Saturday, December 02, 2006

Labour, it's all about being "on message".

Friday Prayers; - we hope we get it right this time!

An interesting day yesterday with a couple of incidences provoking thoughts of whether Alistair Campbell is employed as a consultant for South Tyneside's Labour council. Politicians, especially the new breed of 'moderniser' have come to realise that the 'message' is far more important than content, and that a newspaper picture or headline can speak far louder than a man's (or woman's) voice. So it is vitally important for everyone to be "on message" and singing from the same hymn sheet.

We had the unedifying message a few weeks ago of three Labour councillors failing to turn out for a meeting with residents in Laygate, South Shields who were angry about anti-social behaviour, crime, and a recent murder. Since then, the three members have already conducted one walk about to meet the people and remind them of what their faces look like, and yesterday it was the turn of David Miliband, South Shields MP and Environment Secretary, to have a wander about on Laygate to press the flesh. With David, were the three ward councillors and representatives of South Tyneside's Area Command of Northumbria Police to advise on the current state of Neighbourhood policing. Oddly, other than one or two reporters and photographers, very few of the local populace appeared to be able to meet their representatives! Despite knocking on a few doors to drum up some support, the lack of angry anti-crime protestors was self evident. Was this because the whole issue was a storm in a tea cup?

No - far from it!

The fact is that the media circus and politicians had descended on Laygate at the wrong time of day, and at the wrong end of Laygate. As this map shows, the people that Miliband tried to arouse were living in blocks of flats right next to the Al-Aksar mosque on Laygate Lane, and being the first Friday of the month most of the residents (at least the males) were inside the mosque for prayers. Come 12.45 p.m. the streets were full as the mosque emptied, but not a sign of a politician within 800 yards!

Ah well, you can't win them all lads, you were all singing the same hymn, but there was no congregation to listen to the sweet harmonies!

Sweet harmonies appeared to be the order of the day yesterday, I had never felt quite so blessed in a long time, as a Labour councillor (who shall remain nameless) approached me after the Board Meeting with a tale of taking telephone calls from other "cabinet" members. It seems they were not too keen to be upsetting anyone at this time of year and must have advised him to offer gracious apologies! Talk about being taken aback! Needless to say I made it quite clear that apologies were not needed, and that I was in no way offended at all by his remarks; the fan of school dinners and myself get along quite nicely thank you very much and both of us have broad shoulders and recognise that some remarks can be taken in good sport as harmless fun!

However, I was very touched by this example of being completely "on message", it's great when we are all singing in harmony isn't it!

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