Happy new year. Sorry, back to the cable car again.
If you use public transport in London, 2016 opened with a fare rise – and that included the Emirates Air Line, which slapped 10p on an adult single trip. The annual round of fare rises also kicked off campaigning for May’s mayoral election, with the Greens’ Sian Berry demanding London’s fare zones be axed (Woolwich residents fuming at being stuck in zone 4 take note) and Labour’s Sadiq Khan pushing his plan to freeze fares.
Khan told the Evening Standard he would fund the £450m freeze by scrapping Boris Johnson’s “vanity projects”, with our very own cable car in the firing line.
“I’ll start by ending any further public funding for the Emirates cable car as soon as the contract allows — if that means it closes, then so be it,” he said. “It has been a disastrous waste of money and costs more than £5 million a year to run.”
This is cobblers. The cable car’s operating costs are certainly about £5m – but its popularity as a tourist attraction means it’s making a sum quite near that back in fares. This is a bit like Khan demanding the 177 bus is scrapped because it costs £4.6m each year to run – he’s ignoring what it makes back in revenue.
Indeed, I’m indebted to Mayorwatch’s Martin Hoscik for chasing up the figures with TfL – the accounts show it makes a surplus.
An analysis of Transport for London’s audited accounts show that, instead of receiving a “subsidy”, the scheme’s fare revenue met or exceeded operating costs in each of the last three financial years.
In its first nine months of operation, the period covered by TfL’s 2012/13 accounts, just under two million passengers were carried, generating fares revenue of £6m.
During 2013/14 passengers numbers, which were boosted the previous year by the scheme’s novelty and London’s hosting of the Olympics, fell to 1.5 million passengers with fare revenue of £5m.
Passenger numbers remained flat in 2014/15 at 1.5 million but revenue increased from £5 million to £6 million.
We know that operating costs have fallen – which is why a story last summer that the cable car was losing money fell apart. Transport Commissioner Mike Brown’s most recent report to the TfL board said the Emirates Air Line has made a £1m surplus since it opened.
This doesn’t suddenly make the cable car a brilliant idea – user numbers have pretty much flatlined, and Boris Johnson’s stated aim of it paying its build costs (£16m (£60m minus £36m from Emirates and £8m from the EU)) looks like a tricky proposition.
It’s also certainly so far failed as both a commuter link and a generator of significant extra employment, both justifications used for building it.
But Khan was wrong to have highlighted the operating costs.
The big flaw in the cable car is that £16m that could have gone into, say, improving the botched bus infrastructure on the Greenwich Peninsula (where a pedestrian died yesterday morning) has instead gone into a tourist attraction that sits apart from the public transport system with incompatible fares.
Indeed, as Mayorwatch points out, the Emirates sponsorship contract ties TfL into operating it until 2021, by which time London could be on its fourth mayor. There is a break clause in 2017, but it’d be costly for TfL to break the contract and it would lose a big chunk of the Emirates sponsorship cash.
So the mayoral candidates are stuck with a tourist attraction that seems to just about tick over financially. It’s one to watch – maybe tinkering with fares could boost weekday usage – but with TfL losing all its government grant by 2019, there are bigger things to worry about, like protecting bus services.
Asked to comment on the scheme’s published finances, a spokesman for Mr Khan’s campaign said: “We’ll review it… and the likeliest option is it closing in 2021”.
But Sadiq Khan doesn’t know what the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula will be like in 2021, when the Emirates contract ends. Nor do any of us. I’m not sure whether there’ll be a significant commuter traffic (you’d need a lot of people living on the peninsula and working in the Royals, or vice versa) but there’s clear evidence of plenty of leisure traffic. Closing it would leave London one river crossing down – however flawed it may be, and may leave TfL recording an overall loss.
The mayor in 2021 could sell the cable car, which could guarantee an instant return); could cut opening hours (the current contract mandates opening up by 7am, when hardly anybody uses it); or could go the other way and integrate it into the public transport system (which could cost a bit but most public transport costs a bit).
Or the 2021 mayor could carry on as now, with a new sponsor contract, maybe wiping the build costs once and for all, and leave the issue for few years in the future.
The cable car is an intriguing problem for the next mayor – and how they react to it will tell you a lot about them. What we’ve learned about Sadiq Khan is that he needs some new advisors – fast.
The 29-year-old succeeds Spencer Drury, whose dry barbs at the council’s Labour leadership have become a feature of life at Woolwich Town Hall. Drury remains a councillor and will no doubt be looking to shore up the Tories’ position in his home ward of Eltham North, where the party’s vote was shredded by a Ukip surge last year, handing two seats to Labour.
Being Tory leader in a London Labour borough when Iain Duncan Smith has just been reappointed social security secretary isn’t the easiest of jobs, but it’s a fair old progression from just missing out in a council election in Warwick in 2007.
Hartley’s comments suggest he’ll continue with Drury’s task of holding the council to account rather than simply making party political jabs.
“With the threat of a Lewisham-style one party state always hanging over us, being Leader of the Opposition in Greenwich means more than leading the Conservative council group – but rather giving all residents with a differing view the voice and the say that they are so often denied by this Labour council. That’s exactly what I plan to do.”
It’s worth noting one skill that Hartley can use to help the Tories punch above their weight – his day job is in communications for a personal finance charity, giving him an ability to spot stories that perhaps the local party has missed in the past.
Labour’s satisfaction at seeing Matt Pennycook elected alongside Clive Efford and Teresa Pearce will have been tempered by the party’s failures nationally. It’ll be interesting to see where the battle over Greenwich Time goes now Greg Clark has replaced Eric Pickles as communities secretary. This week’s Greenwich Time might as well carry the headline “Up yours, Pickles”.
Humility in victory has never been the local party’s strong point – Clive Efford’s response to success was to criticise Conservative Spencer Drury for campaigning on the state of the borough’s war memorials. But there’s pause for thought if you look into the polling figures.
The strong votes for Ukip (8% in Greenwich & Woolwich, 15% in Eltham) should ring alarm bells – with the Tory votes up in both seats, it looks as if the hard right party has started to eat into the potential Labour vote.
Just as in the rest of England, how Labour communicates with white voters who feel left behind will be a question that needs addressing sooner rather than later. Engaging with campaigns such as the one for a memorial to Lee Rigby rather than simply ignoring them is key, I suspect.
(A few miles down the A2, it’s startling to discover from Alex Grant that Dartford, which tends to swing with the incoming government, was abandoned by the national party, which threw resources at ousting Lib Dems – potential coalition partners – instead. Madness.)
The Greenwich West ward by-election provides the strongest indication to the local party’s future – former Kirklees council leader Mehboob Khan topped the poll, and is strongly tipped as a future leader in Greenwich, too. Smart enough to steal the Greens’ clothes on the Divest Greenwich campaign, he was also generous enough to publicly commiserate with losing candidates – like I said, humilty’s rare in these parts. One to watch.Green gaffes, but did anyone notice?
The Greens can feel pleased with themselves after getting well over double their 2010 vote in Greenwich & Woolwich. Could their candidates have done better? It’s hard to say, but they certainly were weak links in a strong local party operation. I dealt with Greenwich & Woolwich’s Abbey Akinoshun’s no-shows at hustings, but his worst moment was tweeting a photo of himself carrying a “vote Green” slogan next to an appeal for the victims of the Nepal earthquake. It was quickly deleted. While some Labour councillors’ messages about Nepal certainly had the whiff of opportunism, this was just crassly stupid.
Worse was to come on polling day itself, when Eltham candidate James Parker, a magician from Folkestone, told the Guardian voters should pick Labour instead – a warning sign that perhaps could have been picked up after a tweet a couple of days beforehand saying he was suffering from a “crisis of conscience”. (The party says he was misquoted.)
Warning bells rang for others much earlier – I met Parker in the bar of Mycenae House, Blackheath after he was selected in January – the No to Silvertown Tunnel AGM coincided with a Green meeting upstairs.
I mentioned how pleased we were at our turnout, but he became very dismissive and suggested we should be addressing a meeting of thousands and the campaign should be linked to corporate greed, etc, etc. He later seemed to understand, but things got more awkward later when he was involved in an angry confrontation with former Green party member Trevor Allman.
But these incidents were only seen by a handful of obsessives who know the party too well, like me. Most people would have entered the polling booth blissfully unaware. Hopefully the recent surge in local Green membership will mean the Greenwich party will be able to grow and nurture its own candidates for future polls. Getting more actively involved in local grassroots campaigns will serve the party well as it looks to next year’s mayoral poll and beyond.
Is the worst over for the Lib Dems?
As for the Lib Dems, the national party didn’t even bother supplying the Greenwich & Woolwich candidate with a freepost leaflet to send out. That said, though, if you compare their result in the constituency (5.6%) with last year’s average council election score (6%), it’s arguable that they’ve bottomed out already, although whether they’ve the capability, capacity or desire to bounce back is another question. A period of national soul-searching will surely come first.
So, that’s the 2015 election done with. We’re next at the polls on 5 May 2016 to decide on Boris Johnson’s successor as mayor and London’s assembly members. I suspect it’ll be a tough year ahead…
So it’s congratulations to Matt Pennycook, who scored 24,384 votes – 52.2% of all cast, a little up on predecessor Nick Raynsford five years back. Pennycook was by far the most impressive candidate, neatly placing distance between the records of both Raynsford and the council of which he was a part. Good luck to him, and I’m looking forward to following his progress.
Congratulations too to Matt Hartley, who scored a very impressive 12,438 – at 26.6%, a record for the Tories since the seat was created in 1997. He also campaigned smartly – raising the state of Southeastern trains, for one. I suspect he’ll be feeling the happiest out of all the candidates today…
Ukip’s success will have raised eyebrows – Ryan Acty came third with 3,888 (8.3%), a similar result to other seats in south-east London.
If the Greens are downhearted at coming fourth, they really shouldn’t be. Abbey Akinoshun more than doubled their vote as they notched up 2,991 votes, a deposit-saving 6.4% – pretty good by London standards.
The Lib Dems performed in line with their council election results last year, with Tom Holder picking up 2,645 votes (5.7%) – just enough to hang onto his deposit.
TUSC’s Lynne Chamberlain rounded off the poll with just 370 votes – but will no doubt be pleased with having given her anti-austerity message a wide airing.
Sitting up all night watching the results doesn’t lead to wise and sharp analysis the following afternoon, but one very local issue deserves an airing.
One of the big jibes aimed at Matt Pennycook is that by being selected he was effectively getting himself a safe seat for life. Now the Conservatives have an overally majority, they’re in prime position to implement a bit of unfinished business from coalition days – boundary changes.
The Tories wanted to cut parliament down to 600 seats – in a proposal that would have given their chances a boost – and that meant London’s constitency map would have to be redrawn. This website featured the first proposals back in 2011.
Now there’s nothing stopping the Tories taking those revised plans out of the drawer – and they’re an odd bunch to say the least.
Pennycook’s hard-fought prize of Greenwich & Woolwich would vanish – leaving him to challenge Lewisham East’s Heidi Alexander (and maybe Lewisham Deptford’s Vicky Foxcroft) for a new seat of Greenwich & Lewisham Central, which would stretch from Greenwich to Catford.
Or he could have to lock horns with Clive Efford for the oddly-shaped Eltham & Charlton seat, which curves round from New Eltham, through most of Charlton to Woolwich town centre.
Don’t be surprised if this issue comes up in the coming months – especially with electoral reform a hot topic once again. See a full map of the proposed constituencies for more.
I had some thoughts about how some Labour councillors are doing their best to torpedo Matt Pennycook’s otherwise highly-impressive election campaign by acting like idiots on social media. I was going to save those thoughts – and plenty of others about the election – until tomorrow night, once the polls had closed.
Then one of them had a go at me. All I’d done was grumble about the bins.
Because this website shouldn’t be about me and who I’m voting for, you can find out why safe seats and social media lead to an election car crash over on Medium.
Greenwich’s Green Party has defended its Greenwich & Woolwich candidate Abbey Akinoshun after he missed a series of election hustings in the constituency.
Akinoshun was absent for the final four hustings of the campaign, with the party supplying substitute speakers or not represented.
The 50-year-old’s absence had sparked rumours the party was unhappy with its candidate’s performance.
But local party press officer Simon Edge dismissed the claims, saying Akinoshun – who runs a Woolwich-based business which helps people going through employment tribunals – had been too busy with work to attend all the hustings.
Akinoshun’s selection has been the subject of a campaign from former party member Trevor Allman, who walked out of the Greens earlier this year branding the candidate an “opportunist”.
“We had never heard of him, as he had never attended a branch meeting or participated in any Green Party activity, thus what credentials did he have to represent the Green Party as a parliamentary candidate?”, Allman said.
Allman – now in Left Unity – has seized on Akinoshun’s absence, criticising him in a series of tweets, calling him “not exactly committed”.
A former Labour member who lives in Abbey Wood, Akinoshun sought selection for that party in Erith & Thamesmead in 2009, losing out to Teresa Pearce. He then ran as an independent candidate in that constituency, winning 1% of votes – beating the Green candidate Marek Powley.
He told me on Twitter that he ran against the Greens before he “[knew] they stand as a party that wants to build a society that works for the common good”.
Allman – who has stood for the Greens in council elections, attracting over 1,000 votes in Blackheath Westcombe in the past two polls – tried to run as a rival candidate. But he was blocked because it was discovered he was not actually a member of the main Green Party of England & Wales.
Absence from hustings
Akinoshun’s absence was first noted on Saturday, when he dropped out of a hustings in Charlton at short notice. The event attracted 120 voters.
“He was very stressed, largely because of this work commitment, and we agreed it was better to let it go and give him a chance to recharge his batteries,” Edge says.
Charlton Society organisers Andrew Donkin and Helen Jakeways declined the Greens’ offer to send a substitute, as they felt it would be unfair on the other candidates.
Akinoshun also did not appear at a hustings held by another residents group in Charlton on Monday, the National Union of Teachers on Tuesday, and the Greenwich Association of Disabled People on Wednesday. Substitutes represented the Greens at the other two, while Edge said the party wasn’t aware of the Charlton Central Residents Association hustings.
“He has a busy day job where he has to commit to his clients, and his work diary has to come first because it’s his own business and he has a family to support,” Edge added.
“We’re a party that has always had a collegiate leadership structure, so we hope it’s not inappropriate to have other people step forward to help.”
‘Charisma and passion’
He dismissed suggestions party members were unhappy with their candidate, praising his “charisma” when speaking to individual members of the public and “his passion, particularly in reaching out to the parts of the electorate who are often taken for granted by the Labour Party”.
Greenwich & Woolwich is certainly unusual in hosting nine hustings – just one has been held in neighbouring Eltham – and Edge conceded that volunteers had been overwhelmed by the level of interest.
In common with the Greens nationwide, the local party membership has exploded in the past year, and is now at about 250 members. But elections will remain hard work for a small band of volunteers, especially without the well-funded party machines that their larger rivals enjoy.
Edge added: “Great as it is that hustings seems to have become really fashionable, they can be all-consuming. I do think candidates need room to go out on the knocker as well as addressing meetings.”
Labour advantage at disability hustings
Meanwhile, the Labour party enjoyed an advantage at the Greenwich Association of Disabled People’s hustings last night – having two candidates to address the audience while rivals only had one.
Both Greenwich & Woolwich’s Matt Pennycook and Eltham’s Clive Efford spoke and answered questions at east Greenwich’s Forum for the early part of the evening, while the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens only had one representative each.
I’m told GAD invited all candidates standing in Greenwich borough – although if all 18 had turned up to an event attended by about 30 people, it could have resembled more of a speed-dating night than a hustings.
I didn’t stay for the whole hustings, but it wasn’t an edifying event, with the chair trying to block follow-up questions from the audience because of “election rules” (this isn’t the case). After Efford had left for his own local hustings, Pennycook tried to inject a bit of life into it himself by quizzing Green substitute Phil Connolly on the party’s citizen income policy.
At one point, Connolly found himself howled down by the chair for talking through a process of being assessed for benefits – “they know, they’re disabled!,” she shouted.
Meanwhile, a member of the public was allowed to get away with the dog-whistle question of asking candidates where they were born. He huffed loudly when Conservative Matt Hartley, who was raised in Macclesfield, explained where he came from.
Greenwich & Woolwich candidates: Ryan Acty (Ukip), Abbey Akinoshun (Green), Lynne Chamberlain (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition), Matt Pennycook (Labour), Tom Holder (Liberal Democrats), Matt Hartley (Conservative).
It’s an east London matter, but last week’s news that Tower Hamlets’ elected mayor Lutfur Rahman had been booted out of office by an election court after being found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices during an election could have consequences south of the river too.
The particular circumstances of Tower Hamlets are unusual. Elsewhere, the system of having an elected mayor has worked well, with Sir Steve Bullock a popular and respected figure in Lewisham. But Lutfur Rahman turned his office into a personality cult, even sticking his face on humdrum signs in the borough.
A fresh election will be held next month. Labour’s John Biggs, the current London Assembly member for City & East and a former Tower Hamlets council leader, will be hoping to take charge of the authority once again.
Tower Hamlets returning to Labour would have significant consequences for Greenwich and Lewisham, as Biggs – like Greenwich’s Denise Hyland and Newham’s Robin Wales – is one of that generation of London Labour politicians that still believes building new roads can bring prosperity.
He’s been a fervent advocate for the Silvertown Tunnel – believing it would relieve congestion in the borough (although as it’s aimed at Canary Wharf and the City, it’d do nothing to relieve the southbound snarl-ups on the A12).
By contrast, under Rahman, Tower Hamlets has been inconsistent on the issue – opposing it in 2012, cautiously welcoming it in 2014. Just as yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict on air pollution will make it easier for campaigners to challenge the tunnel, a Biggs victory in Tower Hamlets could increase certain local politicians’ resolve to continue with this dubious venture.
Indeed, it’s possible we’ll see a more united front between the riverside boroughs on the huge redevelopments and other infrastructure projects across the area – relations between Tower Hamlets and Greenwich on planning issues haven’t been healthy in recent years, most recently with Isle of Dogs residents feeling left out on discussions over plans to expand the long-delayed cruise liner terminal (more on this to come). The winner out of all this could well be Newham’s muscular mayor, Sir Robin Wales, who recently hosted a meeting of east London boroughs (and Greenwich) to discuss devolving responsibilities from central government.
Of course, this is speculation – intra-borough jealousies don’t depend on them being run by rival parties, as anyone who’s dealt with Greenwich and Lewisham will know. But heads could well be banged together soon, especially with Labour currently poised to take the London mayoralty next year.
The other consequence to the Tower Hamlets ruling concerns Greenwich Time. Tower Hamlets is England’s only other council to publish a weekly newspaper – one which the local Labour party has consistently criticised for bias.
The two government commissioners recently sent into Tower Hamlets (yesterday joined by two more) have kept East End Life going – something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Denise Hyland – using Press Association copy to report on the election court case. I wonder how Greenwich Time would have dealt with a similar case here.
Whether the next government will implement Eric Pickles’ laws banning “town hall Pravdas” is something we’ll find out in weeks to come – the election has thrown Pickles’ fight with Greenwich into the long grass.
But a new administration in Tower Hamlets may well scrap East End Life as a symbol of reform – or it may well try to find some new solution. All of which could impact on Greenwich’s battle to keep its own weekly paper going.
Again, this is all speculation – two elections mean things are very much up in the air, and after all, this is Tower Hamlets politics.
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?
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).