- First things first. I was delighted and honoured to be re-elected as one of your three Latchmere councillors at the Wandsworth Borough Election of May 3rd, along with my fellow Labour colleagues, Simon Hogg and Kate Stock – they are the kids in this picture of the three of us!
- The three of us got around and about 2,500 votes, compared to just under 1,000 for our main rivals, the Tory candidates. This represented a swing to Labour of just under 9%, which was very much in line with similar swings in Battersea. For those of you interested in elections, the impact of campaigning and other slightly nerdy electoral matters, look out for an entry I intend to make shortly on my blog at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/. If you wish to see the Latchmere results, or indeed any Wandsworth results, in detail then you can at http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200327/election_results/2327/2018_borough_council_election_results_-_3_may/9
- Immediately after the election councillors, are faced with seemingly endless inductions into being a councillor, the latest and most interesting one being the induction to our role as Corporate Parents, held on 30th You may well ask what that means and, as it is such a new role (under 10 years), I am not clear that there is an absolute definition. However, the Government decided that, in default of their own “positive” parents, children in Council care should be able to look to the Council, and councillors, as Corporate Parents.
- I have my doubts about this role. I have little doubt that in some ways, and in individual cases it works. Some councillors devote considerable time and effort to supporting so-called looked after children, many of whom appreciate it very gratefully. However, it is impossible to imagine MPs imposing a similar role on themselves for at least four reasons. First of all, they are not trained social workers and nor are we. Secondly, they would claim to be too busy – so what makes them different from councillors? After all many councillors already do a full-time job. Thirdly, it implies that we, councillors, are all part of one big happy family working as a team, when, clearly, we have very strong political differences about issues such as funding and housing, which have massive implications for so-called looked after children. Fourthly, it purports to give councillors a moral and legal responsibility, which they are in no way able to implement and which I doubt could ever be maintained in court. Actually, it is in danger of being a sham, another way of passing on the responsibilities of a state, not prepared to fund public services with decently higher levels of taxation. Of course, MPs would never think of imposing such an impossible burden on themselves: they are after all, a breed apart!
- On the 10th May, I spoke at David Lewis’s funeral in St. Mary’s, Battersea. David was the Battersea Society’s foremost planning expert and he and I, as Labour’s lead on planning in the Council, had many interests in common. I first met him at secondary school in the fifties and I have lived near him in Battersea since the sixties. David lived his civic values. He was the most assiduous and industrious local champion of the environment both here and in North Wales. One early campaign of his (and his wife’s, Christine), I recall was to “save” Albert Bridge from possible demolition and replacement with a larger and stronger new bridge, capable no doubt of taking a motorway load of traffic up Albert Bridge Road. It’s a pleasure to say he won that campaign and that I played a very small part in that winning campaign! David, RIP.
- Two days later, another old friend invited me and my partner for a day’s outing on the Bluebell Line from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park. I had never been there despite knowing Sussex pretty well. The steam train runs 12 miles through bluebell woods, which though perhaps a week past their best on 12th May were still spectacular. The line was constructed following the 1877 Act of Parliament and was “finally” closed after legal and parliamentary disputes in 1958. The Bluebell Railway Preservation Society was founded in 1959 and has been running the service ever since. Sheffield Park, at one end of the line is a country house and Arboretum – unfortunately it rained on 12th May but it was still an enjoyable trip.
- You may remember that last month I wrote about “the world premier of Winstanley Stories, a film made by Falconbrook Primary School’s pupils”. Well on 13th May I talked about the film and the making of it to a small group organised by “Sound Minds” at the Battersea Mission Sound Minds had an art photographer, who took this from outside the building and through the window! It was very enjoyable, with active participation form some of the younger members of the audience but I wish more people had been able to be there. Once again may I recommend that you have a look at this film about the Winstanley and York Road estates on YouTube http://www.winstanleystories.org.uk/film.html.
- On the 16th May we had the Annual Council Meeting, when the Mayor for the coming year is elected and also the Leader of the Council and membership of the Council’s various committees. The Mayor is Councillor Piers McCausland, not in my view a brilliant choice. That may not be a very politic thing to say but his, shall we say, eccentricity makes him an idiosyncratic selection by the majority Tory councillors. My friend and colleague, Simon Hogg, was re-elected Leader of the Labour councillors. Simon is NOT a pushy, boastful type of leader. He works hard encouraging all 26 of us councillors to take up very active roles. He operates in a quiet, restrained fashion, which gets some criticism but which, I think, gets increasingly appreciated over time.
- On 22nd May fellow councillor, Leonie Cooper, and also Greater London Council member held a reception at City Hall. It was good to have a chat with various new and old friends from all over London, and be reminded of the view from City Hall’s front door!
- The May meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 24th, but, once again, there was little of note, at least, for Battersea. BUT several of you have asked me what is happening as regards the tower block “threatened” for the pocket site at the corner of Battersea Park Road and Culvert Road. Like some of you, I had noticed that all construction activity had stopped there. And, like you, I had hoped that some wiser heads just might have prevailed. So I made enquiries. However, the planning officer tells me that there is a requirement to sign a deed of covenant, which must be done by 23rd July and one party to the deal has not yet signed up. The contractual haggling that may or may not be happening behind the scenes is not a planning matter, even though you might think it should be. Hence all I can say is that there are, presumably, some kind of contractual negotiations going on behind the scenes, which could go on for another 7 weeks before preventing the current approved application from proceeding. Let’s hope that this over-development gets stopped by current market conditions!
- When I got back from David Lewis’s funeral, see para 5 above, I received an email telling me that one of my biggest college buddies had died that day. I attended Tony Renton’s funeral on 31st Apart from spending 3 years at college with Tony, I also shared my first two flats in London with him and a couple of others. He was a brilliant polemicist and a fantasist, a gambler, not with money perhaps but with life, which he certainly lived extravagantly and to the full. Pity about the waist-line though (, but who am I to talk?) – he used to be so thin but the twinkle in the eye and the extrovert personality are still there. Tony, RIP.
- Meanwhile, I did have some housekeeping to do. For my pains, I have had to finalise and get signed off all the statutorily required election expenses for all 21 of the Battersea Labour candidates at the election. That amounted to over 1,000 sheets of 16 statutory forms, many of them identical for candidate 1 to 21, all of which will probably disappear into a town hall vault, never to be seen again!
- And finally, I tried to maintain my sanity by, with my partner, completely revamping our back-garden – and that has been good.
My Programme for June
- On Saturday, 2nd June, I hope first to go to the Share Community’s Garden Centre, in the grounds of Springfield Hospital, both to buy plants for my garden but also to support the Share Community’s work on behalf of disabled people. And later I plan to go to York Gardens for the summer event there.
- On Sunday morning, 3rd June, I will be off to the National Gallery to see the Monet exhibition, which I expect to be a beautiful display of French Impressionist art.
- On 4th June at 6.30 I will be in Christ Church, on the corner of Candahar, Cabul and Battersea Park Roads, to hear an oral history of War Comes Home. This will be presented by Carol Rahn of the Battersea Society and will include the reminiscences of Battersea residents, who lived here during the Blitz. All are welcome – do go.
- Did you know that we have a Deliveroo processing centre here in Battersea? I must say that I didn’t. But councillors have been invited to visit and I am going on Tuesday, 5th June. I certainly want to question them on their employment practises and their safety records.
- The National Opera School in Wandsworth High Street is giving a free lunch-time concert on 6th June and I certainly hope to be there.
- On 8th June I am going to Wilton’s music hall to see Sancho: An Act of Remembrance – a play about an eighteenth-century African, who campaigned against the slave trade. If you have never been to Wilton’s, which is close by Tower Bridge, then you ought. It is a recently restored nineteenth-century music hall – very atmospheric!
- On 9th and 23rd June I have councillor’s surgery at Battersea Central Library.
- The North East Surrey Crematorium Board meets on 12th June and after 40+ years as a councillor, I get to go to my first ever meeting of it – the Crem as it is called – the whole of human life, as they say!
- I have a Community Services Committee on the 21st June and the Planning Applications Committee on the 26th.
- Finally, on 30th June, we have the Falcon Road Festival, which I expect to be great fun.
Do you know?
Last month I asked, “Who was Chesterton? And what was he to Battersea or Battersea to him? And what else in Battersea is named after him?
I was surprised that not one of you responded. It was pretty easy so Why? Has the format got stale? Should I do something else instead? Who votes to retain Do you Know?
Meanwhile G. K. Chesterton or Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a prolific author of novels and detective stories, whose fame has declined a lot since the early twentieth century. Possibly because he was really an essayist, a commentator, an eccentric wit. Chesterton lived in 60 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive and in one amusing essay he compared a flooded North Battersea to “a vision of Venice”. If he had lived a century later he would probably have been a TV journalist, or a Newsnight presenter.
My partner has written a brief essay on him in the Battersea Society’s “Battersea Matters”. I would be happy to copy to anyone interested.
Of course, Chesterton Primary School is named after him as indeed is Chesterton Close, just behind Wandsworth Police Station, Chesterton House in the York Road estate and the Old Chesterton Building in Battersea Park Road.
- The General Election dominated my January just as much as it dominated December. In many ways the main chore for the agent (I was Marsha de Cordova’s election agent once again) is to do the expense returns and to do them by January 16th. Miss that date and you could be fined; get the expenses wrong then you have to explain why. It is not a fun job and I, like many, leave it to the last minute. I was getting worried that week, only to be told by the Electoral Registration Officer, when I eventually handed ours in, that I was one of the first to do so! Those sleepless nights!
- One interesting piece of analysis showed just how well Labour had done in Battersea. I am indebted to Councillor Emily Wintle, St. Mary Park ward, for the stats, which she was busily producing whilst the rest of us “invigilated” at the count.
- First of all, a note on the methodology: the ballot is of course secret but the ballot boxes are numbered and the Town Hall produces a list of numbers per ward. So, for example, ballot papers for residents in polling district LMA in Latchmere ward votes were in, say, boxes 201 and 202. Party observers, all parties, stand behind the counters (as you have probably seen on TV) and count as many votes for each party as they can. Hence if out of 200 votes seen, one can see that the Labour candidate had 83 votes and the Tory candidate 76 votes then the Latchmere sample would suggest Labour has 42.5% of the vote to the Tory’s 38%. Rough and ready perhaps but fairly accurate.
- Emily’s first conclusion was that Turnout was high overall at 76% compared to 71% in 2017. It seems that the projected turnout was highest in Balham, Northcote and Shaftesbury at just over 80%. However, in Queenstown only just over 65% made the effort. There are, of course, other factors. Queenstown almost certainly has a more transitory electorate than Northcote and because of that instability Queenstown’s register is probably less accurate – in other words the 15% differential in turnout is half technical, because the register is less accurate, and half demographic, because the population is less locally committed, younger and less established than Northcote’s.
- The actual result was, as shown in this pie chart. Labour’s share was 46% of the overall vote and the Conservative share 36%. Labour’s vote share was also 46% in 2017 but the Tory vote was 42%. So, this indicates that Labour held on to its vote share, but the Tories lost votes to both the Lib Dem and Green.
- The sampling suggested that Labour won every ward, with the biggest majorities in the core Labour ward of Latchmere and with the slimmest win in traditionally the safest Tory ward in Battersea: Northcote.
- The rest of the month was, in political terms, very quiet – even to the extent that not one constituent turned up to my Council surgery on the 18th Actually, I doubt the value of council surgeries. It is an iron law of representative politics that elected MPs and councillors should hold surgeries, but it is an iron law from an earlier age. Today, most constituents have readier access to a phone or emails than to weekly councillor surgeries and there is no question that the vast majority of cases come through the phone or email. So, when I go to my surgery, I make sure that I have plenty to read!
- The only other big event of my month was the Planning Applications Committee on 28th January – and this was a “biggy”. The agenda was a brutal 796 pages long, or should it be thick? Obviously, there was very little chance of all 796 pages being read, analysed and understood by all the committee members in the five days we had the papers. But that’s not the total point. The paperwork demonstrates all the issues that had been considered and the conclusions that planning officers had drawn before making their recommendations to the Committee. The paperwork is, itself, a public and legal justification for the recommendation in the event of a judicial challenge.
- By far the largest application this month was about the Winstanley Estate Regeneration. That really is a misnomer as it includes the total demolition of the York Road 2 Estate and only relatively few of the Winstanley Estate blocks. In outline, the development envisages the demolition of 759 residential units, a school and a chapel, and their replacement by 2,550 new units. In addition, there is to be a new swimming pool, a gym, a library and new healthcare facilities. The new housing units will be in a combination of new tower blocks and of quadrangles of mansions, designed to complement the mansion blocks surrounding Battersea Park. The new housing will be a mix of council housing, shared equity, affordable rent, shared ownership and private units.
- The Labour councillors have for many years been in negotiation with the Tory councillors, who are formally and constitutionally in control of the Council, about the mix of social and private housing. There are nowhere enough social housing units in this development to satisfy our demands, but on the other hand there are not as may private units as Tory councillors initially wanted. There will also be scope to vary the mix in the future. Personally, I think that the tall blocks are excessive – one has 35 storeys – and, I am sure that relocating
York Gardens itself a few yards to the east (nearer Falcon Road) will have its problems. But I, and I am sure most of the residents, will be pleased that at last the project is really getting underway.
- The new externally completed block at the corner of Grant and Plough Roads as seen here is, I think, an encouraging sign of the design quality that is being introduced, with the balconies referencing the Winstanley’s famous William Mitchell’s concrete sculptures.
- There were also two applications for 23 storey blocks in the Nine Elms Lane area, which included residential units and “affordable” office accommodation, and another for a 16-storey development opposite Caius House and what used to be the Chopper pub. This latter item was deferred as councillors were not convinced by recent design changes, which reduced the amount of housing provided simply because social housing providers are NOT prepared to use the same entrances and exits as private residents. This complication is not a reverse snobbery but instead a justified fear about high service charges.
- The end result of the evening was yet more tower blocks in north Battersea, which, if nothing else, has revolutionised the townscape. I doubt whether this change is very popular with the public at large, but given the rapid expansion in London’s population and the kind of developments the London Mayor and the Government are prepared to accept, the trend seems inexorable.
- Finally, on 31st I went to hear Keir Starmer give a “Labour leadership bid” speech in Westminster Abbey hall. He doesn’t give ribaldly funny speeches, laced with jokes about Boris Johnson, or passionate, “to die for” speeches as Michael Foot used to deliver. But he does give very considered, comprehensive speeches and, when he answers questions, he does actually answer the question asked and not the one that allows him the flashiest answer.
My Programme for February
- Battersea Labour Party had a fund-raising evening on the 2nd.
- There was a Council Meeting on 5th
- And a Strategic Planning and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6th.
- I have a Wandsworth Foodbank event on 13th February, centred around a film by Ken Loach, which is bound to be both brilliant and agonising.
- I will be going to a hustings event in Central London on 16th February to hear the candidates for both Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Younger readers might be surprised to hear that this procedure is a very, very recent innovation into British politics. It has a functional similarity to the American Primary Elections, even if we do them in a rather different way. But because it emphasises the Leader, in rather the same way as the Americans emphasise the President and his principal opponent, as opposed to the collective of MPs, I can’t help feeling that in the long-term this trend will have constitutional implications not yet understood.
- February’s Planning Application Committee is on 20th.
- I may be playing chess for Surrey on 22nd.
- And finally, on the 25th February there is a presentation on the Tideway Tunnel, which appears to be a large-scale infrastructure improvement in London, which is both on time and on budget. It is due to be completed in 2024 and only just in time judging by the increasingly variable weather!
- December was, of course, dominated by the General Election. But first, on the 4th, I went with Labour’s candidate, Marsha de Cordova, for Xmas lunch at Haven Lodge, Kambala Estate. It was a lovely but quiet event and as such a fairly standard campaigning occasion. But what was new to me was the Lodge’s spectacular set of photographs of Battersea in the early twentieth century. I only have room for two here but I hope that you enjoy them. The first has an open-topped 37 bus in St. John’s Road, heading for Herne Hill via Brixton, according to its head-board, passing a horse-drawn coal-lorry, the same route as the 37 follows even to this day! You can clearly distinguish the clock on Hinds, the jewellers, with the “new” Arding and Hobbs tower behind. Hence this picture almost certainly dates from1910-1914. And the second is the old Arding and Hobbs, before the 1909 fire destroyed the shop leading to the building, which we all know today.
- And so, to the 12th, and the disastrous
(as far as I am concerned) election result. I would, however, like to share with you some fairly random thoughts, that may or may not surprise depending upon how closely you follow these things. But first the locally great news of a big win for Labour in Wandsworth with our three MPs, (from the left) Tooting’s Rosena Allin-Khan, Putney’s Fleur Anderson and Battersea’s Marsha de Cordova, seen here immediately after the count.
- With a 6% swing to Labour, Putney was the only true Labour gain in the country (I say “true” because all the other so-called gains were in seats such as Streatham, where Labour simply recaptured one lost to defections, such as Chuka Umunna). But Battersea also had a 2.5% swing to Labour as did Canterbury. I haven’t found a simple table comparing swings across the country, but these three were probably Labour’s stars of the night. (Neighbouring Tooting had a small 1% swing to the Tories.)
- Putney’s large swing makes Battersea, probably for the first time, the most marginal Labour seat in the borough, even if by only the tiniest margin. If Marsha had about another 80 votes then Putney would re-take this somewhat unwanted title!
- This election gave a better indication than usual about the impact of, so-called, third-party interventions, especially perhaps when neither “main” party was exactly popular. For example, in the “safe” third-party seat of Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, the popular Green pictured here, achieved a 4.4% swing from Labour and a 3.3% one from the Tories. Meanwhile in neighbouring Richmond Park, perhaps the least surprising gain of the night, the swings to the Lib/Dem’s Sarah Olney from both Labour and Tory were identical at 6%. It appears in both cases, that the Green/Lib/Dem candidate was taking an almost identical number of votes from both Tory and Labour. In Kensington, where Labour lost by a mere 150 votes, this seemed to be confirmed and yet decisive, with the Liberals registering a 6.5% swing from the Tories and a 6.7% swing from Labour.
- The moral of the story being? I’m not sure except that the British first-past-the-post electoral system is so strong that, where the previous election was essentially a two-horse race, then it was almost certainly a wasted vote supporting third party candidates. So, for example, the Lib/Dems may have looked a tempting prospect in many parts of the country but they barely got anywhere near winning, except where they were already in first or second place; just as Labour also got nowhere near winning anywhere in the country, unless Labour was already in first or second place.
- The rise of the Scots NP from third-party obscurity to apparently total dominance, is the major exception to this rule. But I think we can all agree that Scotland is just possibly that oddity “the exception that proves the rule”.
- Ironically, of the four current councillors, from Wandsworth, one of the strongest Tory local authorities in the country, who stood in the General Election, the three Tories lost and the one Labour councillor, namely Fleur Anderson, won. That must be some kind of a record! By the way, to my knowledge, there are now seven ex-Wandsworth councillors currently serving as M.P.s. They are the Tories Lucy Allan, Paul Beresford, Christopher Chope, Charles Walker and Nadhim Zahawi, and Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan and (now) Fleur Anderson.
- This was the 14th General Election, in which I played an active role, as well as 14 Council elections, half a dozen GLC elections, 5 GLA ones, three Referendums and a few European elections – a total of well over 40. It started with a great victory when I was the Labour organiser in St. Mary Park in 1968 (and a ghastly defeat in 1970’s General Election). By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, this time I was Marsha de Cordova’s agent and hence on any printed matter you received from her you will have seen a small imprint saying “Promoted by Tony Belton”. That’s not exactly a great adrenalin buzz but elections continue to thrill and agonise me in almost equal measure. This picture shows our core team of Carmel Pollen (centre), Amy Merrigan (also with the rosette) and me at the count.
- Most notably, not one of the recent rebels, such as Labour’s Mike Gapes and Chuka Umunna, or the Tories Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry, won or retained their seats despite registering variable swings of 8% to 20% in their favour.
- The three Wandsworth M.P.s are all women, of whom the most senior, Rosena Allin-Khan, has been an M.P. for all of three and a half years. This must be a first in terms of both gender and experience. It is not true, however, as some have said, that it is a first for all three to be from the one party. All three Wandsworth MPs were Labour from 1964-1979 (Hugh Jenkins, Douglas Jay/Ernie Perry/Alf Dubs and Tom Cox) and from 1997-2005 (Tony Colman, Martin Linton and Tom Cox), whereas they have never all been Tory.
- Historic footnote. Actually from 1964-1983, there were four Wandsworth seats, with the miniscule Battersea North (essentially the current St. Mary Park, Latchmere and Queenstown) being merged into Battersea South in the 1983 Parliamentary re-distribution. Douglas Jay, pictured, was Battersea North MP and a member of Harold Wilson’s Cabinet, 1964-70.
- My friend Mike has done some research on the age profile of the UK electorate and he tells me that of the 100 constituencies with the fewest number of older constituents (voters 65+ years old) Labour now holds 99. The odd one out is Brighton Pavilion, held by the Green, Caroline Lucas.
- Equally of the 100 constituencies with the largest 18-34 year-old electorate, Labour now holds 84, the Tories 13, and the LibDems, Plaid and Green one each. It really does appear that in 2019 age was a more significant indicator of political leaning than class, education, socio-economic standing or, in England at least, region. (Scotland and Northern Ireland are clearly different, but I suspect Wales is more likely to be like England). Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell whether this evidence means that the UK is bound in time to fall to Labour or simply that as people get older/more mature they get more conservative/cautious!
- On a personal note, we went to Winchester (family) and Bath over Christmas itself, including a visit to the Recreation Ground, where we were entertained by Bath’s 16 – 14 victory over the Sale Sharks. But although it was keenly fought, I remain to be convinced that Rugby Union is really a spectator sport. On a dark, murky afternoon most of the action at the other end of the pitch was indecipherable, so at one point I was convinced that the Sharks had scored a try when in fact it was a Bath defensive touch-down.
- Whilst in Bath we went to the delightful Theatre Royal to see a great pantomime performance of Beauty and the Beast, which featured, perhaps I should say starred, a great take-off of Boris Johnson, by the classic “Dame”, Nick Wilton, pictured here. If the audience in Bath can be helpless with laughter at the lampooning of the “oven-ready” Prime Minster, then not everything will be gloomy in 2020!
- Returning to London, I stopped at the “Duchess of Somerset Hospital (1695)” on the A4. Many of you may have driven past it, just a couple of miles west of Hungerford and wondered what it was. I stopped and discovered inside it an exquisite estate of very large (for 1695) almshouses provided for retired clergymen and their widows. It was well worth the stop, especially for historians of the 17th and 18th centuries!
My Programme for January
- I am not finished with the General Election as I have to complete the Labour Party election expenses return for Battersea by 17th And if they are wrong then although the MP, Marsha de Cordova, would no doubt be under fire, I am the one who would go to jail! So, no pressure there, then.
- I am due to take part in an estate inspection of Wayford Street and Este Road on 13th January, and on the 15th the Power Station people are inviting councillors and others to an update on progress on the Power Station and the Northern Line Extension to Battersea Park.
- Meanwhile the chess season starts in earnest on 14th January and I have my first surgery of the year on 18th
- On 28th January I have the Planning Applications Committee.
- My political scene will, however, be dominated by two issues, one being the election of a new Labour Leader to succeed Jeremy Corbyn and the other the response of many to Brexit on 31st January. More than three quarters of the Battersea population voted to remain in the EU but, in the Prime Minister’s view, Brexit will be done by the end of the month. It probably will be in a headline grabbing sense, but it won’t be over in the real negotiating sense until at least the end of the year. One so-called Grass Roots Conference will be held on this subject on 25th January; I will be there to take part.
- If you have views on the future leadership and/or Britain and the EU, I would be happy to hear them and discuss, including passing them on to the MP.
On Friday, 29/11/19, we went to see a revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. This iconic play of the 1970s was written by Peter Nichols, one of the lesser-known so-called “kitchen sink” dramatists. The synopsis, telling of a marriage under strain as husband and wife struggled to bring up a disabled adolescent daughter, was hardly encouraging – it didn’t look like the stuff of a great evening out. How wrong can you be?
Sensational acting from Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner lit up a hugely sympathetic, humane and understanding work. The dialogue was very funny despite, or was it because of, the totally unsentimental script. It was not surprising to discover that the content was partly autobiographical.
Bri, played by Stephens, was racked with frustration and guilt over his inadequacies as a father. Predictably the male lead was pre-occupied, though understandably, in essentially egotistical concerns; the female lead, as so often in life, was pre-occupied with keeping life tolerable and even livable, even whilst stoking her husband’s jealousy about the time and concern she lavished on Joe.
The two well-meaning friends were hopelessly adrift in a sea of emotions quite beyond their life experiences and, in truth, they were less well-written or liked by both the author and the audience.
The staging was simple and effective, the directing sharp and precise. It was, we agreed, the most moving and commanding performance we had seen since Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
- This November was going to be a quiet month, and so it started. Penny was in China on a Presidential tour for her 18th century historical society, including lectures in Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing, so I got myself invited to a “drinks social” on 7th with Christine, dinner with Sarah on the 8th and the Providence House Fund Raising dinner on Saturday, 9th. This was only the second time that Providence House has tried a relatively expensive fund-raising dinner and there’s no question that this was a significant step up from 2018. The meal was exquisite, prepared and cooked by Hadas Hagos – quite a feat with a guest list of well over 100; the entertainment was provided by friends and members of Providence House, the largest and best youth club in Battersea.
- I went to St. Mary’s Remembrance Day Service on 10th November and then the “real thing” on 11th November in Battersea Park. The St. Mary’s Church service was very special and very moving. The front cover of the service programme had a photograph taken at the first Armistice Parade in Whitehall in 1919 – a new photo to me. The reading was from US Marine, Sergeant Jonathan Kirk Davis, on returning from combat to “home” – again new to me and very moving. And as for Canon Simon Butler’s own sermon, it managed to be moving but neither sentimental or jingoistic, to be full of religious feeling but totally acceptable both to an atheist like me, and I would have thought to those of different faiths. I am sorry to say that the following day’s service, organised by Enable on behalf of Wandsworth Council, was less successful. The presence of local school children was good and appropriate, but the format of the occasion is rather dated and needs review. The weather was, however, fantastic; very cold, very breezy, very autumnal.
- On 13th November I went, with Marsha de Cordova, to the Wandsworth Civic Awards Ceremony. I had a particular reason for going because my old friend (we met in 1967, I calculate) Ron Elam was receiving one. Ron has been a school governor for the best part of 50 years, including a long spell at Chesterton Primary. He kindly “blames” me for getting him started on this path – if so, then I did state education a service, as Ron has been a dedicated governor and also a constructive Ofsted inspector.
- On 16th we went to Newark, Nottinghamshire, for the week-end. Why Newark? Penny was chairing a public lecture given by fellow historian, Professor Norah Carlin, on petitioning during the Civil War (1640s) – the one which finished with the execution of Charles I. The petitions, which were essentially about what to do with the then constitutional crisis (sounds a bit like 2019!), and they came from all over the British Isles, very definitely including Ireland, and seemed to be targeted at a much more united set of kingdoms than exists today.
- After the lecture, we went to Newark’s Palace Theatre to see a production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – a nice if slightly sanitised production featuring an unusually youthful Scrooge. What the unreformed Scrooge would make of today’s marketised Christmas one hesitates to speculate but safe to say that he would certainly have exploded “Bah! Humbug!” The next day, we had a quick tour of the town, which took in the Castle, which was destroyed in 1646, and a visit to the National Civil War Centre, before returning to Battersea.
On the afternoon of 21st November, I attended a very special War Memorial at Christchurch Gardens. It commemorates civilians, who died in the Second World War, and is held in Christchurch Gardens, the site of the first V2 bomb to land on Battersea at the old Church exactly 75 years earlier on the afternoon of 21st November, 1944. The church was a grand nineteenth-century building; and I am afraid, that its relatively modern replacement lacks a similarly iconic presence!
- On Sunday, 24th November, I was invited to a key soccer match for all-conquering Battersea FC’s U13 team at the new Falcon Park all-weather pitch. Their opponents were an equally successful team from Lewisham and appropriately enough the result was a hard-fought 1-1 draw. Some Latchmere residents (and others) were unhappy with the installation of this “un-natural” pitch but, on a day when every other pitch in the Borough was water-logged, we three spectators were happy to see the match proceed. Marsha de Cordova is on my left and Queenstown councillor, Maurice McLeod on my right.
- A week later on 27th November, I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC). There were several applications, which attracted interest and concern in Battersea. The first was for the use of the Thames slipway, next to St. Mary’s Church, as a launch-pad for the amphibious tour boats that can be seen on the Thames nowadays. This particular application was withdrawn but I am sure it will come back to the Committee in the near future. Two others were the redevelopment of the two industrial sites in Ferrier Street, next to Wandsworth Town station, and Jaggard Way, next to Wandsworth Common station. The Ferrier Street application included 102 residential units of which, forty-one are to be affordable, along with a modern replacement of the industrial units. This development was approved but only possible by providing the residential units in a 10-storey block, alongside the Station, just about opposite the Alma pub. The Jaggard Way application was, however, rejected because it was over-large and dominant next to the Common, despite the fact it included 72 residential units in four 4-storey blocks. I was unhappy with both decisions! The first, because I think a 10-storey block is too high to fit into the Old York Road environment; the second, because I did not consider four-storey blocks to be over-large for a site separated from the Common by a four-track railway line (though to be fair there was a specific objection about the unreasonable impact on one particular neighbour).
- On Friday, 29/11/19, we went to see a revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. This iconic play of the 1970s was written by Peter Nichols, one of the lesser-known so-called “kitchen sink” dramatists. The synopsis, telling of a marriage under strain as husband and wife struggled to bring up a disabled adolescent daughter, was hardly encouraging – it didn’t look like the stuff of a great evening out. How wrong can you be? Sensational acting from Toby Stephens and Claire Skinner lit up a hugely sympathetic, humane and understanding work. The dialogue was very funny despite, or was it because of, the totally unsentimental script. It was not surprising to discover that the content was partly autobiographical. I will be doing a review on this play, which will be on https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/
- Finally, a word on the election. I know that for some Battersea residents this poses a really difficult question. What do Remain-inclined Tories do? And Labour folk concerned about Jeremy Corbyn’s “extremism”, or Lib/Dems who want a plague on both “major parties”, or Greens for whom the only priority should be climate change? But the only certainty in Battersea is that the winner will be either Labour’s Marsha de Cordova or Tory’s Kim Caddy. In 2017, Labour had 25,292 votes as opposed to the Tories 22,876, with the Lib/Dems back on 4,401 and the Greens 866. The only real impact vote switching could have in Battersea would be to the current Prime Minister’s benefit – is that the impact any doubtful voter really wants?
My Programme for December
- December is all about the General Election on Thursday, 12th!
- Not even the Planning Applications Committee, “the committee that never stops”, is meeting this month!
- Though, of course, there will be the usual round of Xmas parties and drinks. As for me, I will be having a quiet Xmas day, with Boxing Day in Winchester and then a few days in Bath, taking a swim or two in the hot mineral springs that have attracted tourists ever since Roman times.
Do you know?
Deferred this month: back again after the Election!
- First a brief note about my email address. On 10th October, BT abruptly ended my btconnect.com email, because I am not a business! So, 1) I do not have access to any of my past correspondence unless I “saved” it and may have lost your email address, 2) I may also have completely missed recent emails, so please forgive me if I haven’t replied to you and 3) my email address is now firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On 1st October I was invited to talk to an audience of Battersea residents, invited by Big Local, on The History of Battersea, 1800-2019. There were about 50 people there, from the local estates, Providence House, the Katherine Low Settlement (KLS), the Battersea Society and the Rotary Club amongst others. I really enjoyed the illustrated talk and the audience seemed to enjoy it too. If you would like to hear my views on the social history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, then I would be game to repeat it.
- The following day, 2nd October, I went to the KLS Annual General Meeting. KLS makes a point of keeping the business down to just a few minutes, which can surprise those of us, who come from a political background! Instead, KLS concentrates on socialising or as we say nowadays, networking. For those of you, who do not know KLS, it is a brilliant organisation, which runs social and learning events for, in particular, the young and the elderly of Battersea. The community spirit is great. Fellow Councillor Fleur Anderson works for KLS in a community support role and, at present, she is fighting to win the Putney Parliamentary seat for Labour in the next General Election. If she wins, then she will be sorely missed, but if she does not, she is not going to suffer for a lack of things to do at KLS.
- On Friday, 4th October, I went to the twelfth century St. Peter’s Church on Hayling Island, normally something I would enjoy but on this ocassion it was, sadly, for the funeral of my old friend, Peter Taylor, except, at the age of 39, the last thing he was, was old. Some of you may remember that he stood as a councillor for Queenstown in the Borough Election of 2010. He was also the Secretary of the Battersea Labour Party for some years. Peter will be remembered by those, who knew him well, for his very dry sense of humour, his sociability and his enormous breadth of knowledge, especially of recondite political facts.
- On 5th October I went to the Art Workers Guild in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. I was there to mark the 60th anniversary of the 60th year of the Poetry Magazine at the invitation of a college friend, Timothy Adès. We heard eight poets eloquently reading a selection of their poems. The interior of the guild’s hall was a splendid throw-back to the nineteenth century; and the event was suitably celebratory.
- The next day, we went to the Silver Sunday tea dance in the Town Hall’s civic centre. It was a great success and much appreciated by some 100+ dancers. It was not exactly Strictly Come Dancing standard, but many of the participants have clearly spent many an evening at the old Hammersmith or Wimbledon Palais. It was fun to see people showing their prowess at ballroom dancing as well as jive and cha-cha – and we had a go too.
- Last month I said that on 9th October I would be going to the Corporate Parenting Panel. As it happens, I did not go, largely because I think it is an almost total waste of time. The Panel was a “Tony Blair” initiative to try and resolve some of the issues that Britain has in providing for our most disturbed children and young people. Being taken into care is almost always a last resort and is usually a predictor of low educational qualifications, poor job prospects and a difficult life. Blair, perhaps in desperation, tried to resolve this problem by making all members of local authorities (that is councillors) corporate parents with all the responsibilities of parents. But in reality, what kind of real parenting can 60 councillors do, if and when they have no control over the budget and virtually no contact with the young people concerned? Not for one minute do I decry the work and the effort put into corporate parenting by some people like ex-councillor Kathy Tracey, but giving responsibility without power to 60 disparate councillors is, in fact, giving responsibility to no-one. Corporate Parenting needs to be re-thought.
- The next day, I had lunch with 50 or so “mature” members of the 07 Club. To be a member one had to have worked for one of London’s local government organisations, such as the London Fire Brigade or the City of London. Most of us had, however, worked for the Greater London Council, and the Club had originated in its predecessor the London County Council in 1907. I wouldn’t want to pretend that it was a totally sober event, though one of my old friends, who I have known since the 1960s, rather incredibly combines coming from rural Ireland and being a lifelong teetotaller! Ned is the middle one of these three.
- I caught an early flight from Stansted to Stockholm on Friday, 11th My partner, Penny Corfield, had been invited to give a keynote lecture to the Swedish Eighteenth-Century Society and I joined her for the Conference dinner and a pleasant weekend in Stockholm. The weather was largely bright and sunny but not on the day when we went to see the iconic Civic Hall, where the Nobel Prize dinner is held every year. It looks splendid, even in the rain, with its mix of Nordic and Venetian architecture, so suitable for its waterfront site.
- On Wednesday, 16th October we had only the fifth Council Meeting of the year. There were some good speeches on food poverty, housing, private education and policing. Essentially, each of these “problems” comes down to the one issue: the widening gap between the comfortably well off and the poor. Wandsworth has one of the greatest disparities between rich and poor in the country. Not, I am afraid, that the Council Meeting is as relevant to these issues as it once was; after all, it was only the fifth meeting of the year and one of the others was totally ceremonial!
- Like many other fans, I was up early on 19th October to see the Rugby World Cup Quarter-final in Japan between England and our old friends and enemies, the Australians. It was a tense and exciting match, if not quite a great game. England appears to have a very strong and powerful pack, with a starring role being played by Kyle Sinckler, known as the “Tooting Tank”. Sinckler, who went to Graveney School, joined the Battersea Ironsides Club and played his early rugby in the Burntwood Lane sports club. Here he is shown triumphant, having scored England’s first try in the game, which England won 40-16.
- I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) on 24th There was not one application of major significance, although every application is, of course, important to both the applicant and the objectors, if any.
- On the Friday, we went to see Judy, the film about the life of Judy Garland. An accurate historical account of the life and loves of the Hollywood mega-star, it was not, BUT ….. It was, however, a vehicle for a superb performance by Renée Zellweger, shown right playing the part. The comic (and musical) star, probably best known in the UK for Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and its sequels, proved beyond doubt that she really is a great actor. The film also made it very clear that some Hollywood moguls viciously exploited their young, and possibly their not so young, actors mercilessly.
- And then England really turned on the style with a simply pulverising performance in the Rugby World Cup Semi-Final with a 19-7 victory over the New Zealand All Blacks, with the Tooting Tank starring once again. Now all they need to do is finish the job by beating South Africa in the November 2nd Final.
- I can’t let the month go by without recording my current thoughts on the political crisis that we face. In some optimistic moods, I like to think that Brexit will simply disappear into history. But, at other times, I have the more pessimistic view that the British Isles will soon break-up into its four separate entities of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. If that were to happen, then I suspect that Ireland and London will both manage quite well (Ireland because, most of the island, has had 100 years of getting used to standing on its own feet; London because of its sheer size and economic power), but I would expect a rockier future for other parts of the UK. Anyhow, we shall see!
- On Tuesday 29th, the Boundary Commissioners published their proposals for Wandsworth’s new ward boundaries and immediately after that it became clear that the major political parties had decided to have a General Election on 12th First things first: the ward boundaries. The published proposals are for public consultation, which thanks to the Election decision, might be for a slightly extended period. For those of you, who want to see the details, look up https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/. The commissioners have brought forward interesting proposals, which would result in the disappearance of some old names, such as Latchmere and St. Mary Park and their replacement by Falconbrook and Riverside. Personally, I don’t much like Riverside; it may be descriptive but it’s hardly specific – there must be hundreds of Riversides up and down the country! But many of us won’t be too worried about the nomenclature but much more about the political implications. Everyone is invited to comment on the boundaries and/or the names.
- As to the General Election, my main hope is that it will exorcise us of the poison that the Referendum and Brexit has imposed on the country for the last three years. However, I rather fear not, as all the indications are that we will still be dealing with all the ramifications from Brexit for at least another decade – now there’s a gloomy thought!
- Stop Press. On 30th we heard that the national Labour Party had decided to launch its General Election campaign in Battersea Arts Centre on the 31st. At the launch, our MP, Marsha de Cordova, introduced Jeremy Corbyn, who in turn launched the Election campaign. Marsha was as enthusiastic and engaging as ever, Corbyn was inspirational – not something one could always say but there is no doubt that he comes to life during election campaigns; he is literally transformed from his performances in the House of Commons. My picture shows some of the Shadow Cabinet on the stage at the Arts Centre.
My Programme for November
- On 9th November I will be going to the Providence House fund-raising dinner, where I am sure we will be entered by an interesting youth club show.
- The next day I will be attending the Remembrance Day Service at St. Mary’s Church, and on the 11th the traditional open-air Remembrance Day Service in Battersea Park.
- On that same evening, I have the Strategic Planning and Transportation Committee.
- On 23rd I hope to attend the London Summit at the Guildhall in the City. Every councillor in London has been invited and we will discuss the issues of the day BUT probably not Brexit.
- The Planning Applications Committee, “the committee that never stops”, is on 27th
Do you know?
Last month I asked
- Where was the Portsmouth and Southampton railway’s first London terminus? The answer is Vauxhall.
- When was Waterloo station opened as a replacement for the first terminal; 1848, although it was never intended to be a terminus with the original meant to cross the Thames and terminate in the City, and
- When did the last steam train puff its way out of Clapham Junction? 1967.
This month: my question is Do you know many films were shot at least partly in Wandsworth? I know of some; I’ll list them next month but how many can you add. And I’ll start with an easy one we have all seen Love Actually, but which was the Wandsworth scene and where was it shot?
- I didn’t get back from Croatia until 8th September, but in the event it was a quiet month, at least as far as the Council was concerned. My first “Council engagement” was the following Sunday, 15th September, when Wandsworth’s Labour councillors had an “away day” in Roehampton. It was a busy day even if this picture of my fellow councillors, from the left, Paula Walker (Queenstown), Jo Rigby (Earlsfield) and Sue McKinney (Roehampton) at a tea break, suggests otherwise. Our aim was to focus on self-improvement, as councillors and as a group.
- On the 16th September I attended a public meeting at the Alma pub, in Old York Road, Wandsworth, along with about 50 local residents. The meeting was focused on Waltham Forest’s exciting road and traffic planning initiatives, called simply Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. The presentation was given by Waltham Forest resident, Paul Gasson, and reminded me very much of a similar scheme Wandsworth Council implemented in Balham and Northcote in 1978. There was, however, one very, very big difference. In May, 1978, there was a Borough Election and immediately after they won the Council, the Tories scrapped the scheme. The Waltham Forest scheme seems to have got off to an excellent start; I hope that it gets well established before the next Borough election and that it becomes an example followed elsewhere.
- The following Tuesday, 17th September I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC). There was only one application of any real significance and that related to the semi-permanent, so-called, British Genius site in Battersea Park. The Committee agreed to allow the “temporary” structure even though the application was for a building 2 metres higher than the current one and for a longer, four-year, period. I am afraid that I am going to make myself unpopular with a few of my friends, who live very close to the Park, by saying that I think it is about time that we dropped the fiction of the structure being temporary. It has now been there for a long time and I rather doubt that any future PAC is going to refuse it permission. What is more I very, very much doubt that anyone could defend a refusal at an appeal hearing. Moreover, the sooner that the Genius site is accepted as an established part of the Park, then the more we can address the serious issue of landscaping the area around it appropriately.
- On 24th September, I was at the Strategic Planning and Transportation Committee. There were some items about long-term planning issues, which, although very important for the future of the Borough, get a little lost in the technicalities and will not have much affect for many years. Hence they are difficult to describe. Of more immediate interest to lots of people were two items about cycling, which could have an effect in almost every street. First was the Council’s decision to have an e-bike contract. Let me confess, I don’t fully understand the system, whereby armed only with a membership card, anyone can use an e-bike from anywhere to anywhere. What happens as regards repairs, or returning the bikes to some base, any base? Are there insurance issues? None of these questions were considered and they certainly weren’t answered. We were simply re-assured that the company given the contract was willing to take all the risks and that there would be no cost to the Council. It was not, I think, a brilliant moment for the Committee, for which I take some responsibility as the lead on the Labour side – but my excuse is that the Tories have sucked all the life-blood out of the committee structure, which is now totally inadequate as a democratic constraint. As I have already noted, the committees are now restricted in time; worse debate and discussion are discouraged – overview and scrutiny is bound to suffer in the longer term.
- The second item on cycling referred to cycle parking and the fraught question of cycling security. As someone who has lost four (4) bicycles to theft and had a saddle and endless numbers of lights stolen from my bikes, I have something of an interest on this issue – if you are worried about car theft, you should spare a thought for the poor cyclists, who face far greater problems. So, to the good news: the Council has agreed to the provision of lockable bike hangars in our streets subject to demand and consultation. Paul Ellis, the councillor in charge, says he hopes for 40 such hangars to be in place in the course of the next year. The picture shows a bike hangar in Southwark.
- Meanwhile, of course, all hell has broken loose at a national level. Every news bulletin has brought shocks, horrors and total surprises. We have a Prime Minister, who, as of now, has lost every single one of seven (7) votes in Parliament and who has had a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court going against him. We have four weeks left before we leave the European Union OR stay in against the Prime Minister’s wishes. In four weeks time, we may or may not have trading agreements with our major customers and suppliers.
- The country’s governing Tory Party, or maybe I should say parties, with the Democratic Unionist Party playing second fiddle, seems to be on a different stage from everyone else. And yet the opposition parties seem incapable of getting their acts together to promote a more orderly politics. It looks like being a turbulent month with a ghastly prognosis! If we leave, the signs are that “Project Fear” was simply not pessimistic enough about what leaving the EU would do to our economy and our status. If we remain, then many of the 17.4 million who voted leave will be embittered, maybe for life.
- For my money, it becomes clearer, day by day, that, even if the thought is horrific, the only way out of this is for another Referendum, pitching a Leave package vs Remain but with the advantage that this time we would know more about what it means.
- On 15th September, my partner and I hosted an evening’s discussion with our M.P., Marsha de Cordova, and twenty or so local residents. These friends of ours are concerned that the Labour Party is not 100% Remain, because of Jeremy Corbyn’s policy not to alienate those who voted Leave and his efforts to try and hold all parts of the party together. For many of them, the simplicity of the Lib/Dems position seems attractive. However, if I may, say about the Lib/Dems position: If Swinson and her colleagues do deny Jeremy Corbyn the dubious distinction of being Prime Minister for a limited and specifically prescribed period, with the sole purpose of organising and seeing through a Referendum, then, I think, they are likely to pay a heavy electoral price.
- Meanwhile, on a completely different theme, can I draw your attention to my partner, Penny Corfield’s, blog for this month? Her messages are usually aimed at her academic colleagues but this month’s is very much about the desperate need for all cities world-wide to go as thoroughly green as they possibly can! See: penelopejcorfield.com/monthly-blogs/106
My Programme for October
- On 1st October I gave a presentation to the Big Local AGM on Battersea, 1801-2019, A Social History, at Providence House, Falcon Road.
- The next day I had the Katherine Low Settlement AGM.
- On 4th October I attended the funeral of Peter Martin Taylor, a young (39) colleague of mine, who was a Labour Party candidate for Queenstown Ward in 2014.
- On 9th October I have the Corporate Parenting Panel, of which more next month.
- On 11th I am off to Stockholm for the week-end accompanying my partner, who is giving the keynote lecture at a Swedish Conference on social history.
- There is a Council Meeting on 16th October
- The Planning Applications Committee, “the committee that never stops”, is on 24th
- On the 30th I will be, at the Town Hall, attending the what I think will be the first Healthy Streets Forum – an interesting new Council initiative?
Do you know?
Last month I asked whether you knew, after dissolving Parliament, how long Charles I managed before inviting it to sit again? And do you know how long Parliament took (after that) to try him for High Treason and have him executed? And do you know why, in the end, he invited the argumentative MPs back?
- Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629 and re-called it in 1640;
- he was executed in 1649, so nine years;
- it was money of course. He needed money in 1640 to fight a battle about religious policy in Scotland.
This month my question is Do you know
- Where was the Portsmouth and Southampton railway’s first London terminus?
- When was Waterloo station opened as a replacement for the first terminal? and
- When did the last steam train puff its way out of Clapham Junction?
- August was, of course, a quiet month in Council terms, even if national politics was as turbulent as I can ever remember. So, I went to Lyme Regis for a couple of quiet days and visited my old friend Tony Tuck, who some of you may remember was a fellow Latchmere councillor in the early 90’s. He has a beach-hut on the famous Jurassic coast and, just to prove it, here is am ammonite set in a beach pebble – 150 million+ years old!
- I came back through Wilton, Wiltshire, where I was absolutely startled to see this baroque Tuscan church, set in a small eighteenth-century English town. It is a Grade 1 listed building, built as a replacement between 1841 and 1844 on the initiative of the Countess Pembroke. The church is enormous for such a small town and speaks volumes for the Countess’s wealth! A notable feature is the 105 feet (32 m) campanile, which, unlike the traditional English tower or steeple, stands separate from the building – Is this because Tuscany, unlike England, has destructive earthquakes?
- A week later, on 14th August, Battersea MP, Marsha de Cordova, and I were invited by a new business called e-cargobikes to see for ourselves their operation of delivery systems for the Northcote Road Co-op. The service uses electric bicycles to provide a delivery service for customers. The bikes are, of course, person-powered but with ancillary electric motors – partly to cope with the many hills in south Battersea and, indeed, the weight of the deliveries. James Fitzgerald of e-cargobikes argues eloquently for the ecological and cost advantages of using this service rather than van deliveries, saving not only petrol, but also congestion charges, road tax, insurance, parking fees and fines, etc. James confidently asserts that a bicycle delivery service, operating short delivery runs from the Co-op to the immediate neighbourhood, can be competitive with van deliveries. If successful, it will also be far more environmentally friendly than using motor vans. The picture shows from the left, the Co-op store manager, me, Marsha, two cyclists, who by the way earn a minimum of £11.15 an hour (and which is well above the London Living Wage), and on the right, James Fitzgerald.
- Two days later, on 16th August I went to the House of Commons to take part in a small celebratory party to note Victoria Rodney’s MBE award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Victoria runs a voluntary organisation, called the Mercy Foundation, from an office in Falcon Road. The party was hosted by the M.P. and the guests included the High Commissioner of Nigeria. Victoria originally came from Nigeria but has lived in the UK for many years.
- Victoria once told me that she was sitting at home, some years ago, wondering what she could do to improve the life chances of many of the least fortunate in our society. So, completely off her own bat, she set up the charity based in Falcon Road, which is called The Mercy Foundation. The charity aims to teach technical skills, personal confidence, and self- presentation. She was so committed to the idea that she mortgaged her home to raise capital and, since then, has lived and breathed the Foundation. She has persuaded people like me to teach basic English to Somali refugees, living on the nearby York Road estate; she has organised courses in computing, in childcare and in nursing. Two of the speakers, Samuel and Mohammed, at the party were ex-students, who had come back to “honour” Victoria for giving them the self-confidence and skills to run and own their own small businesses. If any reader wants to make a charitable contribution, but to a small organisation and not to one of the giants such as the National Trust or Oxfam, then you could do worse than donate to the Mercy Foundation! Please, contact me for details.
- On 13th August, I played chess against my fellow Labour councillor (Bedford ward) Hector Denfield, at the Battersea Chess Club. I am going to have to up my game before I take him on again – I lost, but I felt a little better when he told me that only a couple of weeks earlier, he had come second in the 13th Weald Chess Congress at East Grinstead. But I viewed this match simply as training for my game for the Battersea Pawnbrokers, again at the Battersea Chess Club on 20th August. Unfortunately, I fared no better in that match either!
- The Planning Applications Committee took place on 22nd August. The agenda was suitably uncontentious for mid-summer and none of the decisions were of any great significance except, of course, to the people and neighbours directly concerned.
- On 24th I was off to Croatia for our annual holiday. It was a delight and we swam over half a mile (1 km) every day. So, despite having plenty of wine and good fish every evening, I managed to lose half a stone or about 3.5 kilos! Can I avoid putting it all back on? I sincerely hope so!
- I came home on 8th September to discover that the world had gone bonkers. 21 senior Tories, including two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, and Winston Churchill’s grandson have been kicked out of the Tory Party. My partner, Penny, is having a whale of a time comparing the successive political crises with the events of the early seventeenth century, upon which she is an expert. She pointed out that Charles I also tried to prorogue Parliament, but in his case for an indefinite period, but in the end lost his head! I am not suggesting that we should do the same to dear old Queenie, but perhaps Johnson has already lost his head!
- Whilst I have been away, the new all-weather sports pitch at Falconbrook (Banana) Park has come on-stream. The plan was not universally popular with all residents but now that the pitch and changing rooms have been completed and the Park has been given some new landscaping treatment, I hope that the pitch and other facilities are well used and appreciated.
- The Boundary Commissioners announced that they had received a large number of suggestions for the new ward boundaries and indeed the various options have been published. They are all on the Commissioners website but for me perhaps the most interesting is the Tory Plan, which you can see as a PDF on the Commissioners website. They are very different from the Labour Party’s plans and demonstrate that there is, as some would say, more than one way to skin a cat. At the last review in 2002/3 the Commissioners final recommendations were almost identical to the Labour submission. Their decision will be published later this year for one last round of consultation.
My Programme for September
- I came back from Croatia on September 8th, but it’s a gentle start to the new Municipal season with my first meeting a Labour Group Awayday on 15th September. It’s pretty obvious, however, that whatever plans we may have to discuss local affairs are likely to be overtaken by a flurry of Brexit or General Election related activity!
- The Planning Applications Committee, “the committee that never stops”, is on 17th September.
- On the 27th I will be visiting Christ Church school’s Dream Garden. Christ Church is making a feature of outdoor learning, believing that outdoor lessons are good for both children and the environment.
Do you know?
Last month I asked who knew that Battersea and Wandsworth Metropolitan Boroughs were two separate organisations? Judging by the very few responses I got, not many did; or not many cared very much; or, on the contrary, everyone knew and thought that the question was too trivial to bother with!
The answer was that the 1963 London Government Act abolished the 28 London Metropolitan Boroughs and Middlesex County Council and also annexed parts of Surrey, Kent and Essex into a new Greater London containing the current 32 London Boroughs. Harold Macmillan was the Prime Minister responsible, though the blame/credit is often ascribed to Keith Joseph, who had been the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government. Wandsworth “began” in 1964 but, for the first year of its operation, Battersea and Wandsworth still existed as separate entities during an extended handover year.
This year the Prime Minister is trying to prorogue (to suspend) Parliament until 14th October. That is one of the reasons for the current controversy. Do you know how long Charles I managed without Parliament before inviting it to sit again? And do you know how long Parliament took to try him for treason and have him executed? And do you know why, in the end, he invited the argumentative MPs back?
- You may have noticed that the Council has put out press releases and created “photo opportunities” for Tory councillors under a heading claiming 100 years of social housing, dating from the Housing (popularly known as the Addison, after Housing Minister Christopher Addison) Act of 1919. This move might have confused many Battersea residents, who know that the Latchmere Estate was built in 1903/4. Of course, the Council has got it WRONG. The Latchmere Estate was indeed built by Battersea Metropolitan Borough Council and it is the second oldest council estate in the country. Ironically Wandsworth’s very own Totterdown Estate in Tooting is the oldest, constructed from 1901 onwards. The 1919 Act did, however, mark the start of national exchequer support for council housing. One hundred years later that support has virtually ended, an ironic twist to this centenary “celebration”!
- On the 4th July Pen and I went to Headingley to see Afghanistan playing the West Indies in the World Cup. We had seats high up in the south stand, almost directly behind a right-hand bowler’s arm. What with the stand and the white ball, I don’t think I have ever had such a great spectator view at a big cricket match. Unfortunately, we did not get to see a classic Chris Gayle innings in what may be his last big game in the UK, but we did see him bowl and exert himself once to run out an unfortunate Afghan batsman. The Windies won fairly comfortably but/and it was an entertaining game.
- We had travelled up the previous evening, allowing us to see a performance of Grease at the Leeds Playhouse. The lead actor didn’t have the charisma of John Travolta in the famous film but the whole troupe threw themselves into the many very dramatic dance numbers with fantastic energy and not a little skill. The choreographer was Arlene Philips, of “Strictly” fame. I am not sure, however, that such athleticism should be seen by the more mature and envious of us!
- On Sunday, 7th July, Penny took me for lunch to Ronnie Scott’s in Soho – very pleasant too, but much more sedate and “mature” than Grease! The music came from Tony Kofi, second from right, playing a tribute to Cannonball Adderley. The high-quality musicians were on great form and the jazz was very accessible, easy listening. However, in terms of value for money it was no better than Streatham’s Hideaway jazz club.
- Two days later, I went to the Grand, Clapham Junction, to see Latchmere’s Thames Christian School’s production of The Pyjama Game. It was very ambitious and demanding and, to be honest, a little outside the range that one could reasonably expect from young teenagers. But they deserve good marks for their ambition. All the girls in the cast are seen here on the right. The school, by the way, has for a long time been in negotiations, now nearly concluded, to move from its site in Wye Street to a new building on Grant Road as part of the Winstanley regeneration. It is planned to move in to its new home, shared with the Battersea Baptist Church, in 2022.
- Have I mentioned that Penny has, for some time, been President (elect) of the International Society of Eighteenth Century Studies (ISECS). ISECS has 38 national societies, from Japan to India, the USA to Argentina, Italy to Sweden. She was due to be “installed” at their Conference in Edinburgh on 17th July. So, we went up to Edinburgh on the 14th and returned on the 20th. There were 2,000 delegates at the Conference, which had some 477 separate seminar sessions. You can perhaps get some idea of the scale of the event by this picture of the opening reception held in Scotland’s National Museum.
- I came back to London to lead a presentation on the work of the Planning Applications Committee on 16th July and the Council Meeting on the 17th. The Council Meeting was notable for the unanimous decision, by all Tory, Labour and Independent councillors, to declare a Climate Emergency. In itself, of course, declaring that there is a climate emergency amounts to nothing much. No Arctic ice is going to be saved because of our decision. BUT, having declared that there is such an emergency, it should make it easier to take the “right”, ecological decisions about a thousand other Wandsworth matters, such as the levels of insulation in schools and other council buildings, or the power systems for transport or heating, or what to make this year’s or next year’s priorities for investment.
- On the 22nd I was at the topping out of one of the Winstanley new-build dwelling units, the one on the corner of Grant and Plough Roads. The block is largely for current elderly residents, who need rehousing before the regeneration can continue. At first, I had some complaints about the proximity of the block to Time House and Thomas Baines Road, but happily, since the external framework of the block has been completed, there have not been any further complaints. This picture is not an Ealing comedic witticism about industrial relations in Wandsworth, but a warning of a dangerous building process!
- On 23rd July Wandsworth Labour Party had a fund-raising dinner. I don’t normally mention such party political events but in this case the speaker was Birmingham Yardley’s Jess Phillips. I’m sure that Jess is not to the taste of everyone reading this newsletter, but I find it difficult to resist her courage, her wit and her charm. She is not an ideologically driven Labour MP, but rather a very pragmatic, and essentially very “sensible” politician. Good luck to her.
- On 24th July, the hottest day in UK history, I (and others) were unlucky enough to be attending the Planning Applications Committee. There weren’t any applications of substantial interest to Battersea residents. But there was an interesting one for “collective” living for 292 residents in Trewint Street, Earlsfield. I went to see a similar and larger development at Willesden Junction. I was quite impressed. It was a bit like a high-quality student campus. Given the incredibly high cost of private rented accommodation in London, I would not at all be surprised, if this sort of collective living marks the start of a growing trend.
- I went to Sarah Rackham’s birthday party at KLS, the Katherine Low Settlement, on the 27th. Again, this kind of private social engagement is not something I would normally mention except that in Sarah’s case it was not so private as she has been a fixture in North Battersea’s community and youth services for the best part of 50 years, and I am sure many readers will know Sarah or at least know of her work. We should all celebrate her commitment and her passion for the community.
- On 29th we went with our old friends, Ron and Hazel Elam, to see Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. This month Ron retired from being a governor at Chesterton School. He had been a Governor at other Wandsworth schools and an Ofsted Inspector and many years earlier worked with me at County Hall. Ofsted inspectors are not always very popular people, but Ron did a great job both as a Lay Inspector and governor. Alert readers will recall that we went to see the same play only a couple of month’s ago, so why go again? We know Ron and Hazel are theatre buffs, and we wanted to go with them to see this outstanding play. And, actually, the performance was interestingly different in a large West End theatre as opposed to the small, intimate, “in the round” production we had seen at Kingston’s Rose Theatre.
- Battersea Summer Scheme’s “Summer In the Park” included the Battersea Bake Off on 31st July. The five competing youth clubs were chosen because they are part of The Big Local SW11 Alliance. They were Providence House, St Peter’s, Caius House, Katherine Low Settlement and Carney’s Community. I was one of two councillors asked to be judges along with representatives of Battersea Power Station Ltd, Battersea Crime Prevention Panel and a senior citizen from KLS. Of course, I have no qualifications other than being a councillor; but it was hard work! We had to select the best of 25 different cakes, quiches, biscuits and other bakes, without a chance to have a drink, even of tea! The overall prize went to Providence House, but all participants deserved warm congratulations.
- Stop press and late news for those, who like Alan, are interested in my pleas about Building Regulations! In July, the Council responded to the Government Building a Safer Future (Proposals for reform of the building regulatory system). And in essence, the Council is agreeing with what I (and Alan and others) have been saying. Leaving building regulations in the hands of the developers was and is crazy. It is essential that there is an independent body exercising control, such as the local authority. Let’s hope that the Government will soon introduce legislation to that effect.
- Out of the news and in the background, many councillors will have been preoccupied, in July, with ward boundary redistribution. Redistribution happens every 20 years or so as a result of changes in population distribution. So, for example, here in Wandsworth we have had to consider what to do about the rapid increase in population in Nine Elms and along the river-front. Obviously, the boundaries cannot stay the same as now because if they did the Queenstown councillors would find themselves with twice as many constituents as, say, the Nightingale councillors. But not only would it be unfair to the councillors; it would also be unfair in democratic terms.
- Both Tories and Labour have put in their own suggestions to the Boundary Commissioners and, for all I know, the Lib/Dems, the Brexit party, UKIP and other interested, independent groups or individuals may have done so. The Boundaries Commission’s task is to choose the most credible looking plan and put that out for further consultation at some time in the autumn. It is impossible to say what that plan will be but early indications from the Commission suggest that the total number of councillors will be cut and all, or nearly all, current wards will change. For further updates, watch this space.
- I can’t let July, 2019, pass without mentioning the elevation of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister – that’s the last time I will use the intimate first name. This picture of his first cabinet has Sir Edward Lister, sitting against the wall, third from the left (the Guardian, 25/719). Lister was Leader of Wandsworth Council for 19 years from 1992 to 2011 and for 16 of those years I was his opposite number as the Leader of the Opposition. During this time, he gave the look and impression of a kindly, favourite uncle – everyone’s soft touch. But the reality was different. He believed strongly that public expenditure constituted too high a proportion of the British economy and hence he was prepared, perhaps happy, to cut drastically (60% 2010-19) the funding of local services, almost regardless of the impact on their delivery. Interestingly, however, Lister doesn’t now seem to object so much to Mr. Johnson’s haphazard spending promises, which certainly demand the so-called magic money tree, which the Tories love to mock, whenever Labour talks of protecting services.
- But will these promises be enough? His chances of delivering a No Deal Brexit look slim; his chances of delivering a Good Deal Brexit look even slimmer. The end product looks very much like a General Election – on October 24th?
- You may have noticed that the Council has put out press releases and created “photo opportunities” for Tory councillors under a heading claiming 100 years of social housing, dating from the Housing (popularly known as the Addison, after Housing Minister Christopher Addison) Act of 1919. This move might have confused many Battersea residents, who know that the Latchmere Estate was built in 1903/4. Of course, the Council has got it WRONG. The Latchmere Estate was indeed built by Battersea Metropolitan Borough Council and it is the second oldest council estate in the country. Ironically Wandsworth’s very own Totterdown Estate in Tooting is the oldest, constructed from 1901 onwards. The 1919 Act did, however, mark the start of national exchequer support for council housing. One hundred years later that support has virtually ended, an ironic twist to this centenary “celebration”!
My Programme for August
- August is holiday month and so on 6th and 7th August we are off to Lyme Regis and on 24th to our favourite spot in Croatia.
- The Planning Applications Committee, “the committee that never stops”, is on 22nd August.
Do you know?
Last month I asked what is the connection between Pennethorne House and Battersea Park? Many of you told me that Sir James Pennethorne was one of, if not the main designer and architect of the Park and that is quite correct. But I also asked, if anyone could confirm that the chimneys on the left were the long-gone Lots Road Power Station? I was never very happy with that thought as Lots Road seemed further to the right (north) than these appear to be. Now Marlon has supplied me with a much better answer; he suggests that they are the equally long-gone Fulham Power Station. Much more plausible and thank you Marlon!
This month’s question comes from the reference in paragraph 1 above. Did you know that Battersea and Wandsworth Metropolitan Boroughs were two separate organisations? When and why were they merged into the one London Borough? Who was/were the Prime Ministers responsible and were any other boroughs affected?
- By the end of the month we will have a new Prime Minister, who will be chosen by the Tory party membership – a small electorate, largely of “mature”, white men. I have nothing against mature, white men, indeed some would say I am one (except for the mature bit, of course), but it must seem strange to almost everyone, who isn’t a Tory party member, that the electorate is so “exclusive”. And they have such a dispiriting choice to make! One candidate, Boris Johnson, could be Joker of the Decade and the other, Jeremy Hunt, the notorious scourge of junior doctors, has just qualified as Charlatan of the Century for his totally unprincipled bid to lower taxes and increase expenditure on everything under the sun – and this, the party that has the gall to accuse Labour of wishing for a “magic money-tree”.
- On the 4th June we went to see All My Sons by the great American playwriter, Arthur Miller. The play is about the pressure on the owner-boss of an aircraft manufacturer, during World War Two, to produce aircraft rapidly even when he knew his planes had design flaws. It was reminiscent of Boeing’s current problems with its 737 Max aircraft – You will remember that one Boeing 737 Max fell out of the air in Indonesia in October last year and a second in Ethiopia earlier this year. The acting was brilliant, with Sally Field almost too painful to watch, as the mother who living with her husband’s self-delusion and deceit. All My Sons, along with his better-known play Death of a Salesman, exposes the problems with capitalism, and the pressures caused by competition in an unregulated capitalist world. Both plays are brilliant.
- Two days later, I attended the Passenger Transport Liaison Committee. The Committee’s purpose is to give councillors access to the managers of the various bus and train companies, operating in Wandsworth. We had two pieces of good news affecting Battersea. First both Battersea Park (pictured right) and Wandsworth Town stations, the two busiest stations in the south western network without step-free access, are to be made fully accessible between now and 2024. And secondly, we were told that the 170 bus’s capacity is to be increased, by increasing their frequency.
- I had the Strategic Planning and Transport Committee on the 11th June, but there was nothing of great interest, I thought, to Battersea residents, other than the increasing pressure to restrict the motor car, by adopting play and school streets and speed limits.
- On the 13th June I attended the official opening of the Council’s new Work Match office in Falcon Road. The Work Match team supports people through the job application process, by helping with CVs and interview skills. The service, begun in 2013, has worked successfully and closely with Job Centre Plus, community organisations, local colleges and schools to provide an integrated support network. The Falcon Road office has been funded by the York Road/Winstanley Joint Venture Board, the arms-length company tasked with the estate’s regeneration. Let’s hope that it works as well in Falcon Road as it has elsewhere. It certainly has a dynamic boss in Chantelle Daniel. Here I am (third from right) holding one end of the ribbon, which the Council Leader is cutting to mark the official opening.
- Did you hear about the London Legal Aid charity walk? What was it? And what for? Well, on a beautiful, very warm evening, 17th June, 15,000 took part in the walk and raised the best part of £1 million, for over 100 organisations in London and the South East, helping them to provide free and pro bono legal advice. I walked the 6 miles from Chancery Lane round the Serpentine and back to Chancery Lane and raised £330. It’s a long time since I last walked round the Serpentine, and since then there seems to have been a lot of effort put into improving both the formal and informal garden aspects of the Park. Excited, if exhausted, walkers are pictured here congregating in Carey Street at the end of the walk.
- Three days later on the 20th June there was a by-election in Furzedown ward. This safe Labour ward is on the southern edge of Tooting Common. The by-election came at a bad time for both the so-called major parties but fortunately Labour’s Graham Loveland won. I knew Graham when he was last on Wandsworth Council between 1986-90 and now after retirement he has decided to return, bringing with him a lifetime of career experience as a Borough planner. Graham got 1,811 votes (49% of the vote), the Lib Dems 887 (24%) votes, the Tories 681 (18.4%) and the Greens 318 (8.6%). This was a comfortable victory but nonetheless masked an 18% swing from Labour and the Tories to the Lib/Dems. The Greens also had a small loss in percentage terms, suggesting that Wandsworth residents just maybe coalescing around the Lib/Dems as the main completely and totally pro-EU party. I need hardly mention, to those of you paying attention, that I am a committed Remainer along with 75% of Wandsworth’s residents.
- On the Saturday, we went to see a one-woman play called Woke at the Battersea Arts Centre. It was written and performed by Apphia Campbell – a tour de force. If you do get the chance, do go and see it. It is an enlightening expose of life as a black American woman in the American South. It is particularly insightful about the contradictions and cruelties of the imposition of summary justice.
- Sunday, 23rd June, was the day of the family’s annual walk from the Birling Gap to Beachy Head, where the South Downs disappear into the Channel. We have been doing it for so long now (nearly 30 years) that we can remember the coast extending about 50 yards/metres further out at the Gap – in geological terms the South Downs are disappearing fast. But on a sunny day, with the skylarks doing their thing high above, it is still a terrific walk.
- The following day, I went to the Hampshire Bowl to see Afghanistan play Bangladesh in the cricket world cup. I had decided at New Year to go to at least one of the cricket matches and to France for the Women’s World Football Cup. I never got round to booking the French trip but I did get a couple of tickets for the cricket – two Afghanistan games as it happens. The match itself was not a nail-biter with Bangladesh having a comfortable win but it was a colourful and noisy event, as displayed by this picture of some of my neighbours celebrating yet another Afghan wicket.
- On the 25th we had the Education and Children’s Services Committee. I am not a member of this committee but I thought I would comment on one particular item, which could, directly or indirectly, affect us all. It was a review of how “Youth Services” are provided in Battersea and focused very considerably on the youth club services currently delivered from the Devas Club and Caius House. Given the very public concern about “street violence” and the view that one problem is “that young people have nothing to do”, this was obviously going to be a contentious matter. With the Council, or rather the majority Tories, claiming that the service is being reformed and improved and we, the Opposition Labour councillors arguing the exact opposite, the position is confused. The truth appears to me to be that this is yet another cut in public services, camouflaged by a possibly sensible re-arrangement of how they are delivered. The budget will be cut by approximately 5% and the new services will be imposed “Top-down” and not through consultation and discussion; they will not be improved as claimed but nor will they be comprehensively trashed. Given the crisis on our streets, this is a typically inadequate response from Tory controlled Wandsworth Council. We need more Youth Services and increased funding – not cuts, however, carefully managed.
- The Planning Applications Committee was held on 26th June and included one major application and two others of significant concern to Battersea residents. The major one was about the redevelopment of the Atheldene area off Garrett Lane. It centred on the provision of 193 housing units, 40% being so-called affordable. It included some five storey blocks of flats and proved to be very contentious amongst local residents; but it was in line with the London and Wandsworth Plans and was passed unanimously. Also approved was the redevelopment of the Northcote Road library and details of the new Sports Hall at Harris Academy.
- On the 28th June, I visited Christ Church School’s garden. The school has been proud of its emphasis on outdoor learning and the encouragement of gardening knowledge amongst pupils for some time, indeed, I can remember visiting the gardens 4 or 5 years back, when it did not have this English country flower section.
- The following day was the Falcon Festival. It has only been going for a short time, but it is now well established as one of Battersea’s regular summer events. The Labour Party stall did brisk business and was well staffed, here with from left Cllr Paula (Haggis) Walker, Cllr Kate Stock, GLA member Leonie Cooper, Marsha de Cordova, MP, party member Steve Worrall, me and Cllr Emily Wintle – and Leonie’s dog.
- Whilst at the Festival I took the opportunity to walk down Este Road and take a look at Falcon Park’s new all-weather football/hockey pitch. Its completion has been delayed due, apparently, to some problem linking up the water supply to the changing rooms, but hopefully it will be open in late July. In any event it should be ready well before the new winter season opens in September. The Council (and councillors) have been under some criticism for introducing the pitch and reducing the amount of “uncontrolled” park space, but I think it will be a popular, heavily used resource for local clubs, schools and casual use. Certainly, WOW mums’ Senia Dedic says “We are pro pitch because we needed a safe and clean place for children to play, as Banana Park and Falcon Park are used by dog walkers, who do not (always) pick up the mess”.
- Finally, a word about a new book titled Battersea’s First Lady, The Life and Times of Caroline Ganley, MP. It was written by my friend and Secretary of the Battersea Society, Sue Demont, and was published last month. Ganley Court on the Winstanley Estate was named after Mrs. Ganley, who was elected to the House of Commons for Battersea South as it was then, in 1946-1951. She was first elected a Battersea councillor in 1919, one year after women won the right to vote, and was re-elected from 1953-1965, when Battersea was merged with Wandsworth. The book costs £5.99 and can be bought at email@example.com.
My Programme for July
- July looks like being a busy social month but without much formal Council business – the August recess draws near. The high point though, for me and particularly Penny, is her installation (is that the right word?) as the President of the International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies in Edinburgh, during the week 15th-19th July.
- Before then we are going to Leeds on 3rd July, where we are staying overnight before seeing the West Indies take on Afghanistan at Headingley in one of the last round-robin cricket matches in the World Cup. That might be a challenge for Penny but being Yorkshire born she once thought that she might be good at the game – afraid not!
- On the evening of the 3rd we will go to the magnificent, opulent Victorian Leeds Grand Theatre to see a staged version of the John Travolta film, Grease.
- The main Council Meeting will be on 17th July and the Planning Applications Committee on 25th.
Do you know?
Last month I asked “Who was the Battersea born and bred jazz pianist, who has a community centre named after him? And where is the second commemorative plaque to him in Battersea located?” Lots of you knew the answer was George Shearing and most of you knew that either where the community centre was (the George Shearing Centre, Este Road) or that there was a plaque to him at Northcote Lodge school, Bolingbroke Grove, which he attended in the 1930s. But almost none of you knew both, or read the question carefully enough to see that it was a two-point question! Congratulations to the two that did.
This month let me ask how many of you know the connection between the Winstanley Estate Regeneration and Battersea Park? Many of you will have seen some of the new homes being built as part of the Winstanley Regeneration, such as the six new houses in Rowditch Lane, due to be occupied this month, and the six-storey block on Plough Road. Well, before too long Pennethorne House will be the first block of the old estate to be demolished. Just what is the connection between Pennethorne House and Battersea Park.
The left picture is, I think, of Pennethorne House, being built in the late 19-sixties, taken from high up in Chesterton House. I think that the chimneys in the background are probably over the river at Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea. Can anyone confirm that? The one on the right is, of course, Pennethorne and Penge House, with the old frontage of either Plough or York Road behind.
- Have we just experienced one of the most decisive political moments of our lives? Are we just about to see the end of Tory/Labour domination of British politics? Are we just about to see the end of the UK, as Scotland moves inexorably to independence? Will we see the re-unification of Ireland? Are we going to remain in the European Union? Are we going to become a bit player on the edge of Europe or are we going to continue to be a very significant player in the world’s largest market-place? Brexit might be boring to some but that doesn’t mean the decisions we make about it are not of great importance.
- So, by far the most important moment of the month was the Euro-Election and the results day, 26th And the results for the main parties in Wandsworth (note that we will not get accurate figures for Battersea on its own) were:- Liberal Democrats 36,012; Labour Party 15,487; Green Party 13,696; Brexit 12,159; Conservative and Unionist Party 9,395; Change UK 7,281; UKIP 1,057
- On the basis of these figures, the Lib/Dems would win all three of the Wandsworth Parliamentary seats of Battersea, Putney and Tooting and probably all 60 councillors, though perhaps Labour and the Greens would sneak in with one or two councillors. But surely no one believes that the Tory Party, which has dominated Wandsworth Council politics for 40+ years would seriously be reduced to zero! In other words, don’t take any literal notice of any predictions that you might see – its all far too early to say. However, there has certainly been an earthquake! Our first chance to assess the impact on “ordinary” politics will be in Tooting, at the Furzedown Council by-election on 20th June.
- It will be no surprise that I believe that, if the Labour Party does not NOW take a very positive, “Remain” view over the Brexit crisis and does not prevent the UK from leaving the EU, then that will be calamitous for us as individuals, the Labour Party and the United Kingdom. And, if the only really democratic way of doing that is through a Second Referendum, then I think we should hold one as soon as possible – and hopefully abolish referendums from the British political tool-set immediately afterwards!
- I spent some of election day in Carey Gardens, off the Wandsworth Road, where I came across Brian Barnes’ colourful and dramatic mural. Brian, as ever, packs his work with historical Battersea references. This one includes the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz film, the American Eagle marking the arrival of the US Embassy in Nine Elms, the four children killed by unrestrained traffic in Thessaly Road before it was closed in the 1970s, Stephen Hawking, the Power Station and Pink Floyd’s pigs. All of them have Battersea references. I know many of them but not all. Go to Carey Gardens and see how many you can resolve.
- We went to Cheltenham for the first week-end of May to be at the town’s annual Jazz Festival. It’s a fun experience, with jazz to be heard in this very pretty eighteenth-century town on street corners, the town square, the pubs and half a dozen dedicated venues. Jazz certainly comes in many shapes and sizes, many of which we really enjoyed but others we didn’t really care for. American piano soloist, Marc Copland, was one great act – just take a moment to listen to him on YouTube and you will hear what I mean. In a totally different way the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, pictured here, gave us the big band experience.
- On the 14th May, I went to the Education Standards Committee to observe and take part in a review of Chesterton School, Dagnall Street. I am very pleased to say that it passed the review with flying colours – the school is doing really well.
- The next day, I went first to Budapest and then on to Bratislava accompanying my partner, Penny, who was invited there to give two lectures. For those, who have never been, Budapest is a big, bustling city with boulevards and bars, very largely built in the late nineteenth century and consciously copying the style of Paris – I like it. This mildly quirky, temporary mural on a building near the Parliament building is perhaps typical of Budapest’s oddities. Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, is in contrast simply a large market town with a pretty, preserved centre, thrust into unexpected prominence by the peaceful break-up of Czechoslovakia on 1st January, 1993. A very pleasant town for a week-end, but one wouldn’t want to spend very long there.
- However, it was much enlivened when we were there as Slovakia was hosting the World Ice Hockey Cup and Bratislava was the main centre. The bars were full of Swedes, Latvians, Russians, Canadians, Swiss, Austrians, Finns all trying to out-drink and out-sing each other – very lively and very friendly. For those interested in the results then Finland very popularly beat Russia in the final and GB staged a remarkable recovery from 3-0 down to France to win 3-4 in “sudden-death” extra time, meaning that GB stayed up and France got relegated from the elite ice hockey nations!Here is the tourist centre of Bratislava.
- The Planning Applications Committee was held on 21st May, but as the Euro Elections were only two days later, the Council had ensured that there were no really important developments considered.
- The Annual Council Meeting took place on 22nd Popular Tory Councillor Jane Cooper was installed as Mayor. There were few other changes in the Council hierarchy, though some might be interested to hear that hard-right winger Guy Senior was demoted from the Cabinet after about 30 years!
- Then on 25th May, at Battersea Arts Centre, there was a celebration of the life of Samantha Heath, who died of cancer on 28th March this year. Some of you will remember Samantha, who was a fellow councillor of mine in Latchmere from 1994-2002, before going on to be a member of the Greater London Assembly (GLA). The celebration was very well attended and hugely appreciated.
- Samantha’s death was partly a consequence, it is believed, of London’s air pollution. Certainly, much of her life’s work since 2000 has been concerned with cleaning up London’s air. She was Chair of the GLA’s Environment Committee and much of our increased concern about air quality is down to the work she did in that role. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who implemented ULEZ, or the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, was at the celebration and gave due credit to Samantha for her role in its introduction.
- On 29th May, I was at the Alma pub for a meeting organised by Wandsworth Living Streets. It was opened by an interesting presentation on plans to improve the street environment in Tooting. Then we heard from Camilla Ween on her plans for, what she calls, the Battersea Link. Camilla’s idea is to upgrade Northcote Road: St. John’s Road: Falcon Road: Battersea High Street into a pedestrian-dominated link from the Thames and St. Mary’s Church through to south Battersea. This link more or less follows the line of the now culverted Falconbrook. For those, who are interested in these visionary plans, view the Putting the Heart into Battersea: a presentation by Camilla Ween report at https:wandsworthlivingstreets.org.uk
- On a completely different theme, have you heard of Louis de Bernières? De Bernières was a Wandsworth resident, when he wrote his novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in Earlsfield Library. It was an immediate best seller and has just been adapted for the stage. I went to see this war/love comedy/musical drama at the Rose Theatre in Kingston on 4th It was a very unusual theme for the British theatre, being about love between a musical Italian captain and a young Greek woman during the Italian occupation of Greece in World War 2, as the “relaxed” Italian occupiers were replaced first by the more menacing and disciplined force of the German army and then by the Allied victory.
- It was simply brilliant. The staging and direction of war scenes; the acting of a goat (yes, goat!); the singing; the family scenes; the portrayal of a Greek village: everything about it was perfect – so much better than Hollywood’s 2001 film starring Nicholas Cage. I am, therefore, not surprised to see that the play is being transferred to the West End at the Harold Pinter Theatre in July and August. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
- Every week, I walk around approximately one quarter of Latchmere ward delivering welcome letters from me and my colleagues Councillors Simon Hogg and Kate Stock to new entrants on the electoral register, who have either moved in or are coming up to 18 and hence becoming eligible to vote. It’s always interesting to take note of new developments, both good and bad, and to record and report them where necessary. One depressing constant is the amount of fly tipping and abandoned cars left on pavements and roads. Mobile phones certainly make it easier to report them to the Town Hall (and get them cleared?) than it used to be. Here is a brief selection of May’s “catch”!
My Programme for June
- On June 1st Spurs take on Liverpool in the European Cup Final – that has to rate a mention! And just possibly I will know the result before this Newsletter gets published but that must wait until next month!
- I have the Passenger Transport Liaison Group on Thursday, 6th
- The North East Surrey Crematorium Board meets on 11th
- I am going on a charity walk on 17th June in support of the Howard League’s work to support children and young people in custody (I am a member of the Howard League and have been ever since I became a Justice of the Peace, JP, about twenty years ago).
- On 23rd June I am walking the Seven Sisters cliff-top walk from the Birling Gap to Beachy Head, in memory of my brother-in-law. His last job and his home were in nearby Eastbourne and the family do this walk on an annual basis.
- On 24th June I am off to Cardiff to see Afghanistan play in the cricket World Cup.
- The Planning Applications Committee is on 26th
Do you know?
Last month I asked just how many trains go through the Clapham Junction complex every day? Quite a few people replied, including Martin, who told me that there “was an advert on TV for Arding & Hobbs which included the words “2,000 trains a day go through Clapham Junction”. He guessed that with some new routes added that there were perhaps 2,450 trains a day.
When I went to the major signalling centre at Wimbledon last month, I was surprised that they did not know the answer but they put their heads together and did some quick analysis. Their conclusion was that the new figure including all the increased services should be 2,950.
Arding & Hobbs, by the way, was the old department store that stood where Debenham’s now is from 1885-2004.
And for this month’s question: in paragraph 6 above I mentioned an American jazz pianist: Well, who was the Battersea born and bred jazz pianist, who has a community centre named after him? And where is the second commemorative plaque to him in Battersea located.