Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembrance Sunday and the Riverside By-Election

Yesterday I was honoured to lay a wreath at Southwark's War Memorial on the Walworth Road on behalf of the Labour Group. It was a slightly odd service, with wreath-layers called forward in a fairly random order, and far too many people carrying on with their usual business on the Walworth Road during the two minute silence. I know that people have other things to do in their lives, but standing still for two minutes as a mark of respect for all those who have given their lives in order that we can lives ours in the way we wish to today does not seem to be too much to ask.

Harriet Harman attended for what was her 25th Remembrance Day ceremony at Southwark's War Memorial - she had been pressed to attend at the Cenotaph in Whitehall but instead chose to come to the Walworth Road.

I am told that the Leader of the Council attended the West Lane ceremony. West Lane is on one of the boundaries of Riverside Ward where campaigning really got going this weekend. All of the major parties have now selected their candidates. Cormac Hollingsworth is, as predicted, Labour's candidate. He is the only truly local candidate of all those put forward by the main parties. He is a committed community activist and will make a superb councillor. Anood Al-Samerai, rejected by voters in Brunswick Park last year and most recently part of the LibDems action team in East Walworth, has dusted off her carpetbag and been selected for the Libs. Anood is clearly really desperate to be a councillor and, surprise surprise, works in Simon Hughes's office - so presumably has his blessing in the same way as Paul Baichoo did! And look what happened to Paul Baichoo!!

The Libs have already started publishing material full of half-truths. They just don't seem to care about the facts! Their latest leaflet contains pure scare stories about Labour wanting to use Bermondsey's money in Camberwell and Peckham; and our 'secret plans' for all sorts of nonsense! So secret that none of us in Labour know about them!! There is a nasty angle to these stories though - as they are designed to pit one part of our borough against another. As the Libs have been running Southwark for 5 1/2 years I would have hoped they would have got over this nasty approach and appreciate that they SHOULD be serving all of the people of the borough and not just those in the areas where they have their support.

One of the most ridiculous stories is about our 'secret plans' to raise councillors allowances as colleagues in Lambeth have done. This is plain nonsense. Firstly, we have a stated manifesto commitment to cut councillor's allowances; secondly, the LibDems are the ones who have consistently raised their own allowances year after year since taking office in 2002 and thirdly, even if we took Southwark allowances to the same level as those in Lambeth they would be far LOWER than those paid in Southwark. In short, there is not a grain of truth in their 'story'.

One issue likely to be of importance in this by-election is the future of the site adjacent to Tower Bridge, where Berkeley Homes have planning permission for a major housing development. The Town Hall is clearly getting worked up over a story which appeared in last week's Southwark News, which discussed the possibility that Southwark residents may have lost up to £50 million as a result of a decision forced through by the LibDems two years ago to transfer ownership of Potters Field Park from the Council to a separate Trust. If the story is true it is an example of shocking incompetence and huge loss to the public purse - and if I was the LibDems I would want to bury it too!

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