Welcome back: Keir does Question Time, Theo seeks Progress and it’s Farewell Vine

AFTER a two-week, post-conference season break, what’s been happening?


KEIR Starmer became the first MP from Camden in 16 years to appear on Question Time last week. Frank Dobson made his final appearance on the show in 2000 for a mayoral election special. In all, Dobbo made ten appearances. Glenda Jackson did the programme three times. Tulip Siddiq, it’s over to you.

Labour were happy with the way Keir performed in Gloucester on Thursday evening, sounding authoritative and clued up at every turn. He’s not shy to face the cameras. For those predicting that he will one day lead the party, however, there remains a couple of hurdles to cross in the future: one, after Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn’s turns at the top, he would have to weather calls for the party to look beyond north London for its next leader. And two, people say he needs to bring a bit more warmth to his public appearances, to which is meant he needs to sound a little less like a lawyer and show that, at the right time, he can whip out a zinger line every now and then. This can no doubt can be worked on, but David Dimbleby seemed like he knew the drill already when he intervened at one stage with a warning that Keir’s exchanges with Conservative Greg Clark was getting “slightly on the dull side’.


A BIZARRE series of events was brought into the public view by a Conservative councillor filing the gift of a dozen cupcakes from a ‘Camden New Journal journalist’ on their hospitality register at the Town Hall this week. What was all this about, you may well wonder. A bribe from the press? No such scandal. You can’t buy secret info with confectionary. Odd as it sounds, the cakes had actually been bought by the Tories themselves and sent to the CNJ by way of a confused apology for passing a photo taken by us for use in a rival newspaper; which needless to say is a breach of trust and generally not the done thing. Unable to be bought off with biscuits and cake, we packaged them up untouched and returned them… where they were registered as a gift from us. Work that one out if you can. The Conservatives had registered their own cakes as gifts. It can’t be much fun doing that at Christmas.


FINANCE chief Theo Blackwell was one of the more outspoken councillors against Jeremy Corbyn during this summer’s leadership contest but he isn’t disappearing into the shadows after the result went against him and other supporters of Owen Smith. No, he’s back – attempting to win election to the strategy board of Progress, the haven for Labour’s ‘progressives’ with a name that appears to bring some Momentum members out in a rash. Theo promises to bring his techy knowledge about the digital revolution to the fore, explaining: Progress is the leading place for discussions on this agenda in our movement and it would be an honour to serve again to represent progressive councillors and keep the local government voice strong. Other than that I have views on a range of issues, including Seumas Milne, which you can follow @camdentheo”


THEO may be spared a tetchy re-match with his old rival, the former Conservative councillor Keith Sedgwick, if he runs again in Gospel Oak. In 2010, Blackwell helped win the ward back from a brief Tory rule when he scored 1,965 to Keith’s 1,344. There is talk that Keith, active at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, is ready to run for the Town Hall again at the next borough wide elections. He now calls Fortune Green and West Hampstead home, however, where perhaps more appetising electoral challenges are on the table. While there is a sense that Gospel Oak may have some new wriggle room for Labour’s opponents – there is said to be a fair share of voters there who voted for Brexit and are fed-up with the council for telling them they were wrong to do so  – West Hampstead has been tabbed up as a Tory target for 2018 and a line of potential candidates are eyeing up the task of taking it on.


THE London elections and the personal battle between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith in May reinforced the concern that when people think of life at City Hall, they pretty much think of who the Mayor and not much else. So there’s all of those London Assembly members sitting there, and, aside from party hacks and niggly bloggers, nobody really knows – and worryingly, cares – who they are and what they do. You could blame the media for not showing enough interest, but maybe it’s up to the members do more to try and break through the dominance of the mayor in the City Hall story. Tom Copley and Sian Berry have succeeded to some extent in this, but using your questions to ask the Mayor to fund a ‘public information campaign’ on getting people to use the bell on buses, like Caroline Pidgeon did last week, might not be the obvious way to get more people enthused. Predictably, Sadiq batted this one away with confirmation that it was not a ‘widespread issue’.screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-15-02-55


CONGRATULATIONS to former Islington councillor Kate Groucott on the birth of daughter Neasa Constance on Friday evening. Her husband Conor McGinn, the Labour MP in St Helens, reports: “Those ‘Labour delivers all year round’ leaflets will take on a new meaning in St Helens. Dad is only slightly traumatised after delivering the baby on the living room floor when she decided to arrive a bit quicker than expected… so quickly in fact that she beat the ambulance to it, meaning I had to have a crash course in midwifery over the phone with a 999 call-handler. Neasa is healthy and content and we feel very lucky and happy to have her.”


IT’S not just Caroline Pidgeon who risked frittering her questions to the Mayor last week with stuff about bus bells. Tory Andrew Boff entertained with a question, which might have simply have read: Mr Mayor, are you a big head?



FINALLY, cutbacks at Twitter has led to one of its creations, Vine, the six second video loop app, being discontinued. This means I have to surrender the 12.5 million loops I had amassed mainly from some footage of Andy Murray’s wife swearing, the only social media I was winning at. The video was deleted a long time ago. Long story. A few other efforts survive, including Boris Johnson and David Cameron riffing about the CNJ’s sister paper, the Islington Tribune. On Cameron’s one, the grease-guffaws from the MP in the background makes the moment, as if not laughing loudly enough would ruin her chances of ever making the cabinet.


15 Comments on Welcome back: Keir does Question Time, Theo seeks Progress and it’s Farewell Vine

  1. Me, running for West Hampstead?! From where did you hear that Osley? Can I assure my Conservative colleagues, it wasn’t from me!

    To be clear, there is a selection process for Conservative candidates, for the next borough elections in progress, and each ward branch’s member will have their say before any final whittling down by the Association’s Executive. Who ever gets chosen, for winnable seats will be chosen on merit, that’s how we do things in our party.

    As for Theo beating me back in 2010, you forgot to mention that the Local Elections were held on the same day as the General Elections. Labour in Gospel Oak did nothing more that what was repeated across the country in Labour Parliamentary Constituencies, where hard working Conservative Councillors saw their personal vote wiped out, by the votes of those who instinctively vote Labour in Generals, but who rarely turn out for Locals.

    Sure, I would love to be a Councillor again. Being able to give Camden’s Housing Department a good kick in the pants was one of the greatest honours to have been afforded to me; but, who is holding its feet to the fire now, in Gospel Oak?

    Who’s asking about the rumoured, two-year delay, in the Bacton Low Rise Phase 1 completion? Who is asking about the £50m black hole in the Gospel Oak CIP, caused by the Housing Department’s incompetence and the clueless local Councillors (not you Theo, you were just too busy fighting Corbynistas to have ever noticed)? How the hell did we end up in place where a Judicial Enquiry has to be undergone, to get the last of the Bacton Low Rise residents off site,, before the block can be demolished? So much for Labour’s much lauded ‘working with the community’! Who is asking about what is being done about the drug dealers on New Oak Path?

    Just one more thought with which to leave you. Who says Theo will be reselected for Gospel Oak, by his ward branch? The way I hear it, his selection isn’t as sure a thing, as you seem to think is mine!


  2. Anonymous // October 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm //

    Dont often agree with a Tory but your correct Blackwell and many of the quislings who collaborate with the Tory government in attacking Camden’s citizens will be de selected thank goodness !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Re-election. Already on Progress Strategy Board.


  4. Bring it on. Labour increased its majority in 2014 (a non-general election year) in GO and the Conservatives were pushed by the Greens.

    “While there is a sense that Gospel Oak may have some new wriggle room for Labour’s opponents – there is said to be a fair share of voters there who voted for Brexit and are fed-up with the council for telling them they were wrong to do so –

    Bit of an odd statement – over 50% of GO voted to remain. It was the Conservative government’s policy to remain as well as Labour and the Lib Dems – a stance shared by all party leaderships locally.

    No one has told anyone that they were ‘wrong’ to vote in a certain way – the Town Hall has set out what we think Camden needs from Brexit negotiations as well as reassurance.

    IMO post-Referendum coverage in both local papers has been pretty weak – which is surprising given the large public interest locally (two massive meetings so far).


    • Richard Osley // October 31, 2016 at 9:36 pm //

      As easily the most regular critic of the local papers in Camden, it does not surprise me that you think coverage is weak. I can’t remember a recent time when you said the coverage of anything we did was strong. That’s cool – your criticism is part of the deal. Keeps us on our toes.

      What can be said, however, is that running long interviews and op-eds from Keir Starmer – your party’s main Brexit guy now and our local MP – about one of the large public meetings you refer to helped the turnout there. I was told by somebody there that they only enquired and found out about it after reading Keir’s views in the CNJ. He had essentially given his update in the CNJ first. So we’re not all bad.

      The dilemma lies like this: Local newspapers can’t survive on just reheating the news and debate which has already been widely published elsewhere in the nationals and news websites over the days before, and we must look for local stories on what is a giant national and international debate. Readers want new stuff each week. Not what they read in another paper two days ago, and keeping pace with Keir and Tulip, who attract more national attention than Frank and Glenda did in their last terms as MPs, has shaken things up a bit.

      On Gospel Oak and Brexit: I agree it does sound odd, but several people have talked to the paper from that area in recent weeks, picking up the phone to complain that they think both the council (which they equate to being Labour) AND the CNJ has been too in favour of remaining in Europe and that you/us are still not listening to why they voted out.

      As ever, the letters page is open to all.


      • Yes well, always happy to give my opinion to a paper run by someone who refuses to join the voluntary press code!

        Leave was heavily defeated in Camden and in London but sadly prevailed nationally. Now we’ve got to make the best of the current situation – but people can vote for whoever they want of course, on the issues they think are most important.


        • Richard Osley // November 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm //

          That’s slightly less black and white than it may appear, and it’s not simply about joining or not joining. In fact an unresolved industry-wide debate continues on that front as to getting a regulator that works rather than just one in name, at which point we may ask why the Guardian, Financial Times, the Evening Standard, and many more papers have so far – so far – not joined.

          But regardless of all that, I welcome your opinion… when it’s not sweary or personal. And have said many times on these pages that it’s a shame that not all members who have passed through the chamber over all these years have not shared your enthusiam and energy for being a councillor.


  5. Anonymous // November 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm //

    Progress strategy board! so your proud to boast of your role within the architects of your quisling sell out and grovelling to the Tory’s plus betrayal of the poor in Camden whilst flogging off OUR assets .

    come on Gospel Oak deselect him

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alan Watson // November 5, 2016 at 7:02 pm //

    Look at the destruction of London life and the Labour. Party therein caused by ‘ the Progress strategy board ‘ over the past five or six years.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rest assured he will be dumped thank goodness.


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