Could Heidi Alexander become leader of the Labour Party?

More praise for Lewisham East MP’s leadership credentials

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It was the barnstorming moment talked about after the hubbub of Prime Minister’s Questions had died down yesterday.

Theresa May seems to spend a lot of time on the back foot the back foot these days and yesterday it was the Lewisham East MP who put her most on the defensive. Alexander accused the Prime Minister of “ramping up the no-deal rhetoric” over Brexit because she was “afraid of the most right-wing, rabid elements” in the Conservative Party.

“Do the British people not deserve better than a Prime Minister simply running scared?” the MP for Lewisham East asked.

The Prime Minister looked rattled and fumbled her dispatch papers while rising to respond (watch the whole exchange below).

It was enough for some of the lobby hacks to comment on the strength of Alexander’s chances of leading the Labour party.

“Said it before and I’ll say it again, Heidi Alexander would make a brilliant Labour leader,” said the Telegraph’s senior political correspondent, Kate McCann. The Sun’s political editor also agreed. “I’m not sure our support will be particularly helpful …”, McCann added shortly afterwards, in a wry acknowledgement of The Sun and Telegraph’s political leanings.

Alexander’s impressive performance may have prompted the remarks, but it’s not the first time they have been aired. The veteran Labour MP Frank Field mentioned it last year. “I give Heidi a head start in possessing the abilities needed [for leader],” he wrote. “I also think it shameful that Labour has yet to have a permanent, full-time woman leader while the Conservatives can boast of two female Prime Ministers.”

Another political correspondent cited a former Labour front-bencher saying “Heidi Alexander would make an excellent party leader. She has great warmth, charm and huge integrity”. Back in March, the editor of Labour Uncut, cited her as one of the frontrunners for leadership.

“Only Heidi Alexander could be reasonably confident of making the ballot even if rivals were busy hoovering up nominations.”

“Her personal standing within the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and soft left political positioning make her an archetypal unity candidate.”

This was, of course, before the Conservative Party’s disastrous showing in the June 8 election boosted the morale and standing of the current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And that’s a quarter where Alexander – who has never publicly expressed leadership ambitions – is unlikely to find much backing. Supporters of Corbyn, whom Alexander served as shadow health secretary, are unlikely to forgive or forget her blunt resignation in June 2015.

So that leadership may not be up for grabs for a while. But Alexander, a vociferous opponent of Brexit who has been re-elected twice to Lewisham East with a commanding majority, looks likely to be at least in the running when it does.

Damien Egan confirmed as new (Labour candidate for) Lewisham mayor

Unless local voting patterns shift more dramatically than even the most ambitious Kremlin-sponsored election tinkerers could imagine, the future mayor of Lewisham became clear earlier today – decided by a fraction more than 1 per cent of the total registered voters in the borough.

Members of the Lewisham Labour Party comfortably voted to put forward Damien Egan, currently the council’s cabinet member for Housing, as the party’s candidate for the mayoral election next May, which will run simultaneously to the local council elections. His nearest rival was Paul Bell, a councillor for Telegraph Hill and a Jeremy Corbyn supporter whose candidacy was endorsed by the local Momentum movement.

In the final run-off, after other lower-scoring candidates had been eliminated and their second preferences transferred, Egan registered 1,434 voters in his favour, compared to 911 for Bell. Such is the dominance of the Labour Party in Lewisham at the moment, that bookmakers – if they paid much attention to local politics – would probably refuse to take bets on the outcome of the mayoral election in 2018. Continue reading “Damien Egan confirmed as new (Labour candidate for) Lewisham mayor”

Guardian publishes obituary for former Lewisham North MP

This may interest politics watchers and Lewisham residents with a long memory. The Guardian has carried an obituary for Roland Moyle, who became the Labour MP for the now defunct constituency of Lewisham North in 1966.

Moyle, who passed away in July aged 89, was a minister of state for Northern Ireland under Harold Wilson and a minister of state for the Department of Health under James Callaghan.

He worked as a Member of Parliament for the area for 17 years. After serving as a Greenwich councillor, he defeated Chris Chataway, the former athlete and then Conservative MP for Lewisham North MP in the general election of 1966, and was ousted by Colin Moynihan for the then new (or rather newly reformed) constituency of Lewisham East in 1983.

He took his cue to go into politics from his father, Arthur Moyle, who worked as the private parliamentary secretary to Clement Attlee.

Read the full Roland Moyle obituary here.

Which Lewisham councillors miss two thirds of their meetings?

Snap election blamed for decline in attendance

A third of all Lewisham councillors missed more than one in every four of their scheduled council meetings, recent figures show.

Of Lewisham’s 54 councillors, 18 of them were present at less than 75 per cent of their meetings from November last year until the end of last month.

The worst attendance was jointly held by Downham ward’s David Britton, who defected from the Conservative Party to the Labour Party in 2012, and Roy Kennedy, a councillor for Crofton Park, who also serves as Lord Kennedy of Southwark in the House of Lords. Both attended only one in every three of their scheduled meetings. Neither responded to emails from Lewisham Lately.  (Update 16.09.17: a resident of Mr Britton’s ward has informed me he has been away due to his wife suffering from terminal cancer). 

Continue reading “Which Lewisham councillors miss two thirds of their meetings?”

Booker Prize nominee wrote debut novel while living in borough of Lewisham

fionamozley
Former Honor Oak Park resident Fiona Mozley (Credit: Hodder & Stoughton)
Will this help Lewisham’s bid to be London borough of culture?

Fiona Mozley, 29, just announced as one of the short-listed authors for this year’s Man Booker Prize, was living with five friends in Honor Oak Park when she wrote her debut novel.

She gained inspiration for the book, Elmet, when travelling on the train from York to London and she wrote the first chapter before pulling into King’s Cross. Much of it was written as she commuted between London and York. She kept its existence secret from her flatmates at the time.

Described by one reviewer as “a wonder to behold”, the book is up against five other novels, including Autumn by Ali Smith.

Although the setting for the novel is Yorkshire, it was fuelled in SE23, where Mozley was based while working as an intern at a literary agency a few years ago.

Now based in York, she described her life at the time of the book’s inception in an interview with the Evening Standard in July when the longlist was announced:

“I was finding London life difficult – the strain of the capital was taking hold.

“I was living for the next pay cheque and at a loose end. I didn’t know what career I was going to have or where I was going to live in the next year.”

“I feel no one can say anything these days without bringing up politics, but this book does touch on a community left behind.

“It’s no coincidence that I started the book when living in London.”
The winner of the prize will be announced on October 17.

Lewisham Council rapped by Ombudsman for not consulting mother of autistic boys

Mother was not allowed any kind of input into care review of her two sons

Lewisham Council failed to consult the mother of two autistic brothers properly when cutting their care plan, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

Both of the boys have autism and other special educational needs. Their care package included seven hours a week short break payments and 24 nights a year respite accommodation.

Both care packages were reduced on review – including the removal of the respite accommodation for the younger boy – without the mother having the chance to comment.

After she complained, the council took several months to respond properly, the ombudsman Michael King found. Continue reading “Lewisham Council rapped by Ombudsman for not consulting mother of autistic boys”

Suttons Radio silence… for the time being

When will much anticipated new watering hole crackle into life?

Suttons Radio on Lewisham High Street
On Lewisham High Street you can just make out the outline of the old Suttons Radio shop front

The launch party invites were being prepared back in June. The site, flanked by a betting shop and Poundworld on a busy stretch of Lewisham High Street, was a hive of activity.

And anticipation was rising for the latest South-east London branch of the Antic pub empire, at least in the Lewisham Lately household.

Farewell old Antic favourite at the Ravensbourne Arms, greetings new watering hole in temptingly easy-to-reach location.

And since then… pretty much nothing from Suttons Radio, so named for the preserved old shop signage unveiled when workers began stripping back the late, unlamented Market Tavern. Continue reading “Suttons Radio silence… for the time being”