Boxing in Haringey

Surgery as usual in the morning. (If you are a new reader and wondering – no, I’m not a doctor in my spare time! This is when I have a series of meetings with residents who raise their individual issues with me. Normally it’s a particular problem they need help with, but also too there are people who want to meet me to raise a wider issue or concern).

This is followed by meeting with the Chief Executive of the Whittington, David Sloman. I am dreading hearing that the ruthless job-letting next door at the Royal Free is to be repeated at the Whittington. But so far so good…

I rush on to open World Tuberculosis event – which is a really good event. TB used to stalk our communities before the war. In fact my mother’s fiancé died of it. Nowadays it is curable and treatable – but back then it was touch and go. Clearly, as I exist, my mother met and married someone else – and as time went on TB became a thing of the past.

But now it is rearing its ugly head again, particularly in London – and particularly among communities where deprivation is high and among vulnerable people who have HIV/AIDS, cancer, alcoholism, etc. I remember when I was on the Health Committee at the London Assembly we looked into the rise of TB in London. The main findings then were that people, once they felt better and were back out in the community, stopped taking their medication before they should have. Anyway – the good news in Haringey and Enfield, is that treatment is free and that there are really good and committed teams working in the hospitals and the communities together to tackle this rising problem.

I have had to give my speech to the TB event in evening dress as I have to literally run off as soon as I finish speaking to what is one of my most favourite events of the year. This is the Annual Haringey Amateur Boxing Match where the Haringey Boxers fight an invited club or organisation at a proper charity dinner where funds are raised to continue funding the boxing club. It was originally set up by Stephen James (two police commanders of Haringey ago). He is still involved and the two commanders since, Stephen Bloomfield and now Simon O’Brien are also carrying on the enthusiasm and commitment.

I know- boxing has a bad name. But this is not about two men slugging it out in 15 rounds without head protection. This is well trained, well-monitored, well-refereed young people who fight three 3 minute rounds with proper head gear and so on. And the work done with kids from the most deprived areas gives a great pathway out of street life.

Before the dinner kicks off – Simon O’Brien and I go through to the boxers dressing rooms for photographs – and they give me boxing gloves to put on and pose as if I am fighting. Not sure about political correctness! But I am a fan of this type of boxing. I enjoy it. I think it does a lot of good in the communities that have the most challenges. The police have done a fantastic job with this initiative – and I understand that there are around five other boroughs starting or looking to start similar activities.

The dinner is served – and then it is on with the show. They sure come out fighting and the energy and the talent and skill are extraordinary. The fifth contest does make my jaw drop open as it is two girls fighting. I know – it’s an equal world – but it was the first time I had seen girls fight (outside of Million Dollar Baby – and that hardly had a happy ending!). They were as energetic and tough as the boys – and it really is an equality that I hadn’t expected.

I presented two of the winners with there trophies. Up close after a bout – you can see the exertion in the buckets of sweat and depth of chest heaving. Quite an extraordinary sport.

Muswell Hill crime meeting

7am start on emails having done fifty sit ups. Given the amount of exercise I get during and election delivering leaflets and the amount of weight I lose from being on the run – I have decided that I might as well have a flat stomach by May 5!

Inevitably during a campaign the blog content of my daily efforts will be repetitive in terms of 1) delivering leaflets 2) canvassing 3) stuffing envelopes and 4) answering emails, letters and the phone.

The interest I guess will come from the twists and the turns, the media and the national campaign.

So today was unremitting emails and paperwork all morning. Then for light relief three hours of leaflet delivery midst beautiful sunshine – interspersed with hail, lightening and thunder. We (Monica and I) were leafleting a really up-market part of the constituency – with mega houses and tree-lined drives. Only issue with long drives is that it takes twice as long to deliver as normal roads.

At 7.30pm arrive at the British Legion in Muswell Hill Road for the consultation with key stakeholders in Muswell Hill. I am the lead councillor on the roll out of the police’s Safer Neighbourhoods Scheme in Muswell Hill. This is what we have all been waiting for – 6 police personnel, ring-fenced for Muswell Hill on a permanent basis. Hurrah!

This is a real ‘good news’ story – and tonight is about asking the chairs of residents’ associations and neighbourhood watches what they believe are the priorities for the area.

I have raised already one of the key problems for residents of St James’s Lane and Connaught Gardens – which is kids hanging around – and in the case of St James’s Lane acting quite aggressively to passers by.

I have been in email correspondence with Stephen Bloomfield, the local Commander and suggested to him that we try Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs). Yes – we can have patrols (if we are lucky) and that will move them on – temporarily. But I am for long term resolution – not just pushing a problem into someone else’s back yard.

ABCs were pioneered in Lib Dem run Islington with the Met and involve the police, the parents, the children, and other partners from education, social services, housing – whatever the problems need. Parents and children sign up to an agreed way forward for behaviour and have regular meetings to discuss any difficulties etc. These have worked stunningly well – so much so that Labour Ministers Charles Clarks and Hazel Blears are now advocating this as best practise across the land.

Stephen Bloomfield emails back that this seems just the right sort of case to be taken forward with ABCs but he isn’t promising anything until he knows more.

So at the meeting, the team are there and the issue is raised and we will see what path they take.

One of the most positive and optimistic evenings in my memory in terms of policing (outside of the re-opening of Muswell Hill Police front counter).

Come home to find phone message from Andrew Gilligan – so call him back. Piece in Standard will come out on Monday. He asks how I am getting on – and I say well. Lots of emails from Labour supporters telling me not only that they are going switch from Labour for the first time in their lives and vote for me – but why.

Interestingly – the reasons are not just the war. Iraq certainly leads the field – but the disappointments with Labour are many. It’s feeling very good on the doorsteps – especially as former Tory and Green supporters are getting the tactical voting message that to beat Blair’s candidate they need to vote Lib Dem in Hornsey and Wood Green.

Policing in London

Today was the Met Police Commissioner’s conference where senior bods in the Met (and the Metropolitan Police Authority) gathered to ‘build on our success’ – i.e. plot and plan the way forward.

Sir John Stevens gave his usual stirring story for boys (and girls) speech. He is an absolute master of rallying his troops and motivating them. He’s really more of a politician than most the politicians I know – and better at it.

Myself and local Haringey Commander, Stephen Bloomfield, got an honorary named mention for Muswell Hill police station (see my blog entry for 27 September).

There was much success for him. This included the new “Safer Neighbourhoods” program. Currently it applies in three wards in each London borough, putting six police personnel on our streets, ring-fenced from removal for any other policing purpose.

However, the roll-out of the program faces funding problems. And without a pan-London roll out, there’s a risk that crime is displaced to areas outside the scheme.

Next was a speech from the Chair of the MPA, Len Duval. I have a lot of time for Len – voted for him to be Chair in fact – and time is what you needed today. Len had been given a slot of 15 minutes. Now what you have to understand about the Met is it runs like clockwork to time (if only our rail system did the same). Len made good points – and then remade them – and then veered off at tangents – and then made them again. The upshot being that he overran his slot by about 25 minutes – thus throwing the whole schedule into disarray and losing his audience entirely. Hope someone close to him whispers in his ear for next time.

Muswell Hill police station celebration

Hurrah! I am at Muswell Hill Police Station at the re-opening of the police front counter.

It has taken five and one half years to get it reopened – but today is the day.

It was a fabulous feeling to see the reality, to meet the volunteers who have been trained to help staff the counter, and to have the Met Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens there to cut the ribbon.

It was good to hear him reiterate the importance and significance of the police station in our community. The local police commander, Stephen Bloomfield, also positively beamed with pleasure at the way things have got better in Haringey.

It is both his and Sir John’s real commitment to community policing and engagement which – added to our long campaign and the community’s support – delivered the wonderful occasion today.

Even Sir John allowed both himself and his uniformed officers to have a glass of champagne. The Met is really chilling out…

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.