|With Jenny Jones in Wembley|
This is my last opportunity to answer a couple of questions that have come up during the campaign.
One obvious one is what can one Green councillor out of 63 councillors do? A good place to start my answer is to tell you what our Labour councillors have said about me. Apparently they think I am a 'pain in the arse' because of the campaigns I have been involved in (against the closure of libraries and nurseries, the redevelopment of Willesden Green without proper consultation, lack of a strategic plan for primary school provision, and the spurious leafleting licensing scheme, to name but a few). If that is what earns the title 'pain in the arse' then I retort: "I am the people's pain in the arse", much more fun than being the people's princess.
However, the clue in their perception is that I ask awkward questions, insist on full disclosure, and want proper debate on controversial issues and this I will be able to pursue as an independent Green councillor. Not so much a pain in the arse as a rocket up the backside of this complacent council.
A telling comment was made by a member of the Executive when I encountered them on a rainy day canvassing on Barn Hill. I was chatting in a friendly way to a younger member of the Labour Party when the Exec member came up and said, "Do you realise he's the Opposition". I swear I could hear the capital 'O' in her voice along with the definite article.. With no Lib Dem standing and a lacklustre and nearly invisible campaign by the Conservatives, who appear to be relying on automatic support from their traditional supporters 'on the Hill', this is true in the context of the by-election. However, it is also true in a broader sense as the Greens in Brent have consistently, week after week, issue after issue, been the most vocal opposition to the Labour Council's attacks on local people and their services and nationally the lone voice of Caroline Lucas has consistently challenged Coalition policies.
As I am also able to work with others on common issues I will work constructively, as other Green councillors do across the country, on proposing sensible policies on issues such as environment, support for local businesses and high streets, public transport, cycling, crime, education and training and employment.
If you vote for the Labour candidate you will be voting for the 40th Labour councillor out of the 63 member council. His election will make no difference whatsoever to how the council runs things. Because of the Labour group's rigid control from the top and the cabinet structure which gives all power to the Executive he will have little influence, along with other backbenchers, on policy and will be expected to rubber stamp Executive decisions.
He will be limited to casework, taking up individual residents' concerns and having a say on the spending of Ward Working funds. Without being on the council, Greens already do that, and I have extensive casework experience from previous work as a trade union representative and working with families in need when I was a primary headteacher.
We need a Green breakthrough locally and this is a chance for Barnhill voters to make a difference.
I am now off to do a final round of leafleting...