Goodbye Ken – Hello Tony

So – I can kiss Ken goodbye – metaphorically speaking!

A little while back Ken said he hoped I would soon go to Parliament and therefore stop harassing him with my questions at Mayor’s Question Time.

Thursday’s election has delivered his wish and I will be stepping down from the GLA as soon as I have tied up a few loose ends. Whilst over the moon at the General Election result in Hornsey & Wood Green, I am very sad to leave the Assembly.

Being Chair of Transport and a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority has been such a privilege in terms of actually getting things done. It will be interesting to see how being an MP compares!

At this morning’s Mayor’s press conference, Ken announced he was putting up the fines for fare dodging from £10 (derisory) to £20 (a Lib Dem proposal). Together with his decision to stop the Congestion Charge at 6pm to help restaurants and theatres – two tributes to our proposals as a parting gift?

It’s all been a mad whirl, needless to say, since Thursday night. With a swing that size from Labour to Lib Dem (nearly 15%), the media have wanted their pound of flesh. But might as well enjoy it while I can.

Why such a big swing? Well, many reasons. It was partly down to the hard work of our team – and it was so good when putting together our leaflets to see that there were so many positive achievements to talk about. More prominently, people were also sending a message to Blair – like it is unacceptable to wage an illegal war on a false premise and that civil liberties in place since Magna Carta are pretty precious. And I don’t think it helped much the Government talking about choice in schools – when 140 sets of parents locally had all three of their ‘choices’ denied.

And what happens now? Well – I’ve been inducted, got my pass, and am busy trying to organise surgeries, deal with around eight hundred emails, letters, phone calls, set up an office, thank everyone, tackle shed loads more casework, masses of media – all brilliant things to be dealing with.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted for me and to say that I will serve all the residents of Hornsey & Wood Green to the best of my ability. I went to my first meeting as MP on Tuesday night – organised by Friends of Red Gables, who are trying to save this fantastic local family centre from closure by Haringey Council.

The passion in the room from local residents and users was moving in the extreme. This is a much-loved local centre – and the fact that it deals with children heightens the feelings and emotions all the more.

Two Labour councillors were at the meeting to try to explain the Council’s plans. Impressive they weren’t! They want to close it to make savings and are promising to redistribute the ‘services’ to new childrens’ centres elsewhere in the borough. But they couldn’t say what, where or when. And whilst they made notes of what the packed meetings said – they batted away question after question without an answer. They didn’t seem to understand that when parents are asking what will happen to services for their children – they want clear, specific answers, not vague promises that something might be provided at a time and place unknown.

I think that the Labour duo were shocked by the depth of feeling in that room. I hope they were. And I hope when they reflect on the incredible contributions from the people in that room that they find enough understanding to change their minds.

It was a good first meeting to attend as MP as it reminded me sharply how much there is to fight for – and that fighting for residents is what comes first.