Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Battering at Battersea

Last night's Question Time was hosted by the Battersea Arts Centre, a trust occupying the former Battersea Town Hall. The building is supposed to be one of the birthplaces of the Labour Party, but relaxing in the bar with Martin of Mayorwatch, it was hard to believe that such an aberration could have crawled from such a pleasant venue.

The audience were pleased to see Boris and they gave us an enthusiastic welcome, although this was tempered by the number of special interests demanding public cash - don't they realise the economic climate has changed. Local assembly member Richard Tracey chaired the event, opening the meeting with a short speech extolling the virtues of his constituency. He concluded by congratulating Wandsworth Council on their low council tax, to cheers from the audience, and a few hisses from isolated socialists.

Boris then wowed the crowd with his report, stating his intention to put the village back into the city with much needed environmental improvements. He congratulated Wandsworth on exporting TV aerials to China, and referred to the discovery of an iron age jewelled shield at Battersea Bridge - a civilisation that had collected the wealth of its residents and thrown it in the river, rather like Gordon Brown's government...

Assembly Chair Dee Doocey kept her comments brief and we were straight into the questions:


Richard rather generously selected the Labour Leader from Wandsworth to ask the first question and was rewarded with an accusation that police numbers were being cut. Boris begged to differ, stating that numbers would increase by 1,200 over his term in office. John Biggs accused him of lying, which did not play well with the audience. Kit Malthouse made an excellent contribution, dealing with the change in numbers and the planned redeployment of sergeants out of some neighbourhood teams.

Another questioner raised the possibility of 'insurrection' and asked if the police were ready to deal with more riots. The Mayor reassured him that the police were prepared to deal with all eventualities, including flood, epidemics and of course 'insurrection'.

A nice blonde lady congratulated Boris and the Assembly on our efforts to reduce knife crime and youth crime. Matthew from the UK Youth Parliament asked for more opportunities for police and young people to build positive relationships. Boris talked about joint sporting events, outreach programmes and police cadets.


The first complaint - that Boris had failed to extend the Tube to Croydon and Wandsworth - seemed a bit premature, only three years into his term.

A request to extend bike hire to Wandsworth attracted a more positive response. Cycle Superhighway 7 already runs to Wandsworth and Boris proudly declared that he had used it to get to the meeting.

A blind man complained that there were no staff to help him at Kings Cross, Victoria and Upton Park. This is inexcusable particularly at such busy stations and Boris promised to take the matter up with London Underground.

A lady from Age Concern complained about poor bus driving standards, cyclists using the pavement and excessive street furniture - all issues the Assembly has raised in the past, and it appears we will have to return to them in the future.

There was a brief discussion of airport capacity, with Boris stoutly defending his call for more flights to London, and his 'Boris Island' plan for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.


Residents raised their long running concerns about Thames Water's Super Sewer. Tony Arbour stated that Thames Water had failed to do their homework, relying on the easy option of building on available green spaces. He was pleased that the plan to use the Barn Elms site had been shelved.

A councillor from Northcote Ward complained that Labour Lambeth Council were going to allow a giant camp site on Clapham Common as part of the Royal Wedding celebrations. This would attract 10,000 people damaging the common and disturbing residents. Boris replied that this just showed how much Lefties loved the Royal Family...


The Mayor of Merton asked for reassurances about security and transport for the Olympic tennis venue at Wimbledon. Boris assured her that LOCOG were planning for every eventuality and extending Cycle Superhighways to Wimbledon would be considered.

There was a vexed discussion about ticket allocation, with Dee Doocey making much of the tickets allocated to London boroughs and government which would 'all go to politicians'. Of course the tickets will be charged and are more likely to be allocated to local charities and sporting groups. Nevertheless, this exchange highlighted a moral minefield and I'm pleased to say that in Havering and Redbridge we have decided to turn down the ticket offer and save ourselves the associated controversy.

Exclusive Olympic traffic lanes were mentioned and I decided to pitch in, noting that the privileged users included not only athletes, but foreign dignitaries and journalists. I added, to some applause that we should limit the lanes as far as possible, tightly controlling their use and removing them immediately after the games. Emboldened by colleagues behind me I added that perhaps we should hire some mini buses, to make more economic use of the road space and avoid the spectacle of limousines and cavalcades sweeping past frustrated Londoners. At this point Boris shouted "BOLLOCKS!" and I began to wonder if I had gone off message... There goes my career.

Next Meeting

The session concluded with a few questions about housing provision and planning. The Albert Bridge closure was also raised and Richard Tracey assured residents that the bridge would be reopened in September after being 'largely rebuilt'.

He then closed the meeting, adding that the next Boris Question Time would be on 7th June at Kingston's Rose Theatre.

And the next official Peoples' Question Time will take place on 7th November at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch.


Mrs Angry said...

Aberration? A bit extreme, Mr Evans.

You haven't told us who your friend in the photo is, but I suspect he may not be a gentleman as I notice you have cut off his feet so we can't tell if he is wearing the correct colour shoes.

When will Boris make his once every four year campaign visit to Broken Barnet? I think I may be able to provide a nice blonde lady to ask questions too ...

Roger Evans said...

The photo features the local AM Richard Tracey, and he is certainly a gentleman, having served as a minister in Margaret Thatcher's administration.

We came round your way before Christmas, when we visited Camden. Didn't see you in the crowd. But if you want to thank us for our efforts you don't need to wait until we come to Barnet - it's what this comment facility is for...

Anonymous said...

You mention the Olympics. I was interested tickets for the Olympic opening ceremony.

Whilst the cheapest tickets are £20, Lord Coe was pretty cagey on the BBC interview about how many £20 tickets were available. Nor did he say anything abotu the seating plans. So you have no idea if the £20 are only partial viewing.

However, he did say 50% were tickets for the sponsors. So the 26 sponsors get 50% of the ticket allocation for the opening ceremonry. Does that sound fair?

Did the sponsors pay 50% of the Olympic costs that they should be entitles to 50% of the opening ceromony tickets?

If you want to improve your chances, the next ticket price band is £150. Which is pretty steep.

It seems a shame. Londoners council tax payers paid £200,but for the rich to enjoy themselves.

Mrs Angry said...

Serving in Margaret Thatcher's administration, is, I am afraid, not necessarily the definition of a gentleman, Mr Evans.

And Camden is not Barnet. One of the reasons people are so deeply unimpressed by the whole GLA & Mayor shebang is because there is almost no attention given to the outer boroughs, and the lack of interest in visiting the far flung edges of his domain shown by the Mayor except at election time is partly to blame for this. Also to blame, of course, is the fact that our GLA member is You Know Who - although not for much longer, one suspects.

Redbridge resident said...

Are you perhaps glossing over, Mrs Angry, the fact that the Mayor and Assembly were Blairite inventions - created largely to keep Livingstone off his back?