Haringey Peace Week

Watched Gordon Brown being interviewed by Andrew Marr and trying to be nice and cuddly. Problem is, as William Hague put it, no one can possibly believe he has had nothing to do with the events of this last week. Most damning was his too long silence. But I guess when you have kept silent for a decade and let TB take all the knocks – you don’t really know how to step to the front. It was evident that he is so used to saying almost nothing when a controversial issue hits (remember his long silences over Iraq? tube privatisation? etc etc). So he reverted to tired phrases. But you can’t have tired phrases if you want to lead a Labour renewal.

Spent the later part of this afternoon at a church service to mark the start of Peace Week. Haringey is the cradle of Peace Week, courtesy of the charismatic Reverend, Nims Obunge. Now a London-wide movement, it is going from strength to strength. Much singing and praising – and I, David Lammy (MP for Tottenham), George Meehan (Leader Haringey Council) and others all addressed the congregation.

Part of the praying and the blessing was to bring strength and wisdom to the leaders of the community (including us the speakers). It is very nice to be prayed for. I am not religious – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the spiritual side of life in a way.

It was also very moving to hear prayers for community safety, for entrepreneurs to move into the area, for health and so on. It was very practical prayer. Peace and justice was the overall theme – and of course the point is you cannot have peace without justice.

Concrete factory

Bad news this week about the decision on the Cranford Way concrete factory – the Inspector has given it the go ahead. Everyone is devastated. Following a tremendous campaign by local people and politicians across the parties – the Inspector deemed to find that all our cares and worries were as nothing. According to his findings we must all be mad. Sadly – it will be ordinary local people who pay the price in their quality of life reduction if we are right and he is wrong.

Goliath has won. Well Goliath in this case has loads more dosh for fancy lawyers.

Oh yes – the Inspector has applied various conditions to London Concrete’s permission to go ahead. But I wonder how long their promise to only supply Haringey building sites with concrete will last – and how long before they apply for an extension to the number of lorries going in and out. Enforcement is not the weapon of choice – but now we will just have to see. The planning process is always weighted in favour of the presumption to permit – sadly. And unlike London Concrete who were able to appeal the initial refusal of their plans – residents cannot appeal this decision as there is no appeal against the Planning Inspector. Judicial Review is the only next step – and that would be impossible to stage and even if we could – I don’t think they would not find against the process.

So depression all round.

Leave London for Torquay at 3.45 on Thursday for Question Time. Researching – I feel sure that Ming’s speech on tax (attacking twin evils of climate change and the widening equality gap by upping eco-taxes and reducing capital gains tapers etc on shares) will be on the agenda. I am wrong in the event – not even a mention.

To my horror, earlier in the day I find out that George Galloway is on the panel. I had been told about David Lammy and Liam Fox – but not gorgeous George. I wouldn’t have gone on with him if I had known. He is a brilliant orator – but a dominating bully in terms of a panel. However, no choice by the time I find out. Worse – they sit me next to him. And thus it was – from the terror raid to the murder of the Butcher of Baghdad it was George on his soapbox.

Given Respect only has one seat in Parliament – don’t even think he should get the time of day. Particularly after his colleague decided to whip up the divides in Forrest Gate by advising Muslims to withdraw cooperation with the police.

Whatever else I might think about this seemingly bundled operation – the police had to go in. The intelligence seems wanting – and this isn’t the first time. But when both Muslims and everyone else need most to rely on each other and hold hands against the terrorists – George’s lot are stirring it – and successfully. The march on Friday will not be helpful. Even if peaceful – it is not necessary. The police will get it in the neck anyway if they have got it wrong on such a massive scale again. And the intelligence services need to go back to school – or over to Canada where they seem to get it right – and they could learn a few lessons.

It’s an evil agenda – and the shame is – that there is a great need to support the Muslim community in this terrible time for them – as the terrorists hide behind their skirts. But George’s way creates division and discord.

Anyway – the boys (and there were four of them and one of me) were all being very alpha male and so hopefully I provided some common sense.

Got back to London around 3am.

Notice in my inbox when I get in (yes – I did – even at that time of night) that some of the DNA stuff has appeared in the media – which is good as I am determined to follow this through until we get results. This was when I discovered from the answer to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) I had tabled that individuals’ samples on the DNA database have been shared with other foreign countries with no real safeguards in place.

Under new EU proposals, all member states will be able to access the British DNA database and the information on it. This is bad in itself and a bad omen for the upcoming ID register, now the Government has made it clear that our personal data can be shared with foreign countries.

There are no real safeguards in place to control this huge database – which leaves it open for misuse, especially as now we find out it’s not only being misused in our country but also internationally. What confidence can we have in the Government’s reassurance of the DNA database having proper safeguards when, until last year, they didn’t even collate requests properly?

Concrete Factory planning appeal

The public inquiry into the plans for a concrete factory (batching plant) in Hornsey opens today. I arrive at 10am on the dot. Packed with residents, interested parties and so on – you have to be there for the opening as that is when Her Majesty’s Inspector judges the amount of public feeling and allocates the times for representations to be made by members of the public (and politicians). This is now (after a slow start by Labour) a cross-party affair. We united to fight the original planning application and are now united in fighting the appeal. So David Lammy – who is the MP for Tottenham (Labour) – and I sit together and agree that we will give evidence together. The Inspector allows us to return to make our statements next Friday at 10am. It is in the middle of my surgery – but as it is just down the road at Wood Green library I decide that I can manage both and anyone who comes in the time I am away – my assistant can either note down the case – or if they are disappointed I am not there, they can wait until I return.

After the ‘arrangements’ are all made and the Inspector has delineated the procedure, the two Counsels for each side make their opening statement. It is clear from London Concrete’s side that we are David up against Goliath in terms of the resources they are throwing at trying to get their plans through. His main thrust is that this application is sustainable, the very best way to make concrete and that he has the Mayor of London’s backing – that is the inference. He also infers that it is just the usual nimby’s who are turning out to make a noise about nothing. Hmmmmmmmmmm – don’t like him! Cannot bear it when real concerns and genuine fears are termed as basically an annoyance because they stand in the way of big business!

At lunchtime I go to Cranwood – which is a home for the elderly in Muswell Hill. Children from Tetherdown School are coming in to sing carols to the fold. They have been renovating – and as I walk up the builders are desperately trying to sweep up the external environs. Inside it is newly painted, brand new carpet and just lovely. The residents are brought into the lounge and the children sit on the floor waiting to start. It was absolutely lovely – shining faces and all that. Sentimental fool that I am – always a tear! At the end a bit of socialising. One of the helpers bangs into me and spills the drink being carried. First accident to brand new carpet – like the first scratch on a new car – you know it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of when.

One of the children, Stefan I think, comes up and asks if he can ask me some questions. Given the focus and intelligence of those questions – definitely a politician in the making.

Haringey Council's AGM

Haringey Council’s Annual General Meeting and Mayor Making. The chamber is full of dignitaries and guests. A dilemma had arisen about whether I would sit as an MP or sit with the other councillors (I’m carrying on as a councillor until my current term of office comes to an end). I had cleared up the dilemma by choosing to sit with the councillors. I was there primarily in that role – to vote.

Now this council meeting unlike others is meant to be mainly ceremonial. However – the form from previous years has been Labour saying in advance, “it’s ceremonial, let’s not have the political stuff at this meeting” and then at the meeting promptly ignoring agreements about how to handle the meeting and going for all sorts of political stuff.

This year – shock horror – everyone behaved!

The new Mayor was sworn in. Neil (Lib Dem leader) and Charles (Labour council leader) said a few nice things about myself and David Lammy. And they we all went off for the dinner / dance hosted by the council at the Ally Pally.

Boxing night

Haringey Police and Community Boxing Club Charity Evening – a black tie dinner and boxing match. This is a club started by ex-Haringey Police Commander Stephen James which helps kids box – with the intention in part that it thereby also helps keep them out of trouble.

I arrive at the venue and am put in a little ante-room for the top table with others. Stephen James is there, as are the current top-cop in Haringey Stephen Bloomfield, Council Chief Executive David Warwick, Cllr Peacock (Labour), soon to be ex-leader George Meehan, David Lammy MP and Pastor Nims from Haringey Peace Alliance.

So a good crew. Stephen James introduced me as the next MP for Hornsey & Wood Green – which went down well as you can imagine with the Labour members there! I though Sheila Peacock might thump him.

Then we were announced one by one to go into the hall and to the table. The boxing ring itself is directly in front of the top table with other tables filling the hall to the right and the left. The dinner is served, there is an auction of various items to raise money and then the boxing itself.

I know it is probably not politically correct to enjoy boxing – but I thought it was fantastic. There is a basic instinct – a primeval pull – when two men (boys) fight each other – and boy did they fight. The last bout included Michael Grant who is one of the real successes of the boxing club. A black youngster from Tottenham who is now No 2 in England. It was a great fight and I take my hat off to Stephen James for what he has done.