When the Tories lost Hammersmith and Fulham a fortnight ago, instead of reflecting on what they did wrong, they entered into an immediate funk of bitchiness and self-delusion. The Guardian’s Dave Hill points out the Tories lack of grace, citing Greg Hands’ bitter tweet that was posted within minutes of their defeat. Hill also quotes the former cabinet member for housing, Andrew Johnson, who tweeted:
Await with interest what LBHF’s new housing policies will be under Labour. Last time they gave council house to Abu Hamza’s family for life.
[Greg] Smith has retweeted an expression of amazement that H&F residents “have voted to increase their council tax”, while at Conservative Home the Famous Harry Phibbs has attributed his party’s defeat in part to Labour’s picking up more disaffected Liberal Democrats, describing these as likely to be “public sector Guardianistas”. Harry! How impolite!
That’s not the biggest reason the Famous Harry gives – like many fellow H&F Tories he says Labour misrepresented government plans for Charing Cross hospital and unfairly profited accordingly. He also points to a national swing towards Labour. But while it’s easy to understand why H&F Tories are sore, perhaps they should look a little harder at themselves for reasons why they came so badly unstuck.
Such is their arrogance, that they have spent the last fortnight whining about how Labour is going to “trash” the borough. There is no palpable sense of irony on display here. In the eight years that the Tories controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, they presided over a massive, to use their word, “trashing” of the borough. Examples of this trashing include: threatening the tenants of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates with eviction, because they wanted to build luxury flats on the land they hoped to flatten around Earl’s Court. The selling off of the Irish Centre, The Shepherds Bush Village Hall and the eviction of 22 groups from Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s West London Free School. Tobes’s free school has already lost three headteachers in as many years. Then there was The Sulivan Primary School in Fulham, which the Conservatives decided they’d close and hand over to a free school.
Here are some of the tweets I found on Andrew Johnson’s timeline. This one claims:
Johnson believes, as does the rest of his party, that all the Tories need to do is offer people the right to part buy their council homes and they’ll come flocking back. This is nothing less than self-delusion. Johnson even wants to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants, but hang on, wasn’t this done when Nu Labour were in power? None of the Housing Association properties that were sold were replaced. What HAs like Peabody did instead was to build new properties to buy or part buy and ignore those who can’t afford to buy.
Here Johnson, who lost his Fulham Reach seat along with the insufferable bully and chinless wonder, Peter Graham, claims that the new Labour ruling group is not committed to providing homes for local people. Yet, when his party was in power, they joined with developers like St George to build flats for overseas investors. Johnson’s words ring rather hollow.
Phoghorn Phibbs produces perhaps the most chilling statement in the title of his blog at Conservative Home. It reads like a line from The Terminator:
The Conservatives will be back in Hammersmith and Fulham
I really hope that never happens again. Phibbs complains that Labour didn’t fight the Tories on their “record”. That record, as if you didn’t know by now, dear readers, included selling off council flats at inflated prices, denying shelter to a heavily pregnant woman who was forced to sleep on a bench in a local park, and lying about the proposed downgrading of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals (according to the Tories, a GP-led clinic is the same as an Accident and Emergency department). On balance, I think not only did Labour fight the Tories on their dismal record, but the voters had also had enough of the Tories’ autocratic style of leadership and decided to vote them out.
The Conservative’s loss means a change at the top. Greg Smith, member of the Young Britons’ Foundation (The so-called Conservative madrasah) has now been elected to replace the Nick Botterill as the leader of the Tory group. Botterill, himself, had been elected to replace Stephen ‘Decent Neighbourhoods’ Greenhalgh in 2012 when the latter was appointed by Bozza to become the Deputy Mayor for Policing – a job he’s done rather poorly in my view. Curiously, Botterill’s Twitter timeline has been quiet since 15 April.
Mark Loveday, the new Tory chief whip, is also a member of YBF and is, according to the Tanfield Chambers website, a barrister who specializes in “property litigation”. So when the Tories sold off land and council properties that weren’t supposed to be sold off, it was his job to find loopholes and create legal blocks to any attempts to reverse their reckless planning decisions. Lucy Ivimy, who was once accused of racism when she accused “immigrants” of throwing litter out of tower block windows, becomes Smudger’s deputy.
I also found these tweets on Smith’s timeline. Notice how the first tweet suggests that Labour will “deprive h&f of 7500 new homes”. What he doesn’t dare tell you is that these homes were for rich first time buyers and foreign investors. The lack of honesty from these Tories is as breathtaking as their arrogance and ruthlessness. The threatened demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates was perhaps the most blatant attempt at gerrymandering a ward since the Homes for Votes scandal in the 1980s. Shirley Porter, it could be argued, was H&F Tories’ patron saint.
It’s no surprise that Smith, a truly nasty piece of work, would retweet the dismal, Thatcher-worshipping, rent-a-gob, Katie Hopkins. What Hopkins and her admirer refuse to recognise is how Right to Buy contributed to the current housing crisis. Their solution to the housing crisis is, in effect, no solution.
Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents are relieved that the most ruthless Tory council in living memory has been shown the door. But the Tories refuse to learn any lessons from their defeat and seek to apportion blame elsewhere. The defeat of this flagship Tory council is perhaps an indication of what could happen in next year’s General Election. Tory Hammersmith and Fulham was, for all intents and purposes, the Tory-led government in microcosm.
I wish the new Labour administration all the best as they try to reverse the Tories’ disastrous policies in the borough. In four years time, let’s hope more Conservative councillors find themselves out of a job.