Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: Labour stand on soap box in Hammersmith

Credit to Labour Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan, who yesterday stood (and wobbled) dangerously on top of what looked like a librarian's stool in the middle of Lyric Square Hammersmith to launch the party's printed manifesto for the local elections and take questions from the public.

It was a high risk strategy this, with the two worst case scenarios being nobody taking any notice and him looking daft - and loads of people throwing verbal eggs at him. And him looking daft.

But neither happenned and after some patsy questions from Labour activists to get things going members of the public did actually stop and listen in quite large numbers (for a work day afternoon, anyway) and started to throw some tough questions his way.

Highlights for me was a pledge he made to some clapping from the non red rosette wearers to scrap the charges that the Conservative council have brought in for services like Meals on Wheels and home care. He would scrap the £12.40 charge now being levied on elderly and vulnerable residents and fund it by scrapping "H&F News", the propaganda sheet the Council use our taxes for, and described by Conservative MPs as "misleading to the public". He said this would save £1.6 million.

Getting into his stride he railed against Tory councillors who had he said, "at your expense, flown to Cannes in the South of France" to "offer up your homes to developers". He pledged that he would re-write H&F's planning rules, making residents a vital part of them including on select committees, and see that the Council abided by them. Of the deals, like this one, already made with developers he said "we will rip them up .. and never again offer up your houses without involving you first".

On policing he pledged more money for crime fighting but also schemes to tackle the root causes of crime and said that every pledge had been costed. He argued that it was a modest but do-able set of pledges. Some residents questioned why they should believe him in light of MPs expenses and other misdemeanours. Cllr Cowan simply referred to his stool, which by now was looking quite lethal as the wind was picking up, and said that he was in the middle of Lyric Square because "you're my boss. And I'll come back so you can judge what I do."

Finally, and in response to another question on national politics, he urged people to vote for Andy Slaughter in order to secure a Labour Government which, he said, had shown its ability through Gordon Brown to navigate the recent economic crisis.
To my knowledge the other parties haven't done this. Personally I'd pay good money to see Stephen Greenhalgh try and balance on that footstool. In fact, I think as voters we should insist on it!

1 comment:

  1. Wouldn't it be great if this were a regular feature of local politics?

    How many people have ever considered going to a council meeting? I know I haven't.

    And how many people feel like local politicians are even more secretive and distant than national ones?

    But how much more engaging and energising would it be if local politicians actually brought themselves to the public like this, and answered questions about the decisions they're making on our behalf?