In our postbag this month: Thames tunnels, negativity and Wonder Women
Swimming against the tide
Jeremy Vine’s manor (Diary, TP, January) has been awash with some very dodgy rumours of late.
The proposed Thames Tunnel - required to substantially reduce the 32 million cubic metres of untreated sewage overflowing into the River Thames annually from London’s Victorian sewers after rainfall - is at the start of what we intend to be a thorough consultation process.
For a report to be ‘leaked’, it must first exist. The suggestion that Ravenscourt Park would be a construction site for the project was, in fact, pure speculation, in no way initiated by Thames Water. It’s unfortunate that Jeremy and others were taken in by its perpetrators.
For us the real politics continues; engaging communities across London on the location of the construction sites that will be needed to make the tunnel a reality and give the capital a cleaner, healthier river of which we can all remain proud.
Head of London Tideway Tunnels
After reading the letter entitled No to Negative Campaigning (TP, October), I have decided to expand on the argument of negative party behaviour.
The Labour and Conservative parties frequently adopt discourteous approaches towards other parties, in that they resort to bluntly criticising almost every agenda of their rivals, somewhat childishly at times. Such an approach shows an amateurish and hypocritical side to parties which claim to be mature and respectful enough to lead our country constructively, and to better things.
An example is a speech by Tony Blair at the London School for Economics on March 12, 2002. Almost immediately, before commenting in any detail on his own party’s ideologies, he claimed that the Conservative administration before his own could have seen “the end of progressive politics”.
He later criticised their “selfish individualism” and said that he “passionately, profoundly, rejects” the Tory idealisms. It is ironic that he goes on to admit that his own party “changed to win” in the past, by copying some Conservative methods. His reason for this (a poor one) was that “banging your head on a brick wall hurts”.
The same year, Iain Duncan Smith, in a speech (January 17) picked up on political contemptuousness, by saying that Labour had a “cynical purpose” and that they “take refuge in the abstract to distract people from what is all too real. They go to enormous lengths to prevent themselves from being judged”. Rather hypocritical, seeing as he was complaining about Labour tactics while pulling his own party away from judgement.
If politicians wish to continue adopting cynical approaches and draw attention away from their policies, then perhaps we should question their focus.
Or am I being too cynical?
The challenges of independence
I would challenge the view that all independents are above party politics (TP, November), as once the individual becomes aligned to a group, the pressure to adhere to the collective will undermines the freedom of expression of the individual.
This is most clearly demonstrated where an ‘independent’ group forms part of the administration, as cabinet members with specific portfolios expect members of the group to support executive decisions. Unless the individual is particularly inquisitive, or very experienced, it is extremely difficult to mount a challenge.
Moreover, for the individual to operate effectively within the current cabinet system is nigh on impossible, as the constitution of local authorities is geared toward a group structure, where relevant information is disseminated through group leaders and secretaries.
For non-aligned members this situation is very frustrating. Here in Lancaster, three non-aligned members have formed a group, but without compromising the individuality of each member. Thus we do not meet, discuss agendas beforehand, vote collectively, write manifestos or play one off against the other. The object is purely to gain access to information and for better representation on committees.
It may be that MPs and mayors elected as independents feel no pressure to succumb to the collective menace of the group but, within local government, there needs to be a modicum of caution when referring to independents as non-political animals.
Cllr Peter Robinson
Free Independent, Lancaster City Council
Kindly have a care what you write, Mr Devenish (TP, Letters, December) for some might not realise you are only joking.
The truth of the matter is that the Conservative Party are as pro-EU as the other main groups, that UKIP scares them witless (as has been confided to me by at least one Tory MP) and that they will do literally anything to knock us down, including being very economical with the truth. In the EU, the Tories side with the other MEPs, often leaving UKIP as the only group standing up for the British interest.
The plain truth is that anti-EU feeling in Britain, always the most Eurosceptic nation in the Union, is at an all time high with only UKIP representing those voters.
UKIP Press Officer, Swindon Branch
Harriet Harman depicted as ‘Wonder Woman’? (TP, January) Blunder Woman would be a more apt description! At least the old TV series was mildly entertaining for its time but Harridan Harman? I think not.
Cllr Bryan Chalker
Con, Bath & North East Somerset Council
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