Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

Labour Party

News of the local elections and AV referendum dominated last week.  As Eddie Izzard, a long standing Labour supporter and enthusiastic AV supporter, pointed out this was the first and likely to be the only opportunity when we are asked about the way in which we do politics in this country. (See my blog from earlier in the week here).

Eddie Izzard On the Yes to AV campaign trail

Now that a referendum has decided that we should continue with the system of First Past the Post we are unlikely to be asked again, and certainly not for many many years. So, the opportunity to have any further meaningful debate over a proper system of proportional representation seems to be out of the window.

Something else struck me about the AV result which is that Cameron has massively out manoeuvred the Lib Dems. The Yes campaign started out with a decent amount of support and yet the moment Cameron saw quite how much support there was, he poured a lot of resources into the against AV campaign. He has reduced the number of constituencies and has kept FPTP and has therefore totally outmanoeuvred the Lib Dems.

Acknowledging the anger of the Lib Dems, Ed Miliband urged disaffected Lib Dem ministers in Nick Clegg’s party to quit the cabinet and join Labour in a fight against rightwing Tory policies. The story was broken in today’s Observer and you can read it in full here.

The list of problems with the referendum meanwhile could fill my entire blog and requires much lengthier analysis but to my mind it should never have been held at the same time as the local elections. It is entirely separate issue to these and should have been fought as such.

Tom Clark provides analysis on the AV referendum in the Politics Weekly Show a weekly political podcast produced for the Guardian.  You can hear it in full here.

The local elections and referendum didn’t leave much room for other news, but I was delighted to read about the Women of Outstanding Achievement Awards 2011.

Seven women at the forefront of science, engineering and technology were honoured last week at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.

The awards recognise the achievements of women who are ‘an inspiration to others.’ Their portraits will be displayed in the halls of leading scientific professional bodies and academic institutions. You can see them here with a short biography of each woman.


Labour Party

Yesterday evening I went to a question and answer session with Eddie Izzard putting questions to Tessa Jowell and Ed Balls.  Held in the Bloomsbury Theatre, part of London University, the audience was largely made up of students.  I, on the other hand, was pleased to attend an event so near to my home.

Tessa Jowell was inevitably asked a question about the Olympics, causing me to remember one of my proudest moments as a London MEP on 6th July 2005 when it was announced that London had won the Olympics ahead of Paris.  I was voting in the hemicycle in Strasbourg and my mind was elsewhere since I had arranged that one of my staff would text me as soon as the decision came through. All the British MEPs knew of my work for the Olympic bid and understood what this meant as cheers broke out uniting us across party lines. For French MEPs the look on their faces was one of bewilderment – the underdog had triumphed.
We never celebrated what an outstanding achievement that was, for the next day came the 7/7 bombs.
It does not seem almost 4 years on yet, we are now almost half way to the Olympics being held from that announcement. I remain a partisan fan of the Olympics. Sitting on the European Parliament’s Culture Committee I know how much other European countries would relish the opportunity to host the Games. Last year I was fortunate to have an excellent guided tour of the Olympics site in East London from Hackney’s Cllr. Guy Nicholson (pictured)who leads on  the Olympics and Paralympics for Hackney. I admired his candour in a profile in London Councils’ current London Bulletin magazine.  Asked to describe himself in 3 words he said “talk too much”. There are many other politicians who could adopt this answer. Yes, Guy does talk a lot but I found him a passionate advocate for what Hackney can gain from the Olympics, before, during and afterwards. 
 Hackney's Councillor Guy Nicholson
A Greenwich resident  told me recently about the consultation process the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is organising about how to use areas within Greenwich Park, the National Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College to host Equestrian, Modern Pentathalon and Paralympic Equestrian events at the Games. It is exciting to see the various sites moving forward – every time I pass the main Olympic site more work has been done and the skyline has been reshaped.images7-2
I am sad though to see a potential dispute about the use of the Olympic logo. Greenwich, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Newham claim they should be singled out as host boroughs in Olympic branding.   Other London boroughs think they should have equal access to use of the logo. The dispute has been bubbling away for the last few months and I saw it again surfaced in the Waltham Forest Guardian. Robin Wales is a distinguished public servant but I think that he is wrong in arguing that the 5 boroughs should be separately identified. The 5 boroughs are gaining vastly from the investment in infrastructure already. They will continue to gain with jobs and massive revenues all the way through to 2012 and, as Guy demonstrated to me, and beyond.
When the bombers wanted to send a message about London having won the Olympics they did not pick on the five boroughs. They picked on London. One of the bombs was within a few hundred yards of where I live so I took their outrageous behaviour personally as a Londoner.
I think we should share the Olympics as widely as possible across London and I hope an agreement can be reached quickly so we can concentrate on building the growing excitement that the greatest games in the world are coming to the greatest city in the world.