Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bush to become "creative quarter" of UK

Big news for the Bush: we are set to become the "Creative Quarter" of the UK courtesy of some multi million pound redevelopment plans being drawn up by the BBC and released to the media this week. The image is one that is being used to illustrate what the new White City site might look like after all this work is completed - but you have to wonder whether half the illuminations at least will actually come from the "retail quarter" that is Westfield.

The driver for this next major evolution in the charecter of Shepherd's Bush is the BBC's need to sell off its buildings on Wood Lane. Many staff are being shunted off up to Salford, and like many of you who live locally I know plenty of ex and existing BBC staff who are none too pleased about that. Morale seems to sink lower every time I talk to them.

But not everyone will be making the journey north and those left are set to include the creative hub of the corporation, who is making plans for what the new site will look like. We're promised a 23 acre creative and cultural quarter, unique in the world.

Speaking to the Guardian the BBC property chief, Chris Kane, said negotiations were in very early stages.

"It was a difficult decision to say we would leave Television Centre but the BBC has a long-term future in W12," he said.

"The thinking was we couldn't just sell this and leave it to the vagaries of the property market. My worst fear is that it would be sold and end up like Battersea Power Station. It has to be something different.

"It's about regeneration, where the BBC is the catalyst to drive a new creative quarter, not just for London but for the whole creative industry for the UK. The BBC wants to do something, working with public and private world-class partners. It's about land and brand and will put the UK creative industry on the world stage."

The BBC will itself remain in two main buildings, the Media Centre and the White City Building, which are both off the main road just up from the tube. I've been interviewed a few times in the White City Building which is itself fairly cutting edge and the surrounding media villlage is the sort of thing they want to recreate for the whole site.
 
So what will it mean for the Bush? In the short term lots of building work which, for the long suffering residents who live next to Westfield must sound like a vision of hell. In the longer term however it means more creative jobs locally and for our area to remain the centre of British broadcasting excellence - and that can't be a bad thing.
 
How many other areas of our city can claim to be receiving this sort of investment? You can keep the Olympics, east London.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Who runs the Bush? Your new Council Cabinet in full

Yesterday saw the unveiling of a new Mayor for the borough, which I haven't really paid much attention to because they're just a figurehead (you can read more here), but more importantly for us the new line-up of power brokers who will shape the Bush for years to come was also revealed.




Here they all are:
  • Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh – Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic and Housing Development
  • Cllr Nicholas Botterill – Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment and Asset Management
  • Cllr Mark Loveday - Cabinet Member for Strategy and Chief Whip
  • Cllr Helen Binmore - Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
  • Cllr Joe Carlebach - Cabinet Member for Community Care
  • Cllr Harry Phibbs - Cabinet Member for Community Engagement
  • Cllr Lucy Ivimy - Cabinet Member for Housing
  • Cllr Greg Smith - Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services
No big surprises here and I'm glad to see Nick Botterill remains a key figure as the Leader's number two. This is the guy who jumped on shoddy work done to the Green after it was reported here and also who took time out to write updates on this blog during the roadworks at Seven Stars. A nice guy.

Harry Phibbs getting community engagement might be interesting. You could argue this would cover the dog's breakfast this Council has made of planning decisions, with an independent Inquiry currently being held into one of their dubious decisions even as we speak. Cllr Phibbs is very much on the right of the Tory party so fireworks expected there, potentially. He refers to housing blocks as "vertical slums" - so that will go down well on the Queen Caroline Estate.

Cllr Ivimy survives intact, despite her ridiculous remarks on Indian people being more rubbish-prone, which was referred to time and again by Labour in the recent elections. She admitted they were "ill advised". Yes, Lucy.

But for me the real question is how long Cllr Greenhalgh himself sticks around. I'd wager it won't be much more than two years, if that. Don't be surprised if you see him donning ermine in the Lords some time soon as David Cameron's local government "guru in chief".

Finally however you may be wondering who this man in the photo is. That is Cllr Joe Carlebach, the new Cabinet Member for Community Care. Have you ever seen facial hair quite like that on an elected member before?!

Greenhalgh quoted: "we cannot afford to care"

Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and Labour Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan had a right old ding dong at the Council AGM last night over the cuts Hammersmith & Fulham Council will be making to services across our borough.

I wasn't able to make it but the Fulham Chronicle has a good account here, with Stephen Cowan attacking the Tories for forcing as he saw it poor people out of the borough in an attempt to replicate the situation in Paris where the poorest tend to live in the outlying arrondissements (districts) while the inner city areas have been gentrified. It leads to scenes like this.

Stephen Greenhalgh, never a shy retiring type, responded by saying the priority was to eradicate the debt owed by the Council, which he put down to Labour's control of the Town Hall until the Tories took power here nearly 5 years ago.

One Labour attack blog, which I read but rarely quote, is quoting Greenhalgh as saying "we cannot afford to care" - which if true is really an extraordinary statement for any local authority leader to make, let alone one who has been cutting the very services who do care for the most vulnerable for most of the last 4 years - with these sort of consequences. Can anyone confirm that he actually said this?!

1800 UPDATE: The Council's press office have been in touch to point out that yonder attack blog is being very selective in its quotation...he did say it but his full sentence was: "You cannot afford to care if you are swimming in debt and spending millions on debt interest rather than on frontline council services." You can read what he said in full here, along with information about the Council's plans, or "solemn pledge" as they call it, to drive down debt.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

"Free" schools for Shepherd's Bush

The election of a Tory-LibDem Government means that the West London Free School, an initiative championed by media personality and local resident Toby Young, will almost certainly now go ahead. New Education Secretary Michael Gove has made it a priority to create as many such free schools as possible. What this means, basically, is parents being given the money to build or take over a school and run it themselves.

With a waiting list of 400 already up and running, despite the actual West London Free School being years off construction, the new school has already proved controversial with existing schools, as it will likely relegate them to second choices among many local parents. And despite the fact it is based over the border in Ealing it will be open in theory to parents over on our side of the local authority border too.

Toby Young says that this new school will be run on the same lines as a comprehensive, in the sense that it will not select pupils based on academic ability or the ability to pay. But he also says that the old comprehensive model was good at picking up the less able but pretty bad at supporting the more able - and that's what he wants to change with his new school. He says its based on this school in East Los Angeles, whose pupils come from deprived backgrounds and yet achieve over the odds.

Some local parents and traditionalist supporters of state education as it currently exists however fear that such a new school would be a needless diversion of valuable local resources away from existing schools. They have a point - this school would only be judged as a success or otherwise after a couple of generations had passed through - while the same generations of kids going to existing local schools suffer from resources being diverted away to fund the experiment next door.

But then how would we ever know if we don't try new approaches? Ironically Toby Young is the author of a book called How to lose friends and alienate people which judging by some of the comments I have already had about this school seems quite apt.

So - an interesting local experiment in education that could benefit our local kids and be of national importance or a costly diversion and needless meddling? Here's Toby Young, speaking to the Newsnight programme, on what his new School will mean for the kids of west London:

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Sofyen murder: accused refused bail

Six teenagers accused of the murder of Sofyen Belamouadden were refused bail by a judge at the Old Bailey today. Appearing in court for the first time, the accused join a growing band of suspected killers who are such a big group now that the courts service has elected to try them in two batches, probably in January next year.

So that means that not only does Sofyen's family have to wait the best part of six months for a trial but the accused, who of course remain innocent until proven guilty, have to spend all that time in what is likely to be a very tough environment for that time too.

I don't imagine they'll get much sympathy for that but does it really have to take that amount of time?

Most of the accused come from the area where I spend most of my days at work, down in Stockwell south London. It's an area with immense problems and just last friday on my way to the tube I managed to walk into an area being taped off by police after a shooting incident. There doesn't seem much hope of things getting better any time soon.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Historic Bush: A 5 part series

Last year I wrote five pieces on the history of Shepherd's Bush - not a full story but glimpses of the past from what we can see now, including places we still use and see around us. There have been a couple of requests for new readers for this sort of thing so here are the ones I've written so far

What the houses on Uxbridge Road tell us about how the Bush grew up in the 1870s

What the shop fronts tell us

A traditional fish shop - window on the past

The Passmore Edwards Library - only just closed due to Westfield but here since the 1890s

The best one - an old shop that was once endangered by a horse and cart crashing into it in 1912! - still there, mind.

And more are on the way ..

Monday, 24 May 2010

Western congestion charge zone: Gone

Transport for London (TfL) has begun a statutory public consultation on a number of proposed changes to London’s Congestion Charge today. If approved the last charging day for the Western Extension could be Christmas Eve, with other changes coming into effect on 4 January 2011.

In the consultation the Mayor proposes that the last charging day for the Western Extension would be 24 December 2010. It would be suspended as normal over the festive period then from Tuesday 4 January the Congestion Charging zone will revert to substantially the same boundaries as existed prior to the Western Extension being added in 2007. Those people who receive the 90 per cent Resident’s Discount because they reside within the Western Extension, or immediately adjacent to the Western Extension boundary, would no longer qualify for a 90 per cent discount from the charge.

It is also proposed that a Congestion Charging Auto Pay scheme is set up to make paying the Congestion Charge easier and more convenient. To register customers would need a credit or debit card and to pay a £10 registration charge for each vehicle on the account. Auto Pay would ensure that no Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) would be issued to any registered vehicles, meaning drivers would no longer be penalized for forgetting to pay the charge. Auto Pay customers would also be eligible for a daily charge of £9. Drivers would only be charged for the days they travel within the zone and would be billed each month.

The Mayor also proposes to remove the Alternative Fuel Discount and introduce a Greener Vehicle Discount that would encourage a switch to much cleaner and more CO2 efficient cars. The Greener Vehicle Discount would provide a 100 per cent discount to cars that emit 100g/km of CO2 or less and meet the Euro V standard for air quality. As with the current Alternative Fuel Discount owners of cars eligible for the Greener Vehicle Discount would have to pay a £10 annual registration charge. The Mayor also intends on widening the eligibility criteria for the electric vehicle discount to include plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:

West London never wanted the Western Extension and it is right that residents there can now tell us whether this Christmas should see the end of it. The central zone still plays a useful role but it has to be administered more fairly and straightforwardly, which is why I’m delighted the proposals include changes that should mean no one need ever be fined again.”

But Labour aren't happy. Their transport spokeswoman Val Shawcross says this:

"It's hard to see who wins from this. Cyclists, bus users and local residents will all suffer from more congested roads and dirtier air while TfL will throw away millions in valuable revenue at a time of financial hardship. Next time the Mayor talks about TfL's finances or the need to put up fares, he should reflect on what a big mistake he is making."

For almost five years, the daily Congestion Charge has remained at £8 (or £10 if paid the next charging day). In real terms the value of the charge has fallen over this period. The Mayor now proposes increasing the daily charge to £10 if paid in advance (or on the day) and £12 if paid the next charging day. The increase would ensure the charge remains an effective measure to control traffic levels in central London. Any net revenue generated by the Congestion Charge must by law be invested in improvements to London’s transport.

More information on the consultation, including the supporting documents, are available from TfL’s website at http://www.cclondon.com/

The 10-week statutory consultation closes on Monday 2 August 2010. TfL will then prepare a report for the Mayor reflecting the comments received during the consultation process. The Mayor will then make a decision on whether or not to go ahead with the proposals with or without modifications. Should the Mayor decide to proceed with the scheme changes they would come into effect on Tuesday 4 January 2011.

It's a good day for London - this is a pledge that should have been honoured before now but at last Boris appears to be getting on with it. Could that be because he's no longer Tory top dog in elected terms? Surely not. The evidence against the zone is all around you in Shepherd's Bush, especially the Holland Park roundabout which is used to skirt the zone - ever since it was set up the Green has been a slow moving car park.

H&F Council propaganda attacked in Telegraph

Andrew Gilligan has joined the massed ranks of those appalled by how our Council is using our money to produce propaganda dressed as a newspaper. Like those Conservative MPs and others who have fiercely criticised this practice Andrew Gilligan is hardly someone that can be regarded as a pro-Labour stooge.

Yet he describes H&F News as "a particularly subtle and pernicious propaganda organ" and says these "newspapers are part of the giant official PR and marketing apparatus that has grown up to spin us. They cannot die soon enough".

Hear hear. The Goldhawk Block Inquiry opens this week. I thought I'd mention it again because it doesn't get a mention in this weeks H&F News. They must have run out of space again.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Ian Holloway: premier man, premier team

I've met Ian Holloway, who today won the Championship play-offs to become a Premier Leage manager next season, a couple of times. He was the manager of QPR when I first went to Loftus Road but I also used to work for a charity that serves deaf children and their families, the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)

I first wrote to Ian asking for his help to raise funds for NDCS when he was still at QPR, before they very foolishly got rid of him. Yes, they got rid of the guy that brought QPR up from League One and was somehow surviving in the championship with no money - and swapped him for a whole stream of failed managers and ridiculous boardroom drama that this season almost returned them to League One.

Anyway, back to the story. By the time he'd had a chance to reply to me he was the manager of Plymouth Argyle FC but still came all the way from the south west one early Sunday morning to support us at the start of a sponsored walk for deaf children and their parents. Not a grumble about the time he'd had to get up or any of the shenanigans you often get from celebrities - he was bubbling over with enthusiasm but also anger at the way that deaf children still get let down by the system.

Did he do his bit, cut the ribbon at the start of the walk and be on his way? Er, no. He made a point of talking to every one of those kids and wanted to walk the route as well. The last we saw of him the walk had finished and he was disappearing round the corner with a family trying to make one of the kids laugh with his sign language.

He then helped us launch a football project for deaf kids months afterwards - and wrote back to ask if he could do anything else.

Just a snapshot of the man - a truly genuine and very special guy. I doubt I'll ever get the chance to meet or speak to him again but I'll never forget that day - and neither will those kids. Good luck next season, Ian.

Friday, 21 May 2010

New bus for London

..and here it is! (just in case you haven't already seen it)



Happy Friday and enjoy the sunny week-end!

Sofyen Belamouadden: six more charged

Six more youths have been charged with the murder of Sofyen Belamouadden, the 15 year old student from Acton who went to Henry Compton School in Fulham who was killed in Victoria station on March 25th in what police believe was an organised gang related fight.

Nine male youths from the Hammersmith area along with an 18 year old female have already been charged with his murder. All are currently remanded in custody.

More when I get it from Police. Just yesterday there was a heart rending interview in the Standard with the parents of another of the teenagers to have been stabbed to death in our city.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shepherd's Bush Market: shoddy work condemned

£87,000 of our money appears to have been wasted on cowboy builders who have made a complete mess of the work they were commissioned to do by Transport for London, who own the land on which Shepherd's Bush Market operates. This is an excellent example of good local stories by the Fulham Chronicle.

Market traders were expecting a decent new path through the market but all they got was a cheapo tarmac thing with bits of metal sticking out forming trip-hazards for traders and customers alike. (I've nicked the picture from the Fulham Chronicle)

Just like the cowboy work I reported on which blighted the Green last year (and in fairness which was jumped on by the Council after it came to light here) this lot seems to represent an utter waste of money and a classic example of the short sightedness of TFL.

Presumably they didn't opt for the nicer path that would have made the Market better because there was a cheaper option available. But now they're probably going to have to spend just as much as they would have done laying down a decent path just fixing the crappy workmanship that their cheapo contractor HA Marks have left us with. On their website HA Marks say this:

"We are committed to continuous professional development and as a result are able to create better solutions for our clients"

Er, right.

Basement flooding: Thames Water attacked

Our Council has attacked Thames Water's response to the issue of basements all along the Thames bank area of Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush as miserly. The utility has annonced £25 million will be allocated to investments that should stop the horrendous experience for many in our area of waking up to raw sewage flowing into homes.

Speaking at this local meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall two representatives from Thames Water described why this happens. Short summary from me is that ancient sewers get full when it rains, we release into the Thames but even that isn't enough to stop the backlog and it backs up into people's homes. The heart of the matter is that the ancient system we have actually has houses linked directly to the main arterial sewer that flows with waste from much of North London, which is in turn directed under our part of London by the Counters Creek system  just to the north of us. Quick fact about Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush: we have more basement flats than almost anywhere in London - more places to flood very easily.

Bob Collington, Director of Operational Management for Thames Water, said:

"We're desperate to end the misery of sewer flooding, which is a truly horrible experience."

"We have yet to get the approval of our economic regulator Ofwat for building a larger Counter's Creek sewer system, but the £25million of funding we've been allowed by Ofwat for the next five years will enable us to provide a short-term fix for the worst-affected properties while we design the long-term solution."

Around 1,400 properties have suffered sewer flooding in the past six years and studies suggest up to 7,500 properties could be at risk in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

But H&F Council are not impressed. Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for the Environment, says this:
 
It is good news that 600 homes are going to be protected from the hell that is basement sewer flooding. But we want all potentially affected homes to be protected. Thames Water is right to be addressing residents’ concerns but should be concentrating on the affected areas rather than a limited number of homes reported to them on their risk register. In the short-term the harsh reality for many residents is that Thames Water is going to solve less than half the basement flooding problems under their current plan.”

Some residents – especially in Askew Road, Boscombe Road, Greyhound Road and Hammersmith Grove – have seen their basements flooded three of four times since 2004 and Thames Water are still to release details of where the Flooding Local Improvement Projects, FLIPs, will be installed.

Cllr Botterill continues: “It cannot be right that the homes selected for FLIPs will be done on a property to property basis rather than street-by-street. The inconsistent approach from Thames Water will lead to neighbouring properties be treated differently and ultimately some families will be forced to endure the nightmare of basement flooding again just because they we not on the right database.”

Shepherd's Bush robbery: CCTV appeal

Police are appealing for information and witnesses following a robbery at a newsagent in Boscome Road, W12.

At approximately 14:30hrs on Tuesday 13th April, four suspects entered the premises. The male suspect attacked the victim and then grabbed hold of the till.

The suspects took some tobacco and a quantity of cash before leaving the premises towards Goodwin Road.

The suspects are described as:
  • Suspect 1 - Black male, approx 18yrs, F508 tall, athletic build wearing black baseball cap, black t-shirt and blue jeans.
  • Suspect 2 - White female, approximately 16yrs, F505 tall, thin build, shoulder length blonde hair wearing dark blue hoody and white trainers.
  • Suspect 3 - White female.
  • Suspect 4 - White female.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Constable Corrado Di Mascio based in the Robbery Squad at Hammersmith Police Station on 0208 246 2678 or to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Police have released these CCTV images of four people they wish to speak to in connection with the robbery

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bush Police offer to "immobilise" your property!

Shepherds Bush Safer Neighbourhoods Team will be running an Immobilise Registration Scheme each Saturday for the next five weeks.

They will encourage local residents/visitors to the area to register their mobile phones, laptop computers and pedal cycles onto www.imobilise.com which is a site the Met Police will check when any stolen property is recovered.

Officers will have access to a laptop computer and will encourage members of public to register their item of property via a process that takes no more than 4 minutes. Officers will also hand out leaflets and 24/7 contact details for the site.

Venues: Costa Coffee Shepherds Bush Green 1130hrs - 1330hrs & Starbucks Shepherds Bush Green  1330hrs - 
1530hrs

The team have also written to various local traders encouraging them to get customers to register their property with the above website. Here's a copy of the letter: 
A police spokesperson said, "We would encourage as many people as possible to attend these venues or go directly to the website to register their property. When Police recover suspected stolen property, they will check this website. If an owner is traced we can obtain vital evidence that may lead to a conviction in court"

Cyclist killer to stand trial

Last year I reported on the death of a cyclist at the hands of a lorry driver which took place near to where I work in south London. I reflected on the near misses that I saw daily in Shepherd's Bush, especially when cyclists seemed to take risks on the approach to the Holland Park roundabout. Lots of you had thoughts about this too.

As the wheels of British justice drag along, interminably slowly, the trial of the cement truck driver who killed cyclist Catriona Patel is getting underway. He has admitted careless driving - he was talking on his mobile phone at the time - but the prosecution want to put him on trial for the more serious charge of dangerous driving.

I still think there is a real danger to cyclists in Shepherd's Bush. Having only been back in the UK a couple of days I've already seen a couple of them dice with death on the Askew and Uxbridge Roads, and this may be part of the reason why cyclists seem to be very unpopular in our part of west London - it might be that it's just too dangerous for them to be on the roads all of the time, hence their riding on pavements. Who knows, but either way I have a sinking feeling we might be just waiting for the next tragedy to happen on our very own roads. It's just over a year to the day that an almost identical accident happenned on the lethal Askew Road/Uxbridge/Old Oak Road Junction.

Mayor Boris Johnson launched the new "Super highway" scheme for cyclists in London recently, which seems to consist of nothing more than blue painting on bits of road. As you'll see from this video launched by the London Cycling Campaign drivers of cars seem not to care very much about what colour the tarmac is.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Bob Crow calls strike for "decent pay increase this year"

Yes, that's right. RMT leader Bob Crow, member of the Communist Party and warned over his football hooliganism just this weekend, has balloted his members again so they can strike in support of what they call a "decent pay increase this year".

Tube workers, who enjoy one of the most secure lines of work in the capital, will be walking out so they can inconvenience those customers lucky enough to still have jobs in support of their demands.

Boris Johnson promised an end to this sort of thing when he became Mayor, but like so many of his promises it has been quietly forgotten. Will the new government be able to do any better?

Heathrow runway scrapped

Whatever you thought of the election result it has begun to pay dividends for the Bush, as the new administration has announced plans to scrap the third runway at Heathrow. I did think about this as I flew in over west London from the Philippines the other day (a 17 hour flight including stop over!) - I was enjoying the view yet creating the noise and pollution, and yet I was flying back into a different country from the one I'd left. Here's a pic!

It's great news that the runway won't be built. There's not a lot of options when you're travelling to and from the far east, for example, but there are tons of flights that leave Heathrow every day that go to, er, Manchester for example. Ridiculous.

So credit to the new Government for administering the last rites to this plan, and to both our Council and Andy Slaughter MP for having opposed it from the outset. Thank goodness they won.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Super Sewer: Planning applications on the way

I've been hearing some rumours from well placed sources that, now the General Election is out of the way,  Thames Water are going to be submitting planning applications for the Thames Tideway Tunnel very shortly. Given that the Mayor of London and the new Conservative-LibDem Government are entirely in favour of the project, these applications are likely to be approved. Quickly.

You may think this is a good thing since it will put a stop to huge amounts of poo being disgorged into our river as happens regularly with our ageing Victorian sewers which, in Hammersmith's case, handle most of the waste matter from large areas of North London. Modern sewers seperate rainwater from sewage - but our ancient system carries both, and after heavy rain they inevitably flood - either into our river, or into people's homes in Hammersmith or both. This was explained very well to local people at a meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall by Thames Water, read the report here.

So it's do or die time now for our Council, who have opposed this development using the full might of their taxpayer funded propaganda machine. They warned first that Furnival Gardens would be destroyed - and I believed them so called on you to support their campaign. Then Thames Water and others got in touch to point out that the Council knew this wasn't the case and had been told so many times. The Council even recruited local cheerleader Raj Bhattia, the longstanding chairman of a residents association, to warn that local people would be made homeless by the project, but were then forced to disown the claim since it, too, was dismissed by the Mayor as bogus.

Some of you may remember our Council's first reaction to the proposed Thames Tunnel, which was to claim that Ravenscourt Park was in imminent danger. This, a source at Thames Water tells me, was publicly ruled out by them "..in order to draw attention to the Council's campaign of misinformation."

So in other words a major national utility company was forced into making a public planning announcement in order to counter what it regarded as a deliberate campaign of misinformation from a publicly elected Council. I think that is extraordinary.

And during the General Election campaign I helped Melanie Abbott, correspondent for the You & Yours programme on Radio4 cover the story which you can listen to here. (29:55 minutes in - all candidates standing to be our MP were interviewed) This followed Thames Water contacting me to rebut Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey point by point in his interview with this blog on the subject of the sewer during the election campaign.

So you can expect a lot of local sound and fury about this in the weeks to come. Fasten your seatbelts.

1215 UPDATE: A reader has written in to point out that the Mayor Boris Johnson actually met H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh on this issue recently. This excerpt is from the Mayor's latest activity report to the GLA:

Meeting with Leader of London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

On 26 March I met with Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, the Leader of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. We discussed the White City and Earls Court Opportunity Areas, High Speed 2, LDF progress and the Thames Tideway.

The report does not indicate what they agreed, if anything, and what next steps might be taken. Put bluntly the Mayor supports the sewer, Cllr Greenhalgh doesn't - so one of them has got to give way.

Friday, 14 May 2010

BBC London cover fight against council

The fight to save the Goldhawk Industrial Estate from the Council's property developers is being aired as a news item on the BBC London news at 1830 this evening. Here's what the BBC are saying at the moment.

Here's more on the battle at the moment. Enjoy the programme...

First test for new Council on planning

The official inquiry into this planning decision on the Goldhawk Road will begin in 10 days time. You may recall that this was one of those decisions forced through by Hammersmith & Fulham Council against the express wishes of local residents. In this case it aslo led to the loss of over 200 jobs with the departure of Innocent Drinks, one of the local businesses who were threatened by the development of the area.

Council Leader Stephen Greenhlagh, however, did not count on the resourcefulness of the Brackenbury Residents Association led by the indomitable Rosemary Pettit. This band of residents have fought the Council to the extent that central government stepped in to call the decision in to an official inquiry, much to the ill-disguised anger of the Council, who at the time put out a press release questioning the "national interest" involved in the issue.

Since then the Residents Association have been fundraising like mad, and doing it in a way that only they could to pay for their barristers at the inquiry. Thousands of jars of marmalade have been made, cakes have been sold and even free concerts have been staged. And they also got political, producing posters like the one above, which in my view played a large role in confounding the expectation that Tory candidate Shaun Bailey would win the Hammersmith seat. Instead Andy Slaughter MP was re-elected.

The Council has no need to fundraise, they will pay their barristers with our money. But what they could do is act on what Stephen Greenhalgh pledged, just days ago, to listen to residents and adopt a new approach to these planning issues. This would surely mean the Council withdrawing this planning decision immediately and starting again. Will they do this? Well if they don't here's what will happen:

The inquiry starts at 10am on Wednesday, 25 May at the Town Hall. The Inspector, Olivia Spencer BA (Hons) BSc (Hons) DipArch RI, will announce when evidence will be heard. The residents expect the developer to go first, then the Council and then local people; independent witnesses will also speak. The inquiry is expected to last until 2 June, excluding Monday. The inquiry is open to all - so do come along and see how it works.
Inquiry procedures

The inquiry will start with opening statements from the developer, the Council and then the residents. Evidence will be called. Witnesses will read their statements (if short) or they may be taken as read. Counsel for the witness will draw out points; witnesses may be cross-examined by other barristers. Counsel for the witness is allowed to ask further questions. At the end of the inquiry the inspector will visit the estate and the surrounding area. The Inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State within a few weeks.

18th APRIL UPDATE - The Fulham Chronicle is now reporting this story here

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Shepherd's Bush stabbing: 15 year old attacked

Police are appealing for witnesses and information following a stabbing in Shepherds Bush.

At approximately 20:30 - 21:30hrs on Saturday 8th May along the White City Estate, on White City Lane behind the Territorial Army barracks the victim, a 15-year-old boy, was riding as a passenger on a moped when he was stabbed in the back. At the time a group of youths were riding around on mopeds.

Police are keen to speak to a male described as a mixed race, Somalia/Asian, who is described as tall but chubby wearing khaki green tracksuit bottoms.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detective Constable Ana Ambros based in the CID office at Hammersmith Police Station on 0208 246 2505 or if you wish to remain anonymous call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Flying home to the Bush

I've timed this to go live so that when you're reading it I shall be around about 38,000 feet high hurtling through thin air in a metal tube propelled by four rockets, two on each side. Taking off from here in Hong Kong where I've had a stop over for a couple of days I shall go over China, central asia, Russia and then eastern Europe before adding to a bit of noise over west London prior to landing at Heathrow.

Volcanic ash permitting, of course!

I've been away for the best part of 3 weeks and tried to cover things as best I could from here. The time difference of 7 hours actually helped during election night, at the same time as everyone at home was bleary eyed in the early hours I was enjoying a leisurely morning  - but watching events last night had me up at 3am instead!

Anything major happen while I was away?

Japanese Garden Party at Hammersmith Park

Get yerself down to Hammersmith Park on May 23rd for what promises to be an excellent day out for local families. Judging by last years' event, which I attended and wrote about here, it will have plenty of space for kids to run around in, a music stage with some really good traditional Japanese music acts and a wide range of food.

The park itself has undergone a lot of renovation since last year, but from what I've seen it remains one of our really under-used local open spaces. For those of you who haven't been before it's a bit like the Tardis - looks small on the outside but then is quite large on the inside!

Here are some pics from last year to whet your appetite - see you there!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Andy Slaughter MP: victory down to local people

Newly re-elected MP for the Bush Andy Slaughter has just sent out an email to supporters in which he thanks them for their votes - even if he was not their choice. Speaking about what he called the "three year campaign" which he had to fight at the same time as being a responsive local MP, he puts victory down to a vibrant local campaign and local support for his work on their issues.

He says this:

I just want to thank everyone who voted to get me elected as MP for Hammersmith, and to assure all my constituents that, whether or not I was your first choice, you will have tireless and professional service from me between now and the next General Election.
The result
I am absolutely delighted to be Hammersmith’s MP. This has been a tough three-year campaign run on a shoestring budget while doing my work as MP for Ealing, Acton & Shepherds Bush. In the end I think my and Labour’s message got across despite facing the highest-funded opposition campaign in UK political history. On the night our result was one of the best in the country, and Lord Ashcroft felt he’d been short-changed.


Who’s responsible for it?
Firstly, the fantastic team of volunteers, party workers and community reps who turned out to help and support. My young team of activists at Greyhound Road HQ and in the ten wards were supplemented by scores of people who showed up to help in the days and weeks before polling. I have never been involved in such a positive and energetic campaign.
Secondly, the people who turned out to vote. Turnout in Labour areas in particular was at record levels. I hope this is because people feel they can trust me to represent their best interests after 25 years. But it was also a response to the divisive and extremist policies of the Tories locally and nationally. I will continue to stick up for residents threatened by cuts in vital public services, battling greedy developers or facing the loss of their homes as part of the council’s social engineering and vote-fixing scams.
What next?
With the national situation so volatile, it is important that we hang onto clear principles. Labour’s commitment remains the same whether in power or not: to cut the deficit without cutting vital services. While we acknowledge the importance of halving the deficit over the next four years schools, the NHS and jobs must be protected.
Locally, my job is more straightforward. I will work with residents and community groups in Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Fulham to make sure their voices are heard. And through my weekly surgeries around the constituency and my casework team at Greyhound Road I will deal quickly and efficiently with the issues constituents need to raise.
Please get in touch if I can help you or your family.
Best wishes
Andy

In some places elections can kill

..and sadly fighting has already broken out in the Philippines as they go to the polls in the Presidential and Congressional elections I have been out here for. Reports thus far are that 6 people have been killed. Think about that every time you hear people moan about our own elections, even with the twists and turns we're seeing in the UK now.

All in around 90 people have died in the run up to this critical chance for Filipinos, who have suffered martial law and dictatorship in recent decades, to decide who runs their country. At the moment Noy Noy Aquino, son of the late President Aquino appears to be headed for a landslide, but doubts persist about the election itself. The fear is more people will die, bluntly.

Its been a privilidge to be out here and working with fellow citizen journalists and bloggers in part who themselves perform a vital role in the putting of information into the public domain so voters are kept informed. On a personal level I was coming back to the hotel at night and posting stories about things in Shepherd's Bush that were at once boring in comparison but at the same time made me feel just how lucky we are to live where we do. My Filipino equivalents were returning to report on developments relating to political killings like this.



And before you think this is irrelevant to the Bush, how many people live in W12 as a result of armed conflict? I'd say plenty. These conflicts are part of us, part of our problem. About time we asked our politicians to take a bit more notice I'd say.

I'm back in the Bush on wednesday after 3 very long weeks. Looking forward to it!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Part time campaigns fail to take off

There were a few sub-plots in the Battle of the Bush, all of which have now reached their own endings, usually in disappointment for the candidates.

Merlene Emersmon, the LibDem candidate in the Battle of the Bush ran a part time campaign which backfired on polling day, not coming close to either the Conservative or Labour campaigns. She was also standing as a council candidate in Richmond, as as you can see here, she failed in that endeavour too. In fact Richmond was lost by the LibDems on their night of disappointment to the Tories as a whole.

Paul Bristow paid an even heavier price. After coming under pressure to either stand down as an H&F councillor or give up his fight to become an MP in Middlesbrough, he chose the chance to enter parliament representing his native north east. As Cameron's Tories fell short so Mr Bristow ended up empty handed. He is now neither a councillor nor an MP.

And finally give a thought to one of the unsung heroes of the local campaign for me - Green Party candidate Rollo Miles. I first came across his campaign when he released this truly awful video but having met him over the last few months I've come to like the guy - he was the only one who really said-it-as-it-is and not being a professional politician he often said it rather bluntly. After his comments on the Middle East at this debate he started being followed round by angry supporters of one side or another in the mid-east conflict! An all round nice guy - which is unusual for an estate agent.

I don't think there's much more to say about the Battle of the Bush - but it's been a ball.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Council offer to listen to residents

Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has offered to listen to residents about the vexed issue of planning decisions, many of which have sparked controversy in recent months and contributed to the defeat of Shaun Bailey at the General Election with residents groups actively organising against him.

The Brackenbury Residents Association, a normally mild mannered well-to-do marmalade making residents group has been foremost in the fight against Council decisions to award large parts of their neighbourhood to property developers. In fact the planning inquiry on the Goldhawk Block is due to start within weeks at the Town Hall, thanks to the intervention of the now re-elected Andy Slaughter MP

Cllr Greenhalgh has written to Richard Winterton, the residents associations' architect to report that:
'1- Funding has now been put in place to support setting up the design review panel, an enhanced programme of planning forums, and staffing to deal with this and improving the website. A timetable of meetings for potential schemes is being prepared - for the panel and the forums.
'2- Officers are looking at the planning website with a view to making it more user friendly and work is in hand to include further information.
'3- Planning briefs will be developed on a site by site basis, based on policies and standards of the statutory development plan. I do not envisage a process for public involvement in the preparation of development briefs.'
 
So it looks like some lessons may have been learned after all. Residents say they are keeping "a close eye" on things to see how the Council proceeds but the launch of a design review panel does on the face of it look like a positive step forward. So credit to the Council for listening - a good start to the new administration.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Election poll dancing

Footage just in of some unorthodox campaigning techniques employed during our recent elections. It comes close to some of the celebrity tactics I've seen used here in the Filipino elections I'm here for. Wow. In both cases.

Battle of the Bush: Shaun thanks team

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative challenger to Andy Slaughter MP, recorded this video the day before the General Election. I was sent it by his campaign team but declined to post it because I didn't think it was fair just to have it up on election day and for there not to be something equivalent for the other candidates.

I've been asked by his campaign team to post it up anyway now as a means of their saying thank-you to those people who volunteered on his campaign. And there can't be any harm in that, so here it is.

I have to say behind the scenes of the campaign in Shepherd's Bush, despite the attack ads and mud slinging that did go on, both campaign teams of Bailey and Slaughter remained completely professsional. It was a pleasure interacting with all of them, and they deserve our gratitude for being part of our democratic process locally. So thanks from all of us!

Tories retain Council

The Conservatives have retained their hold on Hammersmith Town Hall, albeit with a slightly reduced majority. The Liberal Democrats replicated their disappointing performance and failed to take a seat.

No great surprise that the Tories retained control, they had a whacking great majority going into the election but many of you I know voted LibDem and will be disappointed they didn't do better locally. One of their candidates runs a cafe in Askew Ward and would have made an excellent councillor I'm sure.

With such a dominant one party state in the Town Hall the role of the media will be really important in scrutinising decisions.

But saying that there are some excellent councillors within the Tory group on the Council too, notably people like Nick Botterill who was until the election responsible for the environment portfolio. We wish them all well I'm sure.

Friday, 7 May 2010

H&F News forced to print the words "Andy Slaughter"

In shocking developments this morning press officers at Hammersmith Town Hall felt obliged to print the words "Andy" and "Slaughter" on an official Council publication. The words, which for years have been banned by the Central Commissariat of the Politburo, were printed on the official announcement of the parliamentary election results.

H&F News, or Pravda as it is known to even fellow Conservatives in Parliament, has banned the use of the words for years and one press officer, who spoke on condition of remaining nameless, said he feared for his family.

"We didn't have any choice, we were just following orders" he said, as his shaking fingers raised a cigarette to his mouth round the back of the building, "the electoral commission said we had to." Referring to Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh he said through tears "if Big Brother realises who printed the words, there'll be hell to pay. My goodness, we even had to print the word "Labour" on the same form!"

An official spokesperson for the Council said: "This was a magnificent result. The Conservatives in Hammersmith have routed the enemy and they are in retreat. The only party in this Borough is Conservative and taxpayers only want their money spent talking about them."

Battle of the Bush: Andy Slaughter MP re-elected

Andy Slaughter has been re-elected the new Member of Parliament for Hammersmith which includes Shepherd’s Bush. His majority is 3,549.

In a knife edge race, which saw its own clutch of dirty tricks and mudslinging from all sides, our sitting MP clinched the race to represent us. At the time of writing there is no clear winner on the national scene, with talk of coalitions swirling around the TV studios.

There will doubtless be battles and challenges ahead, but this isn’t the time to debate them.

I’m really happy to see Andy re-elected. Happy because I thought he was our best chance of avoiding some of the outcomes I could see coming locally courtesy of the Council but also pleased because he has been an excellent MP. A natural loyalist, standing down from his Ministerial post in order to fight his own government over Heathrow was not easy. Neither was the number of hours he put into local campaigns which gained him precious few votes but were the right thing to do so he did them. But he will also realise that nationally his party has failed to win many arguments and hardly won a resounding endorsement.

I do however feel sorry for Shaun Bailey. Throughout the campaign he’s actually talked a lot of sense – on jobs and the economy most notably. His campaign team, though at times not very impressed with my critiques of them, have always been good natured and the fact he was so high profile may have actually hurt him in the end. Most of all however I think his colleagues at the Town Hall cost him this seat with their ridiculous planning decisions taken against the wishes of so many residents, some of whom were clearly intent on taking revenge.

They just have. Although getting 17,000 people to vote for you is something he should be proud of.

He’ll be sitting at home soon wondering whether it was all worth it – he wouldn’t be human not to be. For those whose lives he improved in Shepherd’s Bush during the campaign it certainly was and for livening up the election locally we’re grateful.

Merlene Emerson promised much but when it emerged hers was a part time campaign she faded and actually lost 3% from where the LibDems came last time. In fact the story of the night locally and nationally is how the LibDems have flopped. A great big belly flop, the sort where you lose your trunks on the way into the water and emerge ashamed. Politically, you understand.

Here are the results in full:

Andy Slaughter Labour 20,810 43.9 +1.5

Shaun Bailey Conservative 17,261 36.4 +2.4

Merlene Emerson Liberal Democrat 7,567 15.9 -3.0

Rollo Miles Green 696 1.5 -2.6

Vanessa Crichton UK Independence Party 551 1.2 +0.6

Lawrence Searle British National Party 432 0.9 +0.9

Stephen Brennan Independent 135 0.3 +0.3

So that was that Bushers. I don’t know how many of us will still be here in 5 years time but one thing I do know is that W12 won’t look the same. I hope you voted and found some of the coverage here helpful in making up your mind. For now I’m looking forward to covering a summer of local events and all things non party-political; I hope you carry on reading.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Battle of the Bush: The Results

I'm 7 hours ahead of you, which has the advantage of being able to watch the results come in at a leisurely time over breakfast after a good night's sleep here in Manila!

I'll post the results as they come in - Council and Parliamentary.

So if you're like some readers of this blog and clearly suffer from severe insomnia you know the place to come!

UPDATE 0300 FRIDAY - No long queues and people being locked out in Hammersmith but there have been in Ealing up the road so there may be a legal challenge to those results.

Fulham Chronicle has been attempting top blog from the count but sadly their technical people don't seem to have quite understood that blogging means regular updates - there hasnt been an update on their site since 1235! Which is shameful since Dan Hodges has spent the night at the count instead of in bed!

0320 - Tweets from Hammersmith count indicate that Andy Slaughter has retained the seat. Unconfirmed but indications on the count are that Labour has won the Battle of the Bush. Result now expected at 0400.

0325 - the Chronicle blog, which you can follow here, carries a statement from LibDem Merlene Emerson who is not only admitting a lack of progress but talking more about her other campaign to win a seat on Richmond Council. She can't "count chickens yet" she says. Not a great idea to run a part time campaign in either area I would have thought.

0355 - Stacks of votes now looking higher in Slaughter's favour but speaking to Dan Hodges he is taking nothing for granted. It's taking aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages for the result to come in!

0410 - Result now expected in Hammersmith in 20 minutes according to the Chronicle's man at the Count. What this means is that they now know the result and the candidates have been taken behind the curtain to be told and given a chance to compose themselves and make the finishing touches to their speeches. The Battle of the Bush is about to become clear...

Westfield robbery: arrests made

Detectives investigating this burglary at Westfield Shopping Centre yesterday have made arrests this morning (Thursday 6 May) in connectionwith the investigation.

Three males, aged 15, 17 and 18 were arrested at an address in Camden on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a burglary and are currently in custody at a West London police station - assumed to be Hammersmith.

Where is your polling station?

Here they all are, so you have no excuse not to vote! And click here to find out which station you should go to.

Whatever you do, whoever you vote for, please for goodness sakes get out and cast your ballot if you haven't done by post already. The Battle of the Bush is at a close. One last time, you can read what Andy Slaughter the Labour candidate said here, what Shaun Bailey the Conservative candidate said here and what Merlene Emerson the Liberal Democrat candidate said here. You can watch them on video addressing you here.

You have four votes. One is for those standing to be our MP (one vote) and three for those standing to be your ward councillor (three votes)

This election in our neighbourhood is on a knife edge - so every vote counts. It will change the face of Shepherd's Bush in the next few years - so have your say or don't complain about anything afterwards.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Independent: Hammersmith is "Cameron Land"

...and it aint pretty. Commentator Johan Hari has reviewed Hammersmith Council in this article and he doesn't like what he finds. Among other observations he notes the crackdown Stephen Greenhalgh launched against services for the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless, which led to shameful episodes like this where a pregnant woman who was in need of safety from being beaten was left to fend for herself on a park bench.

Part of the money the Conservatives have saved has of course gone on producing the propaganda paper H&F News, which causes even Tory MPs to speak out.

He details the new charges the Council brought in for services like those for the elderly and sick and of the fightback launched by some residents who formed the Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts who have enjoyed some success in resisting the tide.

And he interviews some of the residents who have been fighting throughout the election period for guarantees that they will be consulted about the future of their homes, as our Council seeks to hand them over to developers instead.

I won no friends in the local Labour Party by arguing that there was little hope of them winning the Council back in these local elections. They'd need a landslide of seats and in the current climate that's, er, unlikely. But I would say it's every reason to vote as I have for Andy Slaughter  - if only to hold back some of our local authority's worst excesses.

UPDATE Thursday - a reader has responded by posting an article on this at the Tory blog Conservative Home, which you can see here.

Robbery at Westfield

An investigation has been launched following a burglary at Westfield Shopping Centre this morning (Wednesday 5 May). Police were called at around 01.20hrs to reports of the burglary in progress.

Police believe a group of up to ten people wearing balaclavas forced access to the premises through a fire door. They then broke into two jewellery stores and made off with a quantity of goods.

The group reportedly left the scene in three cars, which  police believe are either lost or stolen

Police followed one of the vehicles a short distance before losing sight of it.

No one has been injured and there have been no arrests at this stage.

Officers from Hammersmith and Fulham CID are investigating and liasingwith the Flying Squad.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 020 8246 2634 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

UPDATE THURSDAY 6TH MAY - Police have made three arrests, details here

All change at QPR

A bonfire of underperforming players is in the offing at Loftus Road after a season that promised so much yet delivered a brush with relegation to League One. In fairness to the players they had to contend with the likes of Briatore coming and going and a manager that seems to have had some, well, anger management issues.

But remind yourself how much these people are paid every time you feel sorry for them, earning the average yearly wage in weeks some of their performances have been shameful. And now its time for the axe to fall on many of them.

Over the summer Neil Warnock, who clearly wants to retire as a premiership manager, will be making plans for the next campaign and I expect there to be a clutch of new cars coming and going at Loftus Road in the coming weeks and months. Surely the Bush deserves better than we got last year!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Battle of the Bush: Bush Boxing

Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey punched a vicar today. In a John Prescott moment Mr Bailey lashed out at the curate, who drew gasps from astonished onlookers by punching the politician right back.

Amazing what words out of context can look like! All of the above perfectly true (OK I made up the bit about astonished onlookers.) but top Tory Bailey did indeed use his fists but this time in support of Bush Youth Boxing, a new sports club aimed at young people which meets at St Simon's Church in Rockley Road.

He was joined by the local vicar, Cameron Collington, and tried out the new boxing ring and equipment (pictured above). Aimed at giving young people a positive approach to life Shaun described himself as "..a huge supporter of youth projects like Bush Youth Boxing" and said he wanted "to see more activities like this for local young people."

So there you are! Personally I'm not sure that there aren't other sports we could be advocating for young people rather than one which involves punching your opponent repeatedly in the head, but Shaun is clearly a big fan. And here in the land of Manny Pacquiao I suspect I am in the minority..

Monday, 3 May 2010

New Circle Line

Thanks to the excellent Going Underground blog we can now see the big picture - of what a combined new circle line plus overground is going to mean for the Bush and west London in general. Much better connected is the answer.

I remember before I moved to the Bush I had to travel there from Golders Green in North London. A journey that takes about 15 minutes on the north circular by car took over an hour because of having to travel right slap bang into Tottenham Ct Rd to change onto the central line.

On my travels I see orbital lines of various types on metro systems all over the world - and I suspect I won't be the only one who can't wait for us to get plugged in like this as soon as possible.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Battle of the Bush: LibDems rally, I voted Labour

Former Met Police Commander for Lambeth Brian Paddick will be in Hammersmith's Lyric Square tomorrow at 1230 to campaign for LibDem candidate Merlene Emerson. Expect lots of yellow balloons and activists on the look out for babies to kiss.

And the local LibDems are clearly getting excited about the very good campaign led by Nick Clegg and the frankly disastrous one led by Gordon Brown. I can tell you that the media on this side of the world in Asia has already made its mind up that the game is up for him.

But its not up for Andy Slaughter, at least not just yet. It's not unusual for a local candidate of any party to survive in a seat where they themselves are popular even if their own party is not, and even his worst critics would have to concede that Andy has suppport locally. But a rise in the LibDem vote, coupled with Lord Ashcroft's millions for the Conservatives could well mean that we have a change of MP come May 7th.

It's never been my role on this blog to tell anyone how to vote and I'm not doing that now, but I will tell you that before I left I cast my postal vote for Andy Slaughter to remain our MP. I did that because my politics are left of centre naturally, and I have seen first hand the long hours and sheer effort Andy puts in to local issues. He resigned his Ministerial post to fight against the expansion of Heathrow Airport and has consistently spoken against his own government where he disagreed, most notably on the Middle East. So he's independent minded and locally grounded.

Most important for me though is that I think we need balance in this Borough. There is no chance whatsoever that Labour are going to win the Council back - the arithmetic is overwhelming after they were routed at the last local elections. So there will be another Tory council. I think we need a Labour MP to balance that so things dont get railroaded through. Our Council are very good at railroading things through as the residents of Goldhawk Road know to their cost. So I voted Andy because he understands (and indeed grew up in) the local area and would be an effective counter-weight to a Council that doesnt listen to local residents but does spend their taxes on propaganda newspapers that even Tory MPs think are beyond the pale.

Having said all of that, I've been impressed by Shaun Bailey. He's a people person, and has been involved in local campaigns that have already made a positive difference to local people. He responded to our own residents campaign ahead of Andy Slaughter and once he got involved the Council, who until that time were not interested in our views, suddenly wanted to meet us. On a personal level he is very difficult not to like, and his campaign team contain some very clever people who know very well how to use that, so his is a formidable campaign. If he gets elected he would make a good MP.

And Merlene Emerson, suddenly focussed on the Hammersmith campaign instead of her other campaign to win a seat on Richmond Council, is stepping up a gear too. She's also hard not to like on a personal level but given the fact she is running a part time campaign here and in Richmond she hasn't been around as much as the others.

So that's my take on it dear readers!, but whoever you vote for, please for goodness sake VOTE! Or don't bother complaining about anything afterwards.

Sorry for the slow down in blogging recently. I'm going to share some of my experiences here in a couple of days, but it has been humbling. Just today I have been meeting bloggers and journalists who risk their lives reporting an altogether more menacing political life. More on that later, for now adieu!