Local politics

Wow. I mean, wow. Doorbell just went while I was in the middle of watching last night's The Thick of It, which probably didn't help the caller, seeing as he was from the Hither Green Labour party. Talking through my front door (the keys were in the back, I'm not traipsing all the way into the kitchen for this guy), it rang a bell: was he from the group that leafleted about the Hither Green Cinema the other week?

I've posted on Londonist about the background to the campaign to save the old Kids Corner building, and last Sunday the non-partisan, and newly created, Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society took over the old Firemaster building and showed some films. It was a brilliant idea, and I went along towards the end. Anyway, a leaflet had appeared in my letterbox a few days before on Labour Action Team headed notepaper, introducing themselves and writing "to give you notice of an event in the area that might be of interest to you". Then they had all details, and mentioned at the start of the fourth paragraph that it was actually being organised by another group. Then they went on to talk about their new website and how to contact them – Labour, not the Hither Green CHAS.

I showed this to my parents, handily available as independent judges. Who, I asked them, did they think was behind the event, based on that leaflet? After a quick scan – which, let's face it, is all any of us give unsolicited mail shoved through the door – they said "well, Labour". This confirmed my initial reaction, and made me a bit angry. It looked very much like Labour were trying to claim the cinema event.

Back to tonight. Labour man was very apologetic, said the leaflet had been through the committee for approval and that he himself had actually been quite concerned about the association, in case the event didn't work out… Woah, I said. Hang on. You mean, in case Labour were tainted by a possible failure?  Er, er, er, no, of course not, said the Labour man. Goodbye, I said.

I don't buy the idea that people are attracted to the BNP mainly because of the failure of the three main parties to give a stoat's toss about local concerns. Lots of people, me included, are thoroughly disillusioned with mainstream politics and we manage to resist the many and varied charms of the far right. But you do wonder about the effect of such self-serving weaselling from your local 'acceptable' political representatives.

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6 responses to “Local politics

  1. Clare Griffiths October 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Cheeky so and sos! They had nothing whatsoever to do with the cinema event!

  2. maxink.wordpress.com October 26, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for writing this.
    All Lewisham Politicos are reading this today so a comment here is a very good way to say something about this subject that is very important indeed.
    It’ll be a very good day when people in politics will get it that to jump on community campaigns claiming an ownership that they don’t have damages those very campaigns and implicitly defeats what they say they stand for.
    I personally thought long and hard about this as I have a dual role and I must make a constant conscious effort to avoid mixing the two roles in a way that is not consistent with what I believe.
    My community campaigning experinces are the very thing that made me want to try to have a direct influence at Council and I believe that people have a right to do both political activity and community campaigning and although some cross-fertilization is welcome and a degree of polical flirtation even necessary to make things happen, to use a campaign for political purposes (weaseling as you eloquently put it) should be stigmatized, and thanks to your post we here have an opportunity to make this point just at the beginning of the next election’s campaign.
    I worked hard to keep this campaign out of my party’s literature, especially at this crucial stage of community building, where the message has to be clear, but of course I have no control over what other parties decide to do.
    I appreciate people that are also party members or prospective candidate of any party helping in their individual capacity and I hope that in the future they’ll find the courage to stop their party from taking advantage of community initiatives in ways that do damage to the community just as I did with my own party.
    There should be enough interesting subjects in politics that people may like to hear the various parties’ views about to keep the parties literature machines busy.

  3. Rachel October 26, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Max – your post is really intriguing… the Labour guy claimed the Labour leaflet had been through the Hither Green Hall committee and been approved. Is that not the case, then? Was he being less a weasel and actually out and out lying?!

  4. maxink.wordpress.com October 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Not that I know, and I should know.
    Reading your post I assumed that the committee he told you about was a Labour Party committee actually, even because you say that he mentioned being concerned about it in case the event bombed, not something that he would say at a HG CHAS meeting.

  5. Rachel October 26, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    The impression I got was that it had gone through the HG CHAS committee, because I was expressing concern that Labour had attempted to hijack the event; though he didn’t name the actual committee involved (ho hum), he was trying to reassure me that it had all been done in the spirit of co-operation and with everyone’s blessing.
    *raises eyebrows*

  6. maxink.wordpress.com October 26, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I see, reading your post again I see that the concerns he mentioned weren’t necessarily raised at the committee mentioned.
    Speaking as a community campaign organizer you can’t turn people away so you have to trust they’ll do the right thing, then if things start to go wrong you have to intervene of course.
    It’s a tricky subject that I know very well.
    How do you tell a party drone jumping on a community camaign for party purposes apart from a party member that wants to genuinely help for selfless reasons?
    And then there are grey situations, people that are ok but then are subject to pressure from within their party to allow some exploitation of what they do and don’t have the strenght to stand firm and oppose those pressures.
    There are also extreme situations where a party colonizes a campaign, hollows it out from with, votes out the original members and transforms it into a party instrument.
    Labour has actually a long tradition of this but it has not happened here, even because they don’t have the numbers to do so, we only have one Labour member that I know of, the Labour candidate for the area, the one you met.

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