Search This Blog

Friday, 31 May 2019

Pete Willsman Suspension

The suspension of Pete Willsman after a video of him blaming "Israeli agents" for the anti-semitism scandals in the Labour Party emerged underlines just how necessary the EHRC enquiry is.  A statutory enquiry by an independent body is now the only conceivable way to solve this problem.

Facts about the Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan

After I went to vote on the Neighbourhood Plan yesterday, I came across some one who made all sorts of frankly false assertions about it.  Anyone who wants to know the real facts can look them up on the online copy publicly available.

Anyone who asserts to you that there will be buildings of x many stories, or that there will be no affordable housing, or that all the parking spaces disappear is frankly just making up stories.  The reason is that, as with any planning document, the new plan is providing guidance to applicants.  It would be up to an applicant to put out the details of the plan, including say the number of units and the size of the units.

What strikes me as odd is why do people just make stuff up and go around asserting that it these are facts?  What is the point of inventing this misinformation?


I understand that the Neighbourhood Plan got the thumbs up from voters.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan Referendum

Today is the day of the Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan referendum.  The set up is exactly the same as any local election.  You can vote if you are on the electoral register. The polling stations are the usual ones, and the hours of opening are also 7am to 10pm.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

EHRC Investigation Now Official

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has finally announced the formal start of its investigation into anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party.  This has been on the cards for quite a while.  I suppose they were concerned about a formal announcement in the run up to the European Parliament elections.  The purpose of the investigation is to:

"The investigation will seek to determine whether unlawful acts have been committed by the party and/or its employees and/or its agents; and whether the Party has responded to complaints of unlawful acts in a lawful, efficient and effective manner.”

Dismal as it is that the Labour Party has sunk so low, it seems to me to be the only way forward for the Party to start cleaning up its act and come back to its traditions.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Shawl in Harlesden High Street

The Neighbourhood Plan I mentioned yesterday also included a pub protection policy, which would include The Shawl in Harlesden High Street.  There is another reason to protect this building, which is its historical interest.  It is the original Harlesden Methodist Church, and also the oldest church building in Harlesden (older than All Souls Harlesden). The foundation stone is dated 1869. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

And Now for a Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan

Following the European Parliament vote on Thursday, those in the Harlesden/Kensal Green area have the right to vote on a Neighbourhood Plan for the area.  I intend to support it.  It has a number of ideas of long standing, such as: truncating the Town Centre to make it more compact;  increasing the supply of homes and reducing homelessness; getting a central community space.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Unstaffed Libraries in Barnet

A number of local authorities have gone down the road of having libraries unstaffed.  Thanks to the Save Barnet Libraries campaign we now have some sort of performance measurement (using figures they attribute to Barnet Council).

They say that:

"36,964 people have now registered for pin codes to access unstaffed libraries. This apparently represents over two thirds of active library users from 2017-18 (the year that the branches were closed to implement the cuts)."

They also suggest that a further 187,000 holders of library cards do not have pin numbers any more.  That suggests to me a big fall in usage.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Not Voting for the European Parliament

There has been considerable disgruntlement over the inability of many EU nationals to vote.  Many seem to have been turned away from polling stations because they did not sign a form promising not to vote in their home countries on the same day.

This is a long standing practice which I believe is in line with Home Office guidance, so it is not Brent Council's fault.  Critics have suggested a breach of equality principles since one group are being set a test that other groups are not.  There may well be a case for such argument, although I can't see what the remedy would be.  Certainly UK citizens with a second home don't seem to be given a similar hoop to jump through.

The unhappiness with which many people regard this denial of their right to vote is perhaps a reminder to those strong Brexiteer who never wanted to have these elections in the first place that not everyone thinks as they do.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Marina Hyde in Tomorrow's Guardian

Marina Hyde has exceeded herself in tomorrow's Guardian.  I easpecially like the Tory succession contest as a "summer camp for excluded adults."

Seven Fairtrade Myths

For the moment, Brent remains a Fairtrade Borough, despite some attempts to backtrack.  The Faritrade foundation has recently posted a blog demonstrating why some of the myths around Fairtrade are just untrue

Thursday, 23 May 2019

A Contrast in Libraries

A contrast in libraries can be seen in this Guardian report.  Australian libraries are seeing increasing usage in Australia, just as they have in Brent.  In the UK in general though there is a picture of sharp decline.

I suspect the reason for this distinction is that libraries in Australia (and in Brent) have been effective in modernising, especially in embracing new technology and offering flexible hours.  Most libraries services in England, by contrast, have concentrating solely on reducing resources rather than repurposing them. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Continuing Access to Cash

Access to cash was debated in Westminster Hall yesterday by MPs.  There is a real danger that access will be severely restricted by government fiat, and (as Seema Malhotra MP argues) this will impact marginal groups disproportionately.  There is a wealth of evidence to support this

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Most Pointless Protest

I am still bemused by the phenomenon of what have called the "Protestival".  This is an ostensibly political protest where actually achieving the supposed objective is irrelevant.  It is the activity itself which is the point.  Politics as performance art, as it were.

Thus multiple supposed causes can be mashed up together.  The objectives such as zero carbon by 2025 can be unobtainable, and the behaviour of the protesters themselves can contradict their own campaign, as when Omar Barghouti attends an Israeli university, for example.  Or Emma Thompson flys in and flys out of a zero carbon protest that would seek to drastically cut anyone's ability to fly.  Even more strangely, people can apparently revel in being the "most pointless protest of 2018" award by The Stage Magazine. 

Truly we live in an age of limitless chutzpah.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Brent Cabinet Agenda

Brent Cabinet appears to be doing a first ever tonight, by holding a meeting where are literally no reports on the agenda.  I have never seen such a thing before.  Usually there are at least a few minor items.  It is followed by a General Purposes Committee with a similarly thin agenda.

Why hold the meetings at all?

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Carbon Capture in the North Sea

I notice the Dutch are seeking to pioneer the largest carbon capture scheme in the world under the North Sea.  Given the size of the UK's oil and gas industry, and our long held marine engineering expertise, this is the kind of project we should be pioneering in order to develop a more "green" economy.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Kiln Theatre Community Play

Kiln Theatre is appealing for cast members from the local community for a new play.  The wording of their advert says:

Do you have a desire to act, dance, sing, sew, people manage or make stuff? Then get in touch with us and be part of the first community play to take place on our new stage, written by Chinonyerem Odimba, directed by Katie Posner and designed by Lily Arnold. The play celebrates the history of care and migration in Brent, and is based on local stories from different communities in the area. The performances are from 25 – 28 September.

No prior experience is needed, just the desire to take part and the ability to commit to Wednesday evenings and Saturday rehearsals from July. Recruitment workshops will take place 8 & 9 June (venue & times TBC).

Over 100 people from the north London community are needed to create our production. This is the culmination of our two-year project A Friendly Society, made possible by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the generous support of the national lottery players.

To sign up go to, or call us on 020 7372 6611. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

If you would like any more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch with

Friday, 17 May 2019

2019 Brent Library Figures on Visits and Loans

The new Brent library figures are out, and it appears that the long run of rising issues and visits is now over.  The 2018/2019 financial year showed a decline in visits from 2,547,168 last year to 2,505,502 (down 1.6%).  Loans went from 1,045,967 to 969,812 (down 7.3%).

These figures were clearly not helped by the interruption at Willesden Library in July.  Willesden accounts for almost one in five Brent loans.  However, the reduced activity appears to have been fairly broadly split across all six libraries.  There is a particular fall off in loans during the last quarter, which may have been related to the expected cut in library budgets that never in the event occurred.

It is also worth noting that the only Brent library where visits went up significantly during the year was Wembley Library (where they went up 3.6%).  This makes me more sceptical that there is miscounting based on the physical structure of the library.  Wembley Library has, after, had the same layout since in opened in June 2013

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Planning Plebiscite

There seems to be some confusion about the Local Neighbourhood Forum's plan for Harlesden and Kensal Green.  This has been worked up by local people.  It builds on the Harlesden Town Charter scheme and visibly borrows from that document, which underlay all the Town Centre improvements of the last few years.  I think it is very positive, and if passed would create an officially recognised framework for the Planning Committee to refer to in its decisions.

The voting is quite straightforward.  If you are on the electoral register, you can vote.  I explained the area covered in my previous post.  The polling stations are as usual.  I know I have already been sent a polling card, but as with other elections, you don't need one in order to vote.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Farm in Brent

The Kilburn Times carries a story about a school farm in Wembley, which sounds a really excellent idea.  Perhaps Brent Council should look around the Borough and see it can find sites for a City Farm. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Antisemitism and the Left

Dave Rich, of the Community Security Trust (CST), has an interesting take on antisemitism on the "Left".  He suggests that the operations of high finance are for cultural reasons seen as inherently Jewish.  The lack of actual Jews is seen by antisemites as irrelevant.  I am not sure I buy that argument, but it is an interesting take.

Incidentally, the "Left" at the time he is talking about (1900s) encompassed not just the Labour Party, but also the Liberal Party (which was the governing Party at the time).

Monday, 13 May 2019

Intimidating Election Campaigners

The government appears to be strengthening the law regarding intimidating candidates and campaigners in elections, which is sadly necessary and overdue.  This has been a problem since at least the Scots independence referendum.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

MP Expenses: MPs Return to their Folly.

Yesterday's Telegraph had a front page splash on how a few MPs are once again gaming the expenses system.  The sheer recklessness of this amazes me.  During the previous scandal MPs had built up obviously dubious claims that they probably never expected to be made public knowledge.  The Telegraph's report yesterday simply uses information that the MPs must have known would be in the public domain.  How can they not have had the common sense to see what such claims would do to their reputation?

Saturday, 11 May 2019

A Sidelight on Brent Greens

A curious sidelight on Brent Greens is that when I was on the Brent Green website recently, I found the following as an opening paragraph:

"We may enjoy the perks of living in London, but face a burden of environmental hazards that cause us STRESS.

Some of this stress may be short term, like being stuck on an overcrowded bus with noise and pollution from a gridlocked road. 

Some stress might be chronic, such as living or working next to a busy road (perhaps the North Circular or Edgware Road). 

As humans we can adapt, but at the same time, we're only human and should question why its always us who needs to compromise? 

The quality of the air we breathe, the condition of housing, pavements, potholes, vandalism, crime and litter are all environmental issues   

These urban issues relating to traffic, noise, over-crowding, our streets, shoddy housing or poor neighbourhood infrastructure can be fixed. Perhaps not by any one approach, but we can
 learn from other countries that are making sensible long-term decisions. 

This means if anyone will solve these problems it will be us. It’s why we doubled our presence on London Councils in 2014 and represent you with Sian & Caroline on the London Assembly. We think the problems in Brent can be dealt with through intelligence, discipline and hard work - and that is why we need to lead. If you wish to be part of that, please get in touch. "

Absolutely no mention of climate change. Curious.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Volunteers in Merton Libraries

I have pointed out before that Merton has an interesting model of using volunteer extensively in Council libraries whilst retaining Council staff. They argue this is a great success.  Whether it is or not it is certainly different from the Volunteer Libraries model.  Incidentally their suggestion that they have widened opening hours is also true of Brent.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Harlesden Local Referendum on 30 May

Most people by now will have got their polling cards for the European Parliament elections on 23 May by now.  These elections are more important than people give them credit for since who knows how long we might remain in the European Union?  I certainly would not trust much to the various UK government pledges.

The next week there will be a Harlesden Referendum on the local Neighbourhood plan.  This is not dissimilar in content to the Harlesden Town Charter.  The area covered by the referendum runs from All Souls Avenue in the east to the furthest boundary of the current Harlesden ward in the West.  This is an area very similar to the proposed new Harlesden ward under the LGCBE and the Brent & Harrow Cooperative Party proposals.  It builds on and fleshes out many of the Town Charter ideas.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Half God of Rainfall Recommended

I went to the Half God of Rainfall on Monday, which strikes me as the Kiln's most ambitious production since Red Velvet.  By ambitious, I mean in its demands on the two performers who are required to do a very physical performance at the same time as declaiming in a kind of mythic language which is not easy to carry off.  Between the two of them they also need to play an impressive range of roles and maintain the energy of the drama, which mashes up Greek/Nigerian mythos and topical #MeToo and colonialist themes for a sustained period.  All very well worth seeing.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Working to Remove Food Banks

Over the past few years, an idea has taken hold that food banks are an essential and praiseworthy phenomenon.  Without devaluing the effort put in by volunteers, it is worth pointing out that the Labour Movement spent the first half of the twentieth century trying to get rid of similar arrangements through the introduction of an ever more comprehensive welfare state.

Now Councils boost of how much they are using them, often using them for photo opportunities.

Previous generations of politicians would have shunned them as stigmatizing people, reducing liberty and reinforcing class consciousness.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Fewer Litterbins as Council Stealth Cuts Bite

One of the ways in which Brent Council can cope with the diminishing resources available is steadily removing litterbins from the streets.  This is now happening.  Politically it has the advantage of being low profile to the point of new being noticed at all, but it does undoubtedly lead to dirtier streets.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Do the Scottish Greens and the SNP Believe in Fossil Fuel Divestment?

South of the border, fossil fuel divestment is being urgently promoted by people at demonstrations, although they seem to think it is a imposition to put on big businesses rather than something that any rational business should be thinking about anyway.

The reason I say that is that the cost of carbon is steadily rising as environmental (Pigouvian) taxes and charges mount up.  This seems a one way street as governments commit more and more to binding climate change targets.  Large scale extraction companies and energy users essentially rely at the moment on not having to cover their full costs in terms of ongoing pollution or long term clean up.

Until very recently however, the SNP and Scottish Green financial plans seemed to rely on North Sea Oil and Gas for tax revenues.  During the Indyref I frequently spoke to people who thought this was the solution to all Scotland's financial problems.  Quite aside from the structural issues around either the "Dutch Effect" or a massive drop in oil prices, there is the long term problem that that industry is ultimately doomed.  Countries such as Australia that are similarly extraction biased are open to the same problem.

At present the SNP and the Greens seem to talk about dealing with climate change without realising the effect it would have on a standalone Scottish economy. 

Friday, 3 May 2019

Marxism and Jeremy Corbyn

I have started coming across references to Jeremy Corbyn being a "Marxist" referred to as smears.  If he is a Marxist it is certainly not in the classical sense of someone believing that socio-economics forces based on historical materialism drive the forces of history.  Nor does he seem to accept the classic Marxist argument that modern society is a conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and that determines the pattern of society.  If he did he would regard many of his standard themes of racism and so on as being essentially irrelevant, or even as attempts by the embattled bourgeoisie to practice "divide and rule" tactics.

Instead he appears to believe in a world essentially with only one divide between a tiny wealthy minority (the 1%) and everyone else ("The People"), and "the People" who seem a curiously homogeneous group given their numbers and diversity who essentially agree with him.  The only thing stopping the triumph of the popular will is hinted at as some dark of conspiracy of state agencies and tiny unrepresentative groups.  A recent expression of this world view (from 2011) was uncovered by Danny Finkelstein in The Times.  

Back when he first stood for the leadership however, he certainly seemed to regard Marx as an important intellectual influence, and I don't think he would have recognised the term as a "smear" at all.

That makes him quite different to John McDonnell, who seems to be a possibly heterodox Marxist or indeed some of Jeremy's online supporters such as Ash Sarkar, who described herself as "literally a Communist"

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Brent's Journey to Justice

From mid June, the Brent Museum will be hosting an exhibition featuring the famous Nelson Mandela scroll from the early 1990s.

The exhibition will feature items on various campaigns for justice around the world.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Change UK off to a Stuttering Start

Change UK seems to be struggling to get itself together.  It doesn't seem to have anybody who has thought about the logistics of putting a party together.  First there was the uninspired name, which I imagine came simply out of the truism that voters always tend to be welcome the generic idea of "change".  Unfortunately in this case there appears to be no real idea of what the change is to be.  All sorts of better brands could have been put forward e.g. the National Party, the One Nation Party, Progressive Party and no doubt many others.

Then it seems not have been aware of how the European voting system works, a failing which is surprisingly common among politicians.

It also seems to have rejected the idea of a deal with the Liberal Democrats out of hand.  This seems especially odd as it appears to be the group's intention to particularly appeal to Liberal Democrat voters.

I haven't seen such a bumbling group since those people glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn's fence.