Parliament started sitting again today. It felt just like it did on the first day of term, going back to school!
Much of this week will be preparation for the Violent Crime Reduction Bill which goes into Committee on Thursday morning and on which I am leading for the Lib Dems. This means that I have (and more accurately my researcher has even more) been pouring over the bill and working out the amendments which we tabled last Friday. We will be probing the Government’s proposals line by line. And boy does this bill need close scrutiny. The general idea is right – to tackle the twin evils of weapons and alcohol abuse – but the devil is definitely in the detail.
At lunchtime I meet with an activist from Camden who wants to talk to me about why the party does not work the way he thinks it should work. He is an interesting guy, but for all of us in the party the way to get an idea through the hierarchy into being is to demonstrate that it works.
My own success in winning Hornsey & Wood Green from 26,000 votes behind in 1997 is now a training model in the party. But I had (with my magnificent team) to prove the case – not simply have the idea. And quite frankly much of it is common sense and already the bread and butter of our campaign techniques – no miracles. But there are a few specialities – and now hopefully best practise will be spread to the 104 seats where we are second to Labour for the next general election. So hopefully, I sent him off to prove his points to the party.
Then into the chamber for Home Office Questions – terror, terror, terror. It is quite clear that this Parliamentary session up to Christmas will be totally dominated by the terror proposals and other home affairs bills. Great for me as a shadow home affairs minister – but one heck of a schedule.
Rush to Haringey Civic Centre in the evening for the Planning Committee which tonight hears the application to build a Concrete Factory in Hornsey. For those not following this story – there is an application from London Concrete to put a factory right in the heart of a residential area with narrow streets and kids schools etc. Supported (wrongly) by Livingstone on the basis that the aggregates can come in by rail (three trains per week), what seems to have passed the Mayor by is that it then goes out through the community in 56 giant HGVs that have no chance of turning out of the industrial site into the residential streets without chocking up the traffic, delaying buses and causing huge amounts of pollution, noise and so on.
As I arrive there are hundreds and hundreds of local residents with lots of children come to protest. Hurrah for people power! T-shirts and placards – we shout and chant. Ironically, we all know that the Planning Committee is going to refuse the application tonight as that is the recommendation of the officers. And whilst I put in to speak along with scores of others – there is no need to call anyone as the committee unanimously votes to reject the application on a number of planning grounds.
The real test will now come as we move towards the appeal – already lodged. The fight goes on – until we bury this one – in concrete.