Had a very enjoyable night out tonight with other Bristol Labour activists at the Tikka Flame. (Got back home to Bristol at 7.25pm and by 7.55pm had made it to the restaurant; not bad going). Was good to catch up with some of the councillors who lost their seats on June 4th, and even better to see their determination to carry on fighting the good fight. For those of you who might think that spending Friday in Westminster means I'm neglecting constituency work, here's a rundown of my schedule tomorrow.
- First thing - head into office to look at casework, deal with correspondence, sign off on letters, etc
- 11am -St George's Park for the official opening of the new kids play area
- 12am - speech at the Bristol Darfur Community Association
- afternoon- speech at Bristol Slavery seminar (an event with the Sikh community)
- early evening - inauguration of the Black Boys Can programme
- evening - saying a few words and watching performance by a Palestinian dance troupe at local school
I'm actually gatecrashing the St George's Park event, as I haven't been formally invited. One would think that I might have been, seeing as:
- it's in my constituency (in fact it's directly opposite my constituency office)
- the play area was funded by Government money, from the Play Pathfinder Project, i.e. it's something which a Labour Government, of which I am a member, made possible
- it's being named the John Deasy play park as a tribute to a long-serving Labour councillor for the area who died last year; John loved the park and I could often see him from my office window, setting off on a walk across it.
What's really annoyed me though, far more than the lack of an invite for me, is that there's no recognition being given at all to the role played by the Labour councillor for the St George West ward, Ron Stone, who has represented the ward for 24 years, and was re-elected in June.
Ron put a huge amount of effort into making sure his local ward got this play area. He lobbied hard for some of the funding, which was £2.6 million across the city, to come to St George. He instigated a massive consultation exercise with local schoolchildren to see what they actually wanted from the project, going round the local schools and getting something like 350 children to take part. Quite simply, it wouldn't have happened without him. And it was also Ron who proposed to the local neighbourhood partnership that the play park should be named after John Deasy.
Wouldn't it have been a great gesture to have given Ron the honour of officially opening the play park and dedicating it to his colleague of 18 years? And yet tomorrow - if the press release is to be believed - we will be treated to the spectacle of the Liberal Democrat executive member, Cllr Gary Hopkins, turning up and attempting to steal all the glory. (As they always do. It's a well-known Lib Dem tactic, for example, to find out at the council which road is about to have a pothole repaired, or a defective street light replaced, and immediately whack out a leaflet calling for said work to be done - so they can then take the credit. I actually once saw a copy of a Lib Dem campaign manual, telling activists to do this).
Let's be clear. The Lib Dems - who only took control of the council earlier this year - had nothing to do with making this happen. Cllr Hopkins is quoted in the Council press release as saying 'We worked with local residents to design and create an imaginative and challenging space for children and young people to discover the joys and freedom of play.' If by we he means the Lib Dems, no, they didn't. It was a Labour government, a Labour-controlled council and above all a Labour councillor who made this happen. I hope Gary Hopkins has the generosity of spirit tomorrow to at least acknowledge the role played by Ron, and to pay a fitting tribute to Deasy tomorrow, but I won't be holding my breath.