First Lib Dem leadership hustings

The Liberal Democrats have a conference titled ‘Meeting the Challenge’ which was always scheduled for today. It was to find the party’s ‘narrative’ following a general election where we did really well – but perhaps didn’t reach the hoped for heights. One of the reasons seemed to be that while our individual policies, such as free care for the elderly, our stance on Iraq, scrapping Council Tax in favour of local income tax and ending top up fees were very popular, overall people didn’t automatically know what Lib Dem meant.

Of course, events of the last few weeks meant that the environment in which this conference found itself was somewhat changed and the ‘challenge’ has become all the more pointed.

So – four candidates in the ring so far. The man who many people initially thought would almost certainly take over and who started as favourite – Sir Menzies Campbell; Simon Hughes (Party President), who has replaced Ming as the bookies’ favourite; Mark Oaten, Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary (and my boss in the Home Affairs Team); and my boy – Chris Huhne, who started as a rank outsider at 300-1 with odds now closing at 7-1.

I am supporting Chris because it’s not the office of leader he is interested in for its own sake. He wants to get the Lib Dems into power. And he knows what he wants to do with that power and where he wants to take the party. For me – I am looking at who can take the fight to Gordon Brown and beat him on his own territory. Chris can do it. I want to know that the man (and sadly there are no women standing) who wins this contest could handle running the country and the fight to get to that position.

And, he answered the big questions for me. One of them is the question the media keep on putting to us (and so we have to have an answer to) about whether the party should go left or right. The stock answer we give in our party to this – is ‘neither left nor right but straight on’ – or equivalent such phrases. Chris answered the question as how a party of conscience and reform progresses into the next era. It’s really about using taxation to discourage behaviour which damages our environment, whilst using the money raised that way to take those who are poorest out of taxation all together. So – overall, no increase in taxation, but a fairer society and a better environment for all. Redistribution and responsible consumption in one – that’s the combination that is both liberal and effective. That’s the unique combination that Liberal Democrats need now.

So the hustings began. Ming had the misfortune of a ropey microphone for the first few minutes – but overcame the technical difficulties and delivered a really excellent speech – particularly the second half and the parts on our internationalist commitment. Simon Hughes gave a really good speech too. He rings the buzzers for the party faithful with his challenge to inequalities in society. At the same time, Simon ditched the party’s commitment to a 50p rate on earnings over £100,000. Mark Oaten gave a really vigorous and energetic speech about moving us into the 21st century.

And of course Chris. I thought the boy did brilliant. He was confident, competent and credible. What I really liked (as did others judging from the vox pops afterwards where activists who hadn’t really known much about him were so impressed – plus the verdict on Radio 4’s PM program that it was Chris who made converts) was that he started with the real challenges we face in the world – globalisation and global warming – and quite frankly, unless we ‘meet the challenge’ of the world as it is – we won’t be addressing the real issues facing us. And he delivered ideas. The others all said that we need new ideas – Chris actually gave some. The most radical and challenging is the beginning of the switch away from personal taxation to eco-taxes – a tax system that really is based on responsible consumption and the use of this tax to redistribute to those at the bottom of the income scale to take them out of tax.

You can see his speech in full on the Chris Huhne campaign website (or watch it on the BBC’s website – RealPlayer or Windows Media Player required) but two other key issues he raised for me were firstly – a head-on personal commitment from him as leader to use his personal influence to ensure that we ethnic minority MPs elected at the next General Election. And whilst he is pleased that we have such a talented influx of new women MPs (I blush) we need more. No one else put this at the top of their agenda.

The other key issue he raised was the organisation of the party machine. Chris showed understanding that we need to have a fearsome campaigning machine – which means tools and money for the Campaigns Department – to compete in this ferocious world of political contest.

So – needless to say – he ticked my boxes!

More leadership and drugs on the street

It was back to Parliament on Monday! Of course – the whole place is a tinderbox of gossip. My own colleagues taking comfort from being back together again – and Labour and Tory colleagues privately very sympathetic on the whole about the hideous situation that everyone has been dealing with. The House of Commons is surprisingly kind in many ways when there is real tragedy. Not replicated on the floor of the chamber, however, whenever a LibDem spoke at Work and Pensions questions. Cat calls and jeers – so much for the ‘new’ politics.

I do one radio interview, for the World at One. It doesn’t air Monday for reasons I don’t understand, though goes out Tuesday instead. Needless to say – out of the questions up on my blog to potential candidates – the one the World at One focuses in on – is the one about what part each candidate played in the Kennedy downfall and what they had done during the previous five years to tackle the problem? I thought I was pretty balanced – as there are two key angles: was it bungled plotting, or was Charles impossible to deal with?

I have various phone calls and meetings with would-be candidates or potential but non-declared candidates and so on and then rush back to Hornsey & Wood Green for a meeting with the Chief Exec of Jacksons Lane Community Centre. The building needs major repairs and renovations due to nothing much being done on maintenance over the years (as I understand it Haringey Council are the landlord). So – in essence – it’s about how to get the work done and funded.

Following that I rush to Haringey Civic Center for a full council meeting and then I rush back to Parliament for a vote at 10pm. Following close of play – talk to more MPs and then get home after midnight.

Which is unfortunate – as I have to be up around 5am to study my brief as the Prime Minister is launching his Respect Action Plan in the morning and I have to cover all the media bids because Mark Oaten is going to announce his candidacy.

So, this morning (Tuesday) it was up at crack of dawn. Media bids from BBC, News 24 and Sky – and various radio. So head straight for Millbank. Tony Blair always seems so enthusiastic when he launches new projects or initiatives – which is a real art when so much of what gets announced is just recycled and repackaged!

It is definitely right to tackle the falling standard of behaviour, but – as ever – Labour’s good intentions boil down to more summary justice – a sort of ‘move ’em out’ attitude. The problem with ASBOs and Banning Orders and Dispersal Zones etc is they don’t do enough to actually change behaviour.

Just in the middle of all the interviews I get a call from Ed at my constituency office. He says I have to come home immediately because my next-door neighbour but one’s builders have found two black binbags in the road outside my house filled with cannabis!

We’ve had a number of strange things left outside my little drive – but never anything this extraordinary. Funnily enough I had noticed the bags last night when I came home but assumed they were just dumped rubbish and this morning reversing out of my drive I had run over one of them.

Anyway – first, I ask my daughter (who is at home) and Ed to check this out as far as they can – and then ring the police. Ed rings me later to say that he went up to my house, rang the police who came (three cars apparently!) and who confirmed it was indeed cannabis leaves. Apparently the male part of the plant. (I confess to not knowing there were gender bits). And they took the bags away. End of episode!

Back to anti-social behaviour. I recently had to submit a piece to the HeadsUp ASBO Forum as I had not been able to attend in person which touches, albeit very briefly, on the issues around anti-social behaviour.

The only really new bit is the idea of a parenting academy. It’s not a college for parents to attend – it’s a college where social workers etc can get special training to work with parents who need support and skills. I am all for real support as societal breakdown is seemingly having a knock-on effect and creating an ‘anything goes’ and ‘no one cares’ society.

I remain convinced that the answer is sustained interest and attention on the child with lots of alternative occupations to keep them busy and aspirations and pathways to enable real behaviour change. Labour’s problem is all headlines – but little follow through. For example, if a kid breaches an ASBO s/he can go to jail – where they will undoubtedly learn more handy criminal tricks to perpetrate on release. Hardly the sort of change of behaviour that is going to bring about respect!

So – I do my stuff and then hurry back to meet a few colleagues about the leadership. Then as I drift through Portcullis House – I am tackled by Mark Oaten’s camp and then Ming goes by and says he will see me at 5pm to answer my questions. So at 5pm I go to his office. What passed between us is confidential – but what I will say is that Ming was very good and very forthright.

Read the day’s letters and sign them, make some more phone calls and then the Whip comes through as unlikely to be any vote tonight. So can head off. Message from Simon Hughes that he will see me to answer my questions tomorrow.

Terror Bill

On Thursday I was absolutely determined to get called in the Third Reading Debate on the Terror Bill as I wanted very much to get what my consultation with local Muslims had delivered onto the record.

The Chamber was relatively and eerily empty by comparison with the high drama of Wednesday’s votes – and so I got my chance after about the first four hours of bobbing up and down at the end of every speech.

I made two basic points: the first was to relate back the results of the consultation. The Prime Minister at PMQs (Prime Minster’s Question Time) had asserted that Muslims did not want to be associated with being against this Bill – and the inference was that everything with them was therefore hunky-dory. Well – it clearly wasn’t so simple and I read out the Secretary of the Mosque’s email to me as it makes moving reading.

There was no division at the end of the debate. Basically – the Government’s defeat yesterday means that the outstanding issues over ‘glorification’ and the definition of ‘terrorism’ will have to be sorted in the Lords. Now the aftermath of the Government defeat is the running news story. From what I can make out listening to John Reid – it was Parliament that got it wrong; Tony Blair is right. That statement appalled me. The democratic duty of Parliament and the will of Parliament were clear.

In the evening I had invited, with the help of Merel Ece, key members of the Turkish, Turkish Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot communities in to discuss informally with me the key issues for their communities. Overwhelmingly – it is education. Of course there is concern about Cyprus, minority rights in Turkey and autonomy of some sort for the Kurds – but it is here in this country that the main thrust of their problems lie. The attainment record in our schools is extraordinarily low – and relatively little seems to be being done, although some good projects are happening (at least one here in Haringey) but there is no coordination of best practise. There is clearly also a problem with the Home Office in terms of visas for students. The other issue that stood out was the lack of recognition for the Alevi – a faith and a culture but not a race.

So now I feel I have put faces to names and issues and it was a really interesting couple of hours. Simon Hughes MP also popped in to give a little troll through Liberal Democracy and our position on the international issues – which was really appreciated.

Liberal Democrat conference, Blackpool

My bags are packed and I hi-tailed it out of town on Saturday morning from Euston. On the train, I sit down and the woman across the aisle from me immediately asks me if I am Lynne Featherstone. I cannot tell a lie! Actually, she turned out to be a constituent living in Creighton Avenue on her way to Glasgow to visit her Mum and we had a few enjoyable hours putting the world to rights; if only we were in charge!

Blackpool may well be a wonderful place for stag nights and hen parties for the young, drunk and noisy, but – sober and middle-aged, truly sorry and no offence meant, it would not be my first choice. Every time I enter the Winter Gardens – which is the conference centre – I try and imagine what nightmares were haunting the author of the design brief. Must have been truly evil!

The Conference Hotel is adequate – but is nowhere near the Winter Gardens and so the delegates are consigned to spending a good part of each day travelling between the two from main hall debates at the Winter Garden to all the fringe meetings at the main hotel and others. In fact, the local authority provided a free shuttle bus – but hardly anyone was told.

But to the business. My guess is – as always – that the media will focus on whether Lib Dems are going to the right or the left and whether Charlie boy’s leadership will be challenged. I turn out to be right on both counts. I do one fringe meeting on the right/left kafuffle. The title of the event is ‘Can the Liberal Democrats be part of a Progressive Consensus’? This is hosted by the Independent Newspaper and chaired by Steve Richards who does the early Sunday morning politics show on GMTV. (You can read my speech on my website).

I have a go a Gordon Brown – basically. Don’t believe he is capable of a consensus – progressive or otherwise. Or more accurately, Brown’s progressive consensus is just that – OK so long as you agree with him. Anyway – as everyone knows – I think Brown is a coward who keeps his head down below the parapet when the going gets tough, votes a straight New Labour ticket, is the author of the astronomically expensive and appalling part-privatisation of the tube and who broods in the shadows whilst waiting for Tony’s tide to go out.

But what the media really, really want – is for the Liberal Democrats to tear themselves apart on the basis that those of us who fight or represent old Tory seats will want to shift to the right and those of us who fight or represent old Labour seats (like me) will want to be on the centre-left of the political spectrum.

Clearly a disappointing night then as all four of us speakers – Simon Hughes, David Laws, Vince Cable and myself – in one way or another all argue that it isn’t a matter of right left – it’s about Liberal values. Especially when the Labour government is knee-jerking poorly thought out legislation into being and striking at the principles of justice and freedom that make our country what it is.

The other great debate going on is about multiculturalism and what it means to be British, particularly after 7/7.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, has thrown down the gauntlet with a nifty little sound bite: ‘we are sleepwalking our way into segregation’. His thesis being that we live in our cultural enclaves and mix less and less. Statement of the bleeding obvious I should say – although it strikes me lots of politicos are fundamentally in denial whilst a Sky TV poll clearly puts over 80% + of real people in line with that thesis.

I get two bites at this issue. I speak at a fringe meeting and then there is also a debate in the main hall.

For the debate, conference has introduced a new format where representatives send in their preferred topic for a discussion on an urgent issue. There is no motion or vote – but people’s views are taken back and with further work and consultation a motion will then be brought back to the next conference for decision. It’s my job to summate the debate.

I have my own views too- and whilst I do think we are becoming a segregated society, I don’t think the 7/7 bombers were making a statement about poverty or alienation when they blew us up or that solving the issues of poverty and alienation in our ethnic communities will have anything but a tiny effect on terrorism in ours or any Western country. Terrorists don’t generally come from the poorest or most alienated.

However, history has given us a bit of a lesson about where extremists go to find fodder for their causes. So whilst tackling poverty and alienation won’t directly stop terrorism, it will help make it harder for terrorists to recruit support in future.

I also chair two of the keynote speeches in the main hall. The second one is for my Home Affairs team leader – Mark Oaten – our Shadow Home Secretary. So with only a sentence or two to say I introduce him as the ‘toughest Liberal I know’ – a phrase picked up by the media sketch writers for the Telegraph and the Guardian! Mark had said a couple of days earlier that he would kill me if I introduced him thus – but I did it purposefully as I believe that ‘tough liberalism’ is the way forward – particularly in terms of law and order.

Mark gave a bravura speech.

I (and you will thank me for this) am not going to go through every fringe I spoke at – but I was allowed to pontificate on a much wider range of subjects than ever before. In my previous incarnation I was kept pretty much to my policing and transport portfolios. This time – outside of my usual training sessions for the party on ‘How we Won Hornsey & Wood Green’ and ‘Grow your Own Target Seat’, I covered Lords – the Last Bastion of Freedom?, What Difference would Electoral Reform make to Women? (not a great deal in my view); The Future of our Towns; Making the Breakthrough (or how to get our arses into gear in the 100+ seats we are second to Labour in for next time); Blogging and so on.

New experience for me (it is always great to do something you have never done before) was something called GNS. I had to go and do the radio responses on what Mark Oaten had said about breaking the consensus around Labour’s proposed new terrorist legislation. Whilst we support three of the proposals – an offence of training for terrorism, incitement to terrorism and acts preparatory to terrorism – we can’t support an offence ‘glorification of terrorism’ or the ‘three months detention without trial’. Briefly – the ‘glorification’ one is just too wide a definition. It would turn into a feast for lawyers all interpreting (as is their job) but with such a wide spectrum that it would be very hard for such legislation to be effective – and you don’t want the real terrorist dodging around the new legislation because it is poor and they have a good lawyer.

The other – three months detention – strikes at the very heart of our principles of justice – and is another form of internment. Moreover, having seen how stop and search works in practice when I was on the Metropolitan Police Authority – it would be just too easy for profiling to lead to autom
atic three month detention on suspicion – and suspicion as we tragically know from the Met shooting an innocent Br
azilian isn’t enough. And if after 14 days they need more evidence and more time, there are other ways. They currently put people under surveillance and the numbers are not such that that would be too difficult or expensive. In fact it might very well concentrate the police mind on intelligence-based evidence rather than suspicion. Three months internment would make them casual in their rigour.

Anyway – none of this was the point of my tale. The tale was about the GNS process. I was to speak for eight minutes to each BBC radio station around the country – live! So with headphones on in a tiny studio and with an electronics box – one after another station around the country dialled me up and did the interview. It was pretty tough going. I was just brilliant by about the fifth one – when I had got all my best lines in place – but definitely going off the boil with over-confidence by the ninth! But – as I say – had never even heard of this type of interview before.

And so – the rest was a late dinner with friends and pretty early to bed – and yes – it really was all work!

My bathing costume

I pass Simon Hughes on route from one part of Commons to another – and as he passes he turns and says ‘loved your review’! As he had a wicked grin on his face and I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about – I asked my Head of Office, Andrew, to find out.

It turned out to be a column by Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail writing about Parliament yesterday. I quote:

“A less generous eye might have fallen on the blinking figure of Charles Clarke, stretched so hard at the Home Office in recent days.

“It might hover, too, over the currently reduced form of Charles Kennedy – not to mention the outfit of a glamorous new Lib Dem MP called Lynne Featherstone, who was wearing an outfit that resembled a bathing costume.

“For spectacle Miss Featherstone’s top was matched only by an extraordinary, glowing object halfway down the Government front bench. This turned out to be the sunburnt bald head of John Reid, Defence Secretary.”

I desperately try to think about the decency of my attire the previous day. I was pretty sure that, although I didn’t wear my usual combination of dark trouser suit with jacket and white T-shirt, I hadn’t entirely lost the plot and worn a swimsuit. I had indeed, although unusually, worn a dress – it was a sweltering day. But to me – it was my formal summer dress (grey and discreet) – and although it has no sleeves and is not high cut at the neck, it is virtually knee length and very respectable. I remember wearing it with its matching coat to meet the Queen when she opened City Hall.

When I was young, I used to get upset at such comments – or indeed – wolf whistles as I walked past building sites. Now at my advanced age – I am simply grateful. Thank you Quentin – I say!

I stick around for the Tory Opposition Debates in the afternoon and evening – but there is an ‘incident’. On the information screens around Parliament, moving text along the bottom informs us that entrance to the Commons is barred to all for the time being because of an ‘incident ongoing’.

David Heath whispers to me in the chamber that the story doing the rounds is the police are chasing a suspected bomber along the South Bank – no idea if that was the case. My pager goes saying because of the incident there are no votes tonight – so I go home around 9pm. I get home around 9.50pm at which point my pager goes again informing me that votes are expected at 10pm. Well – I can’t get back quite that quick! Next day Whips apologise for the cock-up.

Finishing off at the MPA

Off to the MPA (having resigned a couple of weeks ago) to lead a deputation from Highgate who have submitted a question. Highgate Tube is out of action – closed – so have to take car. Looks like I won’t make it – but I do and arrive just in time.

The issue is that with Highgate being split between three boroughs, no single police commander will ever rate it important enough to get a Safer Neighbourhood Team. So the deputation wants the three police commanders to be given a nudge and a way to be found for such a team to be introduced in the area.

The reaction of my erstwhile colleagues on the MPA is hilarious. Kind of – how dare I? I dare.

Toby Harris (Labour and former GLA member himself) joins with the Tories in trying to infer that I am a johnny come lately to this and it was really started by Tories. Nonsense – as the chair of the MPA points out, I have been working on this for months and raised it on his borough visit to Haringey months and months ago. It’s another example of the rather cynical Labour and Tory love-in we often get in Haringey – they’re both so scared of losing yet more elections to the Lib Dems they like to talk each other up in public.

Anyway – it sparks a jolly good debate – and a few promises. After which melee the MPA Chair asks me to join him and makes a presentation to me with a gift and thanks me for all the hard work. ‘Ah – so now you’re being nice to me’!

I say thank you and how much I have enjoyed my time on the MPA. I also – parting shot – say that they won’t be losing me entirely as I have been put in the LibDem Home Affairs Team! Joy all round……..

In the afternoon trail round dismally looking at the few offices which are still left in Parliament. I am almost bottom of the heap and will be left with shoebox, far from the Commons and far from staff by the look of it. I lost my place in office allocations because I had to go to Leeds to do Question Time.

Then I have to meet Mark Littlewood from the LibDem Press Office who runs through the whole media operation with me. Coming from high profile on the Assembly, I have a lot of media experience now – so much of what we cover is for form. Mark seems very on the ball and a good thing from what I can see.

In the evening – pop into Valerie and Clive Silbigers’ farewell party. They are moving to France. The first meeting Haringey Lib Dem meeting I ever went to was in Valerie’s flat. She has been a stalwart of the Party for over 30 years and is currently President of London Region – an unsung hero of the party to whom I am grateful for her love and support over the years. And in this election – whereas she has always done front of desk at Simon Hughes’ campaign HQ – this time she did mine! We wish them all the very best in their new life in France.

Simon Hughes MP visits

Simon Hughes sweep into Hornsey & Wood Green. Yes – all the party stars are shining here this time round!

We are canvassing in Hornsey. People are always pretty surprised when they open the door and find Simon on their doorstep. And it has to be said – people are Simon’s forte – he basically just charms them…

Simultaneously – my door knocking was pretty productive. One door I knocked at – definitely voting LibDem – says ‘wait a minute, I’ve got a present for you.’ Haven’t encountered this before – but wait in mystified anticipation. The guy reappears with a book – of which he is the author. Title of said book ‘The Curious Incident of the WMD in Iraq’.

So – you never know what you will find on the doorstep. And Simon assures me that I don’t have to list it in ‘gifts received’ (Standards in Public Life) as it falls way below the level at which this kicks in. Phew – don’t want any books for votes scandal attaching itself to my campaign!

Simon wants to stalk a high street – so we are just off Crouch End Broadway and go there to meet and greet. It was fun. Simon sweeps into each shop, restaurant or whatever – stops people just minding their own business – and engages thoroughly with the denizens of Crouch End.

He is the past master at such engagement – and when you walk through Simon’s constituency of Southwark and Bermondsey it takes hours as everyone knows him and talks to him. Of course, this has its downside, as he has given me a lift in his bright yellow taxi to where we have been canvassing and I need to get back to go to Muswell Hill to sign the ‘Make Poverty History’ pledge. Eventually with the help of his minder we pull him away.

Arrive in Muswell Hill at the stall. Sign the pledge and wait as the other candidates are late or not coming. Journal photographer appears (at the request of the stall holders – not me!) and the ‘signing’ is complete. We all support the ambitions of this campaign.

Saturday on the campaign trail in Hornsey and Wood Green

Our campaign HQ opens today. I go there at 11 to start canvassing. It is just a fabby HQ, above the Three Compasses pub on Hornsey High Street. Above a pub – bound to be popular with people coming to help! Right in the centre of the constituency and with just the nicest owners and staff – and great, real, food.

The office is already buzzing and there are helpers already doing what helpers do in an election – sticking bits of double-sided tape on posters and folding letters for stuffing. Love it to bits. Valerie is front of house at HQ – President of London Region Liberal Democrats, activist over decades – and who for the last (can’t remember how many) elections has gone to Southwark to do front of house for Simon Hughes. This time she is staying on here to help me win the seat – because basically this time – it’s game on.

I go off with Monica to canvas a new block of flats in Crouch End. It has an entry system that is impenetrable. Needless to say we do penetrate – as the candidate it’s often not too bad trying to get into places as people generally want to offer you the democratic opportunity to knock on doors.

One single mother I spoke too with two very young children said it was a nightmare because they never got any leaflets – the leaflets most of us moan about littering our floors about pizzas etc! As a result – cut off from the businesses in the area and didn’t get local news through free newspapers, political leaflets etc.

Back to the pub for lunch and a drink with the activists. Sarah Ludford, MEP arrives to go out canvassing. I give her the times of the blessing (Camilla and Charles) and the Grand National – so that they can avoid knocking on doors during those and off she goes.

A group sitting at a table in the pub call me over, wish me luck and ask for a poster … It reminds me of the campaign technique my agent and I used in ’97 when we didn’t have a clue about campaigning. We used to finish canvassing (Muswell Hill ward) at about 9pm and then he and I would go to the various eatery or drinkery establishments in the constituency wearing our rosettes as a means of seeing and being seen. I didn’t win! Eight years later, my campaign manager just roars with laughter at what he regards as completely amateur techniques – but I’m not so sure … (And it was a good way to end a hard day’s campaigning).

I have a brief word with my agent who tells me that the local Conservative party chair was loitering downstairs outside our HQ for an hour or so in the morning. Strange! Surely they’ve got better things to do …

Monica and I go to do a couple of hours delivering. She is nervous that I may mention her driving in my blog. But I won’t – it’s really her parking technique that is of interest. People smile at me in the street – which I take as a good sign – it sure beats not smiling or ignoring. Two hours of my exercise program – unfortunately in high heels as I forgot to bring my trainers out – is my Bridget Jones for the day.

I rush home to check messages and finish up some correspondence. About 10pm I finish (well you never finish but I do have two children and am single so occasionally feel it appropriate to appear) and go into the lounge to watch a film with them. Needless to say I fall asleep on the sofa.

End of conference

Am aiding Simon Hughes (Lib Dem president) who is chairing the finale at conference. This is Razzall (campaign head), Rennard (chief campaign guru) followed by three rousing ‘get the activists excited’ speeches by key people, with Charles Kennedy to finish off.

Everything went smoothly – and the choreography went extremely well. Whew!

Mayor's Question Time

The first Mayor’s Question Time of this term of office. Ken, much to my surprise, is quite jovial. I had heard tales of bad temper and particularly with the Lib Dems. He appeared to have developed a deep antipathy towards Simon Hughes during the campaign. However, he was more angry with the tube unions. I guess ‘cos they wouldn’t do his bidding for once. Being supported by the unions, now the election was out the way, they were/are still planning to strike next Tuesday/Wednesday. Ken says the deal on the table to them is fabulous and they can have no reason to go ahead with the strike and if they do, he could understand crossing the picket line. He comes under attack for having Bob Crow on the board of TfL.

Nothing else of huge interest. We all have our usual bash about the West London Tram, his spending problems, his lack of meetings (none) with the Chancellor re making the case for London and so on.

Most interesting thing is Labour members absolute cessation of scrutiny. All they do now is put forward sycophantic questions or comments – all critical faculty has clearly evaporated in the coming of a Labour Mayor!