That went quickly! A year ago today I was elected leader of Wandsworth Labour.
It’s been an extraordinary year in politics. Lots of joy mixed with some real sadness.
In terms of election victories, we’re probably in Wandsworth Labour’s most successful period ever:
Local boy Sadiq Khan is London Mayor, Leonie Cooper joined the London Assembly, Rosena Allin-Khan was elected as Tooting’s MP, and ace campaigners Paul White and Aydın Emre Dikerdem became councillors.
There’s a huge amount of hard work behind these victories. Wandsworth Labour is a team of 19 brilliant councillors backed by more than 5,000 Labour members in Battersea, Putney and Tooting.
We’re in our best position for 25 years and we aim to win the council in 2018.
Wandsworth Labour listens to local people. We try to be positive and practical. I’m proud of our powerful education funding campaign, which took us to school gates across the borough.
For our vigorous work on Brexit, Candida Jones listened to the stories of EU citizens in Wandsworth. Former Battersea MP Alf Dubs came to the Town Hall to support our call for the council to accept Syrian refugee families.
Simon Wady joined our team as full-time Campaign Manager in March. We’re lucky to have him.
The low points of the last year in terms of Tory policy include:
• More than 1,000 homeless local families live in Wandsworth temporary accommodation
• 400 jobs cut as Wandsworth merges its staff with Richmond council
• More than £10 million set aside to clear up the fall-out from a Wandsworth council child protection scandal uncovered by an Ofsted inspection
The lowest points were personal. Rex Osborn stood down as leader last May due to ill health and has spent much of the past year recuperating. We look forward to seeing Rex in full effect in the Town Hall soon.
Worse was to come: Councillor Sally-Ann Ephson passed away last summer after a long illness. She was just 49.
Hundreds of people attended Sally-Ann’s funeral in Tooting. Sadiq Khan led the tributes: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”
Councillor Wendy Speck, who’s been a great Wandsworth Deputy Mayor this year, also gave a lovely tribute on Wandsworth Radio.
Wandsworth Labour was fully engaged during the EU referendum – where 75% of local people voted to ‘Remain’.
Volunteers are now working round the clock on a General Election.
We’re listening to local people every day in Battersea, in Putney and in Tooting – where we aim to re-elect our excellent local champion Rosena. It’s the third time in three years we’ve hit the streets to elect a Labour MP in Tooting!
The good news is that we like elections. Campaigning brings people together and Wandsworth is one of the most fun and exciting places in Britain to do Labour politics. Hundreds of volunteers help out each week. There’s a really positive team spirit.
A huge thank you from me to each councillor and every of our volunteers for making Wandsworth Labour what it is.
7. It’s not often you get to canvass with your heroes: Listening to local people in Tooting with the awesome Alf Dubs. The former Battersea MP, now Baron Dubs, this year persuaded the government to welcome hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. (May)
8. Glastonbury’s more political than usual: the UK votes to leave the European Union and much of the shadow cabinet resigns. (June)
9. Rosena Allin-Khan becomes Tooting’s new MP in June, her election day overshadowed by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. Rosena’s pictured with ace campaigner Paul White, who was elected a Tooting ward councillor in August
10. Hundreds of local people attend the Get Active Battersea Festival on the Winstanley Estate. A chance for local people to see regeneration plans to demolish 700 homes on the estate and replace them with 2,000 new ones – and to play with a firefighter’s hose. (July)
11. Our friend and colleague, councillor Sally-Ann Ephson died this summer after a long illness. Tributes were led by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who said: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. She served her constituents with dignity and grace. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”
Comments to Wandsworth Plannning Applications Committee, December 14, 2016
This is the most one-sided major planning issue I’ve seen in my ward.
I’ve spoken to local people over many months. I’ve not found one person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road.
The council has logged more than 200 objections received, including two petitions. I should say that I wasn’t involved in either petition or any of the comments – this is entirely grass-roots opposition.
The main objections to the development are clear:
It’s too tall
It blocks people’s light, and their views
The architecture is not in keeping with the low-rise Victorian character of Battersea Park Road
Loss of privacy – a building of this height would overlook surrounding properties
The application does not comply with the London Plan or with council policy on tall buildings
All of which is true.
The council report captures some of the more colourful language used by residents: “outrageously high, out of proportion, intrusive, overbearing, unattractive, a monstrosity, a skyscraper.”
I note there were three letters of support.
I’ve sympathy with the resident who says Harris Academy “is doing a wonderful job in turning the school around to being one of best in the Borough”. It’s an excellent school that has improved greatly. The gym would be a big benefit.
I’d like to focus on two more points of view and will then sum up.
First, Jane Ellison, the Battersea MP says: “The application does not comply with the London Plan and that Council policy (DMS4 of the 2016 Development Management Document) suggests the site is in an area where tall buildings (ie five stories or higher) are inappropriate.”
Second, the Battersea Society objects to this application. “Specifically: the design, height, bulk and massing of the proposal respond poorly to the surrounding context including nearby listed buildings, and to the two adjacent conservation areas – the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas.”
From my perspective this is an important point. Latchmere only has one conservation area – the Latchmere Estate. It’s lovely and it is literally a re-writing of history to say this area is incoherent or lacks character.
I’ll conclude with some points about the impact this building will have.
A new 14-story tower on Battersea Park Road is just too much. It will be a beacon of anxiety – residents will ask: what’s stopping the council approving a tower block next to their two-storey Victorian street properties in Latchmere, Queenstown or St Mary’s Park or Shaftesbury?
People need to know they have some control over the way their neighbourhood looks and feels. Our urban environment must be under democratic control.
We can’t continue with such a massive gap between what people want for their neighbourhoods and the over-development being pushed upon them.
We do need to deliver more homes.
There’s an important political point here: tower blocks such as 3 Culvert Road call into disrepute the council’s whole home building programme. Resistance to any new developments will harden if people believe the council is happy to allow 14-storey tower blocks in their neighbourhood.
There is a place for towers, in certain agreed areas. Where they can be clustered – or as part of larger schemes that are balanced between low-rise and high-rise.
This is something else. This is not a template to solve our housing crisis. This is just a developer trying too hard to make a profit out of tight corner plot. I urge you to reject this application and the damaging precedent it will set.
Ladies and gentlemen, councillors – thank you for the chance to speak. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Simon Hogg, the new leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group.
Tonight’s event is all about selecting and welcoming a new Mayor as well as saying thank you to our outgoing Mayor for the work they’ve done over the last 12 months.
I’ve been to many Mayor Makings over the past few years and when deciding what to say to you tonight, I was advised that I can either use my speech to strike a sincere note, or as an opportunity to really roast the outgoing mayor.
I’ve not made up my mind which it’s going to be yet, so bear with me…
I’d like to start by saying a few words about the role of the Mayor – and it’s significance, particularly in Wandsworth.
Democratic leadership is for all the people. The Mayor – the ‘first citizen of Wandsworth’ – is a powerful symbol of that.
I want to reflect briefly on some of the people this community had in the past trusted with the job of acting on their behalf. Some of our local heroes.
A group of outsiders who helped to create the world we live in today.
A century ago Wandsworth gave Britain:
John Archer, a local photographer, who became London’s first black mayor in 1913.
John Burns, the 16th son of a washerwoman rose from Battersea’s slums to become an MP and Britain’s first working class cabinet member.
Sharpurji Saklatvala, Britain’s first Asian Communist MP in the 1920s.
Charlotte Despard, an fiery aristocratic Irish nationalist suffragette
A group of people like this had never been in power anywhere in the world before. They were outsiders, who our community had welcomed, absorbed – and in the end chose to elevate and celebrate.
This month, we’re celebrating a modern day story of similar significance – as local boy Sadiq Khan has been elected to be Mayor of London. Sadiq, who grew up on the Henry Prince estate in Earlsfield, started his political career serving 12 years as a Wandsworth councillor, followed by 11 years as Tooting’s MP.
His father, I understand, was a bus driver.
His victory is important. There are children growing up on council estates – in Wandsworth and across Britain – who may feel like outsiders, because of where they come from.
A child being called names because they look different and their parents don’t have as much money as some other families at school. But now that child will know the Mayor of London has been in their shoes. And that in Wandsworth there’s no ceiling for achievement for anyone.
Like the pioneering men and women I mentioned earlier, Sadiq’s service will set and break down barriers. In particular fighting that prejudice which says a man holds violent or extremist views just because of the religion he follows.
And it’s in this unifying role that our Mayor is at their most powerful. Wandsworth’s Mayor is central to the Borough’s cohesion. They organise and attend events that bring people together from all backgrounds and faiths. They also swear in hundreds of new British Citizens each year in the council chamber.
And so on to the outgoing Mayor, cllr Nardelli.
I’ve asked many colleagues what they made of your year in office.
Disappointingly, there was very little dirt.
Few people are aware that the Mayor of Wandsworth has a fully stocked bar at their disposal. I’m told that one of our previous mayors started every pre-council meeting with a triple gin.
But as a teetotaller, our mayor did not oblige us with any stories about getting carried away with the free bar.
Our whip – who has most to do with the mayor in her capacity as chair of our Council meetings – said she’d been one of the fairest he’d worked with. She put down her politics and went out of her way to treat all three political parties on the Council with an even hand.
So this may turn out to be the most generous roast in history!
I can say one colleague nominated cllr Nardelli for the award for “most original outfit with Mayoral chain” for the boots, Union Jack pullover and jaunty sailor hat worn with Mayoral chain at the Boat race party.
Her choice of charities was praised as bold and worthwhile: rehabilitation of addicted prisoners and Dyslexia.
She was able to acknowledge the success of colleagues from opposition – she said how pleased she was for Leonie Cooper after she was elected to the London Assembly and said how hard Leonie had worked.
The Roehampton cllrs are grateful she visited the Alton Activity Centre five separate times. This among hundreds of community engagements.
Cllr Nardelli had some difficult personal times during her mayoralty but she continued in her duties and that grit and dignity was appreciated by councillors on all sides. Councillors also mentioned the sterling work of cllr McDonnell the Deputy Mayor in taking on a wide range of engagements with grace and good humour.
Perhaps the strongest testament was from councillors who said the Mayor did the council proud in Ypres, where councillors visited to remember those of this borough who gave their lives in the service of their country.
As the Mayor said in her Civic Service reflections: “Ypres where we left so many souls in such frightful conditions, those who gave their lives that we can live free today. I read the citation at Ypres at the Last Post… a most moving experience while looking at the names of 52,000 men whose bodies were never found. I feel and think……. how proud some of those Wandsworth men would be if they were able to see the borough today.”
I think that’s an important point – the work we do today builds on the efforts of so many who’ve come before us. Building the good life here in Wandsworth is a shared project and a long-term project. We should care for each other, while we still can.
We should preserve our traditions, and ways of life. Wandsworth and its Mayoralty have a proud history and I’d like to thank cllr Nardelli for working so hard and staying the course. For being another link in the chain of Wandsworth Mayors stretching back into the past and hopefully far into the future.
One final note. – I can’t contain my excitement that Wendy Speck is to be the deputy Mayor for the year ahead.
I love Wendy. She’s served with me in Latchmere ward for the last six years and is a fantastic woman. Councillor Field, if you start to see science fiction DVDs appearing in the Mayor’s parlour – that’s Wendy. Watch out for Ewoks…
No one works harder than Wendy Speck. She’s an absolute dynamo and will be a great addition to the team next year.
So thank you to cllr Nadelli for your service this year, and best wishes to cllr Field and cllr Speck for what lies ahead. Wandsworth has a habit of making history and leading the way – and I know it will be no different over the next 12 months.
The British Film Institute (BFI) says: “Refreshingly, the commentary comes entirely from the mouths of the residents themselves: young mothers, working fathers, elderly women, teenagers and children, who discuss their experiences, particularly the issue of loneliness and isolation.
“The film was made in 1971 when the estate was still being developed. Just one year later, the tenants’ association complained that Doddington was rapidly deteriorating. As one young female resident puts it: “I don’t think I’d give these places 20 or 30 years before they become slums. I think I’d give it two or three years, the way they’re going at the moment.”
Where the houses used to be is a sad film. Shows how Battersea’s tight-knit working class communities found it hard to switch to tower block life. Continue reading →
Lily Harrison had a strong, feisty, ‘giving’ personality, with an intense civic commitment to the Shaftesbury Estate community in particular and to Battersea in general. In another generation, when opportunities for working-class women were greater, she would have taken a front-seat role. But she did more as a grass-root, throughout a long and non-stop life, than many front-benchers. Her award of an MBE in 2008 was a justified honour.
For Battersea Labour Party, Lily was not only the longest lived of a post-war generation of committed working-class activists who ran Labour in its unchallenged prime – but she was also a personal link between three generations of truly remarkable women in Battersea left-wing politics.
Lily worked closely with Caroline Ganley (1879-1966), who was Labour MP for Battersea South (1945-51) and a long-standing Battersea Councillor (1919-25, 1953-65). And in turn Caroline Ganley had worked closely with Charlotte Despard (1844-1939), the pioneering suffragette and left-winger, who lived in working-class Nine Elms and stood (alas, unsuccessfully) for Labour in Battersea in the 1919 general election. It was Charlotte Despard who purchased 177 Lavender Hill as BLP’s headquarters; and it was Lily Harrison who for many years ran 177 as its guardian figure.
Lily was born in Canning Town, East London, into a family of working-class Tories. After a sickly childhood, she grew into a wiry and indefatigable adult. She left school at 14, working as a sewing machinist. In 1941 she joined the WAAF and had a ‘good’ war, proud of her contribution to London’s home defence. At one stage, she was in charge of a team of women operating the huge barrage balloons on Sydenham Hill in south London, which were used to disrupt the flight of enemy bombers as they tried to blitz Battersea’s industries and rail networks.
It was a challenging task, Lily told me, not just technically but also because she had to manage a team of ‘flighty’ young women who were not used to physical labour and were all too keen on enjoying wartime London’s night-life. Later, she was in charge of a similar team operating barrage balloons on the cliffs of Dover at the time of D-Day.
When stationed on war duties in Cambridge in 1944, Lily met her Herbert (Bert) Harrison, nicknamed ‘Ginger’ for his red locks. Married in 1947, they were devoted to one another and to their growing family: two surviving sons, Edward and Derek, and a daughter Joan, who had Down’s Syndrome and died from pneumonia at the age of two. At that time, many parents used to put Down’s children into institutional care. But, as her son, Derek, recalled: ‘Not Lily! She dressed Joan in a red coat and displayed her to the world, lovingly declaring “That’s my daughter”.’ The little coat was kept as a treasured family memento, and was buried with Lily.
Bert Harrison came from a politically committed Labour family. His own father, another Herbert Harrison, had been a Labour Councillor and Mayor of Battersea (1953); and Bert followed in his footsteps, representing Shaftesbury Ward on Battersea Borough Council. For Lily, joining the Harrison clan meant that her leftish sympathies were suddenly jolted into non-stop activism. ‘It was a steep learning curve’, she admitted, but one that she thoroughly enjoyed.
When interviewed for the making of BLP’s DVD Red Battersea (2008), Lily said of her role in Battersea Labour: ‘After Bert was elected for Shaftesbury ward, I attended every Council meeting for fifteen years. I became a dedicated Party nut! I lost half a stone in weight during my first General Election campaign, in 1964 – but it was worth it because we got Ernie Perry in [as MP for Battersea South] with a big majority. Later, I ran the BLP Afternoon Section for older ladies: we had jumble sales, garden parties, raffles, knit-ins, and dinner parties, the annual Bazaar. You name it, I’ve organised it. It’s been my life.’
Lily and Bert, who lived on the Shaftesbury Estate, were also part of the strong community life of the Estate; as well as busy in many other local projects. After Bert’s death in 1990, Lily continued her civic involvement, being active on: Battersea Arts Centre Board (founder member from 1971 and later Trustee); Battersea United Charities (Trustee from 1960 and chair 1990-2006); Bolingbroke Hospital Friends; St George’s Hospital Friends; Tooting & Balham Carnival Committee (member from 1971; secretary 1984-94); and SHARE Community (Self-Help Association for Rehabilitation & Employment), of which she became Life Vice President. She wound down only when halted by illness, late in life.
As that account indicates, Lily had the gift of working well with others. She always did what she’d promised to do, with efficiency and good humour. She got on well with most people, and faced the twists and turns of politics with a certain stoicism. In personal terms, her greatest regret was that Bert did not become Mayor of Battersea, as his father had done before him, or of Wandsworth, which merged with Battersea Borough Council in 1965. And there’s no doubt that Lily would have made a great Mayoress.
Yet her tireless activism showed that civic individuals don’t need an official position to get involved. By the end of her long life, Lily had friends across the political spectrum. That’s because, unofficially, she was for many years the equivalent of an uncrowned Lady Mayor of Battersea. But she was no mere ceremonial figure. Lily was nothing if not hands-on. It’s how she lived her life.
This is the Wandsworth-based letting agency that took £5.5million in housing benefit from a charity which housed the homeless. £2.1m of that was paid by Wandsworth council. Crisis, the housing charity, described the arrangement as “a new low”.
Several of their properties – used to house vulnerable people – were unsuitable, due to lack of heating and hot water, rats and damp. The BBC reports the company earned £11,568 profit per year from one property alone. Continue reading →