Special test from the voters

Plenary session at City Hall questioning transport supremo Bob Kiley – followed by Mayor’s Question Time with Ken.

As I walk from London Bridge Station (following a journey from hell on the Northern Line) I pass a cafe. Sitting and looking very sad and lonely is Ken having a cup of coffee. I watch him for a while – as it is a really striking picture and wish that I had had a camera.

Anyway – to cut to the chase – my big issue is the £1.6million that Ken spent on external legal costs fighting the PPP (tube privatisation). Now I thought the money was definitely worth spending – we had to try and stop probably the worst contract in the world being foisted on London. We failed. But my beef with Ken is that for him it was clearly ‘gesture politics’ (the most expensive in history) as now he’s back in the Labour fold we don’t hear a peep from him against the PPP – nor do we see action to take control of a failing contract.

So I put this to Kiley and he lets rip against Metronet who are managing to disrupt London almost every time they overrun on engineering works. Clearly from recent media outbursts from Tim O’Toole and now Kiley – frustration at TfL is rampant.

So I helpfully suggest that they sack Metronet – none of this waiting and putting them on notice to improve or else. That should already have been the case. Clearly financial penalty is no barrier to their poor performance – time to cut losses and run. I mean, John Weight, the Chief Exec of Metronet, came before my committee a few weeks ago. I pushed him on his responsibility for the overruns. He admitted publicly it was entirely a management issue in terms of planning and managing access and that he was on the case and it would all be alright.

Clearly not given the tube’s performance! They should be sacked and the Mayor should make the Government suffer the consequences – and then let us fund the Tube by bonds.

I go upstairs as I have to leave a bit early for an appointment – only to find everyone going mad. Did I really say sack Metronet? Yup!

Latter, I get on with delivering our ‘Flying Start’ leaflet in Hornsey. It is pouring with rain one minute then bright sunshine. A woman runs up to me in Harvey Road saying ‘are you Lynne’ etc. She tells me that they have had a problem with dumping and rubbish for years and Haringey Council has done nothing. But the previous night they had formed a Residents’ Association and rung up to complain about their dumped rubbish. And, lo as if by magic – at midnight the waste collection company turned up and removed 42 black bags.

Now – you might think this was a shining example of service – but ‘scuse my cynicism – how many times in Haringey does Accord turn up to pick up rubbish at midnight? Must be an election! People are not fooled. She certainly wasn’t.

Three hours delivering and my body says rest and food required. Go home to discover 200 or so emails which have to be answered.

But in the middle I get a phone-call from a man. He is a Tory ringing because he says that it is obvious that the Tories cannot win in Hornsey & Wood Green and he is thinking of voting LibDem. But he is worried about asylum and immigration and wants reassurance from me that we won’t ‘let them all in’.

He doesn’t wish to give his name.

So I explain to him, that we need strong policies on migration but what this should mean is looking carefully at how many migrants the country needs and can cope with in different areas (of the country and the economy). The real problem at the moment lies with illegal immigration – which is not only bad for us but appalling for the people as well.

He goes on about asylum seekers – too many – send ‘em back etc. I make it clear that unlike the Tories I would not wish to put any quota on asylum. I would not want to come from a country that closed its doors on someone fleeing for their lives.

He came back at me about the quantity coming in – and on – and on. In the end I said to him ‘Look I am not a Tory – I am a Liberal Democrat – I just don’t believe what you believe’ or words to that effect.

At which point he said that I would have his vote (much to my surprise.) Then he said he had done something mean. He wasn’t a Tory supporter. He was a lifelong Labour supporter who wouldn’t vote Labour this time – but who wanted to test me out in private.

Clearly I had passed the test!

So Mr G of Muswell Hill – thank you – because you made me laugh – and at the end of a long day it was definitely the best medicine!