to Boris Johnson as the next possible candidate after others turned them down and the third rate candidates that did put themselves forward.

Personally I would welcome him as candidate, as he would be bound to issues gaffes with alarming frequency given his career record and if he was selected he will have difficulty getting away from the reputation that he's a bit of a buffoon. I have no doubt that Ken would beat him, however he would make the campaign more colourful and liven up proceedings whilst providing his far share of comical moments along the way. Whether he stands remains to be seen but given that the Tories are thin on the ground of plausible candidates it may very well be Ken V Boris come next May.

Alan Johnston release

Waking up to the news this morning of Alan Johnston being released was excellent news and testament to the relentless campaigning that had gone for his release since being seized in Gaza. Being a reporter and working in dangerous areas carries many risks, however journalistic freedom is essential in reporting the news and nobody gains from these mindless acts of kidnapping. Thankfully we've had a happy ending in this case to the relief of all.

Three star Merton

The results of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment by the Audit Commission has been released and Merton is now a three star authority. The CPA is an assessment of the borough’s ambition, prioritisation capacity, performance management and covers the period since the last assessment in 2002.

Although Labour has been out of power since May 2006, in Merton must of the assessment related to our period in office. During his period as Council Leader Andrew Judge and the Labour administration were integral in improving council services and corporate capacity within the Council. Considerable credit also needs to be given to the officers who helped achieve this outcome and for the work put in to achieve this excellent outcome.

At next weeks Council meeting a motion will be put forward by Andrew Judge, Stephen Alambritas and myself about the CPA and the outcome but also including all the achievements of Merton Council since 2002.

Virendra Sharma selected in Ealing Southall

Virendra Sharma was tonight selected as the Labour candidate for the Ealing Southall by-election on July 19th.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

463 bus extension to Pollards Hill

Locally one of the long-running issues has been the 463 bus and an extension to Pollards Hill. This was originally planned to be introduced back in 2003 but was deferred due to road access issues and people in the Eastfields area which is in a neighbouring ward protesting about the bus being diverted away from their area. Many in my area have long campaigned for the bus service as it would allow a direct link to the highly-successful Tramlink at Beddington Lane and also the ASDA supermarket which is used by a large number of people in my area.

Anyway, today I received an e-mail that Tfl are again looking at a proposal in conjunction with the new Eastfields Station to enable the bus to serve Pollards Hill. The bus service will also introduce a new service to Tamworth Lane area in my ward which currently has no bus service running down the road(this would involve consulting local residents). Unlike the previous proposal, it would also continue to serve the Eastfields area. Hopefully this time the 463 extension will be introduced and along with the new station it would significantly improve transport access to the Pollards Hill area.

Call-in of Tadworth estate stock transfer

The decision of the Cabinet to transfer housing stock on the Tadworth Estate to Raven Housing Association has been called in by all the three Merton Park Residents and Labour housing spokesperson Mark Betteridge. The decision will now go before the Regeneration and Public Realm Panel on Tuesday 10th July where the call-in request will be considered further.

Full details are below.

Title of the decision
Key decision 441 - Transfer of the housing stock on the Tadworth estate

Which principle(s) of the decision-making has not been followed?
Cabinet recommends to Council (cabinet 25 June - Agenda item 8) the transfer of the housing stock on the Tadworth estate to Raven Housing Trust. But the transfer on the terms proposed will result in the loss of nomination rights over 25% of the properties ie. 41 properties. This crucial aspect of the transfer is alluded to in only one line of the report (p.143).

The decision fails to accord with the following principles of decision making:
(a) proportionality - the decision secures advantages for one stakeholder group (current tenants) at the expense of another stakeholder group (applicants on the housing waiting list), failing to evidence balanced and proportionate consideration for all those affected by the decision.
(b) due consultation - applicants on the housing waiting list have not been consulted, despite their chances of finding a home being reduced by the withdrawal of nomination rights to 41 properties.
(c) respect for equalities - applicants on the waiting list include some of the more vulnerable members of Merton's community, and BME applicants.
(d) presumption in favour of openness - while other aspects of the terms of the transfer eg. enhanced spending on improvements to tenants' properties and reductions in rents, have been publicised widely, there has been no public or cross party discussion of the loss of nomination rights
(e) consideration of alternatives - nomination rights have a value, yet the report fails to consider whether some or all of these rights could be retained in exchange for a lower capital receipt, or offset against the valuation of commercial properties on the estate.

Reason for the call-in and desired outcome
The report fails to evidence how the decision is consistent with the Council's Housing Policy, or how the loss of nomination rights will be compensated to ensure the Business Plan commitment to "Increase the supply of affordable housing" is to be met. It is essential that full consideration be given to alternative terms of transfer before proposals are recommended to Council and negotiation with Raven Housing Trust commence.

Witnesses requested
• Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration
• Head of Housing
• Chief Executive from Raven Housing
Specific information/ documents requested
• All written correspondence and e-mails between Cabinet Members and Officers in relation to the transfer of the Tadworth housing stock
• All written correspondence and e-mails between Cabinet Members /Officers and Raven Housing Trust in relation to the transfer of the Tadworth housing stock
• Minutes of Leaders Policy Group meetings pertaining to transfer of Tadworth housing stock

Councillors Mark Betteridge, Karin Forbes, Peter Southgate and Krysia Williams

Ealing Southall Labour shortlist & Tory defection

The Labour Party tonight shortlisted Virendra Sharma(Ealing Councillor) and Jo Sidhu an Oxford educated barrister to go before Ealing Southall Labour party members tomorrow night for selection as the Labour candidate for the by-election on July 19th. They'll no doubt have a big venue hired out as Ealing Southall has the largest Labour party membership in the whole country and runs to over 4000.

Although the seat was to have been an all woman shortlist because it's a by-election special circumstances apply and it was changed by the Labour party NEC to an open shortlist.

I have also heard tonight that the Deputy Chair of Ealing Southall Conservatives has defected to the Liberal Democrats in protest at their selection of businessman Tony Lit which apparently is proving to be a controversial choice. Although the Tories are playing up their hopes this seat will be a battle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Smoke-free England

I have to admit that on occasions I'm a social smoker and on occasions I'd smoke a few cigarettes while having a drink, though of late I've significantly reduced my tendency to smoke even the odd cigarette whilst in the pub. Like many in this country when smoke-free laws were first floated I thought they were draconian and nanny state, indeed I remember returning a number of years ago from California thinking thanks heavens we do not have these types of laws in England.

However, in recent years I've generally accepted that it's the right thing to to even if it may affect some pubs in working class areas where most of the regulars smoke. For people like it will also stop the resistance to have a cigarette in pubs but also protect the health of others from having to breathe in second-hand smoke. Also it will encourage people to kick the habit and given the health damage it can cause this has to be a welcome move.

Many pubs will inevitably suffer some downturn in business especially pubs without outdoor areas, however on the other side it will also attract people who have stayed away from pubs because of smoke. In many ways we've been moving towards this state of affairs for many years, smoking had already been banned on public transport and most workplaces went smoke-free long ago, this is the final part in the process.