Nigel Fletcher - Dale & Co.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
A busy weekend, but great weather for it! I went along yesterday to the Council's 'Great Get-Together' event in Eltham, which is one of the series of 'free' activity days the Borough puts on each year. We'll leave aside the political point that they're not free to the taxpayer, and should really be properly sponsored...
Thursday, May 21, 2009
With politicians in such low esteem, it was a humbling experience last night to attend the annual awards at the University of London Union (ULU). I was Vice-President there in 2001-02, and founded a set of awards for the union's societies. These have now been incorporated into the main union awards ceremony, and it's always a pleasure to be invited back each year to present my award and see the other winners. The number of young people giving up their time to devote to student activities and achieving impressive results is truly inspiring.
This year, however, there was a very special guest on my table- Major Phil Packer, who has made headlines around the world recently for completing the London marathon on crutches to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity. After he was seriously injured in a rocket attack in Basra last year his doctors told him he would never walk again, but he has proved them wrong in spectacular style. For such an impressive man, he is astonishingly modest, saying that what he has done is nothing special. The audience begged to differ, giving him a raputous ovation as he was presented with the prestigious William Ross Murray award, whose previous recipients have included Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The running order meant the part of the ceremony I was hosting began just after Major Packer's award - talk about a hard act to follow! It was an honour to meet him, and you can read about his ongoing charity work on his website.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
With apologies to 'OfBlog' for posting on national politics, but today's resignation of The Speaker is undoubtedly a momentous development in British politics. His terse statement, saying only that he was standing down on 21st June and 'that is all I have to say on the matter' was a huge contrast to the resignation of his predecessor, Betty Boothroyd. Whereas Michael Martin's demise was widely predicted and demanded, and the news leaked hours ago, Madam Speaker took the whole House by surprise in 2000 with her statement that she would be stepping down. She gave an emotional farewell, which was met with genuine sadness from across the House. Seeing the glum faces before her, she looked up from her notes to declare 'Be happy for me!' and was given a huge round of applause- the rare tribute given only on such unanimous occasions. Today, the silence spoke volumes for the miserable state of morale at Westminster and the shattered trust in our politics. This isn't a happy occasion, and it won't be the end of the current crisis, but as a politician and as a voter, I hope the new Speaker will be able to make a fresh start and clean up this mess.
Friday, May 15, 2009
After my earlier post concerning the competition in Greenwich Time, which was won by a non-Borough resident, I'm pleased to report a minor victory. Having raised the issue with Greenwich's Ministry of Truth (aka the Communications Department), I am assured that in future, only Greenwich residents will be eligable to win competitions run by the Council's taxpayer-funded 'newspaper'. Hurrah - if only it were so easy to win all such disputes with the Council.
The Council annual meeting last night (Weds 13th) held a few surprises - firstly, Deputy Mayor Alan MacCarthy was elected Mayor for the coming year with Conservative support. Usually, we oppose the Labour nomination, on the grounds that the supposedly impartial mayoralty of the Borough continues to be used as a Labour Party sinecure, with no opposition councillors being considered for the role, however well-qualified they might be.
However, Alan MacCarthy has been a long-serving councillor, devoting many years to the borough, and we felt it would be wrong to oppose him. The outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Steve Offord, was also rightly praised by several councillors for his fairness in the Chair, and for the dignity and dedication which he has brought to the office of first citizen of the Borough, ably supported by his wife Jackie. Steve's father was Mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in the early 60s, so it's good to see the Labour Party embracing the hereditary principle in some form!
But back to the Council meeting. As can been seen from the photo above, the Labour Party did indeed back down on their shocking proposal to restrict the right of residents to oppose planning decisions (see earlier post), and issued an "addendum" to the agenda, removing it from consideration. Leader of the Council Chris Roberts even offered a half-apology for the process by which the constitutional change had been proposed. What he didn't do, however, was explain why it had been proposed in the first place. I made a short speech drawing attention to the fact that, although it had been withdrawn, the Labour proposal suggested a worrying lack of consideration for the democratic process in planning. I won't name the Labour Councillors I saw half-nodding in agreement, but there are some who were equally concerned by the proposal. Comrade Roberts spoke after me in the debate but failed to explain the issue, except to admit that the initial proposal had been to increase the number of objectors needed to 10, instead of 5, so that's all right then!
Much amusement too at the Liberal Democrats' opposition to the appointment of Cllr. Danny Thorpe as deputy representative on the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. Cllr. Thorpe is, of course, infamous as the Councillor who thought it acceptable to remain a councillor whilst spending a year away in Australia. On that basis, it might be thought he was ideal for the Commonwealth position, but it might strike his constituents as something of a bad joke.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Leafing through my copy of Greenwich Time, the Council's propaganda sheet, I was suprised to see the above letter. Whilst congratulating the winner, I did think it a little odd that a non-Greenwich resident will be enjoying a prize offered by the Borough's 'newspaper'. It's bad enough Greenwich taxpayers are having to pay for this vanity publication, but the least we might expect is for Greenwich residents to get the benefit of it's prizes. Surely the competition rules should be amended to ensure only Borough residents are eligible? A small point, but I think this should be addressed.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I hope you can read the above, as you really have to see it to believe it. I promised a rant, and here it is. Tomorrow is the annual meeting of the Council, at which business is usually restricted to electing the Mayor and other office- holders for the year ahead. This time however, Labour have tabled some significant amendments to the Council's constitution. The worst part, reproduced above, seeks to increase the number of objectors needed to refer a planning application to the full planning committee from two to five, and restrict the elected members who can do so to just the ward councillors.
At risk of starting a prolonged blog debate, I felt I ought to respond to the criticism made in the comments of one of my posts last week. A local blogger, "Chalton Average" seems to have cast themselves in the role of Greenwich's blog regulator (a kind of "OFBlog" I guess) and has been rating this blog, along with those of some of my Conservative colleagues in Greenwich.
I am taken to task for not blogging a sufficient number of local stories for OFBlog's liking, and apparently this isn't the first time I've been subjected to such a performance review, with another having been conducted last May. We're told "since then he's improved, he was on about a 25% local post rate and he's now doubled that to 50%". Gosh, aren't I good? Promising improvement, but must try harder.
Joking aside, I've now read the various posts about me by this person (who doesn't identify themselves, so I can't afford them the courtesy of referring to them as Mr or Mrs whoever). I must confess to being initially somewhat hurt by the contemptuous and downright rude manner in which they choose to express themself, but that's the nature of an anonymous blog I suppose - I've heard worse. And of course they are entitled to criticise me and express a view on what I write.
What I do take issue with, however, is the substance of the argument being levelled. I am attacked as though this blog were some kind of official communication, paid for by Greenwich taxpayers (or even by Greenwich Conservatives), which is failing to give value for money. Well, I hate to disappoint people, but that just ain't the case. This is a personal blog, written as an outlet for my thoughts and observations, from the perspective of someone with a vested interest in opposition - hence the title. It's not called "Nigel Fletcher for Eltham North" or "Nigel Fletcher in Greenwich", and is not intended as a campaigning tool. Like anyone, I have a range of interests, and all of them will appear from time to time in what I write about on my blog.
Of course a lot of my interests are political - as well as being a Councillor I have worked in national politics, I am researching a thesis on political opposition, run a research group on the same subject, and I do have many friends in, and connections to, the Westminster 'village' (which seems to be my worst crime in the eyes of Mr/Mrs Average). But I also love history and heritage, wandering around historic buildings and museums; I enjoy messing about in boats and enthusing about maritime matters; I love Doctor Who and know far more about it than is strictly healthy.
None of these things are directly relevant to my being a Councillor in Eltham North, but all of them shape me and how I see the world ('the fundamental interconnectedness of all things' as Douglas Adams might have put it). If you want a blog that is 100% local politics, I am sorry you feel let down, but I have never considered that to be what I am writing. If you want our official political messages, go to the Greenwich Conservatives or Eltham North Conservatives sites, which feature news stories from me and my Council colleagues.
Of course I write a lot about Greenwich - it is where I live, I love the area, and being a Councillor is a huge part of my life. When I get angry with the latest failing of the local Labour administration I will rant about it here (and just wait for tomorrow's rant...), just as I will write about an enjoyable day out like last weekend's Royal Navy display. But I do not pretend this blog is the sharp end of local political debate - for a start my readership is tiny, compared to how many people read the local press, or receive our campaign literature. I made contact with far more local people last Saturday morning delivering campaign leaflets than I ever do with a blogpost, and that's how it should be. If I'm not blogging about campaigning, it may be because I'm out campaigning.
Over the next year I'll be out on the streets of Greenwich with my colleagues pretty much every week, as well as in the Council Chamber, attacking Labour for the mess they have made of running this Borough. Make no mistake, I badly, badly want to get rid of them next May and replace them with a Council that actually listens to local people - and if anyone doubts that commitment, they clearly haven't met me. This blog may not be 100% dedicated to the fight for Greenwich, but I sure am.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
It must be a while since there's been such a large Royal Naval presence at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. This weekend HMS Illustrious is in town, marking the centenary of naval aviation. Yesterday, after a morning of campaigning, I was able to join the crowds by the riverside to watch an impressive display by the Fleet Air Arm and their range of Sea King and Merlin helicopters. The picture above shows a patrol vessel playing the part of a pirate boat, which was boarded and 'captured' by Naval personnel descending from above. Impressive stuff, and very relevant at the moment. There were also a range of other aircraft and display stands in the grounds of the Old Naval College, and it was good to see Greenwich's historic links with the Navy refreshed, and so many people enjoying the display. Let's hope for more of this sort of event in future. I'll post a few more photos now.