Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sofyen Belamouadden murder: Hammersmith youth arrested

A ninth teenager was arrested yesterday by officers investigating the murder of 15-year-old Sofyen Belamouadden on 25th March at Victoria Underground station.

The 19-year-old, from the Hammersmith area, was arrested after he handed himself in at a west London police station.

He is now in custody at a south London police station with eight others, all also from the Hammersmith area, arrested on the same day. All nine, who have been given letters instead of names to protect their identity by Police, [Z - aged 15; AA - aged 16; BB - aged 16; CC - aged 15; DD -aged 16; EE - aged 16; FF - aged 17; GG - aged 17; HH - aged 19] have been arrested for conspiracy to cause violent disorder and conspiracy tocause grievous bodily harm. They all remain in custody.

The male youths are accused of the murder of Sofyen Belamouadden and an18-year-old female is also charged with the same murder. All are currently remanded in custody.

More when I get it from Police. Makes me think of this post and how precious little has changed since then.

And being here in the southern Phillipines, where thousands of people have died in an armed conflict that has gone on for decades, I just wonder at how young people in our city who face no such circumstances choose to go out and stab one of their own to death. You hear some of them call themselves "soldiers" - they wouldn't last 5 minutes with the kids in this part of the world.

Battle of the Bush: Lib Dems pick up speed

Merlene Emerson, the Lib Dem candidate for our vote at the General Election, has been filmed campaigning in and around Hammersmith by the Telegraph newspaper, which you can watch in full here

This is a bit of a PR coup for Merlene, who has trailed in the wake of the resources being expended by the other parties. Until recently the seat was thought a no-hoper and Merlene herself is actually standing in another election on the same day in Richmond, but the televised debates have transformed the campaign, and the LibDems will be hoping at the very least to pick up some council seats at Hammersmith Town Hall as a result.

I'm told a LibDem "battle bus" will be in our neck  of the woods on saturday so lock up your babies, or they might get kissed by enthusiastic canvassers.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: John Prescott drops in

The former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott became the latest big hitter to join the Battle of the Bush with a visit to Andy Slaughter's campaign HQ last week. Whatever your politics a lot of people have a soft spot for Prescott, and that was evident in some of what you see in this short film from the public. Enjoy ...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Goldhawk Block: Concert to defeat council

The doughty residents of the Goldhawk Road, led by the indomitable Rosemary Petit who strikes fear into the heart of local Tories who tried to force this development on residents dead set against it, will be hosting a benefit concert to help raise funds to pay for barristers taken on to fight their cause.
They'll have their day in court on the 25th May when the Inquiry into the development is set to be heard independently.

Much to the barely disguised anger of the Council the development was called in by the Government after interventions by residents and the then MP Andy Slaughter.

Budding musicians are donating their time for free and all proceeds will go to pay for the silk robed learned ones who'll be up against the developers' own legal barons. Speaking at this summit the then Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh commented that there were "lessons to be learned" from the debacle - as well he might given the summit was chaired by local BBC presenter John Humphrys who'se own submission against the development had been publicly dismissd as "misinformed" by the Council as they brushed all opposition to one side in scenes reminiscent of a trial in 1930's Russia.

The Council's actions have already cost over 200 local jobs as Innocent Drinks, who are based on the site, decided to move elsewhere due to the uncertainty over their HQ. If the revolutionary residents do triumph, led by Rosemary who has also opened up classic Shepherd's Bush guerilla tactics such as selling home made marmalade to raise funds, I for one think it will be a fantastic example of the little people standing up for their area and poking those who should know better in the eye - makes you proud to be British!

The concert will include such revolutionary anthems as:
Haydn, 'String Quartet in C' Op.76 No. 3 ‘Kaiser’; Vaughan Williams, 'Piano Quintet in C Minor'; Schubert, ‘Death and the Maiden’, Quartet No. 14 in D Minor (arranged for string orchestra by Mahler).

Performed by students of the Royal College of Music the event is on Friday, 14 May at 7.30pm, at Holy Innocents Church, Paddenswick Road. Advance tickets are £8; on the door: £10.

Tickets may be ordered in advance by email:; tel. 056 0254 4057 (local rate); or collect from 197 Goldhawk Road, W12. Proceeds go to the Goldhawk Estate Appeal to help funds residents' legal and other costs for the planning inquiry.

Viva la revolucion!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: Bailey's fans sing his praises

Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for the Bush, has released this video of ten locals singing his praises. I'm not sure what it tells us apart from ten people think he's a great bloke and would make a good MP, but here you go ..

Battle of the Bush: Watch the candidates

Watch each candidate telling you why they deserve your vote, taken from the final debate between them.

I've been following this election now, in some depth, for months so I hope it's been useful in helping you decide how to cast your ballot. Andy Slaughter spoke to me here, Shaun Bailey here and Merlene Emerson here.

Blogging means you can go beyond traditional media, even online news outlets, and use a blend of media like this - so you can have text plus video plus interaction with the reader. The many and varied comments from readers on this report on the final candidates debate are evidence enough of that.

And some of the parties here in the Bush have responded to that, both of whom produced attack ads, that I suspect may have been produced with this blog in mind! Bailey said this so Andy said that.

In many ways this election has broken the mould - televised debates for example. But I hope that as more bloggers, citizen journalists if you will, take it up we'll have an even better level of coverage than we do now. So thanks for reading - and please make sure you vote in an election which will fundamentally decide what the Bush looks like in the years to come.

Here's Labour's Andy Slaughter

Here's Conservative Shaun Bailey

Here's LibDem Merlene Emerson

Here's Green Rollo Miles

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The next few days..

... will involve a near-24 hour flight by civilian and possibly UN military into the southern Phillipines, which suffers from a decades old armed conflict, for my job. Regular readers will be used to my blogging about all things locally Bush from what are, every now and again, far off areas affected by armed conflict.

I do this blog voluntarily, it started out after an incident when I called an ambulance for a homeless guy one cold November morning in 2008, and is now a really nice distraction away from the day job which can get quite heavy. I work for an NGO (non governmental organisation) called International Alert. We're not like the traditional aid agency that builds wells and schools - we're a peacebuilding organisation that works in some of the most intractable conflicts in the world. So my posts on this ere blog have come from places as varied as Liberia, eastern Congo and Rwanda.

And before you think this is all irrelevant - consider how many refugee communities there are in this city and in our neighbourhood from those places alone.

So this is a plea for two things, dear readers. One - to keep the stories coming, they'll still get covered here daily. But secondly, the Philipinnes is 7 hours ahead so bear that in mind if I dont reply straight away! Send them to

And here's a short film about where I'm going to:

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: The final debate

Tepid. Lukewarm. OK, but not something to set the world on fire. Such was the last debate between the four main parliamentary candidates asking for our votes in the Battle of the Bush this evening at St Paul’s Church in Hammersmith. There were some interesting moments and you got the sense that there were tensions bubbling under in the audience, punctuated as the debate was by odd cries of “filthy liar!” by one particularly intense lady prone to eruptions at the front, but it only really got heated at the end.

Highlights for me were:
  • Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, after having been surrounded by angry residents at the end of the debate, giving a clear pledge to “fight the council” if residents were threatened with eviction in order that the Council could redevelop the area but wanted to stay in their homes.
  • A small shopkeeper saying that there was a lot of “talk” about the value of small businesses to Hammersmith & Fulham, but very little real help on the ground
  • All candidates professing their love for the NHS and lack of private healthcare but disagreeing over the future of Charing Cross Hospital
  • And of course the melee created by the crowd of international media shuffling around the cavernous hall. TV crews hailing from Japan and Germany rubbed along with hacks from the national and local press
On housing, a woman from the Queen Caroline Residents Association demanded to know what each candidate would do to work with residents and to prevent forced redevelopments of housing. This led to some fierce accusations from Shaun Bailey of “horrible” tactics from the local Labour Party who had, he said, been scaring local residents in a “self serving political battle”. He denied that the Council had ulterior motives when it wanted to redevelop housing, he argued that the real agenda was about spreading the housing stock across the borough and making it more equitable. Cue much clapping from enthusiastic Shaun supporters in the audience.

This prompted Labour's Andy Slaughter to respond by angrily denouncing the Council’s “gerrymandering” and its activities which were “destroying decent communities”. He spoke about what he described as the Council’s appalling track record of cutting out local residents from major decisions about their communities and challenged those in the audience who had clapped Shaun Bailey to consider whether or not they would want a vote on their futures if they too found that the Council wanted to redevelop their homes. This was the basic demand of residents, and it was something he would support.

Lib Dem Merlene Emerson repudiated Shaun Bailey’s argument that there had been scaremongering. The threat from the Council was real, she said, and residents deserved genuine consultation. Green Rollo Miles agreed that housing was a critical local issue and argued that the sheer expense of living in London made life difficult for some, and the last thing they needed were threats to their homes.

On small businesses all candidates agreed that they were both the lifeblood of our local economy and that there was much to be done to alleviate the pressures on them. All spoke of the need to reduce red tape and support thriving local business communities, while Merlene Emerson made a pitch for “Saint” Vince Cable who had, she said, predicted everything about the recession before it happened! Interestingly the Chair returned to the questioner, who herself was a small family business owner, to ask what she thought – she had been distinctly underwhelmed.

On the NHS all of the candidates professed their love for the institution, with Rollo Miles declaring that having lived abroad he didn’t think that the British people realised quite how lucky they were to have access to healthcare free at the point of use. Andy Slaughter, referring to past Conservative claims that Charing Cross Hospital was at risk of closure which was denied by the NHS and the Government, warned the audience not “to let anyone tell you” that there was a risk to the hospital. We were, he said, lucky to have one of the top performing hospitals in our area. Shaun Bailey also paid tribute to the hospital but said that the NHS had been considering major cuts to services in the capital, and that therefore there were real fears about whether the hospital would suffer as a result.
At the end of the debate Shaun Bailey was cornered by some women from the Queen Charlotte’s Residents Association who wanted to know why he didn’t support their right to have a vote on whether or not their homes should be demolished rather than have the Council’s plans imposed on them. There followed an exchange between them about whether votes should be a requirement or not, but Shaun in fairness answered a straight question with a straight answer. He would, he said, support residents against the council, “fight the council” in the residents words, against Council plans if residents opposed them. I’m not sure Stephen Greenhalgh would approve, but it took the wind out of the residents sails – he’d just agreed to support them after all.

Will the debate swing the result? Probably not. Did most of the journalists, some of whom had gone out of their way to come along, get the fireworks that they wanted? No. But it was worth having and I’m glad I went. I hope this account is helpful to you too.

Whatever the result Shepherd’s Bush is going to change – so please for goodness sake use your vote and have your say.

I'll be posting film clips of each of the candidates closing pitches for your votes on here in the next day or so - keep checking back to see what they had to say

Battle of the Bush: Bailey campaign accused of Wiki Info War

A supporter of the Shaun Bailey campaign appears to have been altering Wikipedia entries for both Shaun Bailey himself and Andy Slaughter his Labour opponent according to the excellent Dave Hill Guardian Blog.

Changes to Bailey's entry appear to remove any references to a very pleasant sounding suburban street on which he grew up but that didn't chime with a "boy from the estates" description he himself uses, and changes to Andy Slaughter's page refer to "controversies" which apparently arose during his interview with me here.

The Bailey campaign have issued what seem to be very carefully worded denials but the question for me is .... who is the mysterious info-warrior Ryan Wells?!?

Battle of the Bush: BBC profiles contest

The BBC is profiling all of the key battlegrounds that could decide the next UK Government and it's therefore no surprise that they have come to our very own contest with this article detailing the high profile of housing as a key issue dominating the campaign.

Ahead of tonight's debate between the parliamentary candidates its a very timely article!

Hammersmith housing chief explains Nazi "extreme fetish"

Gareth Mead, who until recently was the Head of our Council's housing department until he was sacked for posting racist messages while posing in front of a Swastika, has been opening his heart to Inside Housing magazine.

Mr Mead, who was paid £80,000 a year and yet presided over a department that turned away a beaten pregnant woman who had to sleep on a park bench instead, says it was all down to a difficult childhood.

Private Eye on Hammersmith

Our Council's social housing policy, which as you know is the subject of some controversy, is featured in this edition of Private Eye. Read it and make your own mind up!

Private Eye

Battle of the Bush: Bailey in The Sun

Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey was featured in The Sun this week talking about his plans for the long term youth unemployed. A subject of relevance to our area and arguably one with tragic consequences as gang culture offers an alternative.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: BNP join in

The British National Party has decided to stand in the General Election here in Shepherd's Bush. So we have a party that believes a large proportion of the local electorate should be shipped out of the United Kingdom.

Read my report of their intellectual prowess here from a session of Mayor's Question Time I reported from at Christmas time, when their sole Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook asked a question about Shepherd's Bush.

Sadly for him he couldn't actually speak the English language well enough to ask the question. What's that about foreigners not learning "our ways"?

Here is the official list of all candidates:

Statement of Persons Nominated - Hammersmith_tcm21-142145

Hammersmith drug dealer jailed for 6 years

A 47 year-old man from Hammersmith has been jailed for a total of 6 years for drug related offences.

Michael Dixon of Star Road, London, W14, was found guilty of Possession with intent to supply drugs and Possession of Drugs at Kingston Crown Court on the 19th April 2010.

On 19th April 2009 local officers were patrolling the Chelsea v Fulham match when Dixon was seen acting suspiciously. He was later found to be in possession of 47 rocks of crack cocaine and a quantity of heroin. He was arrested and charged in June 2009.

The trial judge praised the officers statements and commented on their extensive local knowledge. He described Dixon as a dangerous individual who has the ability to corrupt youths in the area and had made no improvements during his 20 years addiction to controlled drugs.

Acting Sergeant Gethin Jones from Askew Safer Neighbourhoods Team said, " Uniform and CID officers suspected the individual of dealing drugs on Hammersmith & Fulham Borough for sometime. The sentence for this incident is particularly pleasing and will show drug dealers that there is a heavy price to pay for committing such an act"

£64 million price tag for abandoned Tube plan

Today's Standard carries this story which contains the results of a Freedom of Information request put in by journalists wanting to know how much of our money Transport for London spent on an ultimately abandoned plan to install disabled access on tube stations.

Regular readers will recall that £39 million had been wasted on the new Shepherd's Bush station alone, after Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon first had her questions ignored by Boris, and then when he was shamed by the negative publicity eventually answered.

So this means that well over half of London's missing transport millions, earmarked rightly for making life equal for disabled people, was wasted on the Shepherd's Bush project alone. I know I've gone on about this before but I cannot think of a more disgusting state of affairs than that which is now forever associated with our new tube for those of us unable to use the stairs. (And no, by the way, I'm not disabled). As some of you commented at the time, an awful lot of that money went to contractors to carry out various "studies" which eventually informed us that it would cost £100 million to install a lift because of the wrong sort of earth.

I'll be interested to watch how many people eventually leave TfL and go and work for those same companies. Just a thought.

Battle of the Bush: Labour stand on soap box in Hammersmith

Credit to Labour Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan, who yesterday stood (and wobbled) dangerously on top of what looked like a librarian's stool in the middle of Lyric Square Hammersmith to launch the party's printed manifesto for the local elections and take questions from the public.

It was a high risk strategy this, with the two worst case scenarios being nobody taking any notice and him looking daft - and loads of people throwing verbal eggs at him. And him looking daft.

But neither happenned and after some patsy questions from Labour activists to get things going members of the public did actually stop and listen in quite large numbers (for a work day afternoon, anyway) and started to throw some tough questions his way.

Highlights for me was a pledge he made to some clapping from the non red rosette wearers to scrap the charges that the Conservative council have brought in for services like Meals on Wheels and home care. He would scrap the £12.40 charge now being levied on elderly and vulnerable residents and fund it by scrapping "H&F News", the propaganda sheet the Council use our taxes for, and described by Conservative MPs as "misleading to the public". He said this would save £1.6 million.

Getting into his stride he railed against Tory councillors who had he said, "at your expense, flown to Cannes in the South of France" to "offer up your homes to developers". He pledged that he would re-write H&F's planning rules, making residents a vital part of them including on select committees, and see that the Council abided by them. Of the deals, like this one, already made with developers he said "we will rip them up .. and never again offer up your houses without involving you first".

On policing he pledged more money for crime fighting but also schemes to tackle the root causes of crime and said that every pledge had been costed. He argued that it was a modest but do-able set of pledges. Some residents questioned why they should believe him in light of MPs expenses and other misdemeanours. Cllr Cowan simply referred to his stool, which by now was looking quite lethal as the wind was picking up, and said that he was in the middle of Lyric Square because "you're my boss. And I'll come back so you can judge what I do."

Finally, and in response to another question on national politics, he urged people to vote for Andy Slaughter in order to secure a Labour Government which, he said, had shown its ability through Gordon Brown to navigate the recent economic crisis.
To my knowledge the other parties haven't done this. Personally I'd pay good money to see Stephen Greenhalgh try and balance on that footstool. In fact, I think as voters we should insist on it!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Battle of the Bush: Where is the LibDem?

The answer is Richmond. Merlene Emerson, LibDem candidate for the Bush at the General Election, is now also running as a local candidate for the council in Richmond. Announced on the Twickenham LibDems website Merlene makes no mention of Shepherd's Bush or even Hammersmith, instead she chooses to advise residents of Richmond who she hopes to serve in the Council chamber that she has "served on the Richmond Housing Partnership since 2007".

You often hear non-LibDem politicians bashing them by saying they have no hope of winning and that a vote for them is wasted. Never more so than in these days of Nick Clegg hysteria after the Leader's Debate last week. Quite often that's rubbish, they actually run councils like Richmond after all and until a couple of years ago were part of the governments of Scotland and Wales.

But if these actions of our own LibDem candidate don't tell Bushers how much hope she really thinks she has of winning this seat then nothing will. At least Rollo Miles, the Green candidate, always actually says "I have no chance of winning, but.." before he says anything at public debates.

Doesn't Shepherd's Bush deserve a full time candidate?

Knifeman arrested after assault on Shepherd's Bush Green

I've just been told by a Police spokeswoman what all of the commotion last night was about on the Green. She said this:

"We were called on the 19th at approx 20:50hrs to reports of two males fighting. When we arrived on scene members of the public informed us a male was running down the street with a knife in his hand, he (Suspect 3) was chased and arrested by police along the Uxbridge Road, W12.
  • Suspect 1 26yr old male was arrested for affray
  • Suspect 2 25yr old male was arrested for assault
  • Suspect 3 34yr old male was arrested for possession of an offensive weapon and theft".
So there you have it. Main message is that these potentially dangerous people were caught. But also the main message for me is the kind of every day heroism of it all.

Just consider what that little update, which you'll read and then forget about, actually meant to a real life person wearing that uniform last night as they chased a knife wielding man who quite possibly had just used it on someone else down Uxbridge Road.

People are always very quick to criticise the Police but how many of us would be brave enough to do what they do, day in day out? We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

I received a lot of questions about this and search engine results too - so hope this puts minds at rest. There were some fearsome rumours doing the rounds on Twitter and search engines about what all of that was about last night. Now then.. watch the rest of the local media cut and paste the above for their sites but lets hope for a bit more professionalism from one over-dramatic website in particular ...

UPDATE 1215 - A reader has left another more detailed description of how this violence blew up and what seemed to be fuelling it in the comments below. A bike and altercations in the Vue cinema - but alcohol most of all. Same old story I guess. Fulham Chronicle has now caught up with a bare bones account based on the police quote above, while others have yet to report it at all.

UPDATE 1300 - Our favourite over-dramatic website has now finally caught up with last night's events but this time is just cut and pasting the police statement. Better than the usual I supppose.

Police on Shepherd's Bush Green

Last night there was a major Police presence on the Green. Accompanied by an ambulance there were vans and cars and much activity. I've had some requests for information already and have just sent a note to the Police media office asking for details. As soon as I have anything I will post it here.

In the meantime please use the comments section to leave any info you may have. Will update this thread as and when today.

0947 - full details of the incident are now here.

Labour: Small Businesses 'duped' onto Bailey's list

For a report on last night's final debate between the candidates for Hammersmith click here

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for the Bush at the General Election, has been running what I thought was a very effective local campaign by getting over 50 small businesses in Hammersmith & Shepherd's Bush to sign up to a petition against the proposed rise in National Insurance put forward by Labour. His campaign have been updating the list every couple of days and publishing it here.

Now it seems some of those on his list want to come off it - pronto. Rizwana Ali, who'se family owns the H&F newsagent Rose News is 'outraged' that the Tories have 'duped' her family into appearing on a party political list. They are featured in this photo, outside the same newsagent, urging people to vote for his Labour opponent Andy Slaughter.

She says "the person that came round from the Tories was targeting minority owned businesses and asking them to sign something they didn't understand. They didn't identify themselves as Tory Party staff. They didn't even explain what it was the people were signing. It was all done under false pretences. It makes me wonder how many other small businesses have been duped?"

Another small business on Bailey's list has also asked to come off. Peter Heanen, owner of HG Walter says "no-one spoke to me about it".

The Labour campaign are claiming Bailey has been left with "egg on his face" and that his campaign has been revealed as "full of hot air".

But is all as it seems? Speaking to me last night a spokesman described Labour's claims as "remarkable" and sent over a copy of the letter that was apparently used with every one of the businesses, which you can read and judge for yourself below. They have copies signed by each of the businesses on the list. I'm not sure which part of this letter doesn't look Tory, it all does to me.

Shaun Bailey Business Leaders Letter

Bailey's campaign have also apparently just received identical word for word letters from two other businesses asking to be removed from the list which, unless both businesspeople chose precisely the same words, would suggest the Monty Python like situation of Labour activists following Tories into shops up and down the borough trying to get them to un-agree what they'd just agreed to sign!

I should also say that Rizwana Ali is a Labour candidate in Brent - so unlikely to want any member of her family to be backing a Tory campaign. But the allegations her family make are very specific - that the Tories did  not reveal who they were and what they were aksing the businesses to sign. If that's true then it's very serious, which is why I decided it was worth running this story. Ali describes her family as "minority" and that they didn't understand what they were signing. Based on the letter which you can all now see, the implication seems to be that they didn't understand the English because if they did there's surely no way they couldn't have known.

I've been involved in running election campaigns in a former life, and this does remind me of the ridiculous stuff that goes on in elections - if there's an ounce of truth that Bailey's team have been deceiving local businesses then he has some very hard questions to answer - but on the basis of this letter I can't really see where the evidence is. And if there isn't any it won't be Bailey that ends up with egg on his face.

Now, can we debate some serious issues instead? All eyes ahead to this thursday's debate.

UPDATE 1115 TUESDAY - A member of Andy Slaughter's campaign has written in to take issue with my view on this, and suggests Shaun Bailey's team do indeed have hard questions to answer. He says they've been "ruthless" and "rotten" in duping the businesses:

"After we heard from Rizwana, the Labour office called some of the businesses asking them if they knew they were being used for a Tory campaign. The majority didn’t.

One of our volunteers went down to a couple of the business to talk to them, and one of them suggested writing a letter to get their name off the lists. We then took the same letter to a couple of other businesses when we had time and they immediately signed up. If our volunteers weren’t so busy working to explain our policies to Hammersmith residents, we’d have signed a lot more up.

The truth is that NO small business wants to get dragged into politics. This is a politically diverse area, and labelling yourself for one side or another isn’t a good idea. The story isn’t about taxes, it’s about honesty.

First, the letter contains untruths. If you read the letter, it simply says Labour is going to increase NIC by 1%. On his own website he nuances that by stating, accurately, that the plans would be to increase NIC by 1% for anyone earning over £20,000 a year. How many newsagents or other small business on that list pay 20 grand a year to most employees, or any of their employees?

Second, and even more fundamentally, who’s signed these? The owners? The owner of HG Walter, as quoted in the release, hadn’t signed it. Who had? HSS has apparently signed up. HSS is a global multinational. BlackKatz, headquartered in Camden, apparently signed up. Who signed up for them? Ask the owner, because he certainly didn't. Papa John’s Pizza is a global multinational. The manager there was horrified to hear he was on the list and signed a letter to be taken off. Blink Brow Bar is not a small business. It has outlets all over the place. We don't have enough time to go through it, but does it sound to you like the Tory hack they sent around was being fastidious with ensuring the people signing whatever they signed had the authority and realised what they were signing up for. No. No it doesn't.

If these were all companies where the owner had scrutinised a letter at their own leisure and then posted back their support, fair enough. But going into busy small businesses, harassing them, telling half-truths, targeting minority-businesses where English is a second language, that’s just plain rotten. And then using them as propaganda, potentially damaging their sales? That’s ruthless".

UPDATE 1215 - The Fulham Chronicle has now caught up with this story here

UPDATE 1315 - Another Tory candidate, this time in Scotland, seems to have done exactly the same thing and been forced to apologise. Read more here.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Bailey: Questions about missing receipts

Several of you have pointed out that The Times newspaper this week-end published a report which on the face of it raises questions about the financial management of a charity which is run by the Conservative candidate for our area at the General Election.

The article alleges that an independent examiner has found £15,952 of unaccounted for expenses in the charity's accounts, and that the Charities Commission is considering a formal investigation into the money which was made in payments "without any supporting records."

Shaun Bailey, explaining the missing money, puts it down to simple mistakes. He says: "We had a little panic, we have the stuff . What you are dealing with is a kid from the estate who had a good idea to do this and and never had a wider view of accountants and lawyers. We have raised this money, spent it on the kids. We just didn't know."

It's not clear what 'stuff' he is talking about but I assume the 'kid from the estate' he refers to is himself, and we've all made mistakes in our lives. But as some of you have already pointed out this is the same Shaun Bailey who has spent the last couple of months using his very well funded campaign to attack Labour candidate Andy Slaughter for spending £90 on a pen nib and billing the tax-payer.

Speaking to me earlier today Shaun said this: "MyGeneration is a small charity that has experienced rapid growth. At the time we had a full time staff of only two people responsible for all of the charity's projects and administration. Like many small charitiesand voluntary organisations, it took us some time to develop the administrative processes".

"It is only my political opponents who have tried to bring the charitable work done by MyGeneration into dispute. This is the second time Labour have tried to smear me by attacking the charity with no regard for the work it does with the hundreds of youth and families it supports in West London."

I haven't actually seen Labour talk about this at all but people in the Bailey campaign clearly think they're behind the media stories.

I take it at face value that the £16,000 was an administrative cock-up, these things happen all the time. But isn't that what many of the MPs with dodgy expenses claimed at the time? And isn't attacking Andy Slaughter for expenses when the worst thing they could dredge up was a £90 pen nib he apparently charged to the public once just a little bit, well, risky in that case?!

Just a prediction but I doubt we'll see much more comment on anyone's expenses from the Conservative campaign from this point on.

Bush in the Blitz

A few years ago a taxi driver once took me home from Hammersmith to Shepherd's Bush, but also on a journey into the past with just a brief memory of when he was a small boy during World War II but one that was still very powerful to him.

To get where we were going we had to go past the White City Estate, but he stopped me giving directions and said "yes, I remember when the bombs fell there". He recounted in vivid detail pulling dead people out of their collapsed buildings from a V2 rocket strike with his father. He'd heard the rocket fly over and then cut out just over Sawley Road W12. Everyone at the time knew they'd have just seconds before the blast hit. And then it did.

In my training for the marathon I regularly ran down Sawley Road and ever since that taxi journey I've thought of what that moment in time must have been like for him. And tonight at 2100 Channel 4 is screening Blitz Street which tries to recreate that life again. They've even drawn a GoogleMap of the V2 rocket sites in London - the blast the taxi driver described doesn't feature on it so I'll write to them. But thought you might be interested too.

Anyone know of any other WWII stories from the Bush?

Fulham Chronicle: do you get it?

I haven't received the Fulham Chronicle for several weeks again in a row, and I can't be the only one. And actually it's now getting a bit irritating to see the Chronicle, who'se campaign in principle I suppport completely - to get rid of the Council's propaganda sheet which masquerades as a genuine newspaper - carp on and on without getting it's own house in order first.

Now we're beginning to see the Council and the Chronicle argue with each other about how much the Chronicle charges for advertising space. It's all a bit tedious but basically the Council says they need the propaganda sheet in order to save on expensive charges from the Chronicle to carry public notices. The Chronicle says it isn't as expensive as the Council says and anyway that's just an excuse to carry party political propaganda dressed as news, and paid for by the taxpayer.

I hope the Chronicle win their campaign against the use of our taxes to promote the political agenda of the Council through H&F News which a comittee of MPs (chaired by a Conservative) recently described as "misleading to the public".

But I'm also getting a bit tired of seeing pompous quotes from their MD Simon Edgley, who seems quicker to deliver a press release to other journalists than his own paper to his readers. And it can't be a coincidence that the Council also now dispute the circulation figures that the Chronicle claim, which from my experience and some of yours based on past comments and emails, must be a bit dodgy if we only sporadically receive the paper.

A word of friendly advice Mr Edgley - put your own house in order. Pronto.

There, that's off me chest..

4 hours 57 minutes - Thank-you

After 4 hours and 57 minutes, and in a stunning 5,003rd place overall I crossed that line and felt, well, relief but not much else! A huge sense of achievement yes, lots of pain absolutely and a strong desire to get to the nearest taxi and on my way back to the train station.

Brighton was very hot yesterday and almost the entire course was in direct sunlight, so I'm a different colour to when I set out first thing Sunday morning. But I'm also a different person who'se made a journey from unfit drink-too-much sloth to someone that's actually quite fit and certainly much healthier.

The day didn't start out too auspiciously. Tannoy systems urged runners to abandon the toilet queues and use those on the route as it was imperative we all got away by 0900 sharp. So we did, coralled behind a fence, only to wait for a ten minute delay. Cue lots more stretching by people who would otherwise get cramp, but this time crammed together like sardines.

But the rest of the route was extremely well laid out, well marshalled and clear. Huge credit to the organisers for everything they did on the day, most of whom were volunteers. Especial thanks to the St John's Ambulance who endured the ignomony of standing by the roadside with dollops of vaseline on their fingers for chafed up runners to wipe off as they went past!

Did I say Brighton was hot? It was absolutely baking and there was basically no shade at any point in the entire course. So all the training with fluid intake, throughout all those winter months from January, was made instantly irrelevant. I drank way more than normal but didn't feel the call of nature until I was all the way home in Shepherd's Bush hours later, so I must have been sweating it out. In fact I had so many salt deposits encrusted on my skin and clothes I looked like I'd been heavily sprinkled with the stuff.

Sadly I saw two runners who didn't make it, both of whom collapsed from dehydration. One of them was in a serious way and being loaded into an ambulance with a saline drip being held aloft by the vaseline dispensing st Johns Ambulanciers. I hope they were OK.

Even in the last four or five miles, where it was tough beyond belief, I kept noticing other people who were running for cancer charities of various kinds. I was running for Cancer Research UK. Many of them had "in memory of" cards on their vests. It made me think of the two people I lost this year very much. Natasha, Ray and others in recent times - Sharon, Heather. And all of a sudden it wasn't so bad to be running in the sun, next to the clear blue sea with aching feet.

But my abiding memory is of a girl of about 19 or 20 who was stood at about mile 12 with a simple cardboard sign saying "I'm a survivor". And so she was, and so should more people be, and that's why all of you who sponsored me should be as proud as I am today. Thank-you.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

My marathon tomorrow

Tomorrow morning I will be taken to my destiny. A cab is booked to get me to Victoria station for the 0555 train down to Brighton for their first ever marathon. And it's my first ever one as well.

I've now been training for the event since just after Christmas and its involved running in, quite literally, snow rain and ice for much of that time. So as you hear about the Brighton run tomorrow and then the London marathon the following week and think "ooh, what nice weather to run in" just remember the training that's gone into it!

So .. this is one last plea for sponsorship. When I set out to do this marathon I was doing so in support of my cousin, who at the time had breast cancer. She's listed as one of my sponsors on this page but the illness sadly took her just weeks ago. And a very good friend of mine in America also lost his fight earlier this year. I know I'm hardly the only one, and indeed some of the readers who have already kindly sponsored me have told me about their own experiences, so we all have a very real reason to support the fight against this disease.

As you'll see I've raised 95% of the £500 I set out to raise for Cancer Research UK thus far - if you're able to tip me over the target I shall be eternally grateful. Thanks for reading - oh, and blogging might take a back seat till late monday!

Bailey: Labour don't own black people, "slavery has ended"

Yes, he really said that. London Tonight, the news programme on ITV, this week carried a piece on the Battle of the Bush and featured each of the three main candidates - Shaun Bailey, Andy Slaughter and Merlene Emerson.

But it was Bailey who was the real focus of the piece, and hardly surprising when he came out with phrases like that. The piece is quite funny in places, as the commentator mocks the Tories leaving their campaign HQ for being "all mwah mwah" and then the woman who confronts Andy Slaughter saying at first "I've got a bone to pick with you", then in response to Andy's "please, not in front of the camera!" saying he was the best thing since sliced bread.

Andy goes on to make the point that he is the only local candidate standing for the constituency, and that Bailey is an outsider, while Emerson urges people to choose neither Lab nor Con but Lib.

Bailey himself talks about black politics to a far greater extent than  I am aware he has done before, at least publicly. Which is all fair enough but I wonder whether he went a bit far with the slavery comment. And anyway, where were his advisers - metallic shades in front of the camera?!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Man down! Cllr Bristow resigns

H&F Conservative councillor Paul Bristow has decided to stand down from the Council after attracting increasing criticism for telling voters in the Middlesbrough seat he is contesting at the General Election he "lives locally" in his election literature, while drawing over £30,000 from us as local taxpayers for his cabinet salary at the Town Hall. He will carry on until May 6th but will not contest his Fulham seat.

I'm actually from the North East originally so I've seen Cllr Bristow's campaign first hand on some of my visits up there, whatever you think of his policies he's certainly a very active campaigner and gets himself around very well indeed. The Tories maintain that his attendance record at the Town Hall is good and that he has contributed as a cabinet member for residents services as much as he needed to. You can see why the opposition parties constantly criticised him though, most of the severe funding cuts to have been introduced by this Council in pursuit of lower tax bills have been on residents services, so to have the cabinet member responsible taking his eye off the ball hundreds of miles away was not helpful for them.

In fairness to Cllr Bristow he's not the only councillor to be standing as a would-be MP - Labour Hammersmith Broadway Cllr Lisa Nandy's website declares she "lives in Wigan" for example -  but he is the only one drawing such a high salary and in such an important role. He's obviously done the right thing, but coming weeks before polling day it looks like it's been a result of a push rather than a jump!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tories may scrap Crossrail

Speaking on the Nick Ferrari showon LBC this morning Justine Greening for the Conservatives revealed that they could scrap the Crossrail scheme if elected to Government. This is the same scheme, you might remember, that business leaders big and small throughout London have said is vital for London to remain competitive and grow. And that the Conservatives pledged they would see built.

To my knowledge this is the first time the Tories have revealed a lack of support for the scheme, and for West London this would have a particularly severe impact, one of the stations being slated for our neck of the woods at Acton Main Line.

Just as Shaun Bailey quite rightly trumpeted the support he received from 50 small businesses in Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith over his National Insurance campaign, I wonder if he'll be canvassing their opinions on this new development in Tory policy? 

Labour has not been slow to react with Transport Secretary Lord Adonis saying: 

"The Tories' supposed commitment to Crossrail lasted just two days. Now Justine Greening has exposed the weasel words in the Tory manifesto for what they are.

"This sends an alarming message to business in and around the capital, to Londoners, and also calls into question the extent of their commitment to all other infrastructure projects, including high speed rail.

"Crossrail will deliver thousands of jobs, cut journey times across the capital, and deliver a huge boost to business. Only Labour is fully committed to making this project happen."

The transcript of what Justine Greening said on LBC is here:
JG:        We, we can’t, we can’t give a line by line budget on projects across government, including Crossrail.  Everything’s up for review but we think it’s important.
I’m sure this is my stupidity.  Will it continue or won’t it continue?
I can’t give a guarantee that it will continue.
So it might not, it can go the other way?  The Conservatives could scrap Crossrail?
It’s possible but at the end of the day we’ve always said that we think it’s important project and, and actually the reason this is important is we, we want to be responsible so we can’t pretend that we can write an entire budget outside of government. We’ve said we’ll do one within 50 days of getting into government if we get elected and we will then provide some clarity and certainty.
Justine Greening, Nick Ferrari, 15 April 2010

UPDATE 1500 - Liberal Democrat Assembly Transport Spokesperson and Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon has released a statement that says:

"The Conservatives are all over the place when it comes to Crossrail.
"The Conservative Mayor of London never tires of boasting about his support for the project and Conservative run Kensington and Chelsea Council are even demanding a further new station which will add to the cost of the project.

"Yet at the same time a London Conservative MP, speaking on behalf of the national party, is simply unable to provide a clear assurance that this much needed project will be completed."  

Polish Priest from Shepherd's Bush memorial mass today

Monsignor Bronislaw Gostomski, who was parish priest at St Andrew Babola Roman Catholic Church in Shepherd's Bush, was among the 90 victims of last Saturday’s disaster in Russia. There will be a memorial mass for him at the Church this evening starting at 1900.

At the time the scenes at this Church were desperately depressing with many from the large Polish community making for the Church as soon as they'd heard about the incident, only to find in some cases that their own priest had been one of the victims.

This evening's mass is likely to be a very large affair which is bound to have knock-on traffic problems in the areas of Leyfield and Goldhawk Road. I don't think anyone's likely to complain very much though.

I wasn't aware of this until the incident took place but apparently the Church in Shepherd's Bush holds the largest memorial to the massacre at Katyn in Russia that the Polish delegation were on their way to commemorate. Again, as I said at the time, that incident and the whole way Britain has treated Poland in the past, while they stood by us during World War II, means we will always owe a huge moral debt to them which is rarely acknowledged anymore. Maybe this will make us pause for thought too.

Sofyen Belamouadden: accused granted bail

One of the boys accused of the fatal stabbing of Sofyen Belamouadden was granted bail yesterday, although he'll remain in custody until the 4th May. The accused is one of 13 charged with what was by all accounts a feral attack in Victoria station which the Police suspect was a co-ordinated clash between two or more gangs, of the type that have already carried other murders in Shepherds Bush.

Sofyen was a student at Henry Comptom school in Fulham and lived up the road from Shepherd's Bush in Acton.

Katie Piper acid attack: repeated

I remember when I first read about the story of Katie Piper, an innocent young woman who was horrifically disfigured by two Shepherd's Bush men who carried out an attack using acid in response to her having ended a relationship with one of them. Thankfully they no longer live in our area, and won't be coming back in Daniel Lynch's case for at least another 15 years. (Although the sentence given to the man who actually threw the acid was a pathetic 6 years.)

Since then Ms Piper has proved to be an inspiration, having delivered the Channel 4 Alternative Christmas Message last year and speaking out about her experiences. It was clear from some of the comments from you that you found her story very moving but also in some cases you argued that this was the tip of the iceberg.

So this story in the Standard about what on the surface seems to be a very similar attack, this time on a man who had committed the sin of having a relationship with someone who'se family didn't like it, was  pretty depressing. The men who are suspected of carrying out the attack are believed to have fled to Pakistan.

And then look at this story, actually from Pakistan, which deals with what seems to be a shockingly large problem of women being attacked with acid for a whole variety of reasons. Unsurprisingly given the links between that country and ours it would seem that the vile practice is becoming increasingly common here in the UK.

We are lucky to live in Shepherd's Bush because it's a fantastic local area, but my word there are some truly horrendous individuals around, and I wonder what more needs to be done to talk about this growing problem.

Meanwhile, on his visit to Hammersmith this week Home Secretary Alan Johnson attacked Boris for deciding to cut Police numbers in London.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Robbery: Police Appeal

Police are appealing for information following a robbery.

It took place at approximately 17:40hrs on Monday 8th February at William Hill Book makers along Harrow Road, NW10.
Anyone with any information or can identify the males pictured who were believed to be in the area at the time are asked to contact Detective Liam Gray based in the Robbery Squad at Hammersmith Police Station on 0208 246 2466 or if you wish to remain anonymous call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Battle of the Bush: Small businesses don't want NI rise

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate asking for our vote this General Election, is accused by his opponents of many things but one thing nobody can take away from him is that he is a good campaigner. Having met him a few times as a result of writing this blog I've always found him very hard not to like on a personal level and that makes him a formidable opponent for Andy Slaughter in this knife edge battle.
So getting the backing of 50 small businesses in and around Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith for a campaign he is running against the proposed National Insurance increase of 1% is no small feat when every vote counts.

Small traders were invited to respond to a letter, from Bailey, attacking the proposed rise and asking them to put their name to his campaign. 50 of them did just that and he is now understandably trumpeting their support for his cause. Speaking to the Chronicle he said:

"Small businesses play an extremely important role in the economic health of our country and the health of our communities. The National Insurance increase means it will cost more for small businesses to stay afloat and ultimately it will cost people their jobs."

I haven't seen a response to this from Andy Slaughter as yet, but on his website he quotes the Institute of Fiscal Studies who said this about the Tory plans to avoid the NI rise:

"The conservatives claim that the spending cuts can, in effect, be rendered painless by efficiency savings that they say their advisers have identified. Whether or not that is true, using the bulk of these spending cuts to finance the NI cut means that they are not available to contribute to the task of reducing government borrowing that the conservatives have set such store by. Reducing the deficit more quickly than the Government plans to will therefore require even greater cuts to public services spending, or to greater reliance on welfare cuts or tax increases that might be as economically costly as the NI increases they are seeking to mitigate".

For Shepherd's Bush I would think it was worth making two points. First and most obviously, what business would want to be in favour of a tax increase anyway but second this is probably more important to the Bush than it might seem.

For months now I have been running a series of posts called "Recession Bush" - listing the various victims of the recession as the "closed" signs and boarded windows went up, along the Askew and Uxbridge Roads. Whether you think the proposed NI increase is right or wrong, local voters who have seen the impact of these closures may listen very closely to what's being said about this subject indeed.

Cruising in Ravenscourt Park?! Euphemisms ahoy!

So, what are your plans for the summer? A nice cruise? Well, not for the outraged residents of the Brackenbury Resident's Association it won't be, at least so long as it's not in Ravenscourt Park! 

Read this euphemism-tastic update from the local police, responding to concerns of the good people of Brackenbury Village:

Inspector Stan Davies, of the Parks Constabulary, writes in the Residents Association newsletter: 'I was informed at the Crime Summit of the concerns of park users that trespassers were engaged in anti-social behaviour when the park was closed.

'I promised that I would take action and I have done so and this will continue. My officers have been re-visiting the park after closure .... On the 12th March two males were found in the park after locking. These men were not local and their explanation for being there was 'shallow'. The police were called and thorough checks undertaken, we do not believe that these men will be visiting the park again when it is locked

So..what do you think they were up to?! 

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

London Labour campaign launched in Hammersmith

What seemed like half the Cabinet descended on Hammersmith this morning in order to launch the local election campaign for the London Labour Party, which is fighting to hold on to the Councils it runs across the city and to take back those it lost last time round, including of course Hammersmith & Fulham itself.

A tall order? Well yes, but as you're sick of reading me say by now this is the frontline of both the General Election nationally as a seat the Tories have to take if they are to win government at westminster and a weathervane for the fight to hold on to or win council seats as well.

So Labour Opposition Leader Steven Cowan was joined by Andy Slaughter, Home Secretary Alan Johnson, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Environment Secretary Ed Milliband.

They delivered the Labour manifesto at St. Paul’s Centre in central Hammersmith.

Alan Johnson focused on the Conservatives’ proposed cuts in safer neighbourhood police teams, which he argued have made a huge impact on crime in London.  He said that while crime continues to fall across London and the country, it is rising in Hammersmith due to what he called the incompetence of the current council whose first act, he said, was to cut police support in Hammersmith Broadway, which has the highest crime figures in the borough.You may recall the Home Secretary visited Shepherd's Bush Market recently.

Tessa Jowell spoke about what she said were the Tories plans to destroy affordable housing, not only in Hammersmith but across the country.

Ed Miliband talked about the Labour Manifesto, which he wrote, and the contrast he drew between Labour’s protection of services and incomes and what he said were the Tories’ plans for cuts in tax credits and education.

From the St. Paul’s centre the merry band walked up to Lyric Square and talked to local residents, before heading to Ravenscourt Park to meet some community groups.

Shaun Bailey: A video update (but no comments)

One thing about this campaign that is fascinating for anoraks like me is the way that Labour and the Tories are apeing the Obama campaign's methods and tools in a way that we have never seen before over here. We have of course televised debates for the first time on a national level but at the local level here in the Bush both Andy Slaughter and Shaun Bailey are using blogs, YouTube and online ads in a way I don't think they would have done before.

I've tried to make my own modest contribution by using video where I can, as well as covering meetings and interviews - with Slaughter here, Bailey here and Emerson here. It's all good for bringing what can be quite tedious campaigns to life for local people, so well done to the candidates for using these new methods.

With the Standard reporting yesterday on the way our constituency is a 'front line' in the general election both parties are throwing a lot of resources and big hitters at it.

And here we have the latest innovation - Shaun Bailey is recording weekly campaign diaries for all our benefit. For very little cost (a camcorder and an internet connection) he's able to reach 149 people in 3 days at the time of writing. But what's this? Comments are disabled on the video, so presumably he doesnt want any pesky voters letting him know what they think of what he's had to say!! That most definately wasn't Obama-like, but well done for trying..

Monday, 12 April 2010

Rats on Shepherd's Bush Green

I see rats now every day on Shepherd's Bush Green. Tons of them. I'm usually walking across it at about 0620 ish on the way to the gym and it's now unusual not to see at least 2 or 3. They live in holes at the bottom of the trees or beneath the bushes by the sides of the pathways.

And the funny thing is at about this time last year, almost to the day, I posted about exactly the same thing. Back then I talked about how the rats were getting a regular source of food from the fairs that kept showing up and of course the ubiquitous fried chicken shops that line the Uxbridge Road. In fact there are so many rodent Bushers they are quite easy to capture on camera as you can see.

So what's changed? Not a single thing fellow Bushers, not a single thing. Get set for more rats, and as one of you commented at the time when the Council redevelop the Green after the election this year these delightful little creatures will be uprooted and need to find somewhere else to live. I wouldn't want to live in those high rise flats on the Green or eat at one of those restaurants.

Or might our Council actually do something about it? I'll ask the electioneering parties and share the responses with you. In the mean time - watch out for our furry friends.