The Red Wedding: Bullock leads Labour to 53:1 win

Frank Underwood: A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.
- House of Cards

"Very well, alone!"
This man, John Coughlin, the new Green Party councillor for Brockley, is the only thing standing between Mayor Bullock and total domination of Lewisham Council, after the results of the 2014 local elections were declared last night.

Mayor Bullock was returned with 50.77% of the total vote (the Conservative candidate came second, with a mere 11%), while Labour won every single ward councillor berth, with the exception of John's. It was always going to come down to this - with Brockley the last line of defence against a totalitarian government.

In our view, Bullock's third term is deserved - he is a capable leader, without credible opposition at this election - but for him to preside over a Council of 53 of his own party members, with only one voice of opposition is democratically disastrous. A lot now falls on Coughlin's shoulders in terms of holding Labour to account in Lewisham.

Turnout rose compared with 2006 (the last time the elections didn't coincide with a general election) to 37.2%, which is good news.

52 comments:

BarCar said...

Disastrous? How? Bullock's record and the results speak for themselves.

Brockley Nick said...

Because democracy works best when there are checks and balances. It's not a party political point. We need strong opposition to challenge policies, ask questions the dominant party wouldn't ask and keep politicians on their toes. Surely that's an obvious point.

BarCar said...

You are assuming that effective dissent only comes from within the council chamber. The people of Lewisham have been pretty good at making their voice heard on local issues they care about and I've always found Bullock and my councillors to be pretty good at reading and responding to the public mood.

Brockley Nick said...

I recognise that opposition can, should and does come from all sorts of places. But within the chamber is very important. 53/54 seats leads to complacency.

BarCar said...

I should clarify that my concern with your original post is that I think the word 'disastrous' is, perhaps, somewhat melodramatic. I do take your point though. That's democracy for you...

Chris Wheal said...

Poor John (I should declare he’s my neighbour and friend). He got elected. On his own. In a sea of Labour yes men (and women).

Brockley Central has already made him the focus of attention for all opposition, even for Labour voters who want something more than this shower will provide. Others will do the same.

John will have to shoulder those expectations but will, in reality, have no power and zero chance of achieving anything. But he will have to turn up to every pointless meeting for the next five years.

Brockley Nick said...

In an article packed with references to House of Cards, Game of Thrones and World War 2 propaganda, not to mention calling Brockley the last line of defence against a totalitarian regime, THAT was the bit you thought melodramatic?! ;)

Brockley Nick said...

I don't think anyone will seriously expect him to be able to wield any power or influence, don't worry!

Chris Wheal said...

I am sure he will find that comforting ;-)

Woman of Brockley said...

This is not good news. I want more effective oversight of what council officers are doing. Lewisham does some things well, but not everything. 53 out of 54 councillors from one party (whatever it is) does not lead to real challenge and debate.

Neil said...

I find this seriously worrying

Pistol Peter said...

This is awful news. Lewisham Council needed a kick up the arse now they remain a virtual one party show.

heckmcbuff said...

Result ..! :)

Brockley Banker said...

Maybe Mr Coughlin can be the fox in the Lewisham hen house...

Andrea said...

Elected members will only pursue matters off their own back if those matters are in their own political interests. If you aren't represented by a ward member that shares your political viewpoint then it's up to you to ensure that your ward member pursues on your behalf. With the Executive system operated in Lewisham your ward member doesn't have much of a role unless they are part of the Cabinet. They may be involved in Overview and Scrutiny but then the general public are involved in this process too. I see non-executive ward members as nothing more than a conduit for getting things done/changed at a council.

Chris Wheal said...

I suspect he may be hunted with hounds by all those in red jackets (Labour).

Martin said...

Will there be a cinema in Lewisham in 5 years? Will there be a massive private investment in the borough? I doubt. A change would be useful. Other boroughs in East London are improving and I'd expect from my mayor to lead and try to make Lewisham a desirable place to live and work.

Anon said...

53 out of 54 councillors now from just one party and the Mayor of the same party, a return to the dark days of the 2002 era is bound to happen. An era when reports on housing were pushed under the carpet. An era when the Mayor would have a letter in his pocket that was at odds with what he was saying publicly. An era when the council ignored the audit commission and refused to make public a report in to poor housing services in Lewisham.

One of the worst aspects of the results is to see names of councillors from the 2002-2006 period who lost their voice in the council chamber who feel the 'party' is far more important than their constituents. Councillors who will serve the interest of their party rather than the interests of Lewisham.

People who I would not want as a councillor...

Jacq Paschoud​
Skip Amrani​
Alan Smith​
Pauline Susan Morrison​
Carl Richard Handley​
Jim Mallory​
Damien James Egan​
John Paschoud​
Susan Wise​

Is the Joe Dromey elected in New Cross the son of Harriet Harman?

Max Calò said...

I have a completely different experience, It depends by what you're asking them. If it is something they're comfortable with they'll do it.
If it isn't something they're comfortable with they just won't. And they can go to great length to reject you, and they'll close ranks and do whatever it takes not to expose any failure of their sides.
That's what happen without opposition.

Anon said...

I think you are being naïve, the council can supress things for maybe a year they can and have silenced debate by who chairs a meeting. They will use 'legal' arguments to supress discussion, they will push damaging reports into the long grass.

The danger is you end up with the Mayor for example taking a decision regarding the siting of a school based on a short phone conversation with a consultant who was being paid to liaise with the public over the Lewisham Gateway road scheme.

When a member of the public asked where one of their ward councillors was the Mayor said councillors weren't his responsibility. A year later the story broke that the councillor lived 400 miles away and the Mayor & his Deputy had persuaded him to remain a councillor. The reasoning seem to be to prevent the 'party' losing face in a by-election.

Many items on the Mayors cabinet agenda are not made public for 'commercial reasons' but the report may contain far more than commercial sensitive information.

When you have the same elected Mayor in office for 12-16 years the danger is they gather round them like minded souls, if you have one party in control for 50 years it can be extremely dangerous.

Jim O'Connell said...

So we are naming newly elected councillors now. Is Anon going to explain why you don't want them? Why have you left this until after the election?
Have you not forgotten about the very grim pressures of the Tory cuts on local authority budgets that have only just begun to bite?

Sue L said...

Many congratulations to John!
It's the same story in Islington - all Labour cllrs bar one Green.

Robert said...

Nick, I totally agree. Party politics is the scourge of local democracy - and anyone party dominating the town hall is a bad thing. I would prefer to see 54 independents, and then we might get some open and rational debate.

mintness said...

Be thankful for small mercies - as the borough-wide trend for misreading/misunderstanding the nature of the ballot suggests, if Jon Watts of Labour had been called Jon Adams or Jon Brown, Brockley would probably have three Labour councillors too...

Chris Wheal said...

True. All evidence is alphabet gives advantage. http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/06/23/pa.gss033.abstract

Poor old John, the only Green elected and only because his surname begins with a C. He's a victim of the electorate's stupidity.

Max Calò said...

The real winner is Mr Watts, he spared himself 4 years of congratulating the Mayor for this and that.

NAT said...

If this is the case, shouldn't small party candidates change their names slightly....by deed poll?

Monkeyboy said...

Some UKIP candidates were complaining that their party was at the bottom of the list, not realising that it was alphabetical - but they're dicks so it's ok. (Are euros listed by party name and councilors by candidate name?)

NAT said...

I hadn't noticed...it would appear though that anyone amending their surname to 'anti, something or other, Smith' would get top billing. Desperate times require desperate measures.

Brockley Nick said...

It might be the alphabet or it might be that he was the only sensible candidate the greens put forward in brockley ward.

Max Calò said...

I think it's pretty awful that we still don't know how many votes the non-elected received. Labout now has 98% of the Council with much, much less than the 98% of vote. Time to rethink the FPTP system, in this case it's given us a monstruosity.

Darren Johnson AM said...

It's absolutely true that a single opposition councillor is not going to wield any executive decision-making power at the Town Hall. But does that mean holding such a role is utterly pointless and can achieve nothing? No - because not only is there the important democratic function of holding the executive to account and asking awkward questions both in full council and through the local media, there are lots of things a ward councillor can do on behalf of residents that don't require majority decision-making in the Town Hall. When I was the lone Green at Lewisham some of the things that I managed to do included:


- getting an additional crossing on Brockley Road, through working with residents, petitioning and questions
- getting the licensing conditions of the old Rosemary Branch pub formally reviewed so that what was had become an anti-social nightmare is now a well-run community pub
- working with the Brockley Society and others to secure local funding for treeplanting when the town halll treeplanting budget was slashed
- badgering the Labour administration at successive meetings over 20mph to an extent that they have now changed their stated policy


Brockley has a lively mix of rightfully demanding and civic-minded community campaigners and I am sure Cllr Coughlin will have plenty of useful things he's going to be asked to do on behalf of local residents over the next four years. Can it change the entire political direction of the council - no. Can it it make this bit of Lewisham a better place to live in over the coming years - yes certainly.


All the best
Darren

Chris Wheal said...

Sensible? That would suggest boring and he's certainly not that.

Brockley Nick said...

It's a sorry situation if sensible=boring. It means serious and balanced rather than dumb and dogmatic.

Max Calò said...

Nobody has the monopoly of the dumb and dogmatic. I bet we have just elected at least a dozen of them.

Hopman said...

Yes - because that's who you vote for.

NAT said...

Keogh did significantly better with that part of the electorate he hadn't actually met..

Guest said...

Yes, we are still waiting to see if Lewisham.

urbansurgery said...

Sad that a 37% turnout can be be seen as a positive.

Hugh said...

The funny thing about poor people voting Labour in Lewisham is that they and it stay poor, yet they just keep voting Labour.

NAT said...

If only the fools realised that they'd all become wealthy by voting Tory...

Anon said...

But Darren old bean. When you were elected I believe there were 8 other opposition councillors some of whom you may shared the load with. But one solitary councillor is going to be swept under the carpet along with any reports that are not to the liking of the majority party.

The party in power will tend to blow the way the wind blows, currently it's immigration look how the main parties are reacting to the UKIP threat to their power.

Back in your day it was the Green Party to the fore with green roofs and 20mph borough wide scheme in Lewisham 6 years ago http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=lewisham+20mph+&d=4904909799304701&mkt=en-GB&setlang=en-GB&w=ndiTjFcrdK-2fuvMElnHNRmzyuDUx2tS


But with austerity many Green issues have been ditched, such as the levy on energy bills and subsidies on solar roofs. Even in Lewisham 12 years after you were elected early this year you were still campaigning for a borough wide 20mph scheme.

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/11167362._Make_the_whole_of_Lewisham_a_20mph_zone_/

I'm sure on your £53,000 income as a GLA member it keeps you firmly in touch with those living on a fixed or below average income. On that money and your other income why are you asking those with less to pay your travel expenses?

higgledee piggledee said...

There is a cinema in Lewisham. It was a condition of planning consent that the UCKG building corning the Plassey Island gyratory and Bromley Road in Catford keep the cinema there open and for community use.


UKCG appear to have not followed this requirement of their planning approval. I wrote to the council and sent them a link to the planning approval requirement, they said it was interesting and that they hadn't noticed it but have taken no further action.


So - Lewisham does already have a cinema. The council requires the UCKG to run it. But UCKG appear not to, and the council doesn't seem bothered.

Treehugger said...

It would have been nice if this John Coughlin actually turned up to any community events, the labour candidates at least turned up to the assemblies and community meetings. As the green candidate he preached about tree planting, yet didn't even bother turning up to the Broc Soc Tree conference, which Jon Watts, the losing Labour Candidate actually helped organise, think the Green Party needs to think about it's community involvement more if it's gonna return more councillors.

Anon said...

The Green Party of Brockley don't care about the People on the estates, just about those in the conservation area, or the Green Republic of Brockley as I prefer to call it. Be interesting to ask Violeta, Matt and John if they could name a road with social housing on in Brockley, let alone been in one. Afraid Brockley has voted in a mango. Aka a lib dem in disguise.

Robert said...

Isn't party politics wonderful. Such vigorous and grown up debate.

Mike said...

Completely understand the point about checks and balances - the people, the voters, ultimately provide that and they spoke last Thursday. It's called democracy. It's you that seems to be proposing some form of totalitarianism - though it's a silly word for either of us to use.

Max Calò said...

Yes, they spoke and roughly half of them voted for somebody else than Labour, and yet Labour has 53 out of 54 seats. Our system has checks and balances designed for a less extreme distribution of seats, this result gives us a disfunctional Council.

John said...

Manor Avenue!

Monkeyboy said...

when you have a large range of candidates (of admittedly variable credibility) then FPTP doesnt work. The resulting council does not reflect opinion and there isnt a formal legislative body to effectivly challange decisions.

perhaps we need a Lewisham House of Lords to scrutinise decisions....thats a joke for the avoidance of doubt

Sue L said...

Sorry Treehugger, but I think it's a big ask for a candidate in a local election to spend a whole day at a conference just a month before polling day, when the reality is that you don't get elected unless you spend an awful lot of time knocking on doors and speaking to local residents to help get elected. When you're from a small party with a limited number of activists and up against a big party machine, that time door knocking is even more crucial. Now John is elected, he is in a stronger position to support Broc Soc in its tree work than if he had just missed getting elected because he spent the day at the conference, and I'm sure he will do his best to support local community groups as a councillor.

It's also not as though there wasn't Green Party support and involvement in the tree conference - Darren Johnson, the then sitting Green councillor spoke at it, while the Ladywell ward (and mayoral) candidate Mike Keogh helped to film the proceedings.

And I must have missed the bit where John 'preached about tree planting' - you sure you're not making assumptions based on stereotypes here?!

Martin said...

Please excuse my ignorance but what is UKCG? Also I wanted to point out that of course I meant an operating cinema. There are (I suppose) several ex-cinema buildings in the borough but that doesn't make them useful.

Lastly, the talk about a cinema in the borough is of course really a talk about the quality of life here, about having population that can afford it and many other factors. The mayor decreeing to build a cinema in a random location wouldn't fix all of them.


I personally think that being located right next to Canary Wharf and the city (i.e. jobs), having 'booming' East London 5 stops away, having some of the best art schools Lewisham has much more scope for improvement. The current mayor doesn't seem to have used these factors to the boroughs benefit.

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