My first political memory

Given Iain Dale has tagged me to blog about my first political memory – I cannot resist. The only hesitation I have – is that it somewhat reveals my advanced years!

The first time politics impinged on my secure little childhood was when I was watching television in our lounge in the flat in Highgate that I grew up in – Highpoint. I can’t remember whether they interrupted the TV or whether it was just on the news – but the newscaster in super-serious tones was talking about something to do with Cuba and nuclear war.

I can’t say I truly understood the the whole scenario as I was aged 10 when the crisis began on October 15, 1962. The USA had reconnaissance photos showing Soviet missiles being built in Cuba – hence it became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The ante was upped, tensions rose and on the point of nuclear war – letters exchanged etc and Krushchev agreed to dismantle the installations on the basis that the US would not invade Cuba.

As I said, most of this passed me by – but I remember being scared by the news. I understood the danger – and I guess it was the tones of the newscaster and the muted exchanges by my parents. It was this singular event that opened my understanding that the world was not stable and that my world somehow depended on men in foreign countries not taking leave of their senses. Clearly – not a lot has changed!

So – not a British political awakening – but certainly an early understanding of international politics!

In turn – I will tag Will Howells (thanks for filming my conference diaries!), Stephen Tall (man in charge at this year’s Lib Dem Blog of the Years awards – and winner last year), Matt Davies (Haringey colleague – councillor for Fortis Green), Martin Bright (of the New Statesman and a constituent of mine) and Paul Walter (the ultra-prolific Lib Dem blogger).

Hossam Ghaly and Spurs help local kids

Had to go and get lots of jabs! Looking after international development means I’ll be spending some time sharing territory with mosquitoes and worse – so immunisation is the order of the day. I go off to the Royal Free, which has a really helpful travel clinic. I gladly wait beyond my appointment time to let in a gentleman in a wheelchair who is late for his appointment (the one before mine) because he has not been able to park. Pay attention Royal Free – people in wheelchairs either need more spaces allocated or they need to be offered appointments at less busy times of the day.

The unlucky man had had to literally just leave the car somewhere on the street and wheel himself up (and the Royal Free is on a bit of a hill) to get to the main entrance. The clinic was good with him and for his next appointment have arranged an early one – but that shouldn’t be done only after an experience like that.

So – today I am replete with yellow fever and meningitis jabs and next week its tetanus, diphtheria, polio and something else I’ve forgotten. I have my malaria tablets, insect repellent (one that apparently dissolves plastic) and a tummy upset kit (polite phrasing.! So – I will be prepared!

Lynne Featherstone and Hossam Ghaly launching new football scheme for local kidsBut the event of today was visiting Spurs. I am there to launch a new sort of ‘get kids off the streets’ programme where Spurs as part of their new inclusion unit works with the local community to combat crime.

As I said to the kids from Noel Park (who are the first up for this new venture) I get lots of complaints about kids playing football on the streets – and here at last is a good idea with somewhere they can play legitimately AND with Spurs. No better partner. All of the credit really goes to the police – and more particularly Noel Park Safer Neighbourhood Team who have put this all together. Congrats to Andy and the team!

The Noel Park crew arrived and after extremely brief speeches from Spurs, me, a councillor and the police – it was on to the main menu.

Star footballer Hossam Ghaly was there to hand out the new kit to the team and then – when they got into their kit – knock a ball around with them. One of my colleagues from the constituency, Matt Davies (Lib Dem councillor for Fortis Green) had kindly come to take the photos – and I could see in his eyes the envy of these kids getting to play with a Spurs footballer. Matt is an avid Spurs fan (which is probably why he volunteered to come and take the shots)!

Haringey Council results

Well – it was very close! Massive Lib Dem gains, but not quite enough to take control of Haringey Council – Labour majority cut to just three (30-27 – no other parties have any councillors) with Lib Dems making 11 gains.

We also topped the vote across the borough – adding up the top votes in each ward – and actually now have councillors in a majority of the wards in Haringey. So – very close! Best every Lib Dem result, including our first councillors in Tottenham, many in Wood Green etc.

Lib Dem highlights:

Alexandra – 3 Lib Dem holds – Dave Beacham, Wayne Hoban and Susan Oatway re-elected

Bounds Green – 2 Lib Dem gains – Ali Demirci and John Oakes

Crouch End – 3 Lib Dem holds – Ron Aitken and David Winskill re-elected, joined by Lyn Weber

Fortis Green – 3 Lib Dem holds – Matt Davies and Martin Newton re-elected, joined by Sara Beynon

Harringay – 2 Lib Dem gains – Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker

Highgate – 3 Lib Dem holds – Bob Hare and Neil Williams re-elected, joined by Justin Portess

Hornsey – 3 Lib Dem gains – Robert Gorrie, Errol Reid and Monica Whyte elected

Muswell Hill – 3 Lib Dem holds – Jonathan Bloch and Gail Engert re-elected, joined by Sheila Rainger (who has taken over my old council seat)

Noel Park – 2 Lib Dem gains – Catherine Harris and Fiyaz Mughal elected

Stroud Green – 1 Lib Dem hold and 2 Lib Dem gains – Laura Edge re-elected and Ed Butcher and Richard Wilson elected

Congratulations and commiseration to all candidates and helpers – both those who made it and those who didn’t, in all parties.

UPDATE: There are now further election result details on Haringey Council’s website.

Planning in Muswell Hill

I went to a residents meeting about a planning application for houses on opennish land in Muswell Hill. The residents have only just won their last victory over a land grabbing and opportunist developer who is plaguing Haringey by trying to stuff houses on every little back site available.

No sooner was the ink dry on refusal for the last application then this new one was lobed in with virtually no amendment or change from the first one.

Cllr Matt Davies (LibDem, Fortis Green) helped the residents last time and was there again to do so again. I was there to add my support too. I am sick of poor residents having to fight and fight and fight against developers who obviously bank on residents eventually losing the will to fight – and eventually get a horrible scheme through. But these residents were determined to face down the developer. Hurrah!