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Monday, 14 September 2020

More on the Rule of Law

I have just been reading "Fake Law" by the Secret Barrister. In it he recounts that Harriet Harman as Solicitor General said that Fred Goodwin's employment contract giving him a huge pension despite trashing his employer, RBS, "violated the Court of Public Opinion" and should be over ridden. He regards this violation of the Rule of law as shocking, which it was. One Tory MP at the time dismissed it as "leftie inanity". The MP was Boris Johnson. He gives Johnson's own web site as his source. Quite a change from Mr Johnson's views on breaking international law today.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Brexit Promises

Boris Johnson's proposal to over ride existing law to implement the Irish backstop is probably the most self defeating tactic he could pursue. I wonder what all those strict believers in Brexit as the "will of the people" think of it? It is after all quite contrary to the electoral mandate that Johnson won less than a year ago.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Brexit Chicken

Why does it not seem to occur to Boris Johnson and his ilk that if he has decided that the EU will cave because the damage from no deal would be so gigantic, the same calculation may be believed by them about him? These are the exactly the right way to create an accidental no deal Brexit, and exactly the best way to put the EU off negotiating with us in future.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

The Climate Emergency is too Urgent for Extinction Rebellion

Yesterday's partial blocking of newspapers exposes how the Extinction Rebellion has been hijacked by people with quite other motives. This not as uncommon as one might hope. Another example might be Palestinian rights. Fringe groups whose main objectives have little public sympathy like the SWP try to latch on to more popular causes and exploit them. In the process, they wreck those causes. This should be allowed to happen with tackling the climate emergency.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Brent Council's New Executive

I gather it is intended to drop three of the existing Council executive from the new one, which is tough on them but otherwise not noteworthy. Brent Council is essentially being run by one man as a family business.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Brent Council General Reserves

Brent Council Audit Committee will shortly meet and find that Brent has a General reserve of about £15 million. Grant Thorton believes that makes it safer than most Councils from catastrophic failure. This is the culmination of many years, arguably starting with Paul Daisley who was leader from 1996 to 2001. Inheriting organised financial chaos the Tories under Bob Blackman, he set the pace for Brent's professionalisation as a Council. This continued once his former Deputy Ann John succeeded him as Leader. There was a short hiatus under the Tory/Lib Dem leadership of Paul Lorber, who cut reserves ahead of the 2010 election. The very tough financial situation then facing the incoming Labour administration, where at one point we faced a projected overspend of £7.1 million but a reserve of only £7.5 million, caused it to follow the auditors' advice and increase reserves again. It also caused the administration to seek increases in revenue wherever possible (with the exception of Council Tax). At the same time there were a number of money saving transformations, improved procurement and in cases quite courageous decisions no longer to fund certain activities. All this work helped Brent Council to maintain relative freedom of action in the ensuing years. Now that Brent is once again facing even more central government cuts it is important that councillors show similar courage and discipline. The alternative is to lose a grip on the finances and therefore the political agenda.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Labour Group Elections

I notice that various runners and riders in the Brent Labour Group elections have been made public. Nothing substantial is likely to change however, especially as the governance mechanisms of the Labour Group remain the same. There will however be a series of extremely brutal changes to Brent Council services as the Councils finances collapse.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Harlesden and Kingsbury Libraries

I am told that Harlesden and Kingsbury Libraries have reopened, although I have been to them myself. I hope all Brent libraries extend their hours soon.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

2019 Election Retrospective

I have just been reading today's Sunday Times on the 2019 election, and it is the weirdest account I have ever read. The Corbyn's hatred for everyone else was always plain, but their deep loathing for each other less so. The sheer unprofessionLism of these who refused to speak to one another, accept basic facts, even share details of events is indezcrible. A slogan was even rejected because Tony Blair had used it more than twenty years before. There really is no need to believe in conspiracies to sabotage people who are doing so much to destroy themselves.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Poor Housing and More Covid19 infection

The media is reporting that Brent's poor housing is a key part of why we are a Covid19 hot spot. No surprise. The real question is how do we improve the housing?

Exam Disaster

The size and scale of the English exam disaster is stunning even by the standards of the Johnson government. Whereas I have no doubt Williamson will swing for It, it is worth recalling Michael Gove contributed by downgrading coursework and imposing the lowering grades dogma. His great guru in this was of course Dominic Cummings; now the most powerful man in the government.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Harlesden and Kingsbury Libraries Still Closed

Harlesden and Kingsbury Libraries remain closed although we were told that all Brent libraries would open in July. Interestingly, the various objectors to the Libraries Transformation in 2011 don't seem bothered by this, but it leaves the North of the Borough with very little coverage. What is the reason?

Friday, 14 August 2020

Kilburn Library Services

Yesterday I happened to be in Kilburn Library where a staff member told me that most of the chairs had been removed in order to discourage people from using the library in the name of making the space safer. Presumably it also allows everyone more time to contemplate the futility of human existence.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Brent Museum Reopens

Brent Museum's permanent exhibition appears to be open to viewing again. The interactive bits remain closed, but it is good to see some further progress at Wìllesden Library.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Brent Labour Group Democracy

I have glanced at the Labour Group's Democracy Review, and found it disappointing. Some points at a inaccurate, for instance the Whip can suspend Group members under the existing rules and this has been done in the recent past. Councillors have willingly surrendered their ability to vote nominees to committees and posts, largely because that is what the Leader told them. Most glaringly, only twenty odd actually responded to the opinion survey. It brings to mind the old joke the meeting on combating political apathy has been cancelled because of lack of interest.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Police Stops

Brent Central MP Dawn Butler was reportedly stopped at lunchtime on Sunday. Although the incident appears to have been sorted out fairly swiftly on the spot, it is a reminder that the whole justice system fails to deliver, well, justice.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Restricting Movements by Age

There have been reports that the government ask all those over 50 to shield. I find this very unlikely as 338 MPs in the current Parliament are fifty or above.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

The End of the Planning System

Simon Jenkins suggests that the Tories are effectively ending planning in England altogether.  This is in some ways a natural development of modern Toryism.

The effect would be so disastrous however that I suspect even the Tory core voters will rise up against It, in a way that makes the Poll Tax look a picnic.  Jenrick's head would then roll.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Furness Road Dig

I see that Furness Road is being dug up north of Wrottesley Road. This is to install some new fibre optic cable.  Let us hope that the contractors leave it in as good a state as when they found it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Wìllesden Art Gallery Reopening?

Yesterday I noticed that the Art Gallery at Wìllesden Library appears to being prepared for reopening.

The artist charges 100 pounds and more his paintings.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Libraries and Lockdown

Public libraries news has an interesting piece on different libraries and lockdown.  The effect on usage will be dire and many authorities may cut funding permantly.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Ealing Road and Kilburn Libraries Open Tomorrow

Ealing Road and Kilburn libraries will open troops from 10.30am to 2.30pm.  It seems they will a solar model to Wìllesden Library.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Railways Renationalised

Railways have been renationalised, and by a Tory government.  The policy that Ed Miliband advocated several years and was denounced for is now officially recognised as a simple fact by the ONS as they are now classifying the railways as part of the public sector.

Friday, 31 July 2020

More on Library Revival

The rumour I heard about the re-Opening of Brent libraries has now been confirmed. Hopefully we will also start to see a broadening of services which are still below pre-lockdown levels.

As far as I can see, I have been a lone voice advocating this.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Supercharged Confidentality

The Duchess of Sussex' "friends" who leak to the press apparently think they are entitled to Supercharged confidentality. They really aren't.  They are entitled to whatever anyone else is entitled to, neither more or less.

The assumption of on going privileges is one of the reasons the Sussexes are struggling.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Opening Brent Libraries Again

I have heard a rumour that Brent libraries might re-open (all six) libraries might in some sense in August.  If true, that would be very welcome.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Carbon Capture and the UK

This morning the Guardian has an interesting speculation that carbon capture will the UK' s carbon emissions from the electricity network could go negative by 2033.  Actually taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere is crucial to heading off catastrophic climate changes.  If the UK became an early leader in the technologies involved it might be of huge value to our economy.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Cllr Chaudry Apology for Antisemitism

It is little noticed but Cllr Aslam Chaudry has apologised for an antisemitic incident earlier this year.

The Labour Party has at last started going in the right direction, but progress is slow and painful.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Reopening Brent Libraries

Wìllesden and Wembley libraries have been open on a limited basis since 6 July.  I well recall during the libraries transformation project people saying that libraries were a lifeline that they could not do without.  I would have thought this especially true of home schooling children.  When and how will the remaining four Brent libraries open?

Friday, 24 July 2020

Universal Basic Incomes Again

Labourlist has published recently on Universal Basic income, pointing to the pitfalls.  I have also done this. People who want this to be Labour policy need to answer the practical problems. So far no one has been able to do so.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Protest and Politics

A short by a disenchanted green activist gives an insight into the mentality of a number of Corbyn supporters, it seems to me.

He complains that his former party has recently prioritised elections rather than "community politics" by which they seem to mean issue based campaigns that raise awareness.

The Labour Party in contrast has as the aim of the first clause of its constitution the need to get a parliamentary majority.  This attitude also extends to other bodies such as Councils.

It is not incompatible with real community change.  Indeed, it is the only way to do it on a big scale.  Even on a small scale it can make real changes.  The Green Party approach described is more about protest as a performance art without responsibility and without significant change.

It is an odd view for anyone who believes in a pressing climate emergency to take.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Libraries Seven Days a Week

Thinking about bringing libraries back into use, it would make sense if the same process was used at the four other libraries as at Willesden and Wembley but with days that collectively cover the full seven days so that physical books and space become available for every day of the week.

Incidentally, seeing that proper disabled toilets are becoming compulsory for all new public buildings now, I am proud we decided that this would be true of all Brent libraries way back in 2011.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Kiln Theatre Surviving

I am glad to see the Kiln Theatre has won a Breathing space to help it through the pandemic.  It is crucial to Kilburn's success.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Legal Costs at Bridge Park

According to this story, there is shortly to be a court hearing on the proposed Bridge Park development lasting ten days.  That is a disaster for the Council in terms of legal costs even if Brent Council win.

The handling of this case by the Council has been far from wise since the start.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

National Lockdowns

Boris Johnson has declared that there is no need for another national lockdown.  I think he has yet to realise that he no longer has any control.  The Cummings fiasco and his repeated lies and attempts to blame other people mean he no longer has any authority.

It is a remarkable achievement for some one who won a General election less than a year ago.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Statue Fixation

Thankfully, the UK s brief period of statue fixation appears to have receded into the past even more swiftly than the subjects of many statues.

However the point of underepresentatipn of women and ethnic minorities still seems to me a fair point.  Trying to think of some appropriate subjects for statues of suitable standing for new statues I thought of Paul Boateng, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Paul Stevenson of the Bristol bus boycott and Claudia Jones.

However, there must be many others.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Barnhill Recount

Today I am told a recount will take place of the Barnhill By-election.  I was sceptical over whether this would happen as election petitions rarely do. Normally returning officers wait for absolute certainity before declaring a result.

However more details have emerged from the Kilburn Times.  They suggest to me that the Court may order a complete rerun once the emergency rules allow it.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Perfect Storm for Council Finances

The collapse in Council income from commercial property has had some attention.  In fact only a minority of authorities have gone down this road on a big scale.  Some of those, like Spelthorne, may not survive.

For others the real danger is a perfect storm of collapsing income.  Business rates, certainly the biggest income source in Brent, is likely to fall as businesses go bankrupt. Council Tax, the second biggest, is also likely to fall as people lose their jobs
 Even the relatively small amounts from charges are likely to fall as there is less commuting and (for example) planning applications.  Most fatally, all these revenues streams fall at once.

Simultaneously, long term changes such as demography and the fall out from the virus and the recession will lead to extra spending demand. And all of this has to be managed by an institution which is much thinner than it was a few years ago.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Parallels Between Israel and the UK over Covid19

Netanyahu and Johnson sound worryingly similar in approach to both Covid19 and government in general in this analysis by Anshel Pfeffer.  I hope the loosening of lockdown does not turn the same way here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Willesden Library and Adult Education

A few days ago, I noticed that the former Wìllesden Library cafe site was being partitioned. I take that this is for the promised adult education facility I mentioned before.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Momentum Attacking the Labour Party

Just reflecting on the recent manifesto put out by the faction that has just taken over Momentum.  As I expected they offer to lead attacks on Keir Starmer and Labour Councils.

They don't mention any other parties, which in line with past experience.  People who talk about opposing the Tories in practice support them by at best distracting the Labour Party and often seeking to directly discredit Labour figures.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Labour in Scotland

Just a quick comment on why Labour needs to mount a proper challenge in Scotland.  I know some people south of the border, think this a bad idea partly because they have an unrealistically gloomy view of our prospects and partly because some of them think of the SNP as being some kind of ersatz Labour.

On the first, the SNP are in a weak position. They have failed Scots particularly badly on education and the NHS.  Their reputation otherwise is based on Sturgeon's admittedly impressive PR skills and effectiveness in blaming England/the UK for everything.  The Salmond/Sturgeon hostility is likely to spill out during this Parliament and allow Scottish Labour to be heard again.

Secondly, the SNP are not Labour's friends. Their grip on power depends on a weak Labour. Their ultimate objective is destroying the UK.

Just take the comments Sturgeon made about quarantining people from the UK. Her motivation is similar to that of Priti Patel, blaming outsiders for disease is an age old technique for nationalists. It is designed to provoke the English as well as stoking poor relations between the North and South.  Of course, it is not a policy that could be enforced as Holyrood has no power to install border controls, and families living on both sides of the border would deeply resent it.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Planning and Growth

A quick comment on the government's schemes to boost the economy through reforming the planning system.  These are still to change as the government is pretty much rudderless, but the whole basis of the policy seems misguided.

The approach appears to be that there is a set of pointless government rules holding back the animal spirits of the economy.  Leaving aside the extra bureaucracy that the government is creating through the Brexit process, there are generally reasons for the rules regimes.  People in the UK simply don't want workers' rights, environmental standards and so cut. In many areas, such as animal welfare, they probably want them raised.  The whole virus experience has probably made the UK more conscious of the need for public health. The ignored issues of climate change need planners to impose systems to reduce carbon emissions in a way that will not happen at the required pace through the market.

The government ignores all this.  Instead it seems to aspire to a free for all to appease property developers, especially those who Donate to the Tory Party.

Future government's of any stripe will have to spend a huge amount of effort clearing up the mess that Mr Johnson leaves in his wake.

Friday, 10 July 2020

The Reopened Wìllesden Library

I have now used the reopened Wìllesden Library.  Essentially, you can bring items back, and borrow them, but there are no periodicals, PCs or WiFi.  Similarly there appear to be no events, no museum and no archive service.  This seems in line with a generally minimalist line across the UK

When I was there, there were very few users either.

Hopefully, this skeleton service will develop, and I was told that pre-booked computers might start from next week.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Antisemitism and Clement Attlee

Many of the reviews of Andrew Adonis' biography of Bevin have suggested that he and Attlee were antisemitic.  That may be true of Bevin, but I find the idea harder to swallow with Attlee.

This story sugģests that took in one of the kindertransport children, which seems an thing for an antisemite to do.  Of course during the Mandate, he may have made hostile comments, but they surely have to be seen in the context of the attacks on British soldiers in Palestine at the time.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Dawn Butler MP Office

I understand that Dawn Butler MP has now moved out of her former office on WilleWìllesden High Road.  For some time prior to lockdown, she had been using Wìllesden Library for constituency casework.  We shall see whether that resumes following the reopening of Wìllesden Library.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Support for the Kiln Theatre

For once it has been possible for people to generally welcome the arts support package.  The crucial thing now is to make sure that the money actually comes through unlike so many other government announcements. Places such as the Kiln Theatre need this so that they can plan for the future.

The government have said that institutions withe "special or regional significance" will be targeted for funds.  We need to be very clear that the Kiln Theatre is of special significance for this area.

Monday, 6 July 2020

On a Wing and a Prayer

The Kilburn Times appears to have uncovered Brent Councillors breaching the lockdown rules.  Local paper stories that actually break the news are becoming increasingly rare as budgets dwindle.

Future Spending, or Keynesianism for Slow Learners

I am struck that many Conservative MPs now seem to accept the basic Keynesian logic that running a deficit now in order to restart activity is worth it even though it leads to a bigger national debt that because of low interest rates it costs relatively little to service it.

This sounds awfully like the words I quoted from Ed Balls In August 2010.  It is also a tacit admission that the entire austerity policy pursued by Tory politicians over the many years since 2010 was just wrong.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Bronzes of Benin

The BBC published a story on foreign artefacts in UK museums, including the British Museum and the bronzes of Benin there.  It refers to the bronzes as if just were loot, although I suspect the British in 1897 would probably have regarded them as spoils of war (reparations).

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Mahsa Taliefar and Legal Action

Mahsa Taliefar appears to be rowing back from her proposed legal action. The fuller background to this episode in Dominic Cummings' eccentric progress I have already linked to.


Johnson and Building Schools for Slow Learners

Boris Johnson has noticed that schools need investment and is pledging not very much money for rebuilding.  His government famously cancelled Labour's rebuilding plans back in 2010 at a time when government debt was far lower.

Does Mr Johnson ever think about these things I wonder?  The facts seem to show that his boasts of a "Rooseveltian programme" are empty of meaning. Is he capable of distinguishing between the products of his own imagination and reality? I doubt it.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Reopening Brent Libraries

I understand that Wìllesden and Wembley libraries will be opened on very shortened hours from 6 July.

This is the Guardian's take.

UPDATE 03.07.20

Brent Council has now officially announced this.

Dominic Cummings Update

A quick update on the movements to prosecute Dominic Cummings thanks to Huffington Post.  The three movers include Brent's own Martin Redston and are detailed in this article.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Momentum Members

It is notable that Momentum apparently had 8,580 members vote in its recent internal elections.  That sounds quite low for an organisation the sometimes claims to have 40,000 members. Of course, it is not obliged to publish membership numbers in the way of a political party or trade union.

I wonder whether John Lansman' s standing down will lead to his giving up ownership of Momentum data.

Labour Party NEC and STV

For that select few who are interested in internal Labour Party matters, two interesting facts came up in the last Labour NEC on Tuesday.

First the Labour Party now has about 580,000 members which is (I think) the biggest number since Harold Wilson was leader. Many of these have joined since the General Election in December.

Secondly, the Party has decided to adopt single transferable votes (STV) for NEC elections.  This will make it harder for any one faction to take over the Party.  The case for STV for the members section of the NEC is quite different to that for say the House of Commons.  In my view, the decision is a welcome one.

Oddly, a vocal minority seem to want the decision made at Conference.  This is odd since Conference is unlikely to happen because of the virus, and the same people did not object to the latest by election system being introduced over a long established custom of picking runners up.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Antisemitism and Keir Starmer

Anshul Pfeffer has long been a perceptive commentator in both Hebrew and English on Israeli and UK politics. He Reacts to the Long-Bailey removal and it's wider implications for democracy in Haaretz.

BAME Labour Staff organisation

Recently, there was some publicity around a letter sent from what was described as a BAME Staff organisation which rather puzzles me.

Members  have long had organisations to join.  There is a BAME Labour group, which has a history going back to the 1980s. There are various Labour Friends of .... groups for specific countries which I am sure are informal networking. There are even religious groups like Sikhs4Labour, but I have heard of a specific Labour Party Staff group for BAME Staff specifically.

I wonder there this is another astroturf organisation.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Cash

The crisis at Wirecard has resulted in users of its various brands being cut off from their own funds, and reliant on some one sorting out the unfreezing of the cards.  There are reports of people being scarred by having their access to funds stopped dead even they have money in the bank.  I don' t believe this would be the case if they were using Cash as this legal tender and cannot be refused.

Advocates of a cashless economy need to think the risks through.

This remains a salutary warning even though The UK arm has now resumed operations.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Licensing the Lockdown Easing

The great opening of bars and restaurants is supposedly well under way, although I suspect will take many businesses much more than a week to get their outlets into shape.

Firstly, they will need to configure with 1metre social distancing in mind. Staff will need to be trained in what the rules are possibly on how to deal with "difficult" customers.

Secondly, they will need to get suitable PPE, plastic screens, extra cleaning products and whatever else is needed.

Thirdly, I dare say that many places will to stock up on food and drink and make sure they have regular supplies.

All that may well take longer than a week.

A second question occurs to me, which is who will police all this?  Is it the local authority, the police or the pubs themselves?  Does whoever it is have the staff and money needed?  Are the powers already included in legislation already passed or does something new have to be passed?

Finally, how does the conflict between the need of an outlet and other objectives get resolved?  For stance, in Brent pavements are often narrow and generally owned by the Council.  How does the Council resolve the ambitious targets to increase walking with the possibility of the streets being cluttered with al fresco dining?  Does the cafe have to pay for the use of the highway beyond its own forecourt.  If the restaurants want to vary their operating times from previous ones is the local authority geared to cope with the new applications?

I wish I had confidence that ministers had thought about all this but I suspect they have not.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Mark Sedwill's Departure

It looks like Boris Johnson is betting the UK ranch on an off the cliff Brexit. It will cost the country economically and in national strength for many years yet.  Johnson's own reputation and that of the Tory Party will be mud.  I see no wY of heading it off, however.

The Price of Going Cashless

The Guardian has a short piece on going cashless, and the problems caused to certain groups.  The liberty argument for accepting cash is surprisingly understated. Cash is after all legal tender.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Jenrick Again

It sounds as if the Sunday Times has a significant break through in information on the Jenrick/Westferry case that I alluded to some time ago.

This case has already rung alarm bells with local government in general and planning circles in particular.  Brent has had a a fair share of opaque planning applications.

I shall look forward to what the Sunday Times publishes.

Widening Pavements in Harlesden Town Centre

In Harlesden Town Centre recently, I noticed that one of the pavement widening schemes following the onset of Covid19.  The problem is that it is in the semi-pedestrianised bit by the 18 bus stop opposite Harlesden Methodist Church.  Given that the entire width of the street is available for social distancing, so it seems an priority.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Food Theft and Sainsburys

Some actists in Camden have Stolen food from Sainsburys. I hold no brief for corporate giants, but Sainsbury's have actually been central to feeding the UK during the Covid19 epidemic.  Without it, hunger in the capital would have been far worse. The whole Extinction Rebellion movement needs to rethink what it is doing and whether it will simply alienate the public.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Long-Bailey Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked from the Shadow Cabinet following her retweeting of a Maxine Peake article with an evidence free anti-Semitic reference.

The original article illustrates how anti-semitism appears to have become institionalised in the Labour Party.  The article claimed that Israeli security forces were training some police forces in the USA, and this included the officers responsible for George Floyd's death.  There may be an element of truth that some police and security forces co-operate between the USA and Israel, but I have seen no evidence that the Minnisota police were among them. I find it impossible that training techniques in restraint would include kneeling on some ones neck as it seems perfectly obvious to anyone that that could easily kill some one.

I can only conclude that Israel was dragged in simply because some people are so schooled in an anti-Israeli/Jewish narrative that they assume anything bad must be linked to Israel.

Brexit, Covid19 and More Beside?

While everyone has been arguing about statues and so on, the deadline for applying an EU transition extension is now almost past.  We are therefore facing a no deal Brexit on top of the effects of Covid19. Let us hope that we don't get a second wave and/or a flu epidemic on top.

The remarkable thing is how much of this is the direct choice of the present Conservative government.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Opening Leisure Outlets

The opening of leisure outlets from 4 July, which appears to be based on the latest Brownian motions of Boris Johnson's brain, opens potential for reopening libraries in some form. Although Peterborough's libraries have been returned to the Council, I can't see why the library sector is not subject to the same profit problem as commercial businesses, and would help generate footfall in town centres.

That said forthcoming budget cuts in local government threaten the service.

There is also the odd case of Wìllesden Library.  Here the nature of the building is that the museum, art gallery and the business that rents there can only operate if the library is open.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

First Commons Defeat for Johnson

Boris Johnson has suffered his first Commons defeat since winning the 2019 election Jeremy Corbyn gifted him.  The issue is bullying of Commons staff where Rees-Mogg wanted MPs to police themselves.  Past experience suggest that this would make the whole scheme unusable by staff.

Brent and Deaths

Brent had more than 3,495 deaths in the twelve weeks up to June 6.  If that is shocking, that it is probably the worst record in the UK. Closely related to the spread of Covid19 of course.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Hancock's App Fades Away

The proposed virus app seems to be fading away. One of the problems ministers have demonstrated, aside from straightforward dishonesty, is a naive faith in technology.  Along side their obvious autocratic tendencies I hope that will be a lesson learnt for future pandemics.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Jenrick's Corruption Scandal

Together with this story, jenrick's position following the Sunday Times this morning seems totally untenable.  His resignation should be followed by a broad inquiry is essential.

UPDATE 24.06.20

Further alleged planning irregularities have appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

A reminder of the Pergau Dam Disaster

Those unconcerned by the Foreign Office taking over internal aid once again, might to remind themselves of the Pergau dam disaster.  That really was a time when the UK aid budget was treated as a cash point in the sky.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Can Leeds Close All its Libraries?

The Independent reports that Leeds is considering closing all its libraries.

Is this legal?

The answer is that no one has ever tried.  The original law defining Council duties to provide a library service was passed back in 1965 so no one considered the Internet.  Some Councils charge for computer use, implying that do not see it as part of the library duty at all.  The Brent and Draper court cases both suggested it was.

This leaves open the question, can you claim you are providing the service if there are are no library buildings?

That depends on whether a court considers it to be "comprehensive" and "efficient".  I would say that such a service would be inaccessible to many people who live, work or are being educated in Brent.  I would also sspecutas a spectacularly in effective use of the current libraries resources that have been designed the way they are through the libraries transformation.  There would also be the question of how the Council had carried out its assessment of need under the Equality Act and in order a Wirral style review.

While I don't expect a full on closure programme, Brent will certainly be thinking about a massive reduction.  Voices within wanted this In the 2019 budget.  They got cold feet as public opposition became clearer, but they are likely to return to it.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Failing Grayling

The government's constant incompetence with Covid19 is causing me to look with a certain nostalgia on the days when I thought Chris Grayling was the worst it could possibly get.  Odd how perspectives change.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Not Just Statues

The statue debate which has erupted recently should, logically, apply to other things.

Buildings are an obvious example. Banqueting House in Whitehall is historicly important as England's first neoclassical building. It also has an extraordinary painted ceiling by Rubens.

It was built by James VI and I to glorify himself and the Divine Right of Kings as the painted ceiling makes clear without subtlety. His son Charles I used it for the same purpose.  These elitist values might well be offensive to some people.

Others might point out that Charles I was condemned in what can be seen as the world's first war crime trial, and Banqueting House was the scene of his execution.

The double meaning is unusual but the use of a building as a vehicle for a political meaning is not.  Other vehicles include many of other forms of art such as painting, music, murals, photographs and so on. Many of our institutions such as museums and universities were founded using arguably tainted money.

Are we really going to engage in a cultural erasure programme of these things every few years in a Fahreinheit 451 way?

And would such an exercise not simply be a distraction from the hard grind of actually eradicating deep seated problems such as institional racism?

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

What Happened to Taking Back Control of Our Borders?

At the start of this Parliament, the Home Secretary announced an immigration bill which disappeared and announced again in May.

This promised a points based system based on having an income above a certain level and "skills".  It does not seem to pay attention to economic needs such the Labour demands for seasonal workers or the needs of sectors such as hospitality or of public services such as the NHS or adult social care.

Since then in a stark reversal from the Tory decisions of the 19o0s, many more people from Hong Kong will be allowed in apparently without reference to points.

At the same time, the Home Office appears to be continuing Sajid Javid's decision to strip a UK national of citizenship on the grounds that someone else might make her a citizen.  This puts the citizenship of millions of people in danger.

The Home Secretary appears not to be concerned about localised surges in population growth.

Finally, the government is determined not to extend the EU withdrawal agreement beyond Christmas.  Any businesses surviving the virus will just have to take what hits them in 2021.

The government proposed to deal with damage to trade by not implementing any tariffs for imports in a manner that is contrary to the rule of law and makes our markets vulnerable to social dumping. It is also effectively admitting that leaving the EU damages the economy.

Does any of this have any coherence at all?

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Legal Lockdown

Local Authorities are complaining about the legal authority for a Local lockdown.

The same problems apply to various other measures that the government put forward.  The legal authority for the police to enforce face covering on public transport is far from clear' and judging by the government's general dithering, subject to change.

It really isn't fair for the public, the police or transport staff to be treated this way by ministers.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Furlough in Brent

I notice that Brent Central has the highest percentage of furloughed workers in the UK (45.7%).

Furlough simply delays redundancy unless the economy picks up rapidly so this may mean the local economy is in for a big hit later in the year.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Local Authorities Going Bankrupt

Local Authorities are in danger of going bankrupt as they tackle the extra costs of the virus.  Remember that these costs come on top of snowballing cuts and increasing demands as a result of a decade of Tory misrule anyway.

Anyone who believes the government promises that the virus costs will be met is I suspect extremely innocent.

The implications of a local authority ceasing to function for say care homes or track and trace would seriously impede the national effort.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bore Outs

The French have apparently decided that a job can be so boring that it damage you and that you can be awarded damages as a result.  If this spreads to the UK, we may see an epidemic of law suits from those obliged to listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Friday, 12 June 2020

False Addresses

Priti Patel's absurd quarantine rules stipulate that you must give an address where you will self isolate for 14 days but that would be challenged if it was "manifestly false".  This reminds me of an incident recounted in Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence where he recalls being challenged by an official at the airport about his address at the Master's Lodge at Trinity College, and whether he was a good friend of the Master.  The absurdity was that he was the incumbent Master at the time.

Identity warriors who want to organise society according to some sort of solitary identity hierarchy based on a supposed historic victimhood might also ponder the quote given elsewhere in that book of Gandhi's comment at the 1930 London Conference "Imagine a whole society vivisected and torn in pieces; how could it be unified into a nation?"

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Statues and Editing the Past

I find attempts to edit our various monuments really quite beside the point and much more about signalling than actually tackling the often complex problems involved.  As with this piece  in the Independent, the author discusses which statues he dislikes rather the far more important issues around racial inequality that he is supposed to be worrying.  It is rather like a fossil fuel company "greenwashing" to distract from dealing with emissions.

Firstly his list is arbitrary, and simply based on his own knowledge.  Since he refers to Colston (died 1721) as contempory with Wilberforce (born 1759), we can assume that this is not extensive.  He also seems not to see why some figures have multiple messages.

For instance Oliver Cromwell is a well established figure for the Irish (although some argue that his massacres were conventional war practices for the time), but he was a complex figure who changed over time.  He can be seen as a champion of Parliament against Royal tyranny or as a man who overthrew Parliament.  He can be understood as an English/ British patriot or as an oppressor of these islands in whole or part. His parliamentary statue was erected as a symbol of non-Anglican Protestantism, a largely forgotten cause now. In other words, like Churchill, how you view him depends on which parts of his life you choose to emphasise.

This is important not least because the judgement changes according to fashion and the individual concerned, yet the statue is there for the whole community.

Does Nelson deserve his place in Trafalgar Square as a national saviour from invasion or should he lose it as a slave owner? Should George Washington be in the same Square despite being a slave owner and as someone who defeated the British in war? Does Henry Havelock get in the same Square as a British champion or should he be removed as a colonialist?

Is it really sensible to try to edit the urban environment in this way to bring into line with current thinking, or should we not just accept that all landscapes are a compendium of decisions made over a long time rather than one particular moment?

If this sort of editing has any place, it is a due process based on accurate information and made by accountable people, preferably (given the subjectivity) elected ones.  The alternative is a rather ugly picture of kulturkampf dominated by violence and the threat of violence.

UPDATE 12.06.20

I see that some of the statues being vandalised have nothing to with the supposed.  This includes Queen Victoria being labelled a slave owner (She wasn't) and Robert the Bruce in Bannockburn as a "racist king".

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The Guardian Appeals for Brent Experiences

In light of Brent's awful infection record, the Guardian is appealing for accounts of people living in Brent here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Keeping Clean Air After Covid19

Some interesting examples of promoting clean air after Covid19 Here.  This all appears to be uncertain at present as our rudderless government lurches from one contradictory announcement to the next.  One moment Grant Shapps is promoting car use, the next he is trying to ease public transport use.  Then it is back to discouraging public transport with higher fares for children.

Monday, 8 June 2020

The Colston Statue

The toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol strikes me as yet another of these symbolic protests that distracts from actually solving problems to just making people feel good about themselves.

There are plenty of demonstrable ways in which various ethnic groups are disadvantaged compared to the population average. Solving such problems, which are probably multi-causal, takes time, data, persistence and a certain amount of political guts.  Much simpler to throw a statue off a quay as a gesture to yourself while leaving the hard work of really changing things to others.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

NHS Anger

The sheer anger shown by NHS CEO Chris Hopson at being bounced into a reorganisation by government ministers with no notice was extraordinary. On the Today programme, Justin Webb could not get a word in. I think ministers literally have no conception of how work is needed to get large oeganisatìns to do things.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Badly Thought Out Slogans

A decidedly ill thought out slogan i have seen recently was for the use of COVID19 masks. It was "Wear a mask; pass it on." Do people never think these things through?

Friday, 5 June 2020

What Boris Johnson's Word is Worth

A few days ago, Boris Johnson was in front of the Commons liaison committee and was about the no recourse to public funds rule.  He gave the impression of knowing nothing about, but promised to review it.

A few days later, he seems to have backtracked on the review.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

European Transition

I understand that the Northern Ireland Assembly has requested that the UK has apply for an extension to the current EU agreement.  I have no doubt that the vast majority of MPs, although they will no longer being allowed a constituonal vote following Rees-Mogg's Purge.

The alternative is the nightmare of an off the cliff exit from the EU at the same time as a second wave in COVID19.

Indeed that may have been the intention of the purge.


Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Mogg's Purge

The farcical Commons vote yesterday whereby dozens of MPs will henceforth be unable to vote in Parliament is  (I think) the first such purge since Colonel Pride in the interregnum.

Effectively, we have had a coup d'etat via a proceedual vote.

Who would have thought Rees-Mogg would be the one to bring us back to this kind of republicanism?

UPDATE 03.06.20

I notice that the government appears now to be backtracking and allowing shielded MPs to vote remotely after all.  Why doesn't the government ever seen to get it right the first time round?

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Jeremy Corbyn and the EHRC

Jeremy Corbyn is making a pre-emotive attack on the EHRC ahead of what is expected to be a highly critical report on antisemitism under his leadership.

No surprise there. The alternative would be to accept responsibility.

I am surprised by his belief that Churchill was antisemitic, as Jews were the one "ethnic" group that Churchill liked.  At least that is the account given by Sir Martin Gilbert in his Churchill and the Jews.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Jenrick in Tower Hamlets

Jenrick's extraordinary planning decision on a planning application in Tower Hamlets is a far more serious problem than his previous breach of lockdown guidance.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Well Stocked Public Libraries

There is a short quote at the back of Alasdair Gray's Lanark: "I regard a well stocked public library as the pinnacle of democratic socialism." Worth remembering in these days when Brent Libraries are closed.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

When will Brent Libraries Reopen?

Brent been without a physical library service since 20 March 2020.

Surprisingly this does not appear to bother all the Campaigners who used to assure me that they regarded libraries as a lifeline. It does however mean that Brent Council may be breaching its legal duty to provide a library service.  This also has consequences.

People who public computers to access universal credit or other service and have no home access are currently simply cut off from any online service, which may have financial and other services.  Other Boroughs appear to be making PCs available.

No books are available despite many pupils needing to home school.  It would be useful to know if a limited reserve service could be restarted, or even (depending on safety) a full lending service.

Likewise, many people shut in overcrowded housing might welcome the public space.

At the very least Brent should be discussing these issues.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Lanark and Alasdair Gray

I have recently been reading Lanark by Alasdair Gray, which is quite the most impressive British novel I have read for a long time. Sometimes tough going, it is nonetheless worth it.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Bristol Ahead of Brent in Pedestrianisation

Bristol appears to be considering a much more ambitious level of pedestrianisation than Brent.  Given concerns over air quality, climate emissions and transport pressures, finding a car lite option is really the only way London can go.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Yvette Cooper's Visa Concession

Yvette Cooper MP appears to have won cross party support for a concession for foreign workers in the NHS to be allowed to stay without going through the UK' s horrendous visa system.

This clears up something that was puzzling me.

Why did she vote for a second reading against the Labour whip with all the potential political dangers she might face as a result. I take it she had had some sort of indication that this was a quid pro quo.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Still Charging

Boris Johnson has performed a u-turn on making some NHS workers pay extra on top of their taxes for NHS services that they work to provide. However, he has yet to back track on others such as administrators and non-clinical staff. Why not? Are there any other areas where foreigners are subject to a special charge on top of their taxes?

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Boris Johnson Misleads at PMQs

Boris Johnson misled the Commons at PMQs.  Under questioning from Keir Steamer, he claimed abolishing the charge that foreign NHS workers need to pay if they need NHS treatment would cost about £900 million.  In fact data obtained from the House of Commons library by Seema Malhotra MP suggest it would be between £1.3 million and £35 million, depending on how many employees are involved.

Johnson should back to the Chamber to correct himself.

UPDATE

I gather that as of the evening  of the 21st of May, the Tories have now u-turned on the anti-migrant charge.  That does not in my view obviate from the need to publicly acknowledge the facts.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Congestion Charge Myth

The Tories have trying to peddle a falsehood that Sadiq Khan has voluntarily reimposed the congestion charge and that the Tory government played no part in this.
This is flatly untrue.  In fact the reimposition of the charge is a condition of the bailout agreement. Not signing the bailout would leave TfL unable to trade I.e. not running any tubes or buses, leaving many Londoners without any way to get to work or in cases to access food shops.

The original thinking behind this was to encourage the use of public transport as an alternative to the car, but public transport is now highly restricted because of the social distancing rules.  Grant Shapps has urged everyone to use cars instead, which I am sure he knows is a complete non-answer in London where many don't have access to a car.  In any case replacing the journeys normally made on bus and tube with car journeys would lead to horrific traffic congestion.

I cannot help but suspect that the real Tory agenda is to infuriate Londoners and for Sadiq Khan to get the blame prior to the Mayoral election next year.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Sexual Equality in Parliament

The Labour Party has for the first time in its history a (bare) majority of female MPs.  The first party to achieve this was the ill fated TIG break away group. Reading the Liberal democrat survey of the reasons for their election drubbing I note that they seven female MPs out of eleven (64%), and they comment that they want to maintain that proportion.

That seems odd, as it is above the population average.  Bringing the MPs in line with with the general population has been the most common reason for promoting specific groups, since this makes the best use of talent and a variety of different views is held to make for better decision making.

Although the Tory Party still seem to fall short in female representation, might this be a time when Labour and the Lib Dems need to rethink their selection processes?

Monday, 18 May 2020

Roundwood Cafe open as a Takeaway

Taking advantage of the reduced lockdown conditions and sunshine yesterday, i found that Roundwood cafe is now open as a cafe.  As one in eight households have no gardens nationally, and a lot more round Harlesden I suspect, parks are valuable than ever.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Labour Party Membership Hits Record High

According to NEC representative Alice Perry, Labour Party Membership is now 570,000.  I believe this would be the highest level since Harold Wilson.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps

Sadiq Khan shows a much better understanding of the problems of an urban transport network than Grant Shapps (aka Michael Green.

Everyone driving cars is simply not viable in London because there is not enough road space or parking and a very high proportion of residents do not have access to a car.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Rough Sleepers Back on the Streets

Rough Sleepers will be forced back on the streets according to the Manchester evening News. They were taken off at short notice at the start of the lockdown with central government saying that they paying the bill. In Brent' s case I have been housed in an hotel in Earl' s Court.  The funding is being withdrawn with no notice by the government.

In some cases, the sleepers had been able to make progress with the problems that led to the rough sleeping in the first place. This risks being thrown away if they are just put back on the streets, but councils such as Brent are otherwise being forced to meet the costs from budgets that already overstretched by the effects of the virus and more than a decade of cuts.

Are Tory ministers too cynical to even care?

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Brent Library Loans Extended

Brent libraries have been extended until 30 June.  Informally, I have been informed that any opening is likely to be piecemeal.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Dudden Hill Councillor Suspended

I understand that Cllr Aslam Choudhary (Dudden Hill ward) has now been suspended from Brent Council Labour Group after posting a video containing comments on Jewish control of America.  This happened on Friday and is the fifth removal from the Labour group in  six month period, a very short time.

It will not result in an immediate election because of the virus legislation and the distinction between being a Group member and a councillor.

UPDATE 5.5.20

I now have learnt that Cllr Choudhary is suspended as a Labour member, and is likely to be removed from his committee posts, but he is still allowed to attend Labour Group meetings.  This all seems rather strange.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Hybrid "Con" and Inflation

There was a recent Guardian article about hybrid vehicles being a con.  Whatever it tells you about hybrid vehicles, it says something important about measuring value over time.

The article says they a "con" for a number of reasons.  Partly it points out that it depends on how the driver uses it (duh...yes).  Partly it points out the growing size of vehicles meaning that they weigh more than years ago for the same class and there fore require more energy to move.

That demonstrates a problem with changing values and technology.  Is a new digital TV really the same as the old analogue version, which could do far less.  A modern computer has far more processing power that older models.  Are they effectively he same product anymore?

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Going for a Walk

The Living Streets campaign is advising people to go for a walk unless self isolating due to illness or heightened risk.  Good advice. 

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Slippery Johnson Cannot be Trusted

If proof were need that the government are indeed as slippery with extending their powers as I have suggested, take a look at the sudden postponement of local elections.  These were postponed not just for a few days as in 2014, but for an entire year without any explanation.

The article also points out how awkward this makes life for  an existing Assembly member but new MP such as Flo Eshalomi MP (and GLAM come to that). 

A less distracted opposition would be on top of this.  Marina Hyde makes it seem easy. 

Friday, 27 March 2020

The Odd Behaviour of Jewish Voices for Labour

I don't often comment on Jewish Voices for Labour (JVL) as it is not really a local government  concern, but it does seem a strange sort of body that is mainly geared not to Jewish issues or to Labour campaigning, but merely trying to deflect accusations of antisemitism and attacking the much longer established Jewish Labour MovementThis odd document is another reminder of that.  By contrast, JLM seems to take an interest in specifically Jewish debates on Education, adult care etc. as well as wider issues such as police discrimination.

Incidentally, this table by JVLWatch below gives some hint as to why these various "Jewish" groups are not really representative and therefore (if you really want to engage with the majority of the Jewish community, it is better to go to the Board of Deputies and such like.


Thursday, 26 March 2020

On Street Parking in London

Catching up with this piece on on street parking in London.  It argues that cars are still taking more than their fair share of road usage despite being at the bottom of the road user hierarchy

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Election Study Overshadowed

Largely overlooked amid the virus crisis is serious academic research on voter behavior during the 2019 General Election.  Voters' party allegiance to the Labour Party in particular seemed weak.  The other big thing was that Boris Johnson did not seem to scare as many people as Theresa May did. 

Monday, 23 March 2020

Corunavirus and Leaving the Single Market

David Davis MP is now apparently suggesting that a collapse in international trade helps us to leave the Single Market without a trading agreement and that this is therefore desirable.  It seems a long way from "the easiest thing in the world" and "the German car manufacturers' will make sure an agreement is passed".

There is now a petition to Parliament to extend the transition period for two years as the corunavirus outbreak has made an agreement even less likely than it seemed already.  

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Stella Creasy MP's locum MP experiment

Catching up on non-corunavirus stories, I see that Stella Creasy MP's locum MP experiment has run its course.  The details of the casework I don't find surprising and would be familiar to many caseworkers and councillors.  The key problem I see with that role is where the constituent wants policy casework, explaining the MP's position on this or that public issue, or asking the MP to lobby ministers.  I don't see how that can be farmed out to anyone else. 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Council Tax and Business Rates

The apparently well sourced stories that there will be a three month holiday on business rates make me wonder what the position of local authorities will be.  London Borough these days often get more of their income from business rates than from Council Tax.  Will they just be expected to take the hit?  Or will they be expected to recover the money at a later stage?

Friday, 20 March 2020

Prescience from Dave Hill of OnLondon

Dave Hill of OnLondon makes what I imagine will turnout to be a prescient comment on Boris Johnson below.


Brent Library Opening Hours

Brent Libraries have had their opening hours cut back to 10am to 6pm on weekdays and no weekend opening except for Wembley library which will be open 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.  Thus the hours now have been hacked back almost to the level before the Libraries Transformation Project was put in place. 

Brent Law Centre Closed

Brent Law Centre is now closed, as reported in the Kilburn Times.  It opened in 1971 and had Labour MPs Jack Dromey and Harriet Harman as early workers.  During their time there they took part in the famous Grunwick dispute.  It was "saved" in the 2011 budget debate, but further cuts to legal aid have led the trustees to close it it so that it can be done in an orderly fashion. 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Well Said Chris Bryant

Chris Bryant MP has protested against the Johnson government giving itself "emergency powers" to among other things arrest people for suspicion that they have Covid19.  The powers as mooted at present will last for two years.  He is right to denounce this.

This Prime Minster has repeatedly shown his contempt for parliamentary scrutiny and the rule of law, he cannot be trusted.  Nor should any government have the power to arrest people not because they have committed any criminal act but simply on the suspicion that they might be ill.

That said, I wonder how the government think they might use such a power.  Where would they put the arrested people? Back home, where they can walk out again?  In a police cell, when Brent and many other places simply don't have enough as was indicated in the 2011 riots?  In our notoriously overcrowded jails where they can infect everybody else?

It seems to me that our main defence of UK citizens against this government's totalitarian instincts is their incompetence in thinking them through. 

Suspending Parliament

Boris Johnson is apparently considering giving himself draconian powers to pass any legislation he likes without any Parliamentary scrutiny whatsoever.  Given his track record on prorogation, the EU withdrawal agreement and indeed his position as the UK's most notorious liar, I really don't think that would be sensible.




The benefits of proper scrutiny are indicated by Dr Rosena Allin Khan's question at PMQ yesterday.  Why do NHS doctors not have the protective equipment they need (or the testing that would mark out whether they are inadvertently endangering patients).



Quite apart from his genuine threats to constitutional government, what does one think of a Prime Minister who has a Conference call with CEOs about constructing more ventilators and makes a remark like this (Courtesy of Pippa Crerar):

Image

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Libraries and the Corunavirus

Concern appears to be rising over keeping libraries open  during the corunavirus epidemic, as shown in this Public Libraries News post (which incidentally I think has somewhat misunderstood the role envisaged by "herd immunity").

One of the problems of closure, is that much of this effort is about getting out timely and accurate public information to keep public trust.  This appears to have been undermined by recent political briefings and is a core purpose of libraries.  To close them down might leave some people unable to access information easily, which would be a major price to pay.  Of course it is sensible for any service to keep its self under review and make changes such as intensify its daily cleaning.

The Irish Prime Minister has already observed this:



I also think that there is an issue with the whole close this and close that approach that you do it as a one off, but it seems to be a bit more of a whack-a-mole situation where any country that manages to close the disease off in one place can face a resurgence coming from somewhere else, and that this is likely to remain the case until a vaccine is found.

UPDATE 19.03.20

I have a shrewd suspicion that Brent libraries will shortly announce a temporary closure to at least the end of April. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Closures

The widespread closures and election postponement will hopefully slow the spread of the corunavirus, but I suspect they will also take their toll of local businesses, especially around Wembley where the events are central to drawing in customers.  I hope that other public services such as Council ones continue to be open so that businesses can survive. 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum Charity

It seems that Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum is finally officially a charity after almost a year of trying to get the Charity Commission to register it as such.  I can't believe that such a delay was really needed, but at least it is over now. 

The Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum has also featured in this recent GLA report.  

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Future Costs and Brent Council

One of the reasons Brent Council was so careful about scaling down its budgets from 2010 onwards is the knowledge that there were huge additional costs coming down the line because of things like demographic change and now Brexit.

Brexit will create a particularly difficult environment of Labour shortages as workers are deliberately kept out or removed from the UK.  Simultaneously, pay will be going up for legislative reasons, but also I suspect as a result of market forces.  We may also see the wholesale exit from provision by the private sector leaving the Council to clear up the mess.  This is an existential issue for local government. 

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Lexi Cinema Close to getting Second Screen

The Lexi cinema is now close to getting its target funding figure for a new screen due to large grants of taxpayers' money from both Brent Council and the Mayor for London.  The cinema will be able to add a second screen as a result.  You can learn more about the Lexi Cinema from its web site. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Sunak's Budget Reversal

Rishi Sunak's budget is remarkable for its political amnesia.  As well as pretending to be a new government (rather than a re-elected one after a decade of mismanagement), it pretty much trashes all the thinking that led to he and his colleagues in the previous decade of cuts that have led to public services being such a wreck.

It is rather as if a husband battered his wife for a decade and then arrived with a bunch of flowers.

Of course, the new spending pledges often just take things back to levels of spending inherited in 2010, and sometimes not even that.  And the institutions meant to spend them are so enervated that they will struggle to spend the new largess properly.  In particular adult social care can not easily make up for the years of cuts, especially with the immigration restrictions likely at the end of this year.

Lisa Nandy is quite right to ask for an extension of the EU transition period. The reactions of all the Labour Leader and Deputy Leader candidates are published by Labourlist. 

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Unsafe Cladding

Interesting example of the SNP passing the buck to be found on the Red Brick blog here regarding unsafe cladding in blocks.  I quote in full:

"Scotland has an unusual problem. Even though there is no leasehold/freehold distinction north of the border, the Scottish Government has limited influence on the actions of mortgage lenders since this power is reserved to Westminster. The London Government has issued an advice note that deals with fire safety in buildings post Grenfell throughout the United Kingdom. Even though building standards are higher in Scotland than in England, lending organisations now require home inspection reports to reflect the new London imposed standards. Consequently, some leaseholders in Scotland who wish to sell or remortgage have found that they have been imposed with a nil valuation."

Of course, Scotland has more than fifty MPs at Westminster, almost all SNP, who can pursue this or any other issue in the same way as any other Westminster MP.  If they have a "problem" it is probably the reluctance of the SNP MPs to raise such bread and butter issues as it does not accord with the Nationalist narrative. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Flooding and Austerity

The government is now reversing course on its cuts to flood defences here.  I pointed out the likely consequences some years ago, as (in considerably more detail) did Simon Wren-Lewis. The new funding announced is therefore just the government admitting that it has been making a disastrous (literally) policy for almost a decade, and simply undoing some of the damage that the government has already done.  As well as the financial cost, the cuts have also led to a delay in building the defences.  Had the government continued the trend it inherited from Labour back in 2010, many of the flooded properties of this year might never have been flooded.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Priti Patel and Bullying

The ongoing defence of Priti Patel from the accusations against of a pattern of bullying remind me of a similar case I can recall in Brent Council.  In that case the bullying was of a man against a succession of women and sometimes others.  The behaviors were similar, and so were the excuses

  • The behavior was minimized as just a bit "hardball"
  • It was suggested that the complainants were oversensitive
  • It was suggested that rather that it was just a management style.

Above all, the bully saw themselves as the victim, and in the Brent case, tried to respond by making it impossible for anyone to complain about his behavior. 

Monday, 9 March 2020

Flytipping in Alperton

The Kilburn Times has spotted a truly shocking level of flytipping at a site in Alperton.  The tone of the reportage seems to be why hasn't the Council cleared it up?  This seems to miss the point somewhat.  If it were public highway that would be what the Council would do automatically, but is private land.  The Council can issue a notice against the owner to clear it up provided it is judged a public nuisance and even forcibly clear it and send the bill to the owner.  This would take time and proof of the nuisance (e.g. a massive rat population).  It is dismaying that neither the the recently elected Lib Dem councillor for Alperton nor the Brent Council respondee make this point.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Agreement on Brent Libraries

It is always nice to find areas of agreement, and so I would like to say that I agree with both Paul Lorber and Martin Francis that the reference in a Brent poster to ten libraries is misleading.  Brent runs six libraries serving far more people in more ways than it did with twelve in 2011.


There are six publicly run libraries in Brent.  These are the two new ones Wembley and Willesden, one completely refurbished one at Kilburn, one partially refurbished one at Ealing Road and towo others in Harlesden and Kingsbury.  They are open to all residents, pupils and workers in Brent free of charge for all kinds of library services and subject to various statutory guarantees.  They are staffed by paid staff on the Council payroll with the various worker rights that guarantees.

Not so the four "community" libraries which each private organisations that do not publish things like visitor or loan numbers, and do not give the kind of access guarantees that Brent's seven day libraries have.  I would be surprised if they access the range of services either since that would be extremely expensive.  In the past, it appeared that one of them seemed to be more a bookshop than a library

Sadly, I do have to point out that Paul Lorber is doing a bit of misleading of his own in implying that Brent could have just handed over buildings to volunteer groups. That is simply not so.

I think it is also worth pointing out that Brent is one of a dwindling group of authorities that still provide a museum and archive service (at Willesden Green), and that Philip Grant's point about having an exhibition.  There has been at least one previous exhibition on Ernest Trobridge, at the Willesden Museum back in 2010

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party

Coverage of the goings on in Hampstead and Kilburn CLP gives cause for concern as they appoint constituency officers with some very strange behavior behind (and quite possibly in front of them).  They are not known as people keen to go out on the doorstep, quite possibly because they would find a lot of the public disagree with their views.  Both Brent Labour Party and the Party nationally will need to consider whether such people should continue their activities or whether the Regional Director needs to step in. 

Friday, 6 March 2020

Electric Trial for Dust Cart

I see that Brent are trialing electric dust carts with Veolia.  That seems eminently sensible.  A dust cart has a fairly short and predictable circuit so the amount of energy used should be predictable.  The batteries can be charged at the depot, and overall pollution would be reduced.  Of course, a similar argument might be made for buses. 

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Fantasy Shadow Cabinet

That YouGov poll that showed Keir Starmer with a clear lead in the leadership election, also had an interesting take on who Labour Party members might like to see as shadow Cabinet members:


Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Commenting on the Morland Gardens Development

Subsequent to my post on Friday, there have been further comments on the Morland Gardens redevelopment proposal.  Philip Grant, a local historian, has written on the history of the building.

The assessment accompanying the application is that during the building's long life the historical features were all stripped out and only the shell remained.  As an aside, I don't recognise his various descriptions of the debate around Willesden Library which was subject to a number of misconceptions.  Essentially, he wants to turn down the current proposal for 65 housing units, some workspace and a further education college in order to retain the Victorian shell and have half the number of housing units.  Which choice one would make depends on a value judgement.

UPDATE 09.03.20

Mr Grant has commented below.  Just to unpack my comment on misconceptions.  I was commenting on misconceptions in general, which I summarised at the time.  I believe that Mr Grant suggested that the only publicity given to the proposed redevelopment was a small focus group, and nothing else.  This was not so as a number of reports and Council meetings had described the options as they were developed (all in the public domain), the Willesden Area Consultative Forum had been informed as referenced in the 2012 post I have just linked to, the Willesden and Brent Times had covered the story (as referenced in the article I just linked to, and I personally had had a number of conversations on the subject with various parties to the library litigation.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Shadow Cabinet Speculation

Keir Starmer's lead in the Labour leadership election now seems so compelling that people are speculating as to the identity of various front bench posts.  More important than who is ultimately getting a new critique of the government's strategy.  The Tories have deftly abandoned their austerity narrative which tacitly concedes that the last decade of suffering was a pointless, self inflicted disaster.  Labour are so preoccupied with internal arguments that the Conservatives have been allowed to do this pretty scotfree. 

Hopefully Oliver Kamm's piece on import substitution will help give some pointers

Monday, 2 March 2020

Fair Trade in Brent Civic Centre

I learn via the Cooperative Party that:

On 4th March the Mayor of Brent will be officially opening the exhibition of Fairtrade themed artwork by Brent schools at Brent Civic Centre.  Start time 4.30pm. At the rear of the ground floor. 

Brent first became a Fairtrade Borough in 2012.  

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Scrutiny and Thames Water

Camden Council has been quizzing Thames Water about why their pipes burst, according to the Camden New Journal, and the answer is they don't know.  That is disappointing as Brent suffers from this problem routinely and a real answer would be reassuring.

This was done via one of Camden's scrutiny committees.  I have never understood why Brent does not use its Scrutiny system in a similar way to the one that Camden use theirs, as my understanding is that it has powers to question about the use of public money anywhere in the Borough. 

However, I can't help but notice that the Camden meeting struggled to get a quorum so things are not perfect there either.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Keir Starmer Now Leading in Survation Poll

Keir Starmer is now leading in a Survation Poll published by Labourlist.  I am not as confident in their methodology as I am in Yougov's but both appear to be good indicators of a Starmer win

Labour Party Distractions

One thing that those who call for mandatory reselection of MPs might reflect on is that during the period of the Leadership election, Labour has been doing virtually nothing to scrutinise the government.  This has allowed it build a big poll lead despite wilful errors such as the Prime Minister refusing to visit flood hit parts of the UK.

Naval contemplation has its price.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Morland Gardens Redevelopment

There is a proposal on the table to redevelop 1 Morland Gardens on the edge of Stonebridge and Harlesden.  The planning application summary is:

"Demolition of existing buildings and erection of a new mixed use building ranging in height from two to nine storeys, to provide 65 dwellings (Use Class C3), affordable workspace (Use Class B1), new further education college (Use Class D1), with associated amenity areas, public realm improvements, car and cycle parking and refuse/recycling store."

All the properties in the building are proposed as "affordable".  There is also 750 square metres of affordable workspace and space for a college (which is the current use).

The housing is proposed as 40% one bedroom, 18% two bedroom, 10% three bedroom, 7% four bedroom and 4% five bedroom.  This adds up to just under 80% of the space.  All the units will be "social renting". 

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Keep Talking

Hope Not Hate and the Community Security Trust (CST) have issued an important report on conspiracy theories and the increasing dialogue between the Far Right and the Far Left (including in the Labour Party).  The number of people involved in these may be small, but they have a disproportionate; the more so when they hide in "moderate" clothing.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Reasons People Did Not Vote Labour in 2019

Some one has rather usefully actually asked the voters what they think about reasons not to vote Labour, rather than making assumptions.  It should be minded by every Labour Party member voting in our Leadership election. 

UPDATE 25/02/20

I see Angela Rayner's has acknowledged that part of the reasons for the defeat were to do with the Leadership.  I wish others were as frank.  

Monday, 24 February 2020

Passport to Where?

I can't say that this image really consoles me for losing freedom of movement across the European Union, but why does it show Boris Johnson a plane when he is officially in Chevening?


Sunday, 23 February 2020

Police Action Going Too Far?

Weird to see the below photograph circulating on the Internet, so much so that I suspect is is "fake news".  If it is not I imagine the government will be going ballistic since it seems like the Police going way too far for their remit.


Brent Council Poverty Commission

I see Brent council is sponsoring a poverty commission.  This is a good idea, but it does seem to replicate the Social Mobility Commission chaired by Lord Knight that was set up round about 2012.  That did not see any of its conclusions pursued because of a lack of political support.  I hope it works out differently this time.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Barnhill Election Petition

Remarkably the Barnhill election has been subjected to an election petition.  This is an extremely unusual proceeding.  The last time it happened in Brent was in 2006 in following a result in Dudden Hill where an employee of the Council was elected as a councillor (representing the Liberal Democrats).  

The Barnhill case is brought by the losing Conservative candidates.  It alleges a miscounting of the votes, but does not say whether they mentioned this to the Returning Officer or examined the ballot papers, as they had a right to do.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Misguided Reforms in the Labour Party

A plea here for more realism on local government governance will hopefully be heard by the winners for the Labour Leadership battle.  Separating the appointment of the Leader from the councillors s/he is supposed to work with is indeed disastrous for reasons I have described.  The new Leader will have the perfect opportunity to look again.