In my little corner of South Woodford in the borough of Redbridge you can always tell when there’s an election coming up. The Tories start taking an interest in Liberal Democrat-held Church End ward.
This time round they’ve begun campaigning a little earlier, with three candidates making more of an impression than their predecessors. Perhaps they scent weakness with the announcement that a long-serving LibDem councillor is standing down while another has been cast adrift over poor attendance.
So there have been more editions of In Touch, the Tory newsletter to rival the LibDems’ Focus. There was also a residents’ survey that asked a couple of soft questions about local affairs: what did you like or dislike about living in Redbridge?
Then it got down to the nitty-gritty with a selection of touchstone Tory national issues: getting the economy moving (scrap the deflationary policies sooner was my retort); reforming welfare so that working always pays more than a life on benefits (a nod to Iain Duncan Smith, Chingford and Woodford Green MP and architect of the bedroom tax, possible the worst policy since poll tax).
Then, in the battle for right-wing votes, controlling immigration to take the pressure
off public services (failing to notice the dependence of the NHS on migrant
doctors and nurses and cleaners and … you get the picture).
Oh, and another one for the Ukip tendency, a referendum on EU membership. I wonder how many local residents work in the City for banks that will up sticks to Frankfurt the moment we quit Europe? Step forward local Tory candidate Tom McLaren of Commerzbank’s ABS Management team. I think that’s something to do with packaging up debt and flogging it off. Really useful banking.
Other leaflets have sought to take credit for the campaign to strip Funkymojoes, the pub that thinks it’s a West End nightclub, of its late licence over the misery caused to elderly residents of neighbouring flats.
They’ve also tried to frighten local businesses into thinking that Church End is a hotbed of criminal activity. A bit rich, coming from the party that’s cut police numbers and closed police stations across the capital.
There was even a poor quality YouTube video of some drunken shouting that appeared to be an issue for Redbridge housing department. That would be Tory-controlled Redbridge housing department.
It all seems to be directed at obtaining a controlled drinking zone, as if the place was overrun with drunks.
One leaflet got very excited about 48 car crimes in three months that targeted £1m worth of cars. That would be at an average of £20,833 each, which seems a bit unlikely. I suspect a rogue statistic there.
Another seems to think we should cheer the Tories for not implementing further cuts at Redbridge Drama Centre, again after local uproar at a Conservative proposal.
Local economic policy seems to consist of 30 minutes of free parking in the George Lane shopping street, to which the council has been dragged kicking and screaming after Wanstead businesses demanded some respite from the parking attendants.
But it will make for yet another photo opportunity with IDS, perhaps orchestrated by Joel Herga, the young PR man who has worked for several Tory MPs and is another of the candidates. I’m sure local politics will be good for his CV until a safe seat comes along. The third candidate, Emma Best, appears to have little troubled the search engines.
Quite recently there’s been a letter to individual voters. I don’t think everyone got one. But I’ve seen a copy.
It certainly takes a spin doctor to suggest that the LibDems have ‘parachuted’ in replacement candidates. Richard Hoskins’ retirement after 24 years of service is also hardly evidence of the local party ‘imploding’, as the letter suggests.
The latest Focus reveals that the LibDems are putting up sitting councillor Hugh Cleaver, who was elected in 1990; a 35-year resident of the ward and former parliamentary candidate in Geoff Seeff; and a 25-year resident in Deborah Prince, legal director of the British Heart Foundation.
And it is stretching credulity to suggest that the temporary swimming pool in neighbouring Wanstead, installed as part of Boris Johnson’s Make a Splash programme, justifies the claim that ‘the swimming pool many of you asked for is now being built’. Or is that referring to plans for a permanent pool in the south of the borough for which no site has yet been agreed, according to local newspaper reports? It may be the next set of elections before we can take a dip there.
The local elections are on May 22. Please vote.
PS. While the LibDems have parted company with Nicola Sinclair, they have at least not had to apologise for claiming she failed to attend a licensing hearing about Funkymojoes. That has been left to the Tories, apparently ignorant that in Redbridge councillors do not sit on licensing hearings for their own ward.
PPS The latest, very glossy, Tory leaflet admits they have had little success with the farmers’ market for George Lane after eight months’ effort. This would of course compete with the excellent greengroceries at Fiori’s and the International Supermarket as well as the national chains M&S, Sainsbury and Waitrose. I am not surprised that Sainsbury’s are refusing to back this endeavour. I am just astonished that the Tories, of all people, appear surprised by this expression of capitalism. Perhaps they’ll learn to hang on to more municipally-owned land in future.
I must acknowledge that we are told more about Emma Best in the latest leaflet. She went to school in Wanstead and is working for Crossrail while studying for a degree. Don’t know if she lives in the ward.