Commons all day with a variety of business to take care of – but leave at 4pm to go to the Chief Executive of Haringey’s leaving do at Ally Pally. Held in the Palm Court – it is thronging. The Palm Court is so named because it is a vast space akin to a greenhouse with huge plants and glass roof – so the greenhouse effect is present and we are all melting.
Speeches begin at 6pm with Charles Adje, Labour Leader of Haringey Council. He starts by saying he is going to read a letter from Peter Forrest (a former Tory councillor, who was leader of the opposition for a few years before the Liberal Democrats stared winning council seats in 1998). Now – given there are no Tories on the council and haven’t been for several years – it does make me wonder about the cosiness we often see between Labour and Tories in Haringey …!
However, it is clear to me from the three people lining up to speak – that Labour has forgotten to ask me or any Liberal Democrat to say a few words, despite the fact that the Chief Executive was the Chief Exec for all of Haringey Council – not just the Labour party.
I take matters into my own hands – and circling the back of the room – I make my way to the guy who is introducing the speakers and tell him that I would like to say a few words too. Of course, I haven’t prepared anything because I hadn’t been asked to speak originally. Labour are always trying to exclude me / us from everything – but this was quite shameful.
I am then faced with a dilemma. I am furious with Labour over their ‘sacking’ of the Chief Exec. Publicly – David Warwick is leaving because he has decided to take early retirement. Pigs might fly in my view. Out of the blue – with never a mention of such an idea – and leaving virtually immediately upon announcement – this looks like a sacking, smells like a sacking and walks like a sacking.
I suspect the Labour leadership could not bear the fact that this Chief Exec wasn’t a Labour hack and that he did not simply go along with everything they wanted however mad.
So – what do I do? Say what I really think or simply say nice things? Resort to humour is my get out. I keep it brief. I say that it was an extraordinarily fast retirement. I mention that I hope that the entire management board won’t follow as Haringey needs stability (they will go – one already on her way to Hammersmith and Fulham). And I am cheeky – which I won’t go into here!
I make a hasty exit with Cllr David Winskill – not in case of repercussions but because I am speaking at a local vigil at the Crouch End Clock Tower for the victims of the bomb blasts. I had been asked to speak at the one at Trafalgar Square – but because Haringey residents were so affected personally by the attacks as four of our tube stations are on the Piccadilly Line, it seemed far more important to be here.
About a hundred turn up – which considering shortness of time is a really good show. Inevitably – and rightly – in speeches Iraq and the Middle East creep into the frame. I concentrate on unity – believing absolutely that what all of us from every faith, creed and colour have in common is so much stronger than anything that divides us by our differences. It must be ‘us’ – and us is everyone – against them – deluded and fanatical extremists who murder with no true understanding.
However, I do believe that every action has a reaction – and we certainly received intelligence prior to the Iraq war that if we went to war – we would be likely to increase the chance of terrorist activity against us. The government clearly still felt it right to go to war – I didn’t. However, it is no excuse for terrorism. It is just a fact that it would increase. And festering sores of unresolved disputes will always be a source from which politicians can drink and then poison young men’s minds.
I have to leave the vigil at 7.30pm as I have promised to speak at the NO2ID cards meeting in Haringey. I literally turn up to speak and take questions before having to run onto a meeting with Hornsey Town Hall Trust who wanted to meet me post election.
They opt to take me to dinner to do so – which on a lovely evening is extremely pleasant. The two men are reasonable and I, as I repeatedly say, would love both sides of this stupid divide to work together. But I fear they are both going to stick to their absolute positions and that therefore despite my best efforts which I wish to employ will remain divided – which is a pity for the community.
One of the problems is that the Hornsey Town Hall Trust want the site first handed over to a trust, whilst the Council’s plan has more of a role for a developer earlier in the process. The reality is that I think it very unlikely the Council (whose property the site is, and so has both a financial and a moral a responsibility to ensure that whatever happens to the site doesn’t turn out to be a disaster) will be persuaded the risks of handing over the site just like that to a trust are really low enough to justify this course.
So – my ideal would be for Anthony Westbrook and Anthony Charnley from the Hornsey Town Hall Trust to go onto the Community Partnership Board – set up by the Council – as I think they have fantastically valuable skills which the Community Partnership lack – and put their efforts into that pot so that what comes out at the other end is nearer to the vision wanted by the community.
Seems easy, hey? But the Hornsey Trust folk – although they do say that they are happy to have any Trust (not necessarily theirs) in the seat – are not willing to give up their model. And so – I guess they won’t join the Community Trust.
Impasse – but I am still going to do my best to try and bring these two sides – who are both genuinely wanting roughly the same vision – together.
Leave restaurant about 11pm – and rush home to see by-election results. Way before results come through – I get texted from Cheadle to say we’ve won. Fab! That will put paid to the endless rumours and whispering about Charles Kennedy’s likely survival. He’s not going anywhere!