It’s been a week of working from home. Not because Parliament is in recess, but
because of a torn ligament in my knee. Very frustrating. I have had to cancel events.
But being cooped up at home has had its advantages, and we have managed to
register a glorious and quite unexpected victory! But please read on…
Being out of action has meant I have been able to plough through the Investigatory Powers Bill in detail. I am leading for Labour as the Bill Committee goes through the provisions clause by clause starting next week.
But on Wednesday evening Vic kindly drove me to a meeting at Brookfield School on the fate of the much-loved Health café run by Alberto D’Auria at Parliament Hill.
It was packed. More than 250 people crammed into the hall: some had to stand outside. The campaign to save the café had won overwhelming local support. A petition had been signed by 24,000.
The issue was simple: the City of London Corporation had issued tenders for the cafes that it runs in several parks and open spaces (including the Heath).The process had been entirely above board and the Heath café was to be awarded to Benugo.
But there had been one missing step: there had been no local consultation. When this became public there was real anger. As many said at the meeting: we have grown up in that café! It serves food our families love at prices we can afford.
When Alfonso got up and asked: ‘who likes our pasta?’ a huge cheer went up.
It was left to Virginia Rounding, chair of the Corporation’s management committee to try to explain just what had taken place. It was good of her to come to an obviously hostile meeting – especially as she soon made clear she had favoured re-tendering, but had lost the vote in the committee!
As this all became clear I appealed to her to halt the awarding of the contract. ‘It is possible to go to your solicitors and tell them to halt the process for the time being. There is time to send an email; tonight or tomorrow and tell them to halt everything until further instructions.’
Tom Conti perhaps summed up the mood when he asked, rhetorically, how the Corporation felt about ruining a local business that has served the community so well, over so many years.
The meeting – robust, but excellently chaired by Sally – was clearly in favour of a change of direction and Sue Ireland, the senior civil servant said she had listened and would reflect on what had been said. On Thursday morning I myself phoned the Chief Executive, of the City of London Corp, John Barradell. We had a frank and constructive discussion and he indicated that he was considering the position and would revert to me that afternoon. Later that day, he called me to say that Benugo was pulling out of the process, the tenders would be re-run and local concerns would be listened to.
A famous victory for people power!
Campaigning for Sadiq
While all this has been going on, the local Labour Party has been knocking on doors. The mayoral campaign is well under way – not just in Camden, but in Islington too.
Here are two teams, who bumped into each other on Brecknock road - the boundary of our two constituencies!
You may see that Mike’s pet, Maisie was out with us, enjoying the early spring sunshine. She was not the only younger supporter. Stanley kindly was helping us deliver leaflets! Thanks to everyone for their help.