Last Thursday, some THINKers attended hustings at Fox Primary School in Kensington. On the panel were two candidates each: Henry Peterson and Annabelle Louvros from Labour , Tom Fox and Tim Walker from the Liberal Democrats, Peter Marshall and Deepali Nangia from Advance – and yes – two candidates, from the Conservatives, Ian Wason and Johnny Thalassites.
No sitting councillors were on the panel, though we spotted councillors Catherine Faulks, Robert Freeman, Sarah Addenbrooke and Anne Cyron from the Conservatives and Labour’s Monica Press sitting in the audience.
There was already a bad start to the meeting for us as one organiser – (a nasty angry bully of a man) shouted in our faces and threatened to throw one of us out over one THINKer’s over use of a dictaphone (for notetaking purposes) . Anyway, it was on with the meeting itself.
Local issues were discussed, including the controversial proposals for redevelopment of Newcombe House – with strong arguments for and against being made from all sides of the political spectrum, also social housing, and the lack of provision of, came up for discussion, but with Tory candidates putting more of an emphasis on “affordable” (up to 80% of market rate) housing ‘, much to our disappointment.
A question about the housing points system in the borough came up with some on the panel saying that it can’t be changed. Well THINK know that RBKC themselves took the Government’s changes to the most extreme level and unlike some other London councils, changed their own housing points system and removed localism points from residents back in 2014, so we were unsatisfied with that answer.
Also it was disclosed that RBKC placed more people outside the borough than any other London council – disgraceful. There weren’t many solutions offered for this. One resident asked an interesting question about how residents could be involved in the development and. management of genuinely affordable homes. We were disappointed that not many in the panel had appeared to understand this.
Labour’s Henry Peterson did appear to have some understanding of the issue however and also expressed his concern about young people being unable to afford to live here.
Also discussed were bin collections. THINK have seen that local Conservatives have been putting out posters that say”I’m voting to keep my twice weekly bin collections” according to Labour, they have no plans at all to scrap the twice weekly bin collections – so maybe the Tories would like to explain themselves?
Eventually the subject of Grenfell came up. One man in the audience got up to say “It could have happened anywhere” this shocking comment upset us as well as caused shouting and gasps from some others. He pointed out that other buildings in other local authorities had cladding on them. There were also a few in the audience who agreed with him.
Well let THINK put these ignoramuses straight – Grenfell Tower was built to last – the shoddy refurbishment, and not just the cladding was carried out by RBKC and contractors such as Rydon. Residents had long complained about the shoddy quality of the refurbishments and also of power surges in the building – their objections fell on deaf ears from the council and the TMO. Moreover, the Grenfell Action Group, had warned countless times of the fire risks to the building only to sadly be proved right. . We suggest these people please read their blog before making blind assumptions purely based on party political favouritism:
Maybe some should read this first before getting their 10 cents worth in:
One traumatised young man from our local North Kensington community got up and asked why people there didn’t want to talk about Grenfell. “Let’s talk about Grenfell” he shouted and THINK saw and heard Tory Cllr Catherine Faulks shout out “let’s not!” (See our previous blog post about her).
He got up and confronted the panel on the stage, not aggressively or threateningly, but just from a frustrated and traumatised point of view. It was then a break was called in the meeting.
One THINKer got up and spoke to the chair, BBC journalist Humphrey Hawksley and explained that this young man who is known to us, is traumatised, loved ones in the fire and that this disaster in which at leat 72 people from our community needlessly lost their lives, really does need to be discussed. We pointed out that some of the anger in the room about this was also because none of the Tories had turned up to the Westway23 hustings in North Kensington and only Tory Cllr Eve Allison had turned up to the hustings at Al Manaar.
After the break, another resident asked they they were “going to ignore the elephant in the room” Most of the Conservatives, councillors, candidates and supporters, got up to leave, and Tory candidates on the panel did not return – what a shambles.
THINKers decided by that point we’d had enough too and decided to call time on the meeting. We attempted to speak to some Conservative councillors. On spotting us approaching, Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke thought it would be a good time to pretend she was on the phone!
Undeterred, one of us spoke to Cllr Robert Freeman. We explained that the North Kensington resident was traumatised by Grenfell, having lost people in the fire. We also pointed out that the Conservative had completely shunned the Westway23 hustings in Ladbroke Grove and this led to increasing frustration as many residents from the north of the borough felt ignored.
Cllr Freeman then said that he had not heard a thing about this particular hustings and this was the first he had heard of it. Being now used to watching politicians trying to lie or wriggle their way out of questions, THINK have become rather good at detecting at who is being honest here. We watched and listened to Robert Freeman’s reaction and answer and could tell that he genuinely knew nothing of this previous event.
The shunning of our community does not make the ruling Conservatives look good at all – but we thank Cllr Freeman for being honest and for answering our questions and listening to our points.
After we had left, we were informed that the hustings did carry on, minus the two Conservative candidates.
We have several criticisms of the way the meeting was handled, we have nothing against Humphrey Hawksley and know him to be very knowledgable about foreign affairs, but he admitted to us himself when we talked to him, that he does not know very much about the issues in the local area.
A particular criticism we have is of the “toilet-trained gorilla” (one of the organisers) who shouted at us for using a dictaphone and also shouted at some Advance supporters for taking photos, plus a few others in the audience – we suggest that this rude specimen take an anger management course and get professional help before anyone lets him have anything to do with public meetings ever again. His attitude and behaviour contributed to an unpleasant atmosphere at the meeting.
THINK have now been informed that the reason that filming and sound recordings were banned (and they were also banned at the previous Earl’s Court hustings – we have a post on that coming up) – was because Andrew Foster, chair of the Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservatives, had requested so – this is censorship of a public meeting in a public place and is completely unacceptable.
We more than have a sense that many RBKC local Tories are trying to avoid residents and debate and censor people who are simply trying to report on a meeting. We will bring our dictaphone to the next hustings tonight in Chelsea and speak out if anyone has the nerve to try and censor us – we are residents who take an interest in local matters and what goes on in a public meeting deserves to be publicly reported. What have some got to hide anyway?
THINK believe that the RBKC Tories and cannot and should not go around trying to avoid public appearances and meetings with local residents and local residents reporting about them. Yes they should expect a hard time – why not? After all, at least 72 innocent people from Notth Kensington died in a disaster that happened under their watch……
If some candidates and councillors are too cowardly to face some hostility and criticism from residents, then we believe they have no business of standing for or sitting in public office in the first place. Let’s us remind them of what first and foremost a councillor’s job is – that’s right, a public servant!
As for these Tory cowards, they should care to remember this popular phrase: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”……..