18 December 2011

King Street monster only sleeping, not dead -- loathed Hammersmith Tory scheme may still go ahead if Boris wins next May

The more we think about it, the more concerned we are that Boris Johnson and the Hammersmith & Fulham Tories have essentially pulled a fast one on local residents and that the King Street development may be back next spring with only minor tweaks.

For now, with his eye on the mayoral elections next May, a panicking Boris has persuaded the H&F Tory councillors to withdraw their deeply unpopular plan for King Street. There is good coverage and analysis of this in the Cowan Report, the Shepherd's Bush Blog, the Evening Standard and the H&F Chronicle.

The Hammersmith Tories have egg all over their face. The seven Conservative councillors on the planning committee who argued and voted for the scheme have been giving a slapping, although it is hard to feel sympathy for people who rode roughshod over the wishes of local residents. By the way, these are the guilty men and women: hover over the pictures to see their names and wards:

Bizarrely, this happened in the same week that Stephen Greenhalgh announced he would stand down as the Tory council's leader next May.
Yet the King Street monster is only sleeping, not dead. The Tories' own statement makes that crystal clear: "Hammersmith & Fulham Council has withdrawn the stage II referral until further notice. It means that the Mayor is not required to take a decision at this time. The application is still live and therefore it may be referred back to the Mayor at a future date. This will be at the Council's discretion."
If Boris is re-elected, there is still every chance that the Tory plan will be re-presented with minor tweaks and then approved over the heads of ignored and outraged local residents.

16 December 2011

King Street development deferred but far from dead. Will Boris approve the Hammersmith Tories' monstrous scheme if he wins next May?

Hammersmith Tory council has withdrawn its appalling plans for the King Street area but only for now. It is far from clear that the battle is over for the many hundreds of residents and local and national groups who have fought to prevent the construction of luxury high-rise blocks, the demolition of homes for the blind and of an art deco cinema and the loss of a chunk of the Furnivall Gardens park.

Until today, the council had dismissed all opposition out of hand. Now, however, they have deferred the scheme. The fear has to be that this is only until after the mayoral election next May.

It is worth reading carefully the statement sent by the council to the Save our Skyline campaign today. It says, "Hammersmith & Fulham Council has withdrawn the stage II referral until further notice. It means that the Mayor is not required to take a decision at this time. The application is still live and therefore it may be referred back to the Mayor at a future date. This will be at the Council's discretion." (see Chronicle piece here).

Boris Johnson was required to take a decision today on whether to let the scheme go forward. He knows that the mayoral elections are only five months away. By withdrawing the scheme for now, the Hammersmith Tories are hoping this won't become an election issue for Boris. However, after the election, there is no guarantee that they won't bring the scheme back, slightly tweaked. If re-elected, Boris could pass it then.

It looks as if the way is already being paved for this. As today's statement also said, "Hammersmith & Fulham Council has agreed to work with the Greater London Authority on a further independent rigorous assessment on viability to determine whether there is scope to reduce the height of the buildings again."

By the way, according to the Chronicle, Boris "told council leader Stephen Greenhalgh there was no chance of the project going ahead in its current form". Greenhalgh resigned as leader last Tuesday 12 December. When did he and Boris speak?

11 December 2011

Aidan Burley fails to apologise properly, blames "other" guests at "Nazi" party

The BBC and many newspapers are  reporting an "apology" by ex-Hammersmith Tory councillor Aidan Burley MP, who, as we reported earlier, has been exposed by the Mail on Sunday as taking part in  a Nazi-themed stag party.

Under the heading "MP Aiden Burley sorry for 'Nazi' stag party guest photos", the BBC quotes Mr Burley in a statement "released through the Conservative Central Office" as saying, "There was clearly inappropriate behaviour by some of the other guests [sic] and I deeply regret that this happened. I am extremely sorry for any offence that will undoubtedly have been caused."

Sky News and others are also reporting a later tweet by Mr Burley"Deeply regret inappropriate behaviour by some guests [sic] at stag party I attended and I am extremely sorry for any offence that was caused."

What on earth does Mr Burley mean by "some of the other guests" or "some guests"?

Is he trying to imply that his own behaviour was appropriate? That it was appropriate for him to spend an evening carousing with one friend dressed as an SS officer and another who toasted "the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich"? That it was appropriate for him to stay silent in the face of chants of, according to the Mail, "Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer!", "Himmler! Himmler! Himmler!" and "Eichmann! Eichmann! Eichmann!"? As the Mail says, "Mr Burley, who was standing a few feet away, was not seen to object to [being called the member for Berlin East] or any other behaviour that evening."

Aidan Burley's silent complicity in his friends' shameful antics was wholly inappropriate and he has so far failed to apologise for it. He must do so without delay.

And what it does say about the values of Conservative Central Office that they saw nothing wrong with issuing this piece of sophistry on Mr Burley's behalf?

UPDATE: Burley has been sacked as an aide to Transport Secretary and is being investigated further by the Tory party. Let's hope this is a real investigation and not an attempt to push the scandal into the long grass.

London Tories link with BNP to prevent cyclist safety debate - was Kit Malthouse among them?

The Shepherd's Bush blog has revealed an "unholy alliance" between the Conservative members of the London Assembly and a BNP-elected member to prevent a debate on cyclist safety last week. Full story here.

Was Kit Malthouse, the Tory who represents Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea in the West Central constituency, part of this fiasco, we wonder?

He chairs the Metropolitan Police Authority so you might hope that, for him, preventing accidents would take priority over dodgy politics.

The Evening Standard notes, "It is the second time the Tories have prevented a debate being held on cycle safety, having also walked out of a proposed debate on Blackfriars bridge in June."

As the Shepherd's Bush blog notes, Hammersmith has had its share of tragic cycle deaths - see here and here.

This is the motion the Tories refused to discuss:

“This Assembly deeply regrets the deaths of cyclists on London's road network and wishes to express its condolences for the loss felt by their relatives and friends. We are concerned that some cyclist deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the road network designs for the locations where these deaths and injuries occurred had been safer. We therefore call on the Mayor and Transport for London to: 
produce a list of the ten most dangerous locations for cyclists on the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) and all locations in London where a cyclist has died in the last three years; 
report on any proposals that were put forward by cycling and road safety groups as part of official consultation processes for redesigning roads at those locations; and
provide the reasons why any such proposals were rejected.”

Ex-Hammersmith Tory councillor Aidan Burley at "Nazi" stag night at French ski resort

Until May 2010, Aidan Burley was a leading Hammersmith & Fulham Tory councillor. Now he is a Tory MP. On 3 December, he attended a stag party where the groom dressed as an SS officer, friends chanted "Mein Fuhrer" and "the Third Reich" was toasted.

The Mail on Sunday has the full shocking story.  It says, "Mr Burley, 32, a senior aide to Transport Secretary Justine Greening, was filmed in a mountain restaurant during a stag do, sitting next to another party goer dressed in a black SS uniform and cap....

"He raised his glass in a toast before another guest, sitting beside the MP at the restaurant in the ski resort of Val Thorens, was caught on film making a speech in which he said: ‘Let’s raise a toast to Tom for organising the stag do,  and if we’re perfectly honest, to the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich.’"

Just before the toast, Mr Burley was filmed apparently paying the bill.

The paper continues, "Later, after moving on to a British-themed pub, some of the group, many of whom adopted thick German accents, chanted: ‘Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer!’, ‘Himmler! Himmler! Himmler!’ and ‘Eichmann! Eichmann! Eichmann!’"

Aidan Burley was a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham - the council which Eric Pickles calls "the apple of my eye" - from 2006 until his election as MP for Cannock Chase last year.

Aidan Burley fails to apologise properly, blames "other" guests at "Nazi" party - see here.

Stag do: The MP, on right in blue jeans and jumper, looks on as his friend adjusts his Nazi cap
"Aidan Burley MP, on right in blue jeans and jumper, looks on as his friend adjusts his Nazi cap"   (Source: Mail on Sunday)

10 December 2011

Greg Smith admits Eric Pickles addressed Young Britons' Foundation but won't say if he met Bell Pottinger speaker

Following the post below and after an initial Picklesite coyness, Greg Smith has tweeted us that Eric Pickles did address YBF and that he spoke on his own. He still won't say, however, whether Pickles met the Bell Pottinger speaker.

Eric Pickles, Bell Pottinger, Greg Smith, Greg Hands, Mark Loveday and the Young Britons' Foundation

Local government supremo Eric Pickles may call Tory Hammersmith & Fulham council the apple of his eye but he has been surprisingly coy about admitting whether he will be at an ideological training camp this weekend run by, among others, H&F's own potty-mouthed Councillor Greg Smith.

The Young Britons' Foundation (YBF), styled a Tory "madrasah" (aka fundamentalist school) by right-wing commentators, is currently holding its annual Activist Training Conference. Mr Pickles is listed as speaking but for the past 11 days has been refusing to confirm his attendance to the Guardian Diary.

If he doesn't turn up, the Secretary of State will be sacrificing the opportunity to hobnob with fellow speaker Daniel Hamilton, who works for  lobbying firm Bell Pottinger, which has enjoyed such headlines this week as "Bell Pottinger: pressure on David Cameron to curb secret links with lobbyists", "Vicious dictatorship which Bell Pottinger was prepared to do business with","Wikipedia suspends accounts over Bell Pottinger claims" and "Rebekah Brooks? 'We helped choose her police station' says Bell Pottinger".

Hammersmith & Fulham Tories' role in this entertainment should not pass unrecognised. Director of campaigns at the Young Britons' Foundation is the above-mentioned Greg Smith, who is H&F's cabinet member for residents' services. On YBF's advisory board sits Cllr Mark Loveday, H&F's chief whip and cabinet member for strategy, and on its parliamentary council is Greg Hands, Tory MP for Chelsea & Fulham.