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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.