I was astounded at the scale of yesterday’s Northcote carnival. Although I’d seen the programme and heard about some of the preparations (and, of course, went last year) I wasn’t quite ready to see almost the entirety of Northcote Road so dramatically transformed.
I spent a few hours with the council’s community safety team and local police offering advice and balloons to anyone interested (to be fair, my advice was usually to refer to the relevant expert there) accompanied by a police DJ!
But I also managed a nice lunch at Vito’s (I rarely get that far up Northcote Road) and a good few strolls around to take in the atmosphere of a huge and incredibly fun event.
I cannot imagine how many thousands of people visited throughout the day and evening, all in good spirits and with the weather staying good – despite some threatening grey clouds – I can’t imagine the organisers could have hoped for better. A fantastic day.
It’s the second Northcote Carnival this weekend. Sunday sees a day of events on a closed off Northcote Road.
Despite only being the second year this year has seen it get much bigger, as well as boasting the usual markets, stalls and entertainment it all has two stages (a gauntlet thrown down for all the other events, perhaps) with bands and entertainment running into the evening.
It’s a fascinating site, with little snippets from Wandsworth’s past. Like the Brown Dog Affair, about riots caused by a statue erected in 1906 to commemorate animals killed in vivisection (although I’m not sure the phrase “anti-doggers” has survived etymological change).
Tonight also sees the launch of the Battersea Heritage Trials, published by Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership at Battersea Rise cemetery at 6.30pm. Sadly (because there is ‘Battersea ale’ there) I’m at the town hall for the first meeting of the Adult Care Services and Health OSC.
I’m aware how it seems advertising a service like this, and I’ve advertised Streetbook before, but while I’ve been away I noticed that it is starting to take off a bit with people starting to post on the forums and a few small discussions starting. It’s a new service, so it’s not there yet, but having met the organisers at Summer in the Square last weekend am quite excited for the prospects for it. But it needs you!
The idea is fairly simple, to create a social network based on your local area, but I’ve never really seen it done in quite this way before. The verification is a bit daunting, but they are working on other ways of verifying your address (which I believe will be ready within weeks, if not days) so you know that you are talking to your actual neighbours. But you can sign up just as an SW11 member without verifying your address, and I’d encourage SW11 folk to do just that to try it out – but most importantly sign in and get involved in the forum.
We might talk about ‘Big Society’, but as a basic concept, making it easy for neighbours to talk to one another can only be a good thing. It would be great to see this working as a place where people from across Battersea, were getting together and talking about the issues that are important to them.
Today I (technically) start my fourth term as a Wandsworth Councillor after a long and hard election.
It’s been an interesting campaign. There’s no shortage of commentary about the national campaign, so I will add little to it, suffice to say I’m pleased to see Justine re-elected in Putney and Jane elected in Battersea. Obviously it’s disappointing that we didn’t get the clean sweep and Sadiq Khan held on in Tooting. I only wish he and his supporters could have exhibited the grace in victory shown in the Putney and Battersea results declared before his, but I think I always knew that would be too much to ask.
But moving onto the local results, I can’t help but think how good they were for the Conservatives and wonder how disappointed the Labour Party must be think weekend. The combined general and local election poll was a great opportunity for them to increase their representation on the council but now they must bitterly reflect that it was an opportunity missed.
Most of their gains came in Tooting, getting one seat that had been held by the Conservatives in Furzedown and two in Tooting ward. Fuzedown has always been an ‘odd’ ward, regularly returning a split and this is the first time in my memory that all three councillors have been from the same party. Tooting was always seen as a Labour safe seat and it was an upset when we took two seats there, defeating the then Labour leader Stuart King (who must also be disappointed with the night’s results for other reasons). This time our candidates in both wards put up a hard fight, but it wasn’t enough.
However, Labour failed to make any in-roads into any of the other wards, most notably Bedford, where they must have been hopeful of a Labour gain, but found themselves 350 votes short of taking a seat and over 1,300 short of all three.
Labour’s only other gain of the evening was in Roehampton. This was a ward we won in 1998 (totally against the odds, the Conservative candidates were so sure of defeat they’d gone for a curry instead of to the count) and have managed to hold ever since. But despite another fierce Labour campaign they only managed to gain one seat, instead of all three. And they totally failed to make an impression in West Hill, the other Putney ward they had been targeting.
In Battersea no seats changed hands, Labour held onto Latchmere, but failed to take their target seat of Queenstown. I think this must be one of the few constituencies in London were all council seats were successfully defended, no mean feat and a credit to all the candidates and activists involved.
The net result is a gain of four seats for Labour, giving them 13 councillors to our 47. But given that they must have been expecting at least 15-21 seats doing worse can’t be a good feeling for them.
The challenge for them now is making sure they use what they have effectively. I do not think they were a strong team over the past four years, and were heavily reliant on their leader, Tony Belton (for whom I have a great deal of respect). Time will tell if this will change.
Less than a week to go until polling day now and my election buzz still is starting to kick in. I can only speculate on why it took so long, that it might be things like age (I’m now a family man and supposedly more mature) or that we’ve just been campaigning constantly for so long that it wasn’t really that different when the election was formally announced.
But it also occurred to me today I’ve just not seen any opposition activity.
Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, but having been on the streets day in and day out for the past few weeks I rather expected I would have seen more. If they are out campaigning they are either doing it elsewhere, or in a very low key way – I’ve not had any leaflets from any other party and have only seen a couple of Labour activists in the ward, one delivering and one who was lost on Lavender Hill.
This is totally different to years gone by. While I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Liberal Democrats campaign in Battersea, the Labour and Conservative Parties had some real battles. In 2005 there was a regular competition to see which of us could muster the most people at Clapham Junction each Saturday. Dozens from either side would run street stalls and, I would imagine, depress trade for the local businesses as people avoided us.
Going further back to 1998 when I was first a council candidate we would regularly cross paths with the Labour candidates on the streets. And just as regularly have a drink with them in The Lavender at the end of the evening. Indeed, we would often all end up in Andersen’s (then the area’s only late night bar, which celebrated its monopoly by selling watery lager and never, ever, cleaning). It was a battle, but it was fun and the rivalry was friendly. Above all, it was personal, we knew each other because we were doing the same thing and got on together because of it – we disagreed about policy, but our motives were the same.
Maybe this time the other parties are campaigning differently, perhaps concentrating on the phones or targeting heavily, so we don’t see them. But I can’t help but feel that we’re losing something when campaigns become so impersonal we don’t even see our opponents.
Instead, I have to console myself with seeing the occasional tweet or dipping into blogs run by opposition activists and candidates. Although these invariably pretend everyone is supporting them (and become so banal and partisan as to be pointless) you can sometimes read between the lines: for example, Stuart King’s blog seems to spend an inordinate amount of time having a go at the Lib Dems, which leaves me wondering if Labour are worried about losing second place there. But generally, it seems we are campaigning in a vacuum here.
That’s not to say I’ve not enjoyed it. It has, so far, been a fun campaign. We’ve set a great pace and covered the ground. Then covered it again. And again. And, in some places, again. If we’ve not managed to see you over the past four weeks (or four years) it’s not because we’ve not tried – it’s because you have a great social life and you’re never in.
And as well as covering the ground, the response has been the friendliest I have ever known, though admittedly I’m using 1997 as my benchmark, and it’s hard to imagine a less friendly time than that to be a Conservative activist!
Now we are entering the final phase, with several days frenetic activity building up to election day next Thursday. Hopefully we’ll make all the hard work – and the friendly response – pay off.
I’ve managed to hear about Streetbook through a few different sources now, and have to say it’s an interesting prospect.
I’ve long been jealous of some of the hyperlocal communities that exist out there (like Harringay Online) and wished that something similar existed here, to the extent of even having informal chats with some of the Harringay people to see how they started them off. But like the good Conservative that I am it seems the market will provide.
While there are services like Battersea People that – to me at least – is still a bit too big to be really really local. Whether Streetbook will fill that gap I don’t know, but I’ve signed up to find out.
It launches next month for SW11, and you can sign up on their website.
[And credit to them for referring to SW11 as Battersea. It shows that they have some local knowledge!]
I know I shouldn’t say this but I’m a little disappointed, the field has narrowed, and we are now down to seven candidates, the major parties are there, obviously, with the Conservatives Jane Ellison challenging Labour’s Martin Linton for the seat. They are joined by the Liberal Democrat, Greens and UKIP along with two independents: Tom Fox, who opposes corruption and Hugh Salmon who seems to share a lot of Conservative policy (although I confess I’ve not spent a lot of time studying his policies).
We’ve lost two candidates though. The Jury Team candidate, it seems, didn’t manage to get a nomination together and, sadly, the Monster Raving Loony Party didn’t stick to his promise to stand. Why am I disappointed? Because I occasionally enjoy politics and some of these candidates can bring some colour to the race. Sadly, they won’t be bringing it to Battersea.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the nomination of a BNP candidate in Putney. Given that they had managed to nominate a candidate in West Hill, they could clearly get the signatures for a parliamentary nomination (both only require ten people) and the only question remaining was whether they could afford the deposit. It seems they could.
I’m still slightly puzzled by their choice of constituency, as I mentioned with their West Hill nomination, they predominantly take votes from Labour so Putney is a surprising choice given that that the Labour vote there isn’t that high. There isn’t even the argument that there is a media focus on the seat – since most will be looking towards Battersea and Tooting where there are likely to be changes.
Whatever their logic, I hope they get a record low in the polls.