Category: politics

Your general election candidates for Greenwich & Woolwich are…

Greenwich & Woolwich's candidates (clockwise): Ryan Acty (Ukip), Abbey Akinoshun (Green), Lynne Chamberlain (TUSC), Matt Pennycook (Labour), Tom Holder (Lib Dems), Matt Hartley (Conservative)

Greenwich & Woolwich’s candidates (clockwise): Ryan Acty (Ukip), Abbey Akinoshun (Green), Lynne Chamberlain (TUSC), Matt Pennycook (Labour), Tom Holder (Lib Dems), Matt Hartley (Conservative)

This website likes to rage against cynicism, and wants you to know that you really can make a difference if you get off your backside and do something.

Let’s be honest, though, under first-past-the-post, having to sit through a general election in a safe inner London seat feels a bit like being a hungry vegetarian being led through the world’s biggest meat-eating festival.

But you still have a role to play. You can give the winner a stonking mandate, or cheek them or their party by endorsing someone else. Hey, you could even save someone the humiliation of losing a £500 deposit. And if all else fails, there are many ways you can spoil a ballot paper – just don’t let your scrawlings look like they endorse anyone.

It shouldn’t be a spectator sport. Nominations closed today, and the candidates for Greenwich & Woolwich – an illogical north-west slab of Greenwich borough stretching out to Plumstead Common and the edges of Thamesmead, but missing out on bits of Charlton and Blackheath, have been announced.

Labour incumbent Nick Raynsford has stood down, so there’s a new cast of figures up for election. This is, of course, safe Labour territory – the Tories haven’t won around here since World War II – but both the old Greenwich and Woolwich seats went to the SDP during the 1980s (incumbent Woolwich MP and former Greenwich Council leader John Cartwright defected in 1981; Rosie Barnes won Greenwich in a hugely-publicised by-election in 1987) and held on until 1992, after their party had vanished.

The race for second

The winner may not be a shock. A good night for Labour will be getting more than 50% of the vote – Nick Raynsford bagged 49.2% of the vote in both 2005 and 2010. The champagne will be out if it tops 60%, as happened in 1997 and 2001.

But the fight for second is going to be interesting. Traditionally, the Liberal Democrats and Tories have shared the spoils for second. With a Lib Dem slump and a much-trailed Green surge – the party performed solidly in 2014’s council election – the runner-up spot is going to be the one to watch. Ukip can’t be ruled out either, buoyed by media “impartiality” rules that mean they are getting coverage out of proportion to their usual vote in inner London.

In alphabetical order, here’s who’s standing…

  • Ryan Acty (Ukip) Former Conservative activist and ex-soldier who lives in west Greenwich and came within 170 votes of beating Chris Roberts’ henchman Ray Walker in last year’s council election. Indeed, if the BNP hadn’t stood in Eltham West, he might have got in. But Greenwich & Woolwich is different territory, and the party only stood in selected wards here in 2010. Local campaigning seems limited so far. Solid third-placed votes in Charlton, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside suggest the hard-right party is poised for a respectable vote. Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
  • Abbey Akinoshun (Green) As in many inner London seats, the local Greens fancy their chances at becoming Labour’s main challengers. They posted fairly healthy votes in the wards that make up Greenwich & Woolwich in 2014, coming an admittedly distant second in six out of seven wards (while bagging over 1,000 votes in the seventh). Not having the mandated media coverage that Ukip has may be a handicap. Abbey Akinoshun stood against the Greens in 2010, running as an independent in Erith & Thamesmead. But the local party are proud of their Abbey Wood-based candidate, describing him as “hugely charismatic”. This could be a pivotal poll for them if they play their cards right. Will they? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
  • Lynne Chamberlain (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition) No relation to the author of this website, the Plumstead-based Greenwich Community College lecturer led her party to fourth place in Glyndon ward last year, notching up 359 votes. Success will be getting the anti-austerity message a wider hearing. Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
  • Matt Pennycook (Labour) The former Greenwich West councillor, who lives in Deptford, has played a smart game since being named as Labour’s candidate in 2013, quietly acknowledging the local party’s problems without putting too many noses out of joint. Detractors brand him an “empty suit”, but he has set out positions that put clear red-ish water between predecessor Nick Raynsford (no directorships if elected) and the council of which he was a part (speaking out on both Greenwich Peninsula redevelopment and the Silvertown Tunnel, and the living wage while Chris Roberts was in charge of the council). He’s bound to go far – but how much of a lift-off will Greenwich & Woolwich voters give him? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.
  • Tom Holder (Liberal Democrat) The Lib Dems’ truly awful performance in 2014’s council elections suggest things aren’t looking good for Tom Holder, a science communications professional who lives in Rotherhithe. This has traditionally been a difficult area for the Lib Dems – a legacy of local activists staying in the SDP in the 1980s – and the party has struggled to find a local candidate this time around. Success will be 5% of the vote, retaining his deposit – last year’s vote points to about 6%. Can he improve on that? Social media: Twitter.
  • Matt Hartley (Conservative) An impressive performer in the Greenwich Council chamber, Matt Hartley – who lives in Blackheath, just a few metres outside the constituency – has continued the Greenwich Tories’ tactic of tacking to the left of Greenwich’s right-leaning council leadership on key issues (except on the Silvertown Tunnel, where he is even helping a pro-tunnel MP in Essex). His consumer campaign on shambolic rail firm Southeastern has also caused a stir – although only the truly dedicated would have swallowed its “rail minister listens to Greenwich concerns” finale. Tipped to lead the local Tories in the future, is this a dry run for a winnable seat at the next election? Social media: Facebook, Twitter.

Meet and quiz the candidates

You can quiz the candidates at hustings across the constituency over the next few weeks. All of these are open to the public, although questions may reflect the priorities of the organisation running the hustings.

Wednesday 15 April, 7.30pm, at Mycenae House, Blackheath (Blackheath and Greenwich United Nations Association).
Friday 17 April, 6:30pm, Greenwich West Community Centre (organised by Breast Cancer Care – register for free ticket).
Sunday 19 April, 11.30am, Greenwich Dance Agency, Royal Hill (Christian Life Fellowship).
Wednesday 22 April, 1pm, Greenwich Community College Plumstead campus.
Thursday 23 April, 7.30pm, Christ Church East Greenwich (local Church of England).
Saturday 25 April, 2.30pm, Charlton Assembly Rooms (Charlton Society).
Tuesday 28 April, 6.30pm, Forum at Greenwich (Greenwich NUT).
Wednesday 29 April, 6pm, Forum at Greenwich (Greenwich Association of Disabled People).

Mycenae House is also holding an “alternative hustings for those fed up with politics as usual” called We The People, which will be on Tuesday 14 April at 7.30pm.

Not had a polling card yet?

If you’re not sure if you’re on the register, contact Greenwich Council’s electoral services to check.  You can now register online at gov.uk/register-to-vote. The deadline is 20 April.

Isn’t there a council by-election?

Yes, but only if you live in Greenwich West ward. I wrote about front-runner Mehboob Khan – tipped as a future council leader – last month. Candidates: Paul Butler (Ukip), Christina Charles (Independent), Sonia Dunlop (Liberal Democrat), Sara Kasab (TUSC), Mehboob Khan (Labour), Robin Stott (Green), Thomas Turrell (Conservative).

What’s happening elsewhere?

Eltham used to be a marginal Labour/Tory seat, but the rise of Ukip looks to have put paid to serious Conservative hopes here – bad news for Spencer Drury, the affable opposition leader on Greenwich Council. Earlier this year, the party managed to accidentally leak that Eltham had become a “non-target” seat – a contrast to five years ago, when “A-lister” David Gold came into contest the seat. Expect Clive Efford to romp home for Labour – and don’t be surprised if Ukip’s Peter Whittle, another ex-Tory, comes second. Candidates: Alex Cunliffe (Lib Dem), Spencer Drury (Conservative), Clive Efford (Labour), James Parker (Green), Peter Whittle (Ukip).

Erith & Thamesmead: Labour’s Teresa Pearce should hold onto a seat that combines the north-east of Greenwich borough with Bexley’s strongest Labour area. Again, expect a strong Ukip vote to dent Tory hopes – Abbey Wood was the party’s other high point in last year’s council election. There’s a party leader standing: Sid Cordle of the Christian People’s Alliance. Candidates: Sid Cordle (Christian People’s Alliance), Anna Firth (Conservative), Ann Garrett (Green), Simon Waddington (Lib Dem), Ronie Johnson (Ukip), Graham Moore (English Democrats), Teresa Pearce (Labour).

Lewisham East‘s Labour MP Heidi Alexander is pretty much guaranteed sainthood, never mind a place in Parliament, for campaigning prominently to save Lewisham Hospital. It’ll be interesting to see where the formerly strong Liberal Democrat vote goes here. Ukip candidate Anne Marie Waters has been accused of linking Islam with child abuse, leading to her being disowned by an anti-Sharia law group she used to work with. Candidates: Heidi Alexander (Labour), Julia Fletcher (Lib Dem), Peter Fortune (Conservative), Nick Long (People Before Profit), Maureen Martin (Christian People’s Alliance), Störm Poorun (Green), Anne Marie Waters (Ukip).

Lewisham, Deptford: Pretty much a foregone conclusion, with former councillor Vicky Foxcroft poised to take the Labour mantle from retiring MP Dame Joan Ruddock. As in Lewisham East, People Before Profit are worth watching here, as the spiky left-wing group make their debut in a Lewisham parliamentary election. Candidates: Bim Afolami (Conservative), Phillip Badger (Democratic Reform Party), Michael Bukola (Lib Dem), John Coughlin (Green), Massimo Dimambro (Ukip), Chris Flood (TUSC), Vicky Foxcroft (Labour), David Harvey (independent), Malcolm Martin (Christian People’s Alliance), Helen Mercer (People Before Profit).

Huddersfield’s ‘Twitter king’ Khan set for Greenwich Council seat

Mehboob Khan's Twitter feed

A former leader of a Yorkshire council has been selected by Labour activists to fight a by-election caused by the resignation of Matt Pennycook, who left Greenwich Council last week to concentrate on the general election.

Mehboob Khan, who led Kirklees Council until last year, will contest Greenwich West on 7 May, the same day Pennycook hopes to be elected MP for Greenwich & Woolwich.

Khan quit his post as council leader last year when he moved to the capital to take up a job as political advisor at the Local Government Association.

But despite living in Deptford’s Millennium Quay, he remained a councillor for Huddersfield’s Greenhead ward. He revealed his decision to leave last Monday – the same day Pennycook announced his resignation.

Khan was lauded as the “Twitter king” of Yorkshire politics last year by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner for having more followers than other council leaders.

But his adventures on social media in London haven’t always been such a hit – getting criticised last year for amending someone’s tweet praising the Tall Ships Festival so it namechecked Greenwich leader Denise Hyland.

He may also want to amend his Twitter handle – while he is still listed as a Kirklees councillor, continuing to use @cllrMehboobKhan could get him in hot water in London. (9.55am update: After initially changing it to the arguably-presumptuous @MehboobKhanRBG, then @MehboobKhan99, it’s now @MKhanGreenwich.)  

Labour romped home at the last election and he’ll be the runaway favourite to win. But opponents eyeing an upset will include Conservative campaigner Thomas Turrell and Green Party stalwart Robin Stott.

It’s also understood that left-wing group People Before Profit, best-known for strong performances in Lewisham Council elections, are considering fielding a candidate, which would be their first on the Greenwich side of the border.

Friday update: The Liberal Democrats have chosen Sonia Dunlop to contest the seat.

Berkeley Homes and Boris Johnson’s £500 ceremonial trowel

Back page of Meridian magazine, September 2014 edition
There’s an interesting feature in this week’s Economist about Berkeley Homes, the developer which had a great influence on Greenwich Council during the Chris Roberts years.

It’s not just interesting because it features “a local blogger” commenting on the former Dear Leader, who’s still in close contact with the council leadership, and his ownership of a Berkeley home on the Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich. It also features the revelation that Boris Johnson was given a £500 ceremonial trowel by Berkeley’s chairman, Tony Pidgeley, last summer. (He was also given a glass paperweight in October.) Johnson is, of course, responsible for strategic planning approval for developments such as the Arsenal (which is GLA land) and Kidbrooke Village. (Mind you, at least you can find Johnson’s gifts and hospitality on the City Hall website – try having a look for the equivalent on the Greenwich site.)

It’s not just Berkeley, it’s not just Greenwich, it’s not just Boris Johnson. Developers’ demands are weighing heavily on many London boroughs, but some are more eager to be associated with them than others. And Berkeley’s particularly good at gaining influence, especially as Pidgeley is also president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (chair: Chris Roberts’ friend Mark Adams) which has been pushing heavily for the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach Bridge. Indeed, this written answer from Johnson to London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon acknowledges the link between Berkeley and the LCCI.

Next month’s tall ships boondoggle will also feature another example of a developer wielding financial power – Barratt Homes, which is currently letting historic Enderby House rot away, is sponsoring the event and has its name on banners in Greenwich town centre. “Festival supporters” include Berkeley, Cathedral Group (Silvertown Tunnel supporter and Morden Wharf developer) and Knight Dragon (Greenwich Peninsula developer). Lots of lovely hospitality, no doubt.

It’s not just on tall ships where developers and councillors can get together. Earlier this summer Cathedral’s chief executive Richard Upton popped up at the unveiling of a tree dedicated to Vice Admiral Hardy at Devonport House, Greenwich, alongside Greenwich leader Denise Hyland and Lewisham’s deputy mayor Alan Smith. Cathedral owns Devonport House, alongside the Movement development by Greenwich station and the Deptford Project across the borough boundary. Naturally, it got a warm write-up in Greenwich Time.

So it’s worth keeping an eye on little things like this. As developers become more powerful, and with councils often unable to build their own housing, do we have representatives that can resist these charm offensives and fight for a good deal for us all?

Incidentally, the picture above is that of an ad for the latest phase of the Royal Arsenal – effectively, the flats that’ll pay for Berkeley’s contribution to the Crossrail station there. Note the little back-scratch for the mayor in the shape of a New Routemaster cruising along Beresford Street – in reality, it’s highly unlikely that the Roastmaster will ever make it to SE18.

Lib Dems endanger Lewisham Hospital – and themselves


Lewisham Hospital is back in the firing line after parliament voted last night to give the health secretary powers to close local hospitals – a clause inserted after Jeremy Hunt’s failure to close Lewisham Hospital.

Despite talk of concessions, there’ll now be renewed worries for the future of Lewisham, which now forms a joint NHS trust with Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich.

The bill was voted through with support from Liberal Democrat MPs, including Southwark & Bermondsey’s Simon Hughes – a slap in the face for local Lib Dems in south-east London who joined in the battle to save Lewisham Hospital (Lewisham Lib Dem leader Chris Maines is pictured above).

Beckenham’s Conservative MP Bob Stewart was among those who joined Labour MPs and rebelled against the government.

While the Lib Dems were never likely to win seats in Greenwich, they form the opposition on Lewisham Council – and last night’s vote, which comes ahead of elections in May, surely now increases the possibility that they’ll be completely wiped out in nine weeks’ time.

In fact, I’d like to know what the odds are on Labour winning every seat on Lewisham Council. While that result will delight local Labour activists, who see the Lib Dems as worse than dirt, a lack of opposition could prove dangerous in the long run – they don’t have to look far to see what can go wrong when councils are dominated by one party.

So the Lib Dem MPs could have put a lot more than healthcare at risk in SE London last night. If I was one of their council candidates, then this morning I’d seriously be wondering why I was bothering.

Matt’s the man: Pennycook picked by Greenwich Labour

Breaking news: Greenwich West councillor Matt Pennycook has been selected as Labour’s candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich at the next general election, after a meeting of local members at the Woolwich Grand Theatre.

The vote followed a hustings featuring Pennycook and his five rivals for the position – Len Duvall, Annie Keys, Kathy Peach, David Prescott and Angela Cornforth.

Pennycook’s selection to succeed Nick Raynsford in the safe Labour seat is likely to have ramifications in Greenwich Council, where he had been tipped by some to be a future leader.

He may now choose to stand down from the council at May’s election, where he has already been re-selected as a candidate for Greenwich West. There’s nothing stopping him staying on for a year (or even being a councillor and an MP), although he may wish to avoid the cost of a council election to follow a general election.

This would open up another vacant Labour seat. With two of leader Chris Roberts’ allies having been forced out of their seats earlier this year, the stage is set for a battle between those who back the embattled leader and others who want to see the council take a new direction.

With Roberts widely thought to be reconsidering his decision to step down at the next election, who gets picked for these seats could be crucial for the future of the council.

Pat Boadu-Darko has stepped down in Eltham North for personal reasons, while it’s also believed there’s a space in Blackheath Westcombe after Simon Thomson was selected for Dartford at the general election.

Kidbrooke with Hornfair has selected Christine Grice to replace Hayley Fletcher, who resigned her nomination citing the “culture of bullying”.

2.30pm update: According to Labour’s council candidate for Shooters Hill, Chris Kirby, the 2015 general election has just been cancelled in Greenwich and Woolwich.

Chris Kirby's tweet

2.45pm update: And this bloke:

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Heaven forbid that any of the rest of us get a say…

7.30pm update: And there’s not really else to add. A curious fact: Matt Pennycook was the first man to be selected for Labour for the next election in a seat where an MP is retiring – all the others have been all-female shortlists.

I’ve been told but can’t confirm that it was a closer battle than some expected, with the gap between Matt Pennycook and Len Duvall being as close as 30 votes (out of about 500), with David Prescott coming third.

Questions put to candidates included: “How would you reconcile the need for jobs and transport improvements locally with the global imperative to reduce carbon emissions?” Tellingly for Greenwich Council’s claims of mass support, when it came to the Silvertown Tunnel, only Angela Cornforth was outright in her support for it.

So now it’s all over. Congratulations to Matt Pennycook – hopefully he’ll both champion the people of Greenwich & Woolwich (and points around and in between) and be a much-needed force for good in his own party and beyond. Good luck to him.

And as for Labour party members…

Will breakfast boy Matt rise and shine as Labour’s winner?

It’s the biggest political battle Greenwich or Woolwich has seen for a generation, and it ends tomorrow. The winner will get the keys to a safe seat in Parliament and the chance to develop a career which could peak in one of the nation’s highest offices. The others are already working out their excuses.

But only 700 or so people will get a say, while the other 66,000 haven’t even been told the identities of the six candidates battling it out. Those local Labour members have had their doors knocked upon, their phones rung and their emails clogged by candidates in a way that those of normal civilians who live in a rock-solid safe seat can only wonder at. Welcome to the contest to be Labour’s candidate for the Greenwich & Woolwich parliamentary constituency.

The six shortlisted candidates who want to succeed Nick Raynsford were decided nearly three weeks ago, but no public announcement was ever made. Labour Party modernisers use this as an example to talk about primaries involving the public – but this is a world away from all that.

Labour's candidates for Greenwich and Woolwich

The shortlist is current borough mayor Angela Cornforth, London Assembly member Len Duvall, former councillor Annie Keys, charity professional Kathy Peach, Greenwich West councillor Matt Pennycook and public relations director David Prescott.

Pennycook remains the man to beat, with a well-funded and carefully-orchestrated campaign, with Duvall supporters still hopeful their candidate can mount a late surge to success. Peach and Keys appear to be leading the outsiders and can’t be written off yet. Neither can David Prescott, with heavyweight backing.

It’s been a bitter campaign, too. It’s pitted Greenwich versus Woolwich and the young and ambitious against the party old guard. Most of the barbs seem to be flying towards Pennycook, a senior research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The allegations of bullying in Greenwich Council’s leadership haven’t helped either. While council leader Chris Roberts is largely disliked within the wider Greenwich & Woolwich party, broaching the subject of his behaviour acknowledges there’s a problem. Particularly when the council your party runs refuses to investigate him, even though everyone else can smell the problem. Because ignoring it looks even worse.

Candidates and supporters were told to keep their rows off the internet after pointed criticisms of Matt Pennycook were made in the comments section of this website.

This was followed by a minor Twitter spat over his refusal to discuss in a council meeting comments he’d made about “the decades-old culture of machine politics in Greenwich”.

Critics both outside and inside the party charge Pennycook with hypocrisy – and some claim he’s done a deal with Roberts, which he’s denied, although Roberts is believed to be backing him (some say to get a potential council leadership rival out of the race, with Roberts reconsidering his pledge to stand down). But any member of a group of Labour councillors which has failed to deal with bullying in its ranks will hit trouble on the subject.

Kevin BonaviaEven a councillor outside Greenwich got into bother. Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia (pictured right), who didn’t make the shortlist but knows the toxic politics of Greenwich Labour well enough, tweeted that the “old-style culture in Greenwich must change”.

For his honesty, he found Greenwich councillors demanding he be disciplined by the Lewisham party for his comments. Lewisham Labour councillors, who worry about the stench coming from across this side of the border, quite rightly, told their embarrassing neighbours where to stick it.

Indeed, in this race, being a Greenwich councillor has been, unusally, a disadvantage. While Pennycook’s proud of his efforts to turn Greenwich into a living wage borough, the council’s PR department has been silent on the matter – allowing the local Tories to pitch to the left of Labour on the issue.

Kathy Peach, who’s run a lively and thought-provoking campaign, managed to get two birds with one stone when emailing local members about an event last week. First, she made a dig at an event Pennycook held with the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, then nailed the council’s lack of interest in the borough’s high streets.

Cosy chit-chats with Guardian contributors are pleasant enough, but won’t change anything in the real world.

For a glimpse of reality, head out from Woolwich Grand Theatre, look around General Gordon Square, and walk down Powis Street: once diverse community spaces that I remember from my childhood, but now lined with betting shops. Indeed Woolwich is home to 9 betting shops in total – nearly a third of the constituency’s 30 betting shops – all within a few hundred metres of each other.

Payday lenders, fast food takeaways and betting shops have proliferated all over our constituency. How did a council that won ‘council of the year’ for its regeneration efforts fail to stem this slow demise of our high streets – the social and commercial lifeblood of our constituency?

How, indeed. For the record, Polly Toynbee has told this website she is not endorsing any candidate in the selection.

But relentless campaigning – and funding from the Unite and GMB unions – has helped Matt. This week, rivals have been crying foul that he’s offering to buy breakfast for party members on Saturday morning, ahead of the final hustings and vote.

Matt Pennycook campaign website

In a public election, “treating” – buying food, drink or entertainment to influence voters – is frowned upon, and can be illegal. But there isn’t the same provision in Labour’s rulebook, so members can dine out on Pennycook’s campaign on Saturday morning.

Supporters of rival candidates are seething – but there’s little they can do. As a current councillor yet still a relatively face, Pennycook can pitch himself as both an insurgent and a member of the establishment. Critics sneer that he’s an “empty suit” – but in an area when the party has struggled to adapt to 21st century communications, his promise of change has won people over.

He’ll be a loss to the council, where he could have proved himself as a leader and shaken up an ageing, out-of-touch authority. Perhaps if Nick Raynsford had held on for another term, this might have happened. But when you’ve the chance to appear on a bigger stage, why would you turn it down?

Len Duvall is pitching himself as the “unity” candidate, and his backers point to a track record of getting things done, including standing up to Roberts and the council he once led. This should have been his to lose. It could still be – he’s best placed to stop the Pennycook juggernaut.

He’s very much the favourite of the anti-Roberts councillors and activists in Greenwich – who remember a better-run council under his control – and is particularly strong in the Woolwich area.

Quentin Marsh and Debbie Smith, Labour leaflet 2010But Duvall does represent the party’s old guard – this campaign should have been his to lose – indeed, his campaign is being run by Quentin Marsh, who ran Greenwich Council 25 years ago. In 2010, former councillor Marsh posed as an ordinary voter on a Labour leaflet imploring electors to back the party’s candidates in Charlton in Charlton. This isn’t forward to a shiny new future.

All this said though, Duvall’s well liked and much respected, can still definitely mount a late surge. Don’t write him off yet. As his supporters say, at least the old guard knew how to get things done.

Annie Keys and Kathy Peach will be pinning their hopes on squeezing through on second choices. Both mounted community-focused campaigns, with Keys coming out against the Silvertown Tunnel and Peach declaring herself sceptical. (Duvall is believed to be for the crossing, while Pennycook has not stated a view either way.)

Charlton-based Keys is popular in both the Greenwich and Woolwich parts of the constituency, while Peach has played up her Woolwich roots. There are many who wish this had been an all-woman selection to force a clean break from the area’s political past of bickering blokes not achieving very much – for generally, when Labour members get a choice of both genders, they tend to go for the man.

They’ll be competing for the votes of those who wish for a Stella Creasy or Heidi Alexander-style MP. Both have worked to emulate those community-rooted values. Neither can be written off just yet – those second choices could see either of them go well, particularly Keys, who has a strong network of local contacts. (Declaration of interest: I’m a trustee of a charity Annie set up to run an under-fives’ club in Charlton.)

David Prescott has homed in on problems with property developers in the area – the kind of issue you won’t read in Greenwich Time, and a brave one to raise when your own Labour council is in bed with those same developers. He’s also been talking up renationalising the railways – more radical than his dad, former deputy prime minister John – managed in office. He’s got heavyweight national Labour backing – notably shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and likely London mayoral hopeful Lord Adonis – and union backing too. Will this be enough to see him through?

Finally, the most perplexing candidate is Angela Cornforth – a Roberts ally said to be in the race solely to draw votes away from Keys and Peach. Earlier this year she stood for an area committee on the Co-op, claiming that “Greenwich councillors are taking the first steps to prepare for co-operative council status – which brought hollow laughter from those connected with the council that I’ve asked.

Most recently, Cornforth has been the subject of controversy for twice intervening in council meetings on matters that would embarrass Chris Roberts – even writing to the News Shopper to defend herself. Indeed, Greenwich Council’s weekly propaganda newspaper even misled the public about her inauguration, pretending it was at Woolwich Town Hall and not at a lavish ceremony at the old Royal Naval College. She’s as much chance of being the next MP as I have of scoring the winner at The Valley on Saturday.

So those are the candidates, and if you live in the Greenwich & Woolwich constituency, one of the six above is almost certain to be your next MP after 2015. There have been concerns raised about the amount of union money sloshing around the campaign – the days when a bright young upstart could reach the top through grit and hard work alone have gone. Such is modern politics.

Will this bad feeling be forgotten after Saturday’s selection? The winning candidate will need a lot of support in the months ahead if he or she is to take a leading role cleaning up the practices and reputation of the Labour party in Greenwich.

But with victory in the bag, will the winner really want to? We shall wait and see.

Greenwich Tory mauls Mail over Ed Miliband hatchet job

While Greenwich Labour is still not acting over its bullying council leader, the party’s national leader Ed Miliband is having abusive problems of his own, having to endure remarkably below-the-belt tirades of abuse about his late father from the Daily Mail.

Daily Mail, 1 October 2013That’s Ralph Miliband, who fought the Nazis in World War II, being criticised by the Daily Mail, which supported the Nazis in the 1930s.

What’s with the sudden diversion into national issues? Well, today, Greenwich Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher got a mailshot from the Mail inviting him to advertise his business on Mail Online. Nigel’s day job is running a think-tank called the Centre For Opposition Studies, studying the art and influence of those who aspire to the top job, but haven’t quite made it. An apt choice for a Tory in Greenwich borough, many would say.

The Eltham North councillor shared his response on Twitter, and I thought it worth sharing here.

Nigel Fletcher's email to the Mail

Good on you, Nigel. Now, how about a word with Jeremy Hunt?