Over the past two weeks, with my brilliant team of campaigners, we’ve left flyers in all of my target blocks, estates and streets in and around Bunhill. Numerous pubs, cafes, newsagents, takeaways, hairdressers, laundries, chippies and more have also kindly taken our flyers! It has been well worth the effort. If we missed you, I do apologise.
What have we learned? The amount of anger we’ve encountered has been surprising. Caused not just because of road closures happening across Islington. Also because of the sheer frustration, many have felt, having been ignored for so many years!
As one resident told us, she had never been canvassed by a local councillor for 40 years! Others confirm that they have seldom if at all, seen their local councillors. Or if they do, it’s for a fleeting moment in a location preferable to them, not the people that need reaching.
Issues are never brought together so that everyone can listen and learn from how others have solved them. So, TMOs, residents associations, and other forums only function — if at all — in a very isolated fashion. Making petitioning the council that much harder.
Elsewhere, residents have told me that they are sick and tired of being micro-managed. One guy said he was stopped from brightening up his dreary grey concrete tower block hallway with plants. Incredulously, a letter from the council told him in no uncertain terms that plant pots couldn’t be more than 30cm wide. As they would be a health and safety risk!
We’ve been told about residents who have suffered from having their block heating turned off during the Covid summer months — without any consultation! With no regard for anyone’s choice, let alone any elderly residents who need to keep warm regardless of what’s happening outside.
Other’s have questioned what they get for their council tax? Always hiked up, but seldom contacted by the faceless council bureaucrats, apart from letters telling them off about something. It’s no surprise many question what value they get from the council?
People have rightly asked me what are my policies? As I wrote previously on my londondemocrats.org site, first and foremost, we need a set of democratic principles we can all abide by. Specifically aimed at rebuilding local representation that has become so broken.
Until everyone is in the same room working out what issues everyone is faced with, having policies on housing, crime, transport, etc. will likely amount to nothing more than hot air. Only with everyone together, can we begin to unpick problems — that are complex, often treated as political footballs, divisive and have been kept away from our views.
Why? We’re often lead to believe that local people are not able to comprehend these issues for themselves. The preferred route is yet more top-down regulation, seemingly for our own benefit. But having the effect of disempowering us instead of giving people more ownership about how to solve problems. It’s always more rules that are put in place to protect us from ourselves and each other!
Instead, a major step forward will be to recreate networks, spaces and forums that everyone can use with the confidence to come forward and speak their minds. Without fear of being dismissed, ignored or even belittled. It’s a shame communities used to flourish. Some still exist but are hidden from sight. Others have ceased to work due to Labour and the council having bypassed them for years. Preferring instead to preach to us from up on high.
Our elected representatives need to remember they were elected by us to serve us! That is why a vote for me (and every other independent candidate) tomorrow will be an important step forward to reverse much of this mess. The visceral anger we have encountered over the past few weeks now needs to be turned into something positive.
Put your X against us. It will be the best thing you think have done for a long time.
It goes without saying, I’d like to thank my team of Ara, Peter, Ken, Jamie, Susie, Paddy, and many more who have helped me get the word out over the past few weeks. None of this would have been possible without them, and of course, all of your support.
Martyn Perks, Independent candidate, Bunhill by-election, Islington.