Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lift Off for Make Willesden Green

It was great to see so many familiar faces from local campaigns, and some new ones too, at the launch of Make Willesden Green last Wednesday. The aim of the meeting was to present this new electoral platform, collect ideas about where to focus our energies, and gather support for the campaign. I think it’s fair to say we’re now airborne.

I opened with a few introductory remarks about why I’m standing for the Council elections under the banner of Make Willesden Green – how this initiative emerges from neighbourhood campaigns around housing, education, public spaces and local democracy, and in response to the the lack of  proper representation from the mainstream parties.

Campaigners from Save the Queensbury, the Gladstone Park Parent Action Group and Keep Willesden Green spoke passionately about, among other things, the dangers of  developers turning our neighbourhood into a dormitory town; Brent Council’s dereliction of duty in standing up against the academisation of our schools; and the increasing disparities between Wembley and the south of the Borough.

People asked about my views on the Coalition’s cuts and the Immigration Bill currently going through Parliament, as well as my position on children with special educational needs in mainstream education (The clip below captures my response to these questions). A very important point was also raised about whether Make Willesden Green is a residents’ association or a political party.  I suppose the answer is neither and both: we’re an electoral platform seeking to give political weight to community campaigns.

Responses to our questionnaire on campaigning priorities highlighted the need for more community and open spaces, housing, education, High Street improvements and support for local business, as well as ‘tackling developers’. All these chime with the core aims of Make Willesden Green.

Wednesday marked the beginning of what will be a long and challenging effort to make Willesden Green’s campaigning voices heard at the local elections. We now have a critical mass of supporters and will be taking our message about affordable housing, state-funded schools, public spaces and amenities, and a more democratic local politics across the whole of our ward and beyond.

We’ll be  setting up a stall next to the Willesden Green Post Office on Saturday 9 November from 10.30am, to raise the profile of our campaign and to hear residents’ views on your aspirations for our neighbourhood. Please do come along to Make Willesden Green – you can stay in touch with the campaign by signing up to our email list above.

Monday, 14 October 2013

How to Make Willesden Green – A Personal Invitation

Make Willesden Green is an independent, grassroots campaign for next year’s Brent Council elections. It is independent because it is not affiliated to any political party, and it is grassroots because its support stems from local residents who have been active in various local campaigns to save our schools, our libraries, our A&E departments and our community pub.

 The ‘Make’ in Willesden Green is all about emphasising the participation of ordinary residents in the public life of our neighbourhood. There is plenty of community activity in Willesden Green – some of it political; other less so. But it tends to be ignored by Brent Council and by our elected officers.

Make Willesden Green was set up over the summer by residents who feel unrepresented by local Councillors and mainstream parties, and who want to redress this imbalance. Our  aim is to make connections between local campaigns like Save the Queensbury, Save Gladstone Park School or Keep Willesden Green, and give them an electoral voice at the Council elections next year. This electoral platform emerges directly from the energies and ideas expressed around these campaigns, but it does not claim their exclusive representation. Instead, Make Willesden Green seeks to continue highlighting the democratic deficit in our Borough by  putting issues of  democracy, equality, sustainability, the defence of public realm and public services at the centre of the electoral campaign.

If you agree with most or even all of these aims, I would very much welcome your participation at the launch of Make Willesden Green on Wednesday 23 October 2013 from 6-7pm at the Queensbury Deli, 68 Walm Lane, NW2 4RA (the tube station end of the High Road). You will hear brief statements from local campaigners explaining why they think we need Make Willesden Green, and you will also get a chance to tell me, the candidate, what you feel our campaigning priorities should be.

We need to Make Willesden Green together.  It will only work if it is powered through the participation of local residents in whatever form you can offer: by publicly endorsing the platform, by helping to canvass neighbours, by offering to research policy ideas, by contributing funds, or simply by spreading the word.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday 23rd.