Saturday, 10 March 2012

‘Cold, but soo busted’; Tory reductio ad absurdum ploy exposed

North vs South Kensington divide

The Council Budget meeting last Wednesday had a group of lively and interested observers, some even taking notes, who were able to confirm a suspicion that has been in the ether for some time.

The Labour Opposition Group gave a spirited and well-engineered alternative Budget with some great insights and speeches.
However, unlike the occasional compliment of yesteryear, it was met – by certain individuals designated as hell-hounds (pic left) – with rude barracking on minor issues, totally ignoring the main points and even accusing the authors of the Budget to be drunk, which is particularly harsh as it's Lent.

So, while the LG brought to light residents’ fury about the use of the Mayoral Bentley in straitened times, and suggested a more modest car instead, this was met by climate-change-denying tactics, totally invented statistics, and clarification by the Mayor about the definition of a personalised number-plate.

‘Environmentally friendly’ transport recommended by Tories for the Mayor; yes, a pimped out Hummer

Similarly, the discussion of Golborne ward now being the joint poorest in London was said to be an invention (despite the immediate deployment of several Blackberrys to find the offending stats), and was countered by a quite bonkers line of questioning about who knew whom in the yummy mummy set of North Kensington.

Save this and note:

Observers said the Tory tactics were quite obviously carefully planned and orchestrated, and ‘just cold’ – which in grockle parlance, for those who don’t know, means calculated, unfair, cruel.

It is also very clear to us all in the Labour Opposition that there is one single line of attack – and oh so unsophisticated when overused – which is reductio ad absurdum, reducing reasoned argument to banalities and polar splits. For example, because we have asked questions about the funding and timescale and various other extremely serious issues about Kensal Crossrail, this has to mean that we are ‘against regeneration’. Creating such binary fractures – black or white – is not clever. For such serious issues we should start by finding common ground.

As someone who has studied and teaches urban planning intermittently, saying I am ‘against regeneration’ is patently absurd. The Council knows I have not only engaged meaningfully, but even initiated a regeneration scheme at Edenham with community engagement and support from the outset, found funded partners genuinely interested in taking it to the next stage, and one partner even offering to fund a financial viability report. All that was lacking was an expression of interest from the Council, but answer came there none. I have also worked with my students on the Kensal site, and have plans to continue that exercise. Under Localism guidelines, we may make some leeway this time.

So, the Tories are busted and the reductio ad absurdum tack has failed them. A more circumspect and collegiate response to very serious concerns would be more dignified and a good start to joint working where that common ground can be found.

For visitors to this site who have been lumbered with this duty, as a kind blog-hostess I thought it only fair to offer something uplifting. So, here is cute picture no 1, looking forward to Easter hols:

For those interested in the winner of the 'Donkey Ears' competition based on the Council meeting, there is a delay as judges are deadlocked, there being two contenders neck and neck.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Quick Blog on Council Budget Day

Budget Day at the Council, and the Tory front bench are excitedly reading the 'Royal Boris' Council newspaper as their manservants press their suits and they wait for their speeches and presentation coaches to arrive.

Meanwhile the Labour Group are anxiously and eagerly preparing themselves for all the thoughtful, erudite and challenging points that might arise.

They are particularly eager to see who will win this year’s coveted award for most ‘challenging’ Budget speech


While we wait for the exciting result, many have asked for links to the GLA’s deprivation figures that show Golborne to be the joint poorest in London (page 4 of report). Sorry links still playing up you may have to copy and paste:

And here is the link to the googlemap ‘Two Years of Brutal Cuts in K&C:

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Dark Forces protect the Citadel

Firstly, thanks must be given to my comrade in arms Joao for producing this splendid cartoon to illustrate last week's blog reposted on his website ( The juxtaposition of solar panels and medieval castle manned by feudal knights adds a degree of authenticity that is appropriate and depressing in equal measure.

Turning to recent events, where an earlier blog on the likelihood of a Crossrail station at Kensal Gasworks has been challenged, and incredibly a 20-minute debate during a Full Council meeting will be devoted to 'deploring' comments made here, it seems timely to revisit the function and purpose of a local Councillor. Councillors are elected to represent and lobby for their communities and to scrutinise the actions of the Council. A majority party member has the power to direct and mould the Council's trajectory, while an opposition member has less power to do so. This is largely because decisions about where money is spent are made behind closed doors and released when it suits the Council, so the opposition are always playing catch-up.

But it is not for the majority to decide where and how scrutiny is carried out. The formal jousting tournament of full Council meetings may suit those who need the back-up of officers to direct, advise and write their speeches for them, but those of us with independent minds who conduct their own research, and have mastered online and social media, are able to choose their own battleground and weapons.

Enough of machismo and military metaphor; this should have no place in local government.

It is quite genuinely a sadness that totally disingenuous arguments are made, and friction invented, distraction techniques employed, misdirection used and binary splits created where none exist, to side-line very serious issues where Councillors of all persuasions should be working together.

To be specific - at the end of January this year, the GLA declared Golborne to be the poorest ward in London, jointly with Northumberland Park in Haringey. This is shameful and a low point in the history of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said to be the richest Council in Europe. If we as individuals or in our elected role wish to challenge this and improve the life chances, health, education and potential of our residents, we have every right to challenge Council spending on projects in Golborne that are allegedly eating up financial and staff resources, while, according to the information publicly available, they appear to be going nowhere.

And we will continue to challenge this until we have answers.