After the crushing defeat in the Euro elections, Conservative central office realised how much trouble they were in. They ordered Damian to, ‘Do something!’ The something was the Conservative favourite, ‘Law and Order’. £900,000 was allocated to pay for a Rent-A-Cop scheme. This got a sergeant and four officers for three years. It’s an abysmal deal.
Damian and Viddy Persaud hadn’t read the small print. The deal didn’t include overtime, bank holidays or police cars. It did include the right of the Metropolitan police to withdraw any, or all, of the officers to fulfil duties in central London at any time without notice.
New PM Johnson is a showman who likes flamboyant speeches. He proposed 20,000 new police officers at a cost of £750 million. This trumped Damian’s five. The mature response would have been to withdraw the proposal because Johnson’s 20,000 additional officers meant 50 for Havering.
So what happened? Damian runs Havering’s communications department as a personal PR machine, never missing a photo opportunity. Where is his front page photo in the Romford Recorder as he champions the fight against the forces of evil? Or, has the Rent-A-Cop scheme been quietly dropped? The protesters against increased car parking charges need to be told.
Reversing that policy could finance a restoration of 30 minutes free car parking.
In 1997 Michael Neubert, Romford’s MP, had a job for life,* until he was hit by a shift in the tectonic plates of politics. Tony Blair’s charisma, John Major’s haplessness and Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum party** finished his political career. Goldsmith’s party destroyed Neubert much to the delight of the young Andrew (see table one). Neubert’s political demise freed up Romford for Andrew. Sure enough in 2001 normal service was resumed and he’s been MP ever since.
Like all MPs, Andrew believes he’s loved. In all due fairness, he’s got better claims than most and definitely ranks above Neubert. Being loved isn’t, however, enough in politics.
Andrew’s 2019 tectonic shift is Boris ‘Genius’ Johnson and Nigel Farage’s bombastic simplicities. Johnson’s pre-election strategy appears to be to split the Conservative party. His negative charisma is such that he’s united the warring opposition in parliament into a coherent force, which given his minority government is a disaster. Farage has some very good lines provided you don’t analyse them too much. Andrew’s in peril but isn’t doomed.
Neubert faced a well-known and experienced campaigner unlike Andrew. Andrew is very well-known with a supportive Conservative council. He’s in peril because of Brexit. This was demonstrated in the 2019 Euro elections (see table two). Rock solid Conservative Havering was crushed into 4th place and Andrew’s ‘Genius’ leader has just added to the chaos.
Table One: Romford Election 1997
Table Two: Euro Election 2019
Meanwhile Damian White is licking his lips and wondering if 1997 will be repeated.
* Young Conservatives referred to MPs like Neubert as ‘bed-blockers’ a peculiarly offensive epithet expressing their right-wing arrogance.
** Their radical programme stated they wanted to stay in the free market but not be involved in the political side of the EU. This was revolutionary stuff in 1997
[Sub-committees should develop] mechanisms for addressing cross-cutting issues and for preventing duplication of work. Where matters fall within the remit of more than one O&S sub-committee, to determine which of them will assume responsibility or set up a joint ad-hoc body;* para 2:4
There’s confusion amongst Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny committees. Where does this come from? Is it Damian White’s desire to have additional committees so he can pay allowances to Conservative colleagues? Or, maybe a lack of critical thought?
The paradigm example of confusion is the Crime and Disorder and the Children and Learning committees. Earlier this year, 2019, there was a fatal stabbing in Harold Hill. Jodie Chesney, was murdered in a gratuitous act of violence.** Havering’s weak Overview and Scrutiny committee understanding of their responsibilities was revealed.
On the 14th February 2019, Children and Learning committee received a report on knife crime.*** This report wasn’t shared with the Crime and Disorder committee. Viddy Persaud, the cabinet member, wasn’t brought to committee to explain Havering’s position on this vital issue. Neither Judith Holt or Bob Perry, the relevant chairs, understood their responsibilities though they are crystal clear,
sub-committees consider issues by receiving information from, and questioning, Cabinet Members, officers and external partners to develop an understanding of proposals, policy and practices (my emphasis)****
Was Bob Perry’s chair of Crime a douceur keeping Damian’s administration afloat? Committee secretaries should run training programmes explaining to chairs their responsibilities. Not a single chair has asked for a formal committee meeting with a cabinet member in 18 months of this administration. These meeting should be bi-annual at the least. Damian White hasn’t been in front of the Board on a single occasion. This is a massive democratic deficit.
*** http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g5962/Agenda%20frontsheet%2014th-Feb-2019%2019.00%20Children%20Learning%20Overview%20Scrutiny%20Sub-Committee.pdf?T=0 Knife Crime and Children pp33-124 The Havering strategy was due to go to cabinet in March 2019.
Although Brexit currently, 2016-9, dominates British political life, the climate emergency is more important. The climate emergency is a consequence of independent actions and therefore we’re all implicated. We’re all in the front line of a climate emergency solution, as it were.
Havering isn’t paralysed into inaction. The administration’s street lighting initiative is a fine example of acting local. Sodium lights are being replaced with LED, which will, in turn, be improved upon. There’s currently, August 2019, a six month assessment* period related to street light dimming. Finally, work is being done to identify unnecessary street lighting, called trimming(information from Cllr. Osman Dervish**).
Havering’s policy is the London Plan. This has been adopted by the administration as it’s off-the-shelf and robust. Osman’s approach is ‘light touch’ for ‘signposting of efficiency and cost savings’. This is synonymous with tokenism.
Astonishingly Osman doesn’t mention Havering’s fleet of vehicles. Investment decision-making for the climate emergency is critical in relation to fleet management. Havering’s procurement power should exert opportunities for technology upgrades. Havering’s partnership with ELWA, of which he is chair, is a very powerful weapon. This should be used to incentivise manufacturers.
The default management system should be that which has been adopted in relation to street lighting. Introduce new technologies in phases, assess and then roll-out borough-wide. Councillor scrutiny is vital to this as shoddy short-term investment decision-making destroys long term objectives.
*I’m looking forward to a report in the autumn from the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
** Email 15th January2019
The astonishing taxpayer funded Living in Havering magazine hit a new low in the south of the borough.* The south of the borough is hostile territory for the Conservatives and it reads like an election leaflet. Damian White looks like a candidate for the Dagenham and Rainham constituency in the forthcoming Brexit election. This magazine has gone way beyond his usual personality cult in the Living in Havering magazine.
First, the Damian personality cult PR photo count. This time there’s five Damian photos. That they are PR photo opportunities is demonstrated by the front cover. Damian stands in the centre of a group in a suit, with everyone else wearing yellow safety vests. Damian is literally the focus of the viewers’ attention. His adoring acolytes,** Robert Benham, Osman Dervish and Joshua Chapman are grouped on Damian’s left and three ‘privileged’ workers are to his right.
Damian’s attempt at being more than a photo opportunity is reflected in his domination of the written word. His Leader’s Welcome is a full page, where he identifies the closure of the Chafford Leisure Centre as a possible ‘error’*** He also says that the replacement is an aspiration, which is denied later in the magazine when he says that the council is, “committed to deliver a new leisure centre …. by 2020.” This announcement has all the credibility of a Boris Johnson ‘promise’ which is political hot air.
This outrageous taxpayer funded magazine should be subject to the normal council rules about inappropriate expenditure as it is little more than a Conservative party propaganda sheet.****
* At time of writing this isn’t on the Havering website.
** There’s another acolyte photo with Keith Prince and Osman tucked away
*** Obviously he doesn’t actually say this. He actually says that he’s ‘listened’ which is code for a disastrous decision.
**** Did the Special Edition require a separate budget and how was that authorised?
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” John Maynard Keynes
My long held belief was that Conservatives were lackeys of business. They loved small shopkeepers, favoured car ownership, hated stealth taxes and were competent. These beliefs have collapsed like a pack of cards. Boris Johnson’s infamous ‘F—k business’,* was his colourful pivoting away from traditional allies. We’ll soon see if this was empty rhetoric now he’s PM.
Havering’s Conservatives are catching up. Havering has the highest number of cars per 100 citizens in London. Car owning elderly people will use their vote to punish those they dislike. (The Cranham by-election and the Euro elections, both 2019, illustrate this rather well.) Handing out punishment beatings to voters who vote, isn’t a good idea. And especially not when you’re a minority administration. **
Therefore ferocious increases in car parking charges isn’t politically clever, as numerous letters in the Romford Recorder illustrate. Boris Johnson has destroyed Viddy Persaud’s scheme of five additional policemen with his allocation of 50 policemen for Havering.*** Johnson has given the Conservatives a graceful way of backing out, without loss of face. Additionally he’s released £300,000 with immediate effect. Candidates for this money include Chafford’s leisure pool but it could also pay for 30 minutes free parking. For everyone! Now that is a vote winner.
Destroying the high street is irrelevant for Damian and Viddy but Johnson’s half billion pound announcement (bribe?) has rescued them. The loss of the free 30 minute parking period means people aren’t ‘popping’ to the shops any more. The effect on thousands of elderly voters, living on fixed incomes, is political dynamite. The 30 minute free period should be reintroduced immediately.
** The Conservative administration works hard at keeping the council tax as low as possible even when it’s political insanity like in the 2019 budget for example.
*** My recent blog explains the apparent merits of Viddy’s scheme for Havering’s Conservatives. Johnson has used the same logic but on a national scale. https://havering.blog/2019/06/22/two-conservative-party-leaflets-and-one-cunning-plan/
Johnson’s in No. 10 now. Not my choice but then you can’t have everything in life. His catch phrases, “Do or die!” or the 2016 “£350 million each week for the NHS,” are government policy. Johnson has established a Brexit war cabinet under Michael Gove, which doesn’t fill me with confidence. Let’s hope he doesn’t need to employ Dad’s Army as well.
Meanwhile on Planet Emerson Park, Bob Perry is dissatisfied. In a heartfelt article in the Romford Recorder* he expressed frustration with Conservative politicians. Bob’s a councillor in Damian White’s minority administration, which means Damian needs Bob more than Bob needs Damian. Bob has noticed this and could use it as a lever in the future.
Johnson is utterly shameless, that’s part of his charm. He ignores missed deadlines as, ‘just one of those things’? He doesn’t worry about trivialities like keeping promises. Bob does. All those expecting promises to translate into action should bear that in mind. So on the 1st November, 2019 if Britain is still in the EU, what will Bob do? Will he too shrug his shoulders and write it off as ‘just one of those things’, or will he rebel? Maybe he’ll join Farage.
Alternatively Johnson might change the habits of a lifetime** and stay focussed.
* 7th June 2019 p14
** Unlike when he was Foreign Secretary when he remained feckless.