Monday, 28 February 2011

Hundreds of students picket Hammersmith Town Hall

A large demonstration welcomed London Mayor Boris Johnson to our very own Town Hall on saturday as the Mayor attended a Tory conference that the local Conservatives had tried to keep under wraps but was widely leaked in the week before the event, which may have had something to do with the Prime Minister not coming after all.

Taking place just days after swingeing cuts were voted through in the chamber of the same venue there was no shortage of local protestots and many of the same faces who barracked Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh made an appearance, as did several hundred students from across London.

They were protesting against the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and were basically there to bait Tories since, as the Mayor's press office pointed out in response to the protest, he has no responsibility for education.

But there were also local residents making their voices heard on issues including the cuts to Sure Start services (though not the physical centres as the Conservatives point out) and a range of others including support for disabled people. In fact the same woman who was ejected from the Council chamber was there avec loudhailer just in case anyone missed the nuances of what she wished to communicate.She is a well known campaigner in disability circles called Tara Flood. Pictured above, courtesy of Cllr Stephen Cowan.

The BBC were there in force this time as were other media - and it's clear to me that this sort of thing is going to become more and more regular. Mayor Johnson himself, perhaps ruing the timing of the whole thing, kept a very low profile in the end and appeared to enter and leave by the back entrance, avoiding any contact with the protestors at all.

During the meeting in the Council chamber last week one comment struck me actually. Cllr Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader of the Council and, back in 2009 saviour of Shepherd's Bush Green from some shoddy cowboy builders, gestured to the public gallery above the chamber and said "it's not pleasant being unpopular, being disliked" but went on to argue that they had no choice but to impose the cuts that they went on to do. I have some sympathy with that although there is a real debate about how and when to make those choices - but one thing is very obvious now, which is that the unpopularity is only just beginning.

During the last election I didn't earn many fans in the local Labour Party by dismissing Labour's chances of winning power back in Hammersmith Town Hall. In fact I said people should vote for Andy Slaughter as the MP just so there was balance between a Labour MP and a Tory Council. But the way things are going with the sheer scale of the cuts this Council is pushing through, which as Labour point out are significantly greater than the cuts central government have imposed on H&F, I can start to conceive of power changing hands here in four years time. But that, of course, is a long time in politics!


  1. And only if a few more Labour councillors step up and make themselves known and look interested at these local issues, of which there are many.

  2. The Mayor has no responsibility for taxation or the banking sector either yet Boris Johnson has come out and defended bankers and the 50p tax increase on loads of occasions. There are around 100,000 teenagers in London on EMA and he hasn't said a single word.