Have a meeting at the pub (my constituency office is in the rooms upstairs of the Three Compasses pub). Sometimes I hold small one-to-one meetings downstairs in the pub itself – particularly in the morning when it is quiet before the lunchtime rush. The atmosphere is fabulously relaxing and I buy coffee or whatever and we sit on comfy sofas or chairs – and you get a lot more out of people in that way.
This meeting was particularly useful as the previous Monday, Mark Oaten (who is LibDem Shadow Home Secretary) had added prisons to my brief and I was about to visit Holloway Prison this coming Wednesday. So Lucy Russell, Director of Smart Justice, had come to lobby me about women prisoner’ issues – which was very fortuitous.
What struck me was how desperately disproportionate the consequences of prison often are for women and their family. To elucidate – punishment has an important role to play in society not just to keep the public safe but to be the price paid for unlawful behaviour. However, the majority of women serve less than six months. Going to prison more often than not means children in care or at the very least disturbed from their home; quite often loss of home and so on. So when you look at the total impact of the sentence, it’s much more than just the sentence itself. That needs to be remembered and dealt with.
Muswell Hill and Highgate Area Assembly in the evening. Not particularly well-attended and I swear I know virtually everyone there. The problem remains how to get ‘real’ people in greater numbers – at times other than when there is a CPZ proposal on the agenda when there is no shortage of attendees.
Tonight it would have been very useful if the council had made more effort to publicize the meeting as it was the opportunity for local residents to choose projects to fund from the local assembly’s budget. All the nominations were up on the wall and each resident in attendance got six green dot stickers to stick up. But lots of really great small projects nominated by various locals – and not really enough of the local residents there to indicate their preferences from which the local councillors then decide.
The main topics however were the future of Park Road Pool and trees. Good news-ish on the pool – it does have a future. Over the next few years lots of improvements promised and the community will still be able to use a room for local activities. Sounds good, but this being Haringey – we’ll see. They had done no work whatsoever on public transport for the venue – simply indicated that they were trying to expand the car park. That is fine (to a degree) but you do need to be able to get there by bus and there is only a very limited service since they removed the W2. Also – they had had no talks with Hornsey Central Hospital – who are just along the road and following my questions on this, work is going ahead on the site in the New Year.
The other main event of the day was watching Gordon Brown deliver his succession speech at the Labour conference. I was under-whelmed. I don’t think it is going to happen soon and I don’t think it is going to do Labour much good in the long run if he does succeed. He doesn’t know which way to play it – New or Old! In reality he has been relentlessly New Labour – so no idea why the ‘left’ think he may be their saviour. Who signed the cheques for the Iraq war? Who forced through part-privatisation of the Tube? Who insisted on top-up fees for students? And on and on.
Therein is the problem – who really is Gordon Brown?