Friday, November 07, 2008

Power to the People

Last night saw the first full Peoples' Question Time for Boris. The meeting took place at Bromley Civic Centre in a packed hall, with every one of the 650 seats filled and standing room only. I'm told they had to turn around 200 people away because there was no room for them.

The audience contained large numbers of Boris supporters and there was much cheering and applause when the great man appeared on stage. There were also some whingeing greens who came to complain about the scrapping of the £25 congestion charge and the Venezuela oil deal. At the back were many supporters of Crystal Palace Park, who wanted the mayor to withdraw LDA plans for regenerating the site.

The audience also get to vote on questions at these debates, and the results provide some clues about their motivation. Despite criticisms of PCSOs, the majority of people wanted to see more of them. There was very strong objection (71%) to road charging, probably because cars are essential in large outer London boroughs.

On the Olympics, there was some pessimism, with over 55% believing that 2012 would fail to live up to the standard set by China this year. There was also majority opposition to new supermarkets, which the mayor rightly regarded as hypocrisy - if everyone is so opposed to Tesco, why do they all use the facilities?

For me, the answer is easy. Like many Londoners I'm too busy to spend time buying food in different shops, and I value what spare time I have too highly to spend it standing in queues. I remember my poor mother having to devote whole mornings to shopping when I was young, trudging from shop to shop, encumbered by a pushchair and a pram, weighed down by multiple bags which got heavier in each queue, then the long, long, tiring walk home... Thank goodness we don't have to do that any more.

I was asked how we could improve the performance of the assembly, and suggested a straight 50% majority to approve the budget, rather than the third of members required at present; giving the assembly a vote on the mayor's key strategies; scrapping proportional representation to prevent the election of single issue extremists (Richard Barnbrook did a bit of heckling at this point).

88% of people agreed that local member James Cleverly, did a good job of chairing a sometimes challenging meeting, dealing with hecklers, and a guitar wielding busker who tried to sing a 'song for Boris' before being booed off - how did he smuggle his instrument into the room?

The mayor is planning to do more of these meetings, aiming for six per year rather than the two required by statute. He intends to feature mayoral advisors and commissioners of fire, police and transport, at some of the meetings, rather than just assembly members. Judging by the crowd last night, they will be sell out events.


Adam Bienkov said...

It sounds like utter chaos. Did anyone film it?

Suzanne Elkin, Secretary Crystal Palace Community Association said...

You are mistaken. I was the lady at the back asking Boris NOT if he would withdraw plans to regenerate Crystal Palace Park, but to withdraw LDA proposals to sell areas of protected public parkland, for construction of private luxury blocks of flats. There is huge opposition to this aspect of the LDA Masterplan planning application not least from the four surrounding boroughs of Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth and Croydon, who recognise the benefit and necessity of protecting our precious public green and open spaces. It is disappointing that Boris, who received our full support during his election campaign, where he said that he did not "feel the building of houses on precious parkland is a suitable way forward", did not answer the question I put to him. Perhaps you could answer it.

Roger Evans said...

Suzanne - as I'm not a member of the LDA, I cannot give you a response. I am a planning committee chairman in Havering and so I can appreciate that the mayor - as a planning authority himself - might be cautious about commenting in public on what is effectively a legal process.

For my own part, I believe that we should try to keep promises made during an election.

Adam - it was filmed by lots of outlets and recorded by LBC. It was no more chaotic than it has been in the past...

weggis said...

If "cars are essential in large outer London boroughs" then why don't you have one?

Whingeing Green

Roger Evans said...

Weggis - cars are more essential to some people: The disabled and elderly, people with a lot of shopping, those who need them for work, mothers with long school runs, to name but a few...

Even I need to use taxis to get around sometimes, or I get lifts from friends now and again.

Just because I do without the expense and responsibility of a car, that doesn't mean everyone should be made to live the same way.

Vive la difference, as the mayor might say...

weggis said...

So, cars are "essential to some people"! [my emphasis]

For the rest they are a convenience, just the same as Tescos.

As a public transport user yourself I am surprised you are not aware of the large numbers of your constituents who are disabled, elderly, carrying shopping or pushing prams and who regularly use Public Transport because they do not have access to a car.

It is therefore Public Transport that is essential.

morris hickey said...

It is high time the LDA disappeared in a cull of useless quangos.

lucia said...

weggis: why does it have to be either/or?

Public transport is essential, and so are private cars. And as for those whose cars are a convenience, well why not?

You could have saved electricity and no doubt, in your view, the world, by writing to Mr Evans on a bit of home-made papyrus, and training a pigeon to take it to him. Instead, you obviously own a computer (ooh, nasty modern mass-produced thingy!) and commented on his blog. After all, a private computer is hardly a necessity, and lots of people do not own one ...

Roger Evans said...

Lucia, a good point, well made.

Of course all the attempts to set car users against public transport users are bogus, because they are the same people, using the form of transport that suits their purposes at that particular time.

Perhaps the exception is cycling which is still something of a niche activity.

weggis said...

Yes, Lucia, but I do not claim that my computer, [or anybody else’s for that matter] is essential. Nor am I opposed to cars. I’ve got one myself as Roger knows and it’s not particularly eco-friendly. What I am opposed to is the irresponsible use of cars.

I believe I was right to pick up on Roger’s original statement when there are large numbers of people in such boroughs who do not have access to a car, some of whom will be physically incapable of driving. And when I regularly see elderly people, some bent double, struggling home with their shopping on the bus.

I also accept that for some a car is essential, for those, for example, who transport disabled relatives. I also agree with Roger that having a range of options to suit the circumstances is desirable. The trouble is that for some, those options are not even considered. Cars may be essential for some, for some journeys, but they are not essential per se.

Try having a look at my other blog, Barkingside 21, there’s a link in Roger’s side bar.

lucia said...

But what is, in the end, essential 'per se'?

After food and water, nothing.

And who are you, Weggis, to judge whether another man's use of a transport mode is irresponsible?

You may see a woman, alone, driving a car in the middle of the day and assume she is going shopping. I might see the same woman and know that she is a community nurse and has a dozen domiciliary visits to make in a day, plus having to transport medical equipment. Fat lot of use it would be to hang around waiting for a bus. YOU don't know.

weggis said...


You missed of shelter and clothing!

Making assumptions about what another may or may not see and what YOU know does not win a debate.

It is true that I do not have sufficient information to make a judgement in unknown specific cases, but I do have sufficient information, based on specific and KNOWN cases to be able form a judgement on the generality.

Judgement is one of the qualities that makes us Human. You have yourself used it in the example you quote above.