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.
It’s not so often that we get a star-studded event in the Labour Party. True to form Ken Livingstone came to the rescue yesterday with a gala dinner to rival all others, not just a a fundraiser, more a gathering of the Labour glitterati.
So who was there? Labour Leader Ed Miliband, of course, Richard Wilson aka Victor Meldrew, Ken himself and his running mate in the London Mayoral election, my old friend Val Shawcross, not to mention former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell. All the Labour GLA Members were also present as was Andrew Dismore who I am supporting to be Labour’s GLA candidate in Camden and Barnet. There were others too. You will see me pictured above with the recently ennobled Roy Kennedy and Labour Party Deputy General Secretary Alicia Kennedy and below with Ken and Nicky Gavron. I was also pleased to catch up with Tribune owner Kevin McGrath.
It would be remiss not to mention Ealing MP Stephen Pound who did the auction, raising a considerable sum of money. Stephen is in great demand for his skills as an auctioneer, and was at his best raising money for Ken Livingstone’s for Mayor.
The Globe Theatre in Southwark was an excellent venue, radiant as it is with Shakespeare and Elizabethan memorabilia, a fitting place indeed for a London event, the event which launched Labour’s campaign to return a Labour Mayor in our great city. My thanks as ever to all those who organised the event and made it such a great evening.
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.
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.
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.