MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
My Lib Dem council colleagues from Stroud Green ward (Ed Butcher, Laura Edge and Richard Wilson) have launched their parking survey on the internet to gain further views from local residents.
They’d already begun a door-to-door survey in response to news that Haringey Council were delaying plans to review the Finsbury Park Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) until at least 2010. Curses on the dreaded Haringey Council – can they do nothing right? When you go door-to-door, not everyone is in etc, so hopefully this online survey will reach out further
If you’d like to take part in the survey, go to http://survey.libdems.org.uk/take/611.
Well – it was very close! Massive Lib Dem gains, but not quite enough to take control of Haringey Council – Labour majority cut to just three (30-27 – no other parties have any councillors) with Lib Dems making 11 gains.
We also topped the vote across the borough – adding up the top votes in each ward – and actually now have councillors in a majority of the wards in Haringey. So – very close! Best every Lib Dem result, including our first councillors in Tottenham, many in Wood Green etc.
Lib Dem highlights:
Alexandra – 3 Lib Dem holds – Dave Beacham, Wayne Hoban and Susan Oatway re-elected
Bounds Green – 2 Lib Dem gains – Ali Demirci and John Oakes
Crouch End – 3 Lib Dem holds – Ron Aitken and David Winskill re-elected, joined by Lyn Weber
Fortis Green – 3 Lib Dem holds – Matt Davies and Martin Newton re-elected, joined by Sara Beynon
Harringay – 2 Lib Dem gains – Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker
Highgate – 3 Lib Dem holds – Bob Hare and Neil Williams re-elected, joined by Justin Portess
Hornsey – 3 Lib Dem gains – Robert Gorrie, Errol Reid and Monica Whyte elected
Muswell Hill – 3 Lib Dem holds – Jonathan Bloch and Gail Engert re-elected, joined by Sheila Rainger (who has taken over my old council seat)
Noel Park – 2 Lib Dem gains – Catherine Harris and Fiyaz Mughal elected
Stroud Green – 1 Lib Dem hold and 2 Lib Dem gains – Laura Edge re-elected and Ed Butcher and Richard Wilson elected
Congratulations and commiseration to all candidates and helpers – both those who made it and those who didn’t, in all parties.
UPDATE: There are now further election result details on Haringey Council’s website.
Ming comes to launch our local election campaign in Haringey – where we have a real chance to take Haringey Council after 35 years of Labour rule. The Leader coming confirms this position!
I and Neil Williams (LibDem Council Group Leader) meet Ming at Harringay station. He arrives at 9.15am on the dot. I love people who are on time and organised. We go to the Tottenham side of the station – to Harringay ward – to photograph Ming with the Harringay candidates and then to the Hornsey & Wood Green side for photographs with the Stroud Green candidates. Both sides are to emphasize our campaign for CCTV on the scary entrances both sides of the bridge.
Ming (Sir Menzies Campbell to give him full title) is looking very dapper and smart. We proceed to the campaign HQ at The Three Compasses where Ming will launch our campaign, meet local members and activists (all stuffing envelopes – and boy there are a lot to stuff) and do one-to-one interviews with the journalists covering his visit.
One of the journos lets it be known that a hastily scrambled together ‘launch’ by Labour Minister Hazel Blears is now to take place at 11am same day having heard about Ming’s visit. I know Labour are terrified of losing the Council – but please!
If it’s true – then Hazel (who is my opposite number as I am her Shadow Minister) will do her duty and attack the LibDems and me as usual. It doesn’t matter which way we vote on anything – be it the police budget at the GLA or the Violent Crime Reduction Bill.
We supported the funding for the police and the Violent Crime Reduction Bill – but whatever we say or do – Labour’s mantra is always the same and always untrue. In politics, as opposed to pretty much every other walk of life, lying is just shrugged at and you are just meant to grin and put up with it – but I think that is why politics is in the state it is in – because people can’t be sure that what they read is the truth.
I know I digress – but there is an absurd letter going out in Stroud Green. It purports to be from a Bernard E who lives in Stapleton Hall Road (curiously there’s no-one with the first name Bernard on the electoral register in that road). It basically attacks me for supposedly being a known right winger and supporter of the Orange Book. (A think tank book of essays and ideas by LibDems – one of which was a ‘right-wing’ suggestion about funding in the NHS – thrown out robustly by the party at the following conference).
This would make the party laugh – as that is hardly my reputation or position in the political spectrum. Anyway – there are two versions – one with a Labour imprint and one without (although election law requires all leaflets to have an imprint) – and the writer says he is an old friend of one of the Labour candidates, though doesn’t mention that said person is already a councillor in another ward but was deselected by the Labour party there and so has had to find another ward to stand in.
I mention all this because – whilst we are standing at Harringay Station with Ming – a man comes up to Lib Dem Cllr Laura Edge and me and asks if we have seen this anonymous (in the sense there is no surname and no address) letter going out and how awful it is and how obviously a Labour smear letter. I am heartened by the public’s ability to see through this type of rubbish.
What is odd about the attacks on me is that I am not even a candidate in the local elections as I am stepping down after eight years as a local councillor and five as Leader of the Opposition. But I know that for Labour (and the defunct Tories who have no seats on the council at all) I am a symbol of all of their troubles and political losses.
So at the Three Compasses and into the working room where the stuffing tables are. A big cheer from quite a crowd gathered there and Ming delivers a rallying speech to encourage the troops – as does Neil. Ming clearly thinks we can do it – if we do the work between now and polling day.
Then the series of one-to-ones with reporters. Ming is in fine form – and truly a professional. Interviews over – a couple of members take him for a short tour and then off to Euston to get a train to Manchester for the next big launch. The cry is that we will make great gains across the board – more votes, more councillors and more councils!
Straight back down to earth and surgery at Jacksons Lane Community Centre. Run into Melanie – the Director – who is in happy mode as Haringey ‘found’ the funding to save the centre. I knew they would. Having made it explicit that I would turn this into an election issue if they didn’t I think that may have played a part in focusing their attention on resolving the matter quickly and before the election got under way – although they will undoubtedly claim that had nothing to do with it. That’s where politics works! A situation where Haringey has ignored or not responded on such an important matter – and suddenly with a political spotlight about to shine and me poking my nose in – then things happen.
I remember a similar thing when Labour Haringey wanting to close Muswell Hill library. But the library campaigners, local residents and the LibDems turned it around – with the fortuitous advent of a local ward by-election at that very moment.
In the evening I go to meet Linda Alliston who leads the Coldfall Woods Group. There have been huge problems with gangs of youths on motor bikes ‘buzzing’ dogs and walkers and then burning their no doubt stolen bikes. There is raw sewage (long term problem) being fed into the stream.
The solution to the bikes is to make the woods and football pitches secured by ‘kissing’ gates so that motorbikes can’t enter. For this they need to access the Section 106 money (£500k) from the Lynx Depot development. Cllr Martin Newton (Lib Dem, Fortis Green) comes with me and he has already secured a promise that they would have no problem with a bid for the gates – so they need to write in and I will support that bid. Also – Martin has got the new Safer Neighbourhood police team (which is just in place) to agree that they will come and look at how they can tackle the youth/bike problem.
In the meantime however, Haringey needs to deal with the perennial dumping – and to notify the allotment owners and houses (whether Haringey or Barnet) that back onto Muswell Hill playing field that throwing their BBQ waste over into the fields is not acceptable behaviour. Sadly, there’s an anti-social minority who do this. The good folk who love the fields and the woods have two major clear-ups a year.
Anyway – it was nice to meet the group who look after and love the fields and the woods – a wonderful local amenity – and Martin will pursue the issues and I will also be writing to support the case.
Go back to campaign HQ for a last hour of stuffing envelopes to sooth me down to sleep mode!
Really pleased to see that my Lib Dem colleague, Cllr Laura Edge (Stroud Green ward), is doing some stirling local work on a mural for Quernmore Road. It follows on from the work I did with her to improve the local railway station when I was on the London Assembly. I eventually managed to get the station surrounds improved with new bins, fencing and cleared dumped rubbish. The mural and other she is doing are great project – well done Laura!
Off to constituency HQ for an interview with Radio 4 who are doing profiles on six new MPs – two from each party. Don’t know how much longer I will be a ‘new’ girl – but it obviously has its advantages!
It’s a very long interview but all very enjoyable. Then back up to office to do some work. Now set up, with computers networked and staff in place – at last feel that normal service has been resumed. It is quite a change from having done everything virtually myself for the last eight years to having a team of staff – but very necessary given all the extra work being an MP involves. They are doing a great job – but inevitably setting up two offices (constituency and in Parliament) takes some time.
My mother gave me three pieces of advice before she died: firstly from her experience running her own successful business – the customer is always right. It’s an old-fashioned concept but one I personally think still holds good. Secondly, the person in charge must know about any complaint against the company. If you don’t know what is going wrong you cannot correct it! The other piece of advice – well that was personal.
Lib Dem conference in Blackpool is zooming towards me – and finally getting hold of my diary I discover that I have around twelve speeches to write before I leave on Saturday – a smattering as examples are “Can the Liberal Democrats be part of a progressive consensus?”, “What is Britishness?” (the in debate of the moment), “Is the Lords the last bastion of freedom?”, and lots, lots more.
Topped by the party’s Head of Policy phoning me to ask if I would summate on an urgent debate in the main hall: “What future for multiculturalism post 7/7?” I am also chairing two sessions in the main hall – Graham Watson MEP and Mark Oaten MP. The fun never stops! So in between other engagements this week I am desperately trying to write these speeches.
In the evening I go to a big public meeting about the proposals for a concrete factory right in the middle of a residential area. About 2-300 people in attendance and an array of Labour (council leader, his deputy, Tottenham MP and a couple of local councillors).
Myself and Laura Edge (Lib Dem councillor for Stroud Green) and several other Lib Dems also there. Labour have called this meeting at short notice, and not told anyone much it was happening. So I had to try and let people know about it at short notice. Laura and her colleagues were great at helping me let as many people know as possible. Plus the glories of email for sending information round quickly! (If you live in my constituency and would like to get similar emails in future, just let email with your name and postcode – email@example.com).
Am much amused that Labour have suddenly taken enough fright – possible because they fear losing the local elections next May and have realised that we Lib Dems have been campaigning and working with local residents and their campaign group, Green N8, for the last year.
Consultants representing London Concrete (who want to build the plant) are there – but no show from any of the directors etc from the actual company. Bad form! They give pretty feeble answers to the many, many questions raised by the audience who are worried sick about the level of noise, pollution and congestion that will be caused by this application.
We (elected reps) from both east and west of the borough unite to fight off the application. Political pressure is a wonderful thing – but lets hope it is reflected in the rejection of the new proposals going to Planning Committee on October 10.
I exhort everyone to write individually to the planning department and to the Planning Inspector (there is a coterminous appeal on a first application that was rejected). I also suggest they write to Ken Livingston who is misguidedly supporting the application because of the factory being able to bring aggregates in by rail. Firstly – there are no guarantees of capacity on the line. Secondly – the couple of trains a day benefit does not stand against the disadvantage caused by the articulated lorry movements etc.
A week or so ago I got a call from a Labour member in Stroud Green ward saying that he and quite a few people around where he lived were thinking not only of voting for the Lib Dems in the coming election – but perhaps actively going out and campaigning for us when the election is called. However, they wanted to ‘interview’ me as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to make sure I was – whatever.
He assured me it would not be an ‘interrogation’ but just that they didn’t know me and wanted to check out some issues with me.
I took Laura Edge with me as she is the Lib Dem councillor in Stroud Green ward (elected with a massive swing from Labour in the January 2004 by-election – 29% swing!).
I suppose there are about ten people there when we arrive – and they certainly put me through my paces. The key issues appeared to be Iraq, Control Orders, PPP for the tube and many, many others. I just answered directly – my thoughts. My late mother’s advice to me in all things was ‘be yourself’. So I was.
I recognise that many Lib Dem policies and positions at the moment resonate with Labour members and voters. This is not because of any change in Liberal Democracy – it is because Labour has moved. I am not a socialist but much of the rest of politics has moved so far to the right, that many people now find the Liberal Democrats closest to their own views.
One issue that was causing anxiety was the possibility that if they voted Lib Dem it might let a Tory in. No chance in Hornsey & Wood Green. The Tory candidate has even said publicly that the election is a very close contest between Labour and the Lib Dems.
Moreover, there are a couple of Labour websites that have sprung up to advise disaffected Labour voters where it is safe to vote away from Labour. In Hornsey & Wood Green the sites advocate voting Lib Dem completely safely:
www.strategicvoter.org.uk says, “Vote for the best-placed candidate from an anti-war party, which in this seat means LibDem … You are in a vital battleground constituency where you have a real chance of getting someone from an anti-war party elected.”
www.sonowwhodowevotefor.net says the sitting Labour MP, having voted for the war in Iraq, tuition fees and foundation hospitals, is “part of the problem” and urges visitors to back the Lib Dems instead.
I very much enjoyed meeting this Labour group this morning. There are some differences inevitably – but I was greatly impressed by their commitment and engagement in the political process – and that they cared so passionately about a variety of issues they were prepared to be active to deliver an outcome.
After a two-hour ‘grilling’ (not really) I sneak a quick lunch with my friend Jenny. Don’t tell my campaign manager!
Then campaigning in the afternoon followed by a campaign team meeting at my house. All the ward organisers for the campaign come and we run through the programme and update on where we all are with our various tasks. We are all trying to do so much – and getting it mostly done. It is a fantastic team of people who are determined to give it their best!
Off campaigning in the Muswell Hill by-election later in the day. Seems beyond cruelty to have had to spend January out knocking on doors in Stroud Green (albeit mitigated by landslide victory taking a Labour seat with a 30% swing to us!) in the cold and the snow – and to go straight into another month out on the knock!
Delivering leaflets with Laura Edge (victor of said Stroud Green) in glorious weather. We bump into two fire fighters by Hornsey Fire Station who come over to chat and wish us well. Have a long chat about the modernisation of the fire service as I am on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. They were excellent and really up for the changes that are coming in the fire service. The future is not so much about just fighting fires, but prevention and working with the community for better fire safety. Much better way forward.
Finish last leaflet as downpour arrives.
Off early to the Met Police Authority for full authority meeting and pre-meeting interview with London Today. Today was the day that cannabis would be declassified from a B to C drug.
I had issued a news release about asking the Met Police Commissioner how he was going to make sure that the confusion surrounding the new law was clarified for all officers so that people would not be subject to ‘postcode policing’. Whatever you think of this move – it is clear that you simply cannot have people treated differently in different boroughs or simply by different police officers. Nightmare scenarios.
I did the interview and tackled Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair in the meeting. He tried to reassure the Authority that there would be equal treatment and that the guidelines and training were in place. I still think confusion will reign and that this move by the government is neither fish nor fowl – but a step in the right direction.
I then rush back to Stroud Green to stomp the icy streets knocking up to try and get our supporters to go out and vote. Stomp around to 9pm when polls close – except for one minor disaster. Get a phonecall on my mobile from youngest daughter to say she has arrived home from school and forgotten her key and is freezing on doorstep. Panic – as don’t have any means to get home and let her in and don’t want to lose any time on the door steps.
Luckily, another activist was just going home by car and offered to take me to Highgate where I live.
Found daughter shivering and nasty colour – let her in and fumed off. Dug my car out (hate driving at best of times let alone in icy conditions and my road was pure ice) and drove back to Stroud Green Committee Room.
I was waiting there when the polls closed to take anyone straggling back to the Town Hall for the count. Simon Hughes turned up at about 9.10pm, having been babysitting for a woman whose door he had knocked on and who had said she couldn’t vote because of the baby. So he had said he would sit with the babe while she voted. Which he did! Typical Simon!
Then I drove a car load to the Civic Centre for the count. I was up in the gallery watching as were the other parties who were not actually down in the chamber itself as counting agents. Very soon after the first ballot box was emptied it was clear we had a landslide victory – but I was in shock.
Had not really felt this astonishing result looming on the doorstep. At about 6pm I had begun to feel we might possibly just win – but we won hugely with a swing of 29%. Massive – delivering a real body blow to Labour and for that matter, the Greens who had this as one of their top targets in London.
Laura Edge, our LibDem candidate got 1135, Labour 408, Greens 403 and Tories 166.
An amazing result – so we all skidaddled back to my house for some champagne. It was a really happy night!
The by-election in Stroud Green ward continues apace. Apart from filthy weather for street stomping – things go well and people are very friendly to the Liberal Democrats and our local candidate, Laura Edge!