Harrow Council together with several other Tory Councils have lost their legal challenge against the expansion of the ULEZ to outer London.
That will cost at least £400,000, and maybe more, which could have been used to benefit the people of Harrow. Leader of the Council, Paul Osborn, can now only quixotically ask for the power for Harrow to implement or not implement ULEZ, an idea which if ever adopted in 32 boroughs would cause absolute chaos.
The way ULEZ is being introduced is wrong. More scrappage compensation, lower initial charge and/or a longer lead-in time might well make the scheme more palatable. And if the Council and others had talked to Mayor Khan perhaps a sensible compromise could have been reached at little cost.
It should be remembered that the Tories introduced ULEZ in the first place and in 2020 required Mayor Khan to go ahead with its expansion as part of the TFL financial settlement. They have played politics with this issue and green issues more generally, while the Mediterranean burns. They are putting in jeopardy the measures we have that will improve health and mitigate the impact of climate change. It might be good short-term politics in Uxbridge, but it is not responsible government, nor is Councillor Susan Hall’s pledge to scrap ULEZ if elected as Mayor of London.
A comprehensive and responsible approach is needed, centrally co-ordinated, to reduce harmful emissions. ULEZ in Harrow will create rat-runs by drivers of non-compliant cars to avoid charges – cameras cannot be everywhere. And if it goes ahead as currently formulated, it will harm some poor people who depend on their cars because of the limited public transport compared with inner London.
There is still time for a grown-up approach.
Chair, Harrow LibDems
Welcome to Tory-controlled Harrow where parking apparently costs nothing (that’s ignoring what the money lost could have been better spent on) but playing tennis in public parks is no longer free.
Although technically tennis has not been privatised, the mechanism is the same. Take out something that was public, enjoyed, and free, and give back something that apparently looks better and cooler, but now costs.
We are living in the borough of free parking, which may cost the Council hundreds of thousand of pounds of missed revenue (the council announced 1 millions hours of free parking granted.)
And that is not counting the estimated £500k in legal expenses to challenge ULEZ expansion. So there is all that money spent on local motorists but Harrow Tory council cannot find £200 for a new net that in most cases could make the tennis courts decently playable. The previous Labour run Council did not do any better. It left tennis to degrade.
The courts are now available if you can afford to pay for £5 per hour. To do this, you have to use the Lawn Tennis Association website. Concession pricing is available for under 18's and Senior Citizens but you need contact the LTA online for details. In return we will have the surface painted in green, in some case perhaps resurfaced, new nets. According to the council, all these refurbishments will require £450k. Where do they get that cost from?
Currently the tennis courts at Harow Recreation Ground are exactly as they were, tired but playable. One gate has been equipped with a combination key. Perhaps some person will break the lock.
Tennis passionates can join a club – plenty in Harrow – where the courts are well maintained by membership fees. But they have to pay.
The courts of the parks were used by occasional players, often young people. An opportunity for them to do something healthy, to get closer to a beautiful sport, perhaps discover a new talent, without having to pay. Not anymore.
It is a very Tory thing to disrupt public services and when done say that they do not work, so need to be privatised. The easiest way is leaving them to decay cutting funds and demotivating employees. Plenty of good examples, railways, water utilities, prisons. Now NHS is under attack.
The philosophy behind that is that private entrepreneurs are more efficient, smart, and imaginative than public bureaucrats. Yes, they can point to some benefits, but often damage citizens, especially the poorest ones. Tories love regressive taxes and fees. We can see it under our eyes on the park tennis courts.
The House of Commons Privileges Committee found Boris Johnson repeatedly misled the House in answering questions. It filed a lengthy report detailing his crimes including disrespect for the whole process.
It recommended a 90-day suspension but as he resigned his seat before publication, the 10 per cent of voters needed under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, (introduced when the Liberal Democrats were in government) will not be necessary as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip quit.
Had Johnson not resigned, he wouldn’t necessarily be out. He could have hoped that the recommendation of the Privileges Committee might not have been passed by the House of Commons. This is unlikely with anti-Tory parties voting in favour even as many Tories either abstain or find an “excuse” (like PM Sunak) not to be in the house.
But as he has already quit, there will be a by-election.
The recommendation of the Privileges Committee would have to have been approved by a free vote of MPs. Not long ago, over 200 Tory MPs voted to ignore a committee recommendation and protect one of their own, Sir Owen Patterson, who had used his position for financial gain for a company employing him as a lobbyist. That was another low point for the Tories; Patterson resigned after a public outcry. More Tory sleaze.
How does all this affect Harrow?
The Conservatives locally are desperately trying to “Clean up their act”. A good example where they failed was the local election in Stratford-on-Avon after the local Tories reselected Nadhim Zahawi, the short-lived Truss Chancellor who was fined over £1m for tax irregularities. The Tories lost 2/3rds of their councillors to the Liberals who now easily control the council.
Harrow has no local elections until 2026. However, a General Election must be held in the next 18 months. Our two sitting Conservative MPs, both of whom voted to protect sleazy Owen Patterson, will be asked to explain their actions by their constituents. Doubtless Liberal Democrats will ask the question at all hustings.
In Harrow East, our local Tory MP “Honest Bob” Blackman will be criticized after his lecture to former Labour Councillors on how to deal with alleged corruption, which seems especially hypocritical in view of his well-known difficulties over travel expenses.
Whilst in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, the Tory MP will be looking nervously towards the Mid Bedfordshire by-election. We are within 7% of taking the seat. This is a closer margin thanour fellow Lib-Dems in Nadine Dorries’ constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire scored at the last general election. This is assuming Mad Nad finally goes.
Nobody will ever know how much damage this scandal has done. But if either Tory in the Harrow area loses their seat, they will regret putting party before principle.
(Philip is a member of Harrow Liberal Democrats and an expert on constitutional law who was called in to answer listeners questions on Radio 5 during the expenses scandal)
By Derek Hill
At the invitation of the Tamil Friends of the Liberal Democrats my wife and I attended Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day in Trafalgar Square on 18 May.
It was an impressive and moving occasion, commemorating the 14thanniversary of a massacre by the Sri Lankan Army of tens of thousands of Tamils who gathered in Mullivaikkal, a Sri Lankan village, during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The feeling amongst the Tamils attending was palpable.
I have never visited Sri Lanka, but it is said to be beautiful with wonderful people. It reminds me of Northern Ireland, another place where two communities must share the same space in cooperation and respect.
The demands made at the Mullivaikkal commemoration were eminently reasonable.
The massacre must be properly investigated and those responsible held to account – it has been declared a genocide by the Canadian Government.
Political arrangements must also be put in place to enable the two communities to live together in harmony. Easily said, but it will take time. The demand for proper international investigation of what happened at Mullivaikkal was supported by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat representatives.
I am pleased to say that the LibDem leader, Ed Davey, was there and spoke strongly in support of an international investigation.
Ed also mentioned that the Rajapaksa regime was in power at the time of Mullivaikkal and has proved to be corrupt, violent and incompetent, with the result that many Sri Lankans – Tamil and Sinhalese - are now suffering deprivation. The Rajapaksa regime remains in power, as it has done for the past two decades, increasingly treating Sri Lanka as a family personal fiefdom.
Sri Lanka has become militarised in parts and its people are suffering. Sri Lanka deserves much better.
Harrow Lib Dems strongly support Ed Davey, our party leader. Our hearts go out to the relatives of the victims of Mullivaikkal and we hope that all Sri Lankans will enjoy a more prosperous and harmonious future and see justice done.
By Philip Levy
The last few years have been – admittedly - difficult for the LibDems. We had to cancel two autumn conferences, one due to Covid, and the other when the Queen died. And many still blame us for the coalition – not noticing what has gone on subsequently.
But despite apparently low opinion poll ratings, we’ve won every by-election where we hadeven a remote chance of winning. Chesham and Amersham springs to mind – it’s a local seat which we won with a huge swing. Our 20% share of the vote in the recent Council elections came as no surprise to our activists.
We are now about 18 months away at most from the next general election, an election that the Conservatives seem destined to lose. The question is by how much, and to whom?
“It’s the economy, stupid.” The words of Bill Clinton are just as apt for Great Britain, but with one subtle and crucial difference. Of course, our economy is in a mess, as are those of most other nations due to Covid and the Ukraine War. The subtle difference is that our economy is doing worse than countries in the EU, and that is projected to continue. This is the Brexit dividend.
The key issue of economic competence is tied up with Brexit. If traditional Conservative voters feel that the country would be better off either in the Single Market, or even rejoining the European Union, they may well desert the Tories and vote for the one party – the Libdems - that is prepared to abandon Brexit.
As this country’s economy underperforms its rivals, we may see a strong drift from the Tories to the LibDems. The present position is that, in marginal seats, the anti-conservative elector is voting tactically.
Let us see how that might play out in Harrow at the next general election.
Harrow East: A boundary redistribution has added the strongly Labour Queensbury ward in Barnet. Labour will be very disappointed not to win this seat back form the Conservatives.
Harrow West: Labour were surprised to win this seat in 1997 when the right was split between Tories and Referendum and have held it ever since. But the removal of Pinner, Pinner South and Hatch End wards have turned this into a safe Labour seat.
Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner was a new seat carved out before the 2010 general election. In 2019, a bit of a disaster for the LibDems, we surprised ourselves by doubling our vote to over 15% not far behind the second place Labour.
Boundary redistribution means that the Conservative sitting MP loses the ward where he was a local councillor for many years, which will take away some of his personal vote.
With Labour seemingly having little chance of achieving the swing of over 15% needed to unseat the current MP, the LibDems have a better chance of winning, if we can persuade a sufficient number of anti-Brexit Tories to vote for us. The seat will not be an official LibDem target for 2024, but may well be for the following election. So we should work towards that as well as the next election.
Why do I support the LibDems? By Derek Hill
Let’s face it, we are a small party in Harrow. As the recently elected Chair for the LibDems in Harrow, I want to make our country a place we want to live and thrive in. So we must go back to running this nation from the moderate and reasonable centre, not from the extreme right of Toryism or the extreme left of Labourism.
We should go back to that traditional British pragmatism, which has served us so well. The LibDems are the best placed and only party to offer voters this future.
We cannot move on by simply trying to recreate the past, or rather an imagined past, no matter how much it suits our nostalgia. The world is not what it was in past decades. We must deal with the world as it is now.
That means dealing with climate change, whose effects become daily more apparent, in a determined but realistic way, retaining democratic support for measures which at times, it is impossible to deny, will inconvenience some individuals.
It means at a national level not opening new coal mines, and in Harrow not encouraging greater car use.
It means pursuing pragmatic economic policies which provide good jobs and good incomes, and which will finance the public services we all want.
Creating a dynamic economy involves getting a lot of things right, rather like conducting an orchestra. Good education, appropriate investment incentives, a labour force with the right skills, easy access to markets, first class infrastructure and stable government are all essential.
The present Government is presiding over declining investment because, as a result of Brexit, we have much less access to markets, and we no longer can efficiently draw on talent to meet anyworkforce shortages. Simply changing taxation or allowing bankers to take bigger risks (a dubious endeavour in itself) is just one impediment.
I want to re-join the EU, and the LibDems are the only party committed to that. But that will not happen quickly and will require an unequivocal commitment from the UK to membership.
Leaving the EU has damaged our economy (as have Covid and Putin) and will do so increasingly as it is fully implemented (for example we are yet to introduce our own customs controls on imported goods). Brexit has weakened our influence in Europe and the world at a time when it is more needed than ever. Our way of life is threatened by Putin’s evil war in Ukraine. We need greater European solidarity not less.
Finally, our constitution is creaking. The gentlemanly conventions of the 19th century are no longer sufficient. MPs are now ultra-partisan and rarely change party or even listen to the other party at all. If we are to get back a pragmatic Parliament, we need proportional representation. And we need a reformed house of Lords which can help bind the varied parts of the UK.
None of this is or will be easy. But the LibDems are the only way forward.