Havering Council Meeting, 23rd November, 2022: Question Time

Resident Association councillors used to ask questions about potholes and such like. Osman Dervish would smile sweetly, pat them on the head and say, ‘Well done’. Drivel, but everyone felt better. Now the roles are reversed. The question is, ‘How well are Conservatives doing?’

The first question was by Keith Prince.1 His question (Q1) was about ULEZ.2 He knows opening questions are routine with the supplementary question being the killer. Cunning politicians put cabinet members3 in a tough spot and score a triumph. I thought Keith would be classy.

Unfortunately, the blind were leading the blind. Barry Mugglestone hadn’t read the ULEZ proposals and thinks, wrongly, it’s about climate change. Even worse he thinks it’s a tax. Barry was reading a prepared answer from officers, who also haven’t read the proposals, or have, and Barry didn’t accept their answer. It’s beyond stupid to misunderstand ULEZ’s purpose, which is, “To help clean up London’s air 

Furthermore “…ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”5 (my emphasis)

Keith isn’t guilty of misunderstanding. He’s playing politics. On this occasion he ranted about taxation, which he knows isn’t true.6 He then made progress. He said if people driving 18 year old bangers are charged £12.50 a day for destroying people’s health, Havering’s businesses will collapse. Keith doesn’t have a grip on economic realities.

The principal purpose of ULEZ is saving lives in Havering.

Addendum: Question allocation

If the Administration believe that ULEZ is about climate change why wasn’t it given to Climate Change cabinet member Keith Darvill to answer?

Notes

1 Council questions.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

2 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

3 Barry Mugglestone. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Got to 29 minutes in

4 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

5 Havering, ULEZ and Public Health – Politics in Havering About 3 people a week die in Havering from air pollution

6 Because he knows what taxation means.

Havering Councillor: Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath)

Keith is a superstar in Havering’s Town Hall. He’s been a councillor for 32 years in various places. He began his career in Havering, moved to Redbridge becoming Leader of the Council, and then a GLA councillor.1 He’s still a GLA councillor – he was re-elected in 2021 – with a massive majority. And in May, 2022 was elected as a Havering councillor. What’s going on?

Keith, like all successful politicians, can smell political blood. While campaigning last year he noticed Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’. So, he did the obvious thing and seized the opportunity. Damian White was ousted from his seat in Squirrels Heath. He inserted himself into the newly created vacancy and was elected in May, 2022. Keith is simultaneously a GLA and Havering councillor. Maybe he doesn’t believe that being a Havering councillor is time consuming?

Keith has made two rare misjudgments. He thought Havering would be ruled by the Conservatives and he’d be Leader. Now he’s in Sadiq Khan’s GLA and is a councillor with an HRA2 Administration in Havering. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

If Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’ in 2021, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like now. And they don’t even have Allowances to keep them interested any more.

Addendum: Register of Interests

Keith’s mentor Boris Johnson, aka The Great White Shark, has taught him to be unworried about trivialities like legal obligations. Keith still hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests, which was due no later than 2nd June 2022.3

Notes

1 He’s GLA councillor for Havering and Redbridge neatly drawing together the threads of his career.

2 HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

3 As of 4th July 2022 Councillor details – Councillor Keith Prince | The London Borough Of Havering

Keith Prince vs Damian White: 2022 Conservative Leadership Contest

Keith is a Conservative superstar1 and fancies himself. He was re-elected a GLA Member in May, 2021 but it was a joyless victory. Sadiq Khan’s London Labour are tightening their grip and that’s the kiss of death for Keith who wants to be a mover-and-shaker. Keith now has his sights on Havering. The Havering Conservative Leadership election, 2022, could be blood-thirsty.

Political ironies pile up. Damian is vacating his seat in Squirrels Heath and moving to Havering-Atte-Bower. And who steps into Squirrels Heath ward? Keith!

Damian shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s politically adroit and built a coalition in 2018 out of nothing. For four years he’s used Special Responsibility Allowances2 for the only electorate that matters: Conservative councillors. But that was then. What can Keith offer?

It takes a very brave Leader to re-jig allowances when it’s going to cost councillors money. Neither are going to do that. So the election depends on other things. And what might they be?

Damian has amiable contempt for his colleagues, which he conceals badly. The Bob Perry revelations about possible gerrymandering showed Damian’s unpleasant side. He’s also keen on councillors pulling their weight when it comes to campaigning. This is unpopular with elderly Conservatives who want a quiet life. Perhaps Keith will be more understanding?

This is predicated on the Conservatives forming an administration in 2022, which is far from certain. Keith could find himself rejected by Squirrels Heath’s voters and nursing even more thwarted ambitions.

Notes

1 Keith was a Havering councillor 1990-5; a Redbridge councillor 2003-18 (Leader 2009-14); GLA member 2016-present. He was re-elected in 2021 with a majority of 15,327. On 9th May 2022 Damian survived a leadership challenge by one vote but not by Keith but by stalking horse Robert Benham.

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) For the allowances of individual councillors see Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary This is slightly out of date but gives a reasonable idea.