I have political instincts and I’ve occasionally been forced to rely on them, but I’d always much rather make a decision based on reason and evidence.
Give me a dry paper every day of the week which sets out the history, the risks and the opportunities over a baseless assertion by a self-styled tribune of the people.
Unfortunately, there have been three outstanding examples of such assertions just lately, hence this grumpy column.
One concerned our poster campaign asking people to think carefully before giving money to street beggars. Not long after the posters went up, a pop star was tweeting to say how “disappointed” she was in us. Our campaign “is a joke” she opined to her 5.3 million followers. Did her verdict follow careful consideration of the views of the homelessness charities and the police who are backing our campaign? Did she look at the statistics which demonstrate that more often than not the homeless beggars you give money to aren’t actually homeless and are using your cash to buy drugs and alcohol which might kill them? Maybe, but somehow I doubt it.
Then there was the recent claim by a local and rather famous film director that a Crossrail 2 stop in Chelsea is “a mindless idea”. “It’s not needed, and not wanted”, he explained via the London Evening Standard.
Now the TfL transport engineers who have been designing this scheme for years may not have directed a groundbreaking film that introduced the world to the “custard splurge gun”, but they are clever people nonetheless and dismissing their expertise as “mindless” is, well, mindless. As for “unneeded” and “unwanted” I think what our critic means is unneeded and unwanted by people like him.
It is indeed true that Chelsea has a delightful ambience but it also has terrible air quality, it has congestion, and there is a clear lack of good public transport for people working locally and a growing number of carless residents. It is not impossible to retain our unique ambience and still have a brand new high speed transport link.
And finally there is “social cleansing”. We recently delivered a letter to a part of the borough saying we are looking at the potential to build new homes in the area.
It took only hours before people began to pop up on the internet saying that what we were actually planning was “social cleansing”.
People are made nervous by the prospect of nearby development. I know that. But before reaching for ugly evocations of the Bosnian horror know this: we are in the grip of a national housing crisis and every council should be looking for ways to build more homes. We are and we are not apologising for it and we believe that by restoring street patterns and introducing squares we can even improve the borough at the same time.
No one, and I mean no one, is ever going to be ‘socially cleansed’ by one of our developments. In fact if you are a council tenant the worse that can happen is you will end up in a superb new home on the same terms as your old flat.
There. I have got it off my chest. Grump over. So let me finish with an apposite quote redolent of erudition and in no way culled from a quotation website.
“The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.”
Hubert H Humphrey