Friday, February 20, 2015
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sunday, February 08, 2015
The first sign that greets you as you stroll out of Pimlico tube station highlights the concerns of local tenants of the Peabody social housing estates in the area that they are being forced out. The shops across the road from the flats were a laundrette and a posh off licence doing a promotion on champagne, as if to highlight who lives here, cheek by jowl. I glance in a local estate agents would tell you that a small house off Vincent Square would cost you £2.5million.
I wandered across Vauxhall Bridge Road, where our flat has long since been demolished, and into Vincent Square. Here are the "soccer" pitches of Westminster School, behind locked gates.
Within a short walk are the chequerboard rows of tenament blocks of the estate between the square and Horseferry Road and Channel 4's modernist HQ. Designed by Edwin Lutyens and built on land given by the Duke of Westminster in the 1930s. There's a great blog on the design of it, here.
The purpose of the trip, as it is on other visits to different London locations I used to know, was a stop over at a classic London cafe; this time Regency Cafe, one of my old favourites. It was also the location for a pivotal scene in one of my favourite British films of recent years, Layer Cake. The menu was better than I remembered and the customers packed it out. I only had time for cup of tea and a pudding but saw enough to tempt me back.
I've just checked the scene and I even sat at the same table that Daniel Craig did. It was a long table for six and just like the last trip to Pellicci's, you share a space with strangers - it was another fascinating encounter, a lad who used to work in the area with similar fond memories and an uncanny knowledge of the Blackburn Rovers team of 1995, especially for an Arsenal fan. London tends to throw up these opportunities for stories and shared experiences.
I nipped into a lunchtime Mass at Westminster Cathedral before a meeting with the team I'm working alongside on a new project. Again, the brief service was an experience of incredible social richness and diversity.
Back in the day Pimlico was an area of acute contrasts, it is even more so now. Amazing that working class London still clings on alongside incredible wealth.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Through the night there are comings and goings, characters reveal themselves, loyalties shift, there's lots of swearing and we learn about "Motherwell Rules". But essentially absolutely nothing happens. No one dies, no one resigns and certainly no one gets a pint glass in the eye (though Julius Nicholson gets some cheese chucked at him).
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Campaigning for our NHS in Hazel Grove. Against TTIP and creeping privatisation.
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These figures show George Osborne has broken his promise to balance the books by this year and national debt is still rising - Chris Leslie
Chris Leslie MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responding to today’s public sector finance figures, said:
“These figures show George Osborne has broken his promise to balance the books by this year and national debt is still rising.
“His failure on the deficit is because…
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Labour has tabled an amendment to prevent fracking in the UK unless 13 outstanding loopholes in the regulation are closed. Labour first set out its conditions for fracking to take place in March 2012, but the Government has repeatedly sidelined genuine and legitimate concerns, ignoring gaps in the…
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014
The sad stuff first. We lost Hazel. Too soon and too painful, but forever loved. And Geoff Unsworth and Teresa Hawksworth, both so kind and warm and a cruel loss. Ian Hawksworth's eulogy to his wife, and the mother of his children, was as powerful and loving as anything I've ever heard.
Our debate forum Discuss has had a storming year - we're really thrilled with the progress we made - doing podcasts and putting on first rate debates - the real high points were our religion ding dong with Polly Toynbee and Bishop David Walker and the fracking fracas with Kevin Anderson and Bez.
My involvement in Discuss has really energised my involvement in popular debate and politics. I've seen some fantastic debates - Juergen Maier on Europe was outstanding, Tom Cannon on Football was pure poetry, but it was also contributions from people with a strong personal viewpoint who weren't academics or professional politician - guys like Steven Lindsay, Graeme Hawley and Tracey Smith, and then there was Bez, the longest ten minutes of my life from the moment I said: Ladies and gentleman, here's our first speaker... To be fair, he was on the winning side!
Saw some inspiring and thought provoking talks - the Blue Labour conference in Nottingham was probably the event with the deepest and widest range of provocations my friend Michael Merrick on education and Greenpeace's Ruth Davis on Nature, Science and the Common Good.
The best speech I wasn't at, but listened to on the RSA podcast, was Jon Cruddas's lecture on Radical Hope.
I long ago gave up on the main hall at Labour conference providing any of that, but the fringe had some real highlights - Liz Kendall on the personalisation of public services and Maurice Glasman on community organising - "the time it takes an activist to interrupt someone who is talking about something important to them - 8 seconds. The time that a stubborn interruption could be useful - 30 seconds." Personally, I think you can read some situations where even longer works. Listening always works.
Writing - got into the final of Pulp Idol - a first time writers competition. Making good progress on my debut novel getting published in 2015.
Work wise - I've really enjoyed being part of the Manchester conversation with Downtown - sitting at the table for some of the vital policy conversations that are contributing to the growth of Britain's best city, just as devolution rises up the agenda, providing a positive and progressive contacts and a context for the best business network in the North.
The work for Seneca, Liberty and the Tomorrow's Practice project for the ICAEW has been a real privilege, working alongside fantastically clever people creating businesses that are thinking hard and evolving in a challenging world.
Finally, I was selected to be Labour's parliamentary candidate for Hazel Grove for 2015. As described in the Stockport Express, Prolific North and the Business Desk, it is a big new step. But more than anything this represents a privilege and an honour, it is an opportunity to build a new covenant and a new way of doing community politics in this constituency.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Yes, my escalope was tasty. John's egg and chips were spot on too, but it wasn't just about the food. What made it so special was a slice of London life - it was rammed, so you just pile in and share a table, pairing up with a smart metropolitan couple and then we were joined by an 88 year old Eastender and her daughter. We talked about food, change, life and salt levels in white bread.
The staff worked the place hard, they kept checking you were alright, it was busy and noisy and full of love. They got everyone singing happy birthday for a regular punter, it was warm, funny and cosy. John got given a cake as it was his birthday too.
In a moment of drama I dropped my glasses down the side of our table, then realised I didn't have my phone either (I'd left it at John's office, it turned out). The staff turned the place upside down looking for it, offering to locate it, even as the place was filling up to the brim. So no selfie, no picture, so I'm trying hard to throw as much of the colour of the place as I can - wood panel walls, a tiled bar, chrome exteriors. But its character and colour was a mood, a feeling and a wonderful authenticity.
Queuing up as we were leaving was the Young Soul Rebel himself, Kevin Rowland, just thought I'd mention it.
Next time I'm in visiting my friends at Intuit UK in Victoria I think a trip to the Regency Cafe is in order.