I try and avoid issues of party and local politics in Love Wapping, mainly because other people know this subject far better than I but also because I don’t want to generate noise which drowns out the real work.
But today I had a knock on my door that changed all that.
I live on the Green Bank estate (my flat is privately owned and I rent it) which is managed by Tower Hamlets Homes. They do a very good job and the Tower Hamlets Homes porters who keep the area clean and tidy are some of the unsung heroes of our community.
Knock knock! Who’s there?
At around 11.30 there was a knock on my door (you were expecting that, weren’t you?) and I opened it to find three smartly dressed women standing there.
I had seen the same three a while before at a neighbours opposite and had assumed they were Tower Hamlets Homes staff. I was right.
My immediate reaction was that I was in trouble. Hanging brightly coloured washing out to dry on the balcony? Typing too loudly?
Because why else would three Tower Hamlets Homes staff pay me a visit?
“Hello, we are from Tower Hamlets Homes and we are wondering how the Mayor can help you on the estate?,” one of them said and brandished a glossy A4 leaflet. On one side was the headline ‘Mayor’s News’, on the other ‘Mayor’s Budget 2013’.
You can download a PDF of the leaflet here.
So I mentioned the few problems we have here and the recent ASB issues in Watts Street. Copious notes were made of this and promises of a follow up but I told them the police had sorted it already.
Just fix the bleedin’ pavements
Then I mentioned the broken paving stones outside the Post Office and Hussey’s in Wapping Lane and that I had reported them months ago, one had been fixed and the other 30 were still broken. And that it was only a matter of time before someone, probably a pensioner, tripped on them and broke their hip. Could that be fixed please?
More notes were taken.
As I was still reeling from the level attention being paid to me I thought I might as well go for it and so started on about the state of the lighting in Wapping Woods.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion about this in terms of jurisdiction and I was told that as they were Tower Hamlets Homes staff they were only responsible for Tower Hamlets Homes estates and properties.
No problem I thought – but they seemed to be interested enough in the Wapping Lane broken paving problem. Odd. ‘Cos Wapping Lane isn’t in the Green Bank.
Slow on the uptake
Pennies did start dropping as I realised what the game was.
“You know I have lived here for over three years and this is the first time anyone representing the Mayor has asked me about issues I might have. Is this anything to do with the upcoming Mayoral election?” I asked.
No, no, was the reply. And the claim that they had been doing this sort of work on the Green Bank estate since the beginning of the year.
Odd, ‘cos I ain’t never seen them before. And I have been working from home for most of this year and tend to wander around several times a day.
I followed up with the assertion that I had seen politicians from all parties on the Green Bank several times but this was the first time I had ever encountered anyone representing Mayor Lutfur. Jim Fitzpatrick has knocked on my door, John Biggs is often seen here, Councillor Peter Goulds and his team, Councillor Craig Aston from Limehouse, Denise Jones, Emma Jones – and Abdal Ullah lives over the road.
But not once I had I ever seen anyone representing the Mayor. Yes I have met Mayor Lutfur numerous times, usually just for a hello and a handshake, most recently at the Anti EDL rally.
More notes were taken and finally I was told that my issues would be reported and that action would be taken within one month. I told them I was a bit dubious about this claim as I had reported the broken paving months ago. Twice.
The conclusion to this doorstep encounter was the handing of the glossy A4 leaflet to me with a phone number circled.
“If there is anything else you would like to talk about the Mayor holds surgeries every Thursday, this is the number to ring to make an appointment”
I need an airbed and I need it now
Now call me cynical but this was the moment I wished I kept a nice bouncy airbed in my hall because I nearly fell over backwards.
I think Mayor Lutfur is an OK guy but he never strikes me as, how shall I put it, accessible?
Last time I saw him in Wapping was the day the Armed Forces left last summer and he came along for the parade in Wapping Gardens. I had various chats with various Mayoral advisers about various things but not the Mayor himself.
The other week I bumped into John Biggs AM in Cinnamon Coffee Shop in Wapping Lane. Don’t think I have ever seen the Mayor in there. Great coffee, he should try it.
I closed my front door and taking a closer look at the leaflet I fully realised what had just happened.
Three members of Tower Hamlets Homes staff had been canvassing for Mayor Lutfur.
And the business of Tower Hamlets Homes is managing housing services for Tower Hamlets Council. It is “an ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation). A not-for-profit company set up to deliver high quality housing services for residents living in 22,000 Tower Hamlets Council homes.”
Not canvassing for the Mayor. Or being used for party political purposes by any political party. I know there must be a law about it. Can someone tell me which one please?
A quick Google revealed that Mayor Lutfur has previous for using paid staff to campaign for him according to Andrew Gilligan in the Daily Telegraph.
So it seems to me – and am looking forward to someone trying to prove me wrong – that the deal was the Mayor could fix any problems I might have. Not Tower Hamlets Homes could fix any problems. Mayor Lutfur could fix them.
If I am mistaken then why was I given a leaflet published by Cllr. Alibor Chowdhury of 104 Jamaica Street London E1 3HY?
And why is Tower Hamlets Homes not mentioned once in the leaflet?
What’s the deal here? Mayor Lutfur fixes things for me so… what could he want? Just doing the job he is paid to do? Or does he want my vote in the Mayoral election next year? And the most efficient way is using Tower Hamlets Homes staff to influence me?
Purely by chance only half an hour after this doorstep encounter I had a community meeting.
Walking through the Green Bank on the way there I could see another team of two men talking to another resident and passed another team of three women in Green Bank itself. All carrying the same clipboards with the same list of addresses attached.
Lutfur – the Ferrero Rocher Mayor?
This level of attention was reminiscent of that really naff but really great Ferrero Rocher advert that featured the ‘Ambassador’s reception’:
“Why Mayor Lutfur with all these Tower Hamlets Homes staff canvassing on your behalf you are really spoiling the Green Bank!”
On sitting down at the meeting in the legendary Turks Head Café I realised I was sat next to a gentlemen from Tower Hamlets Homes. He wasn’t working for the Mayor, just doing his job and doing it well from what I saw.
As the teas and coffees were sorted I could not resist mentioning my doorstep encounter.
The possibility of Tower Hamlets Homes staff canvassing on behalf of Mayor Lutfur was flatly denied by the Tower Hamlets Homes staff present. Could not happen. No way.
A Tower Hamlets Homes ID card was shown to me.
“Where they wearing one of these?” I was asked. “No idea,” I replied as I had no reason to doubt their identity.
After the meeting I was tempted to go prowling the Tower Hamlets Homes estates in Wapping and see if I could check an ID card and get some photos. But life is too short.
Mass hysteria event on the Green Bank
So dear reader what did happen on the Green Bank today? If we rule out a mass hysteria event then we are left with two choices.
- Tower Hamlets Homes staff were undertaking party political canvassing for Mayor Lutfur of Tower Hamlets
- People were impersonating Tower Hamlets Homes staff canvassing for Mayor Lutfur of Tower Hamlets
Which do you think it is? If you don’t want to tell me tell Mayor Lutfur. His surgery is held every Thursday and you can book an appointment on 020 7364 1378.
I know this because someone from Tower Hamlets Homes told me.
UPDATE 15:13 08 November 2013
The mystery deepens as to the true identities of these people. It was good to see managers from Tower Hamlets Homes on the Green Bank today (I knew they were really from THH as I had met one of them before.) who asked me about yesterday’s events as part of the enquiry they are carrying out. We discussed it at some length and we are all equally baffled.
I have added speech marks around the word ‘staff’ in the headline to reflect the fact that the true identity of the three women is still unknown.