Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea, September, 2016, Newsletter (# 88)

1.      OK, so I know it’s still August but I am off tomorrow and won’t be back until well into September and so here is a very short September Newsletter.

2.      I wasn’t really complaining last month, just commenting, that I had received a criticism of the July newsletter, but I would like to thank you for the many very positive responses I got in reply to that criticism. In fact, as a number of you remarked on the scale of Wandsworth Council’s operations, it has given me lots of ideas for my future “Did you know” sections!

3.      So what did happen in August? Well, I started, as promised, on August 2nd by reviewing, with members of the Battersea Society, their suggested list of buildings of local historic and/or architectural significance. It was a magnificently eclectic list, ranging from stink pipes (built over Victorian sewers to allow the smell to escape – yes, there are a couple that I know of in Battersea) to Victorian post boxes, from splendid nineteenth-century houses to long sets of granite paving stones. We even decided to ask for the listing of four Winstanley murals – see “Did you know?” below.

4.     I had my Council surgery

St. Mary's RC school, Queenstown

St. Mary’s RC school, Queenstown

in Battersea Reference Library on Saturday, 6th August, and then on 10th August I visited the new St. Mary’s R. C. Primary School in Lockington Road. The site is called Battersea Exchange as a reference to the connection between Battersea Park and Queenstown Road railway stations. It is developing fast, and will contain several hundred flats, as well as the school which will open for some classes this September. It should be noted that a few years ago, the school would have been built by the Council, using taxpayer money, but this school is built as a by-product of private development. Is that a good thing? Saves us all money but possibly only at the cost of allowing bigger, more profitable developments?

Pedalos on way home

Pedalos on way home

5.     On the 7th I, and my partner, decided to go to Weymouth for a day trip from Clapham Junction. It was a great day, very sunny and warm, and a reminder of just how good it is to have CJ on our door-step and, therefore, every south coast resort within a couple of hours from home.

Wandle, Charlie Reed, Turf Project

Wandle, Charlie Reed, Turf Project

6.     On the 12th I was persuaded to go to an exhibition on the River Wandle: A constant Amid Change Exhibition. It was organised by the Turf Centre, Croydon, which is a non-profit artist-run community project. Actually if you know as much about the River Wandle and its long industrial history as I do, then you would find it disappointing, but as East Croydon is only 10 minutes from CJ it was no great hardship. (The first Council I ever served on (1971-74) started the Wandle Walk alongside the river. It seemed a bit of a joke back then but now it really is a pedestrian and bicycle highway). It was a small exhibition of the paintings by local school teacher Charlie Reed and in themselves they were nice enough. This was my favourite.

7.     I had the Planning Applications Committee on 15th. It really was a nothing event with only 7 really minor applications, but the hot news, that has a big impact on

Hope Street Sports

Hope Street Sports

Latchmere, is that the Hope Street Sports Centre has been saved for at least a couple more years. This happy reprieve is, perhaps, a completely unexpected result of the Brexit vote, because, instead of proceeding with a private development of luxury properties, just off Shuttleworth Road, the company concerned is selling its stake in the site to Wandsworth Council for council housing. The site will be used to re-house tenants and leaseholders from the Winstanley, during the regeneration.

8.     I think that Simon Hogg, Wendy Speck and I can reasonably claim some credit for this outcome as ward councillors. We have kept constant pressure on the Wandsworth administration for a full one:one replacement of social housing being redeveloped on the estate and for the Hope Street Centre to be kept until an adequate replacement is provided as part of the Winstanley regeneration. This new site frees up space for the Council both to provide social housing and keep the Centre open.

9.     Another piece of good news is that as well as starting night services on the Northern and Central lines of the underground as from 19th August, Transport for London (TFL) announced an improvement of evening and week-end services for the 344, a bus route, which many of you use. The improvement is an increase in regularity with it becoming a one in 10 minute as opposed to 12-minute service; sounds really small but it is an 18% increase!

10. On the 18th we had the by-election in Tooting ward. Labour’s candidate, Paul White, a close friend, won with a majority of 823, which represents a swing to Labour of over 8%. The turn-out of 20% was, of course, very low as it always was likely to be for an August by-election, but nevertheless it was a welcome victory.

11. On 19th August, we are going to stay with Mary Jay, Douglas Jay’s widow, in Oxfordshire. Most readers will not know either Douglas or Mary, but Douglas was Battersea’s M.P. from 1946-1973 and a member of Harold Wilson’s Cabinet, 1964-67. Douglas was a doughty politician – he campaigned against the inner London motorway box and won (the Box would have obliterated much of modern Battersea, creating a Spaghetti Junction centred on the Latchmere) and against Britain’s entry into what was then the Common Market (and lost). I wonder what he would have said about the Referendum result. I know he would have been very dismissive about the Referendum so-called “debate”.

12. And on Monday, 23rd, I am off for my three-week holiday to Florence and then the Croatian coast.

My Programme for September

1.     I am at the Planning Applications Committee on the 14th September.

2.     And the Met Police’s Special Neighbourhood Team (SNT) meeting at the George Shearing centre on the15th, although I must admit that recently I have missed the SNT rather more than I would have liked.

3.     I have the Wandsworth Conservation Area Committee on the 19th September. And on 20th, the Community Services Committee.

4.     Then on Saturday 24th September I have the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. I am not at all sure that I will be going to it, even though it can be great fun. This year though it will be much enlivened, for good or for ill, by the announcement of the result of our big Leadership Election between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. What price a peaceful week after that?

Do you know?

Last month I asked which 150th anniversary was being celebrated this year at the Este Road Fire Station. It was in fact the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan Fire Service. And the Este Road building was said to be a “cut-price” miniature of the Victoria Embankment’s London Fire Brigade Headquarters. Do you see the resemblance?

Winstanley Estate

Winstanley Estate

I said in paragraph 3 above that we asked for the listing of four murals on the Winstanley estate. Here is one of them in Thomas Baines Road. Had you ever really stopped and looked at it? And can you tell me anything about them, such as the name of the sculptor?

Why throw money at the Town Halls to resolve the financial crisis?

In my last blog I suggested that the Government should use local authorities to kick start the economy. There are many advantages to using local authorities rather than very large infrastructure schemes like HS2, Hinckley Point nuclear power station, Trident replacement or even the Olympic Games.

Many of these very large capital projects are politically contentious and sometimes very slow to have an impact. Most get bogged down in expensive public enquiries and a proportion probably won’t come off. What is more much of the early expenditure is spent on highly paid staff, such as lawyers, architects and designers and not construction and support staff. An equivalent £1billion spread amongst Britain’s 500 plus local authorities would, on the other hand, have an almost immediate impact.

£10 or £20 million given to my local authority, Wandsworth, could be used to buy every school pupil a laptop or to implement 10 or 20 small, local environmental improvements. I think we would have little problem in spending most of it within a couple of years, with an immediate small but significant local economic impact. Such a nation-wide scheme might, of course, include some silly, vanity projects and some failures but nothing as disastrous and costly as failed and useless mega-projects. What is more such a scheme could easily be targeted to, say, the local authorities in the poorest parts of the country, with the highest unemployment rates or the worst health statistics.

I see William Keegan in the Observer (7th August 2016) agrees with me about using local authorities to kick start the economy, though I must confess I am more one of his disciples than the other way round!

A similar suggestion comes from one of today’s great iconoclasts, Simon Jenkins. He suggests that the simplest solution would be to throw money directly at people. His suggestion reminds me of Alistair Darling’s scrappage scheme, which gave people £2,000 to car owners to scrap their old car and buy a new one. But Jenkins’ idea is more open-ended, in that people could spend on clothing, food or, and here’s the rub, foreign holidays – I have nothing against foreign countries, of course, but, if one is trying to kick start the UK economy then giving it all to Benidorm seems rather pointless.

The problem with Jenkins’ idea is, it seems to me, that it is not targeted to those most in need and there would, I think, be considerable difficulty in targeting, say, the lower paid or the unemployed. It is an interesting idea and gets round Jenkins’ perennial scepticism about bureaucracy. But the time of local democracy has come (again). Think of Joseph Chamberlain in Birmingham in the 1880s or John Burns in Battersea in the 1900s, think of Attlee and McMillan boosting council house building in the 1940s and 1950s.

Boosting the local economy means boosting local democracy and society. Forget quantitative easing, which goes to the banks; forget big vanity projects, over-budget, over-time; think local – NOW.

Austerity in the Town Halls; Recession out there for working people

Today the Bank of England took crisis action by lowering interest rates to 0.25% and throwing money at the business heights of the economy. Will it work? Cutting rates to 0.5% seven years ago didn’t. Nothing, Osborne did, really changed the equation.

What would work immediately, however, would be to take the heat off public expenditure. What do I mean?

Well right now Wandsworth and Richmond-upon-Thames are cutting service levels and reducing the number of jobs right here in south west London under pressure from this Government’s cuts in local government grants; 400 jobs to be precise. And all because the Tory party has an ideological commitment to reducing the size of the state – whatever that means.

The same thing, and worse, is happening in every local authority across the country. Similar cuts are happening in many more public sector organisations.

Meanwhile what do the councillors do? Well, all of us were under great pressure to vote for the jobs cuts. The majority (Tory) party councillors voted for the cuts because they cannot face opposing “their” government and the minority (Labour) councillors are not in a position to defy the government and are “scared” of being accused of voting for an increased Council Tax.

I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Ted Heath Government (1970-74), the Thatcher Government (about 1982-86) and the first Tony Blair Government (1997-2002) faced similar economic crises. What did they do? They threw money at local government with orders to spend, spend, spend in an attempt to kick-start the economy.

The public sector turned out to be far more effective than throwing money at the banks; that was tried in 2009 and it didn’t work.

Just when will Teresa May take the same kind of actions and just how silly will the cuts of 2010-16 look when that happens?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere August, 2016, Newsletter (# 87)

  1. I received one criticism of my last newsletter, which said that I spent too much time talking about planning applications and the elections of the last couple of months. My critic also said that I failed to cover some Council matters. I think a quick defence is due. Firstly I have always said that this blog is a diary, my diary, of being a councillor. I have never claimed to cover everything and nor could I. Perhaps not everyone realises that Wandsworth Council’s turnover is only just less than £1 billion, yes billion and not just a million a year; that its rental income alone amounts to more than £110 million; that the property assets of the Council (remember many thousands of council flats and houses, swimming pools, offices, etc.) are worth £2billions; and that, if the Council were measured in the same way as private companies, it would be about 160 in the Footsie 250.
  2. Secondly, if an elected councillor didn’t mention elections in the two months when we had a Mayoral election, the Referendum and a Parliamentary by-election in the Borough, perhaps some would make criticisms – the other way. So to my critic, I note your comments and will try to take the spirit of them on board but I don’t totally agree!
  3. I wrote last month of the flooding that affected Sendall Court and its neighbours Shaw and Clark Lawrence Courts. The floods messed up the lifts in the three blocks but Sendall Court’s lifts were out of action for the best part of a week and, what is worse, the staircase, which has no natural light, was in total darkness. So, I asked a Council Question (like Prime Minister’s Question Time but not quite!) at the Council Meeting on 20th July and at last got an answer on 28th July.
  4. It was a bureaucratic answer, like one expects from insurance companies,    https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44848/Council%20Questions%20and%20Answers%2020th%20July%202016%20final.pdf, Question 31, page 33/60), and not at all what the residents deserve. I will be putting the case throughout the summer. I will be arguing that those living on the 5th to 10th floor young or old, fit or not so fit, should get at least a £50 goodwill cut from their rent or service charges.
  5. While I am writing about very, specific local issues, I would like to announce that I won an argument for a tenant living in one of the very rare private flats in the area bounded by the railway, Falcon, Plough and York Roads, and who has zero access to parking facilities – neither a residents’ nor a tenants’ nor a leaseholders’ parking permit. The Council have agreed that he should be able to buy a council parking permit to use in one of the very much under-used council carparks, such as the ones in Grant Road. There are a few other people similarly living with this problem, for example in St. Luke’s Court, Falcon Road or the flats at 105 Meyrick Road. I would be pleased to hear from any of you if you think you need the same facility.
  6. Meanwhile on the 1st July, my niece and her husband took me and t’other half to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Bill Bailey, the comedian. It was a very amusing and very cleverly crafted show and he is clearly brilliant at very shaggy dog stories. One I remember was about taking his extended family into the forested depths of Finland, about dog sleds and getting snowed in, about grandmas falling off sleds, and all in order to see the Northern Lights. It had all the elements of a good shaggy dog, with endless details before the punchline, which effectively was that it was total cloud cover that night in June in the depths of the Finnish forests. Instead, the best place to see the Northern Lights that night was Dagenham!
  7. On Monday, 4th July, I took High View School’s Council on a visit to meet the Mayor of Wandsworth and to see the Council Chamber. The Mayor, with some of the staff and me, gave a “lesson” about what your council does. I think the picture of the School Council standing round and behind the Mayor’s chair shows that they enjoyed the visit.
  8. On the 5th I had the Community Services Committee, where amongst the items for discussion were the extension/rejection of CPZ (controlled parking zones or meters) schemes in the Eltringham/Petergate and Holgate/Maysoule areas. There was agreement to introduce Saturday restrictions in Eltringham and Petergate but to refuse the petition for a CPZ in Holgate/Maysoule. The reasons are given in two Committee papers, which can be seen at https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44394/16-269%20Eltringham%20Road%20CPZ%202nd%20review.pdf and https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44398/16-270%20Holgate-outcome%20consultation-June2016%20v2.pdf. However, I think there may be scope to resolve the problems some Holgate residents have in much the same way as I referred to in Paragraph 5 above. So if you are interested then please contact me.
  9. On the 9th July, I went, as I do most years, to the Triangle (Poyntz, Knowles, Shellwood roads) Street party. It was as enjoyable as ever with the Mayor and the Fire Brigade putting in guest appearances. But I am afraid that there were fewer people there than usual. Maybe this was because it was a cool, July evening, of which there have been rather too many this summer!
  10. I was lobbied during the month by residents wanting to know what might happen in Falcon Park. There is, as many will know, a plan for a new artificial pitch, but I was asked whether there was any chance of the artificial football pitch at the neighbouring Sacred Heart school site being expanded. I made enquiries at the Town Hall and got the kind of bureaucratic, negative response that I expected. It is too long to repeat here but, if you are interested, you can access both question and answer at https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44848/Council%20Questions%20and%20Answers%2020th%20July%202016%20final.pdf, Question 39, page 40/60.
  11. I went to the Battersea Society’s annual summer party at St. Mary’s Church on the riverside on 14th July and that too did not seem as well attended as usual. I wonder why? Could it be that this cool summer has dampened much enthusiasm.
  12. I was in Battersea Park on Saturday, 16th, and went to The Bandstand Party. I guess that a number of Latchmere residents might have been there – I certainly met a few old friends. It was, of course, centred on the old Victorian bandstand and featured jazz and country/folk music. The Park was looking great and lots of people were out there playing cricket, softball, rounders, soccer and other sports from all over the world. It’s always fun being in the Park on a nice day and, if the Bandstand Party becomes an annual event, then I recommend it.
  13. On the 18th I dropped in on Colette Morris, the Head of Christ Church Primary school, to learn about the school’s gardening expertise and their award for open air learning. Christ Church is the only urban school in the country to have this award. The school also has the benefit of being right next to Falcon Park, where they have a daily mile run for all. No obesity at Christ Church!
  14. The Council Meeting on 20th July was totally focused on the Referendum Result and the reaction to it of the Council and of councillors. We unanimously agreed a motion pledging to do our best to maintain the best possible community relations here in Wandsworth and to show solidarity with all current immigrant populations resident locally. It was generally a civilised and reasonable debate, but it still strikes me as odd that Tory councillors blamed the result, and hence the resignation of PM, Cameron, on Labour for not getting the “Remain” vote out. This despite the fact that of 19 Labour councillors probably 17 voted Remain and only 2 perhaps voted Brexit, whereas of the 41 Tory councillors at least a dozen were proud of their Brexit vote – a vote that in its Labour:Tory split seemed to be reflected across the country.
  15. On the 21st July I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC), about which my critic will be delighted to hear I have nothing to say – there was nothing on the agenda, which would have much interested the neighbours let alone any casual reader!
  16. On Saturday, 23rd I rather sadly went to my first Hindu funeral. This, the public funeral, was on the tenth day after the death; the preferred dress for both men and women was white, although I noticed many of the younger men were wearing smart black suits; the standard food, a must I was told in Gujerat, was a comparatively mild, vegetarian curry. The private funeral, for relatives only, took place two days later on the twelfth and marks the release of the soul from the body, and the thirteenth day marks samskara (reincarnation). As I understood it, it is not fit and proper to mourn after that, since by now the soul will be re-incarnated in another form. So rest in peace, Mayuri (Mary) Kotecha, my neighbourhood friend.
  17. Returning from the funeral, I dropped into the York Gardens Active party and the consultations in the Library about the estate regeneration. I must say that I was very disappointed about the consultation. It seemed far too vague to encourage almost any popular response. I left with a certain feeling of dis-satisfaction, which ironically was shared by the potential developers. The Council has to improve on that. My good humour was, however, restored by meeting this charming cool cat on the way out!
  18. Finally, have you seen the story about the £65,000 funding for improvements to Latchmere Recreation Ground. I must confess that I know nothing much about this but it is announced in a July 31st press release from Wandsworth Guardian and includes the following online address http://enablelc.org/parkssurvey. residents are encouraged to give their views in the very first week of August – and I recommend those of you, local to the Rec, to do so.

My Programme for August

1.     I am helping to review Battersea Society’s suggested list of buildings of local historic and/or architectural significance on Tuesday, 2nd August.

2.     I have my Council surgery in Battersea Reference Library from 10 am on Saturday, 6th August. Do come and see me if you have any particular concern.

3.     I am at the Planning Applications Committee on the 15th.

4.     And have yet another by-election in Tooting ward on 18th.

5.     And then on 22nd, I am off for a three-week holiday to Florence and then on to the Croatian coast.

Do you know?

Last month I asked which anniversary of Christ Church School was being celebrated at the recent Falcon Festival. It was, of course, as a few of you replied, the school’s 150th anniversary.

At the same Festival we also celebrated a 150th anniversary at the Este Road Fire Station, but it was not the 150th anniversary of that building so what was it that happened in 1866? And secondly the fire station is said to be a “cut-price” miniature of another fire station elsewhere. Do you know which?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere July, 2016, Newsletter (# 86)

1.      What a month this has been! There was the Tooting By-election and many, many other events but I have to start with the Referendum. I guess we all know the national result, but you might not know that Wandsworth voted 118,463 to 39,421 or 75.4% to 24.6% in favour of “Remain”. This was the sixth strongest “Remain” region in the country. I understand that every part of Wandsworth, including Latchmere, voted Remain.

2.      Since then, Cameron has resigned and Corbyn is under pressure; Boris is politically an extinct volcano and Gove very nearly so. The Tory Party is reeling; but what about the Labour Party? Personally, I think it almost impossible to assess that for a month or two. I do think that both parties should remember the old saying: “Act in haste, repent at leisure”. There are clearly signs of that already with the Tory favourites for the top job going from Johnson to Gove to May in the space of a week, whilst Labour MPs called on Corbyn to resign but with no alternative candidate to replace him – and no certainty that in any event any candidate could beat Corbyn amongst the Labour Party membership.

3.      Personally, despite all the comments about the vote being final, I rather doubt that it will be. Voting for Brexit is one thing. Repeating that vote, after negotiations that do not produce any change to immigration and barely change trading conditions but do clearly presume the break-up of the United Kingdom is, I think, a little different – especially when the Brexit majority was so small.

4.      But first I should say that if you are concerned about your own immediate position, then don’t be. Nothing is going to happen, in legal terms, about the UK’s relationship with Europe before 2018. No Europeans working here without British citizenship are going immediately to have to return to their country unless they wish to. However, if you do want to discuss your own position, do please email me and I will see how I can help. Equally, if you know anyone else who needs advice, please invite them to contact me.

5.      Rather more locally, in June, I commented on the Mayoral and Greater London Elections and last month, on the 16th, I was involved in the Tooting by-election. Most of the time I was in Tooting Rosena & SadiqI was acting as chauffeur for the Labour candidate, Rosena Allin-Khan (pictured here with Mayor Sadiq Khan) – what you might call a cushy number! It was a pleasant experience driving her round, as opposed to the foot-slogging that I am more used to. It was particularly good for Labour as Rosena more than doubled the majority, and that on only slightly more than half the turn-out of last year’s General Election.

6.      There were special circumstances. The Zac Goldsmith Mayoral campaign was, of course, uniquely bad – one wonders whether he will ever recover credibility; Sadiq Khan has had a fantastically successful first month as Mayor; Rosena was a very impressive candidate; her name was top of the ballot paper; her Tory opponent’s bottom on the paper; everything was right for her. Nevertheless this was the most successful election for Labour, in the Borough, since 1997. Interesting!

7.      Meanwhile at the start of the month, I had a family week-end in Cirencester, and the following weekend on 12th June,IMG_0761 I led a Wandsworth Heritage Festival Walk from the Latchmere pub to Battersea Arts Centre. A dozen people turned up in the drizzle, but we had an enjoyable walk – the show must go on, as they say. And in the last week-end I went on another family walk at Beachy Head. In this fitful summer, I managed to get soaked twice and sunburnt once. As I said before, “what a month!”.

8.      Getting back to Latchmere, the torrentialLatchmere Rd flood BY RUTH DANGERFIELD rain on the 23rd caused bad flooding. The Latchmere Road railway underpass, as seen in this picture by Ruth Dangerfield, was impassable and the lift shafts of Weybridge Point, Sendall, Clark Lawrence and Shaw Courts and a few others across the Borough were all flooded. This meant that the lifts were out of action, which is, of course, inconvenient, if it is for even one night but, in the case of Sendall Court, it was a week. I visited and called on many of the residents.

9.      Walking up and down 10 flights of stairs is bad enough but, with electricity also out and no daylight available on the staircase and hallways, it was near to impossible for some people. This situation happens too often in Council blocks vulnerable to flooding and I will be pressing the Council to come up with some long-term solutions to a problem, which, given current climate forecasts, is only going to get worse. Meanwhile, I will argue a case for residents in Sendall Court receiving some kind of compensation.

10.   On the 25th June there was, as many of you will know, the inaugural Falcon Festival. The Festival, based mainly outside Labour Party stall at Falcon FestivalProvidence House and down Este Road, was a great success but slightly spoilt by a very heavy storm around 4 pm. I was part of the Wandsworth Heritage stall, presenting photographs and telling the story of the development of Battersea Village, Battersea High Street and Falcon Road. My colleagues in this picture also ran a Labour Party stall, opposite the fire station in Este Road.

11.   On 27th I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC). Again it had a relatively light agenda. The major application was one on Swandon Way, the main road from Wandsworth Bridge roundabout to the Wandsworth one-way system. Essentially it was an application for 320 residential units and a few shops to be built on the Homebase site. But it included a 17 storey block right behind Wandsworth Town Station. The Committee, unusually, rejected the scheme. There was one other application that concerned me personally: it was for a back extension and was submitted by my next-door neighbour! I, of course, could not take part and it passed, which mildly annoyed me – but that’s life!

12.   Two days later, I had the Passenger Transport Group (PTLG), where I heard about the changes made to signage, either side of the Latchmere Road railway underpass. Residents will have noticed these improvements and some other small changes, which are aimed at stopping large vehicles getting trapped under the bridge. Let’s hope that after many years of lobbying from local residents, this will solve the problem.

13.   There were a number of other matters reported to that Group, many of very local interest, but one that might interest many of you is that it is the intention to run an 8 trains an hour night time service on the Northern Line beginning before Xmas.

14.   Given my complaint in May that Jane Ellison, Battersea’s M.P., had not stood out against the Government over the Alf Dubs motion re refugee children, I should say that Jane wrote to me. As I would expect from Jane, it was a long and considered reply, but, as she would expect, it did not wholly convince me. For example, she stated that “local authorities … are already doing an excellent job caring for the many unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the UK”. I am sure that many of us will have doubts about how excellent a job is being done, but I thank her for her reply.

15.   Finally, and tragically, I must make mention of the murder of Matthew Kitandwe in Wayford Street on June 22th. Knife and violent crime is a horrible blemish on our society and, in this case, has not only brought one young life to an awful end, but also ruined the lives of the two misguided young men currently under police suspicion. We must all support the Met Police’s Operation Sceptre against knife crime.

My Programme for July

1.      On Monday, 4th July, I am taking the school council from Highview School to the Town Hall to meet the Mayor and to discuss the work of the Council and its role in our community. Highview is not, of course, actually in Latchmere but many of its pupils live just down the road in the ward.

2.      5th July, I have my first Community Services Committee. The Committee covers planning policies, parking and transport matters, parks, libraries and lots of other bits & pieces. This month it is going to consider whether to change and/or extend controlled parking schemes in Eltringham Street and Petergate, and in the Holgate Avenue/Maysoule Road area.

3.      Then on the 6th there is the Big Local Annual Meeting at York Gardens library, which I hope to get to.

4.      On Saturday, 10th, I will try to get to the Triangle Street party in Shellwood Road. This is one of the very best street parties in the Borough and I always look forward to meeting the residents of Poyntz, Shellwood and Knowsley Roads.

5.      On the 14th the Battersea Society is having its annual summer party at St. Mary’s Church.

6.      The Council Meeting is on the 20th and the Planning Applications Committee on the 21st.

Do you know? a Methodist Chapel, York road

Last month I asked what this grand building was and where its replacement is? I had two correct answers, one of them from Wandsworth’s retiring Director of Finance. He writes, “the old Battersea Baptist Chapel, now located on Wye Street” and also one of our polling stations.

 

Do you know this school? Of course, you do, don’t you? Christ Church School, Batten StreetBut perhaps slightly more specifically do you know the year of its foundation and therefore the number anniversary which was celebrated at the Falcon Festival? (sorry about the picture but, with its surrounding wall, it is almost impossible to photograph!)

 

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere June, 2016, Newsletter (# 85)

1.      May was a pretty amazing month, starting with my old friend, Sadiq Khan’s, great election victory as the London Mayor on May 5th. Sadiq became a Wandsworth Councillor in 1994, and 1 Scan_Pic0011served on it for 12 years. He was Deputy Leader of the Labour Group of councillors for most of the last four years he was on the Council. Clearly he had a spectacular victory as Mayor, although that was partly due to the awful campaign fought by Zac Goldsmith. However, whatever your political persuasion, I think that most of us would agree that he has had an excellent first month as Mayor. I am sure we all wish him the best for the next four years. The picture is of him and me in the Labour Manifesto for the 1998 Borough Election!

2.      Leonie Cooper, a Latchmere 2 Leonie Coopercouncillor (2006-10) and chair of Chesterton Governing Body until a couple of years ago, was also elected on the same day as the London Assembly Member (GLAM) for Merton and Wandsworth. I am sure there are quite a few Latchmere residents, who will remember her. Congratulations to her and best wishes for her next four years.

3.      A couple of days later, I went to the Youth Club in Petworth Road to talk through Battersea’s 20th century history with a group of youngsters putting a play on about the subject. They performed it, called Fight, a couple of times at the Arts Centre. If it does return to the stage around here do go and see it.

Battersea Park

Battersea Park

4.      Afterwards I went for a walk round Battersea Park. And what a beautiful day it was. This picture of the Park on 8th May shows it in its finest spring finery, a great place for family fun. Not that it is only the Park that can look at its best in spring. Here is a canvassing session at Shepherd House, Winstanley Estate! (NB. I cant get this picture to appear!)

5.      And so it was another great moment when later in the month,  Formula E decided that enough was enough and that they should find somewhere else in the city for their London Grand Prix. So this year’s event in July will be the last in the Park for this major, but highly disruptive international event. Although the Battersea Park Action Group can claim much of the credit for forcing this change of heart, I can’t help feeling that the real motivation came from Formula E’s organisers themselves. From my experience at the event last year, there are just too many trees in the Park to make the Grand Prix a really good televisual experience and not even Wandsworth Tories could imagine cutting down all the trees in order to improve the camera shots.

6.      That however is jumping ahead of myself. On 10th May Wandsworth Labour Group had a reshuffle. Our then Labour Leader, Rex Osborn, stood down because of health problems and my fellow Latchmere ward councillor, Simon Hogg, was elected our Leader. It will be interesting to see how he takes on the still powerful Tory controlled Council.

7.      The next day I went to the Council’s “Academies and Free Schools Forum”. It was a fascinating glance of just how the establishment operates if it has its way. The Forum is not a public meeting. There is no press access and the agendas are not public – it’s just rather important. The man from the Ministry came and told us in no uncertain terms what I guess we all know. Namely that, whilst the Government may have backed off the public commitment to force all schools out of local councils and into privately led academy chains, there is no question that such a route is the so-called “direction of travel”.

8.      In case you ever had any doubt, this Government is clearly set on abolishing the public sector – bar perhaps the armed forces and the police. One would have thought education was difficult to privatise but they are well on their way to achieving that end. How long for the NHS? Hazard a guess!

9.      One other interesting straw in the wind, I think, is the potential tie up between Chestnut Grove secondary and Chesterton primary schools in some kind of academy trust. Meanwhile, it seemed to me from the discussion that one special interest group in the current established educational set-up to have protected itself from the Government is the Roman Catholic church, whose schools seem to have avoided all threats – at least so far!

5 2016-05-15 12.23.2010.   Went away for a 6 2016-05-15 12.23.37-2week-end with our grandchildren on the 14th – had a great time and here are mother and Jamie, dad and Scarlett.

11.   On the 18th we had the Annual Council Meeting, where my other fellow councillor, Wendy Speck, 7 wendy[1]was appointed/elected Deputy Mayor. The formal position is that she is appointed by the Mayor, but in practice she was elected by the Labour councillors. Here she is celebrating with a glass of red wine and wearing the old Battersea Mayoral chain. For historical interest, when Battersea and Wandsworth were merged to become the modern Borough in 1964, the Wandsworth Mayoral chain became the new Mayoral chain and the Battersea one became the Deputy Mayor’s chain, making it rather grander than any other Deputy Mayoral chain that you will see anywhere. I think we might see quite a bit of it this year, starting with the June 25th Falcon Festival – see below!

12.   The next day I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC). By recent standards this was a relatively light agenda – is the London property market taking a breather? One application affects Latchmere and that was on the corner of Chesney Street and Battersea Park Road. It is for an OK development of a fairly scruffy site and should not be too contentious. Two others might interest Battersea residents, one being for the development of a very thin, 11-storey block of flats in Elcho Street, which might be considered as a step towards completing large developments on the river-front between Albert and Battersea Bridges or an over-scale, over-dense calamity, depending upon your perspective! The other was the refusal of an application to re-develop the old British Lion Pub. Interesting that one – PAC much to the surprise of some, I am sure, decided that the applicant was just trying to get too much on to too small a site and was trying it on.

13.   On the afternoon of the 20th I went to St. Marks church, Battersea Rise, to hear a presentation from Wandsworth Foodbank on Food Poverty in Wandsworth. It was frankly shocking. They told us that the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks across the country, calculates that the use of foodbanks has increased by 2% this year, that in London it has increased by 5%, and that in Wandsworth it has increased by 25%. It is perhaps particularly ironic that St. Marks’ Foodbank, which is used extensively by quite a few Latchmere residents, is just a couple of hundred yards from Northcote Road, a street devoted to plentiful, and on occasions excessive, consumption of food and drink!

14.   In the last week of May, and no doubt in the first two weeks of June, I will be spending time trying to ensure that 8 Hayanother of my colleagues Councillor Rosena Allin-Khan wins the Tooting by-election, following Sadiq’s win, and then, as will we all I trust, I will be concentrating on the European Referendum, but just before that I spent the last May week-end at the Hay-On-Wye Festival – very enjoyable and great weather unlike here these last few days! I am the one in all red!

My Programme for June

1.      On Sunday, 12th, I am leading one of my history walks from the Latchmere pub to Battersea Arts Centre. This event is part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival. If you are interested, then do come but it would be helpful if you could drop me an email first and I will let you know time and details for meeting. It costs £10, which I hope will not put you off.

2.      Then on the 16th is the Tooting by-election and on 23rd the Referendum.

3.      On the 25th we have the brand new Falcon Festival, centred on Falcon Road and Este Road, with special mention for Coppock Close. The whole show will be opened by Wendy Speck, our Deputy Mayor, at mid-day, and there will be lots of food and drink, of course, but also other entertainments and stalls. If you see me, I will be doing a Battersea history show in conjunction with the Heritage Library and Battersea Society. Do come up and introduce yourself.

4.      With all this going on, and the traditional close down of Wandsworth Council for elections, we will not be getting back to the Planning Committee (PAC) until 27th, immediately followed by the Education Committee on the 28th, the Passenger Transport Liaison Group on the 29th and the police Special Neighbourhood Team on the 30th!

Did you know?

The horse trough, I highlighted last month, is of course in Cabul Road, opposite about no.11.

I have to thank my good friend,a Methodist Chapel, York road Christine Eccles, for this difficult one. Here is a photograph of a grand building that stood on the north-side of York Road, just east of Lombard Road, until demolished in the 1960s, having been bought by the Council in 1963. It was replaced, on a different but nearby site, by a building many residents go into on every election day. Can you guess what it was and where its replacement is?

Another picture, discovered by

Arthur and Lucy Layzell with sons Amos and Sidney 80 Maysoule Rd., Battersea circa 1882-5 submitted by Michael Layzell

Christine, was this great c. 1882-5 picture of the shop run by Arthur & Lucy Layzell, at 80 Maysoule Road.

The prices, you can clearly see, for eggs, bread, etc., are 2 shillings and sixpence, 2/-, 1/8d, etc. Which in modern terms would be the equivalent of 12.5P, 10P and 8.4P. How very different Battersea looked back then!

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere May, 2016, Newsletter (# 84)

1.      Latest on the hacking of my computer that I reported on last month. You may have seen that it got into the Wandsworth Guardian – embarrassing. The account was a little exaggerated – since when do you believe everything you read in the press! The only danger was to me and not to anyone whose email address I happened to have. Except that the hacker could email you, so if you get an email, apparently from Microsoft, delete and do NOT reply!

2.      Last month I mentioned the fAIMG_1799act that I was going to Hastings for my birthday celebration. I had a splendid time, which I’d like to share with you. My friend is a film-maker, whose dad was an architect. His dad died in 2014 but had had a lot to do with the design of my friend’s Hastings house. It is very high tech, with 64 voltaic cells on the large south facing roof – nothing about the house is anything less than 21st century, almost sci-fi.AIMG_1803

3.      We also had a great pub meal in old Hastings, which I do love, and went for a decent country walk in the Sussex countryside on the Sunday – all together a great week-end.

4.      A week later I went to St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, to hear a concert of Latin American music, given by the Venezuelan pianist, Clara Rodriguez. The programme included a rap poem called Florentino and the Devil, translated from the original Spanish and performed by an old college, Tim Ades. The church was very splendid and we had a good meal afterwards!

5.      I had the Education and Children’s Services Committee on 12th April, when we discussed yet again the Ofsted Report! I persuaded the Committee to accept a couple of amendments to the so-called improvement plan, one getting the council to accept that the computer system was the major risk factor in getting this service right and the second was also acknowledging that getting the right person to head up the task of commissioning children’s services was almost as, if not as, important as the computer system. Rather shockingly the Tories had failed to take account of either point!

6.      The Ofsted Report was also one of the two main debates at the Special Council Meeting on 27th April. The other debate was about the merger of Wandsworth’s and Richmond-upon-Thames’s staff. This is going to be a massive change in the Council’s operation and will affect all of us in some way or another.

7.      There will be a reduction in staffing of about 400; there is bound to be some chaos coming; all residents will be encouraged, or even forced to communicate online; there will also be many more cuts. This reduction of 400 staff is the main element of a £10 million saving, but thanks (!) to the Government’s crazy austerity programme there will be another £50 million of cuts coming over the next couple of years.

8.      On the 28th April I was the Labour representative on something called the Children’s Department Special Improvement Board. This is the organisation tasked with bringing the education services up-to-standard. Fascinating, but my reading of the occasion is that in effect locally elected councillors have lost control of the education department to the Government’s appointed “independent” Chairman (sic). Fortunately he seemed to know what he was talking about.

9.      The April Planning Applications Falcon Road CGI2Committee (PAC) meeting was on 21st but had no application of real interest to Latchmere residents. But I would like to go back to a Falcon Road application in February, which I did mention in my March newsletter. That was what I called the Tesco application, on the frontage between Patience and AfghanFalcon Road CGI1 Roads. Here are the pictures again. One of you protested vigorously to me that I should not accept this application about it but oppose it strenuously as being too large and out of character in Falcon Road. Can I just check it out, with you all, before it comes to Committee? Do the majority of you think it is too much? Or do most think that it is in line with the way Falcon Road is becoming? It is after all just about the same height as Hertford Court just down the road.

10.   On the morning of the 21st I went to Battersea Arts Centre for an update on the refurbishment of the old Town Hall. The Grand Hall is very much in the hands of the builders but the rest of the building is also undergoing modernisation and re-shaping. The Arts Centre folk are clearly very confident that after the fire disaster of March, 2015, the old Town Hall will emerge Phoenix-like into a bright, new future. Let’s hope that confidence is justified – I think it probably is. (As you may know, in Greek myth, the phoenix is a long-lived bird that is regenerated or reborn, arising from the ashes of its predecessor).

11.   I thought I should also mention Lord Dubs, or Alf Dubs as we knew him when he was our MP (1979-87). Alf, a personal friend, is a kinder transport child. That is, he was the 6 year old son of a Jewish father in Czechoslovakia when Hitler invaded in 1938. He was one of several hundred “trained” out, arriving at Fenchurch Street, in a strange country speaking a strange language, with just a small suitcase and a tag tied round his neck. Naturally he feels strongly about the innocent children of political tensions and speaks movingly of the warm welcome Britain gave to the European immigrants of the late 30’s.

12.   Unsurprisingly, Alf has moved the motion in the House of Lords to provide shelter, and a home, to 3,000 unaccompanied, probably orphaned, children from Syria. As you probably know, the Government has refused to accept it. Our MP, Jane Ellison, did not support it and as a member of the Tory Government she is in a difficult position. But Jane, I don’t mention you much in this newsletter for obvious reasons, but reading this, as I know you probably will, I call on you to put as much pressure as you can onto the Government to change its mind on this most humanitarian of issues. These are isolated children, trapped in a war not of their making. Surely this, one of the richest countries in the world, can manage to give them a home.

13.   I mentioned last month thatAIMG_1829 I and another Battersea Society member were going to spend all day Sunday April 24th driving round Battersea photographing notable buildings and sites, with the hope of getting them listed or safeguarded. I hoped that it would be fun and it was. Although I do not have any results to report just yet, I did think it was worth showing this picture and asking how many of you can place this site? It’s not a mile from the Latchmere pub and it’s not in the Park!

14.   Finally, this is my last chance to ask you to respond to the Council’s consultation on the possible introduction of a 20 m.p.h. speed limit in all but the major roads. If like me, you think that 20 mph is plenty fast enough to travel down our residential roads, like Este or Candahar, Holgate or Dagnall roads, then do go to this site, https://wandsworthlivingstreets.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/leaflet-final-17-2-2016-crc.pdf, and let your views be heard.

My Programme for May

1.      On Thursday, 5th, we have, of course, the Mayoral Election, Khan vs. Goldsmith. Has this been the nastiest, most unpleasant election campaign any of us can recall? If I said that I thought it was largely the Tories fault, with them using so-called Islamophobia as an electoral weapon, then some of you would say I was being biased. Nonetheless, I do think Zak Goldsmith, who seems a harmless enough Tory, is being made a fool of by a rather sordid campaign team led by Lynton Crosby, its mastermind.

 

2.      On the 18th May, we have the Council’s Annual Meeting, when the new Wandsworth Mayor will be appointed. The Deputy Mayor in the coming year will be my fellow Latchmere councillor Wendy Speck, who I look forward to seeing proudly wearing her mayoral chain.

 

3.      In the afternoon of the 19th I will be attending the second of the Education Improvement Boards, followed in the evening by the Planning Applications Committee. As of today, May looks like being a quiet month.

 

4.      I am going to the Hay Festival over the last week-end of the month. I have never been before and hope to be able to report back on an enjoyable experience.

Did you know?    Last month I asked whereAIMG_1780 you can now find the York Road horse trough, with the charming legend – Be Merciful to your Animals. Either it was too difficult, or no one thought it very interesting as for the first time I go no responses! But the answer is: the trough was refurbished and erected for the horses at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, by The Drinking Fountain Association in September 2012.

So sticking to the same theme can you tell me where this horse trough is? And because that is also easy, do you know where else you can find horse/cattle troughs in Battersea.

 

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere April, 2016, Newsletter (# 83)

  1. I am going to start with the last day of the month, 31st March, 2016 – a disaster! I have been well and truly hacked. I was rung by a Microsoft support technician, except that it turned out that he wasn’t. Indeed he was a modern highwayman, a crook. After he had conned me and stripped my computer of all locally held data, including photographs and software, and got into my bank and transferred $5,000 (I can’t at present find the GBP sign on my keyboard!), to a Mr. Cardusi, I was able to get free from him. Fortunately the Bank refused to transfer the money and I have access to the internet
  2. So I am able to type this newsletter using Mailchimp, with its limited word processing capabilities. I also have all the email addresses that I used in Mailchimp, namely Latchmere constituents, but I have lost many of the rest. How much of the rest of this newsletter I will be able to finish, you will know when I get there. But I think I have lost photographs I intended to put in and maybe have been so hit by this emergency that I miss stories and forget events. But one thing I do say to you is be more rigorous about backing up all your data and filing copies of your software than I have been.
  3. I will spend much of the next week trying to recover the accounts of two voluntary bodies, of which I am Treasurer; constituent casework, maybe 4,000 photographs, etc., etc. I look forward to a miserable week and I do hate criminal hackers! And now onto the rest of the newsletter – though if any of you are experts on pc recovery then I look forward to hearing from you!
  4. There was a Council Meeting on 9th The March Council Meeting was traditionally an important debate about the Budget and next year’s Council Tax. But it has rather lost its point since successive governments, of both persuasions, have so limited Council’s capacity to raise, or in effect cut, Council Tax that although we go through the debate and we try and find grounds to vote against each other, in practice there is very little to debate.
  5. So the main debate was about the Ofsted Report condemning Wandsworth’s performance relating to “children looked after”. The Labour councillors, me included, called AGAIN for the resignations of those local politicians responsible for the “inadequate” services provided for these vulnerable children. Of course the Tory members took no notice.
  6. The March Planning Applications Committee PAC meeting was on 23rd and had one application of real interest to Latchmere residents and that was for the redevelopment of the Shell Garage in York Road – the one on York Road, right opposite Doris Emmerton House. It involved the demolition of all the existing buildings and the erection of essentially a nine storey building and basement to provide 78 private rented apartments, and a replacement filling station, with a shop. Savoy1York Road, admittedly not the most glamorous of roads, looks like being transformed beyond recognition.
  7. By the way, here is just a reminder of what used to stand on the site – the Savoy cinema – I mentioned it in my February, 2014, newsletter. The massive auditorium, built in 1938, sat over 2,000 people and was damaged by a V2 in January, 1945, and was finally demolished in 1960.savoy2
  8. Talking of planning applications, the latest news on that front is that a developer has acquired the site of the old schoolkeeper’s house at Harris Academy, formerly Battersea Park School, and is in talks with the planners about putting a 13/14 storey block on theIMG_1755 site at the corner of Culvert Road and Battersea Park Road. This might look something like this, with Castlemaine House on the right.
  9. A few days earlier, 19thMarch, Wandsworth Labour Parties had a fish ‘n chips fund raising supper at York Gardens Library. There is not really much reason to mention it except that it was to mark International Earth Day, which I dare say you have never heard of. I hadn’t and when you look it up on Google there are conflicting accounts of when it actually is with some saying 22 April and others 21 March. In any event it has been “invented” to salute the earth and all of those environmentalists making efforts to save it! So we ate by candlelight and MP, Hilary Benn, gave his first ever candlelit speech. A bit odd really but very pleasant.
  10. Where were you during Hurricane Katie? I went down to the Duchess _88974872_88974871[1]in Nine Elms Lane not long after Easter Monday and saw the “blown-out” gable end for myself. This is the best picture I got of it! You can see by the amount of masonry on the road what a mess it would have made of any person or thing (car) below on the road!
  11. Of course, we all know just how perverse the British IMG_1766weather can be so it was fun to take this picture from my house at sunset, two days later!
  12. On Saturday, 26th March, a number of people staged a “Welcome to Refugees” event at Battersea Arts Centre. Here is IMG_1753Aaron Barbour, in the sweater and jeans, of the Katherine Low Settlement welcoming some of the recent arrivals, largely from war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia.

My Programme for April

  1. First of all, I have to sort out my computing mess. Do I go for Apple? How much of my data can I recreate or recover? Be more thorough about back-ups. Put as much into the sky as possible. Don’t make my mistake!
  2. On Wednesday, 6th, I will be attending my first Corporate Parenting Panel. I must say I am very dubious about this. I just do not see how the Government can really believe that councillors can take on the almost entirely theoretical role of corporate parents. Just try suggesting that they should legislate for MPs having such a role. MPs would run a mile – in my view – especially the opposition MPS who would be said to have the responsibility but no power to set the agenda or policies.
  3. I am going to a friend’s new house in Hastings over the 9th/10th week-end for my birthday – just which one I will keep to myself for now!
  4. The Battersea Society has tasked itself to make a record of all the buildings, terraces, views, memorials, etc. that it believes are of note in Battersea in an attempt to get them all, or as many as possible, listed and protected by the Council. And I and another Battersea Society member are going to spend all day Sunday 24th driving round Battersea listing and photographing them! That should be fun – I am looking forward to that.
  5. I have the Education and Children’s Services Committee on 12th April, when we will yet again be discussing introduced after the Ofsted Report! But that won’t be all as there will be another committee on 19th and a full Council Meeting on 27th, just devoted to this one matter.
  6. On the 21st there is the Planning Applications Committee, which will be deciding amongst other things – ring and check the list!
  7. And all the time the Mayoral Election, Khan vs. Goldsmith, and the Referendum campaigns are going on in a background full of Tories fighting like ferrets in a bag and Labour unable, or is it unwilling, to get its act together. What a turbulent political world.

Did you know?    Last month I asked for the connectionBrown Dog 1906 between the famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and  Latchmere. Quite a few of you got this right but unfortunately one of my PC losses was my inbox so I don’t know who – It would be really nice if you could resend your answer. The answer was that when John Archer unveiled the statue to the “Little Brown Dog” in Latchmere recreation ground, Shaw was there and was one of the speakers.

And for this month: There was a horse trough, there were actually quite a few, in York Road, but one in particular had the charming legend engraved in it – Be Merciful to your Animals. It has a new home 30 or so miles away – any idea where?

Two prescient Blogs from 2014

I was just trawling through some old blogs and I came across two, of which I am pretty proud. Just scroll down the right side of this screen to July 14, 2014 and October 7, 2014 and take a look.

The first is titled School Governance and Governors, and it bemoans the demise of local councillor representation on school governing bodies and the rise of the technocrat. I didn’t know it but it presaged last week’s announcement of the “end” of parent governors. After all parents don’t know anything about running schools, their expertise being merely to have kids and local councillors equally don’t know much about running schools – all they know about it is the local community and the need to plan for school provision and school places. Obviously just the kind of people that Cameron/Osborne would want to kick out of school administration: parents and local representatives! The Tory version is, of course, to have technocrats and the private sector under the pseudo-guise of educational charitable institutions.

The second was titled The Tory Party faces a disaster called Europe. The one thing I got wrong in that blog was the date of the crisis, which I had down for 2017. I didn’t know that Cameron was going to plump for June 23, 2016 as the Referendum Day. I predicted Tory division and disaster and potentially its demise for a generation. I hope that I am right. It is beginning to look that way!

And my punt for 2016? Against all the punditry and all the apparent trends, the economic problems and climate change issues demand a collective solution. So my prediction is that 2016 sees the start of the rejuvenation of social democracy.

Come on Jeremy raise the stakes: get tough, get leading

The Tory Party is seriously on the back foot. The Brexit wing needs no help from us, though it might get plenty from traditional Labour voters, but the Cameron “mainstream” desperately needs Labour help for this crazy referendum campaign.

Here we are the largest party in the country, by a country mile, and we are being shafted by a Government, which assumes that Labour will do the right thing. We are always doing the “right thing”; we are always taking the “one nation”, “all in this together” approach whilst the Tories stuff the pockets of the rich and the rentier class.

I can’t be the only Labour activist who seriously wonders whether the future of this country isn’t more dependent upon defeating the Tories, possibly for a generation, than it is on staying in the, let’s face it, struggling EU. Its pretty much an “on balance” decision for me and many other party sympathisers.

Now what would swing it for me would be a few concessions from Cameron. Take your pick from attacking “welfare”, abolishing Bedroom Tax, scrapping the Trade Union Bill, opening real discussions about boundary redistribution, stopping “right to buy” housing association properties, ending so-called schools reforms and NHS restructuring, ending the continual and vicious attack on immigration and immigrants.

Jeremy: this is a wonderful opportunity to get the Tories talking some sensible politics. You have a great opportunity to earn their respect, grudging though of course it will of necessity be, and to win the support of the country. Your best bet for winning support in the PLP is by winning respect from the Tories and you will never have a better opportunity than when Cameron is down, with his face in the sand.