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Guest Post: Terry McGrenera, ‘The Right of It’ and the local elections

This Guest Post by Terry McGrenera was originally submitted as a post comment but LW decided that his views, which many will sympathise with, demanded a wider audience.

‘Have the right of it’ definition: ‘To be correct in a proposition or opinion’

It is a scene that is played out in any pub among people gathered together discussing sport, work or politics. The conversation has flowed between them and just when the subject has been seemingly exhausted one member of the group, who has been unusually quiet but who can stay quiet no longer, addresses the gathering.

Dr Frasier Crane – “I’m listening”

‘The right of it’

The person has heard it all before on numerous occasions. The views expressed may sound somewhat world weary but valid none the less on the subject. (Think something along the lines of Dr Frasier Crane in Cheers and later in his own programme who offers advice to callers on his radio show.)

The person proceeded to tell the rest of the group ‘the right of it’ of what they have been discussing.

That is how I feel about the forthcoming local elections in Tower Hamlets. I made a promise some time ago to take no part as a candidate in the campaign.

I am glad I did.

Campaigns have failed to engage voters

It would have been a waste of time and money. The campaign has failed to engage the voters. There are few posters in the windows of homes, no local meetings and candidates are largely depending upon their party name to get elected. Putting leaflets through letterboxes late at night once every four years – as was my experience – is an insult to voters and their leaflets will go in the purple bin to be recycled. It s is an unsatisfactory situation for democracy.

As someone who goes to the council meetings at the town hall in Mulberry Place it has never ceased to amaze me how some candidates in this election and previously have had the nerve to stand for a position for which they have hitherto shown no interest.

Merely surfers riding the wave

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I would be ashamed to do so but it seems there are candidates who have no shame. They are merely surfers riding the wave that they hope will wash them ashore on some wave of popularity ahead of the other surfers. (I am not the only person who is asking, it has been mentioned in a previous post about the candidates standing for Wapping, a la Butch Cassidy and the Sundance, “Who are those guys?”)

Again whilst wishing to stand aside I cannot be the only person to notice that one candidate, a former councillor, who hasn’t been near the town hall in years is standing as a candidate.

I may be the only person who noticed that one hopeful has said that they love living in a diverse borough, yet neither they nor any other candidate from their party is from an ethnic minority. The same is true in reverse of other political groupings standing candidates.

Ultimately the reason why I decided not to stand as a candidate is because of the state of politics in Tower Hamlets.

Tribal politics

Politics in Tower Hamlets is different from politics in the rest of London. It is tribal.

It is best expressed in the recent book by Amy Chua called Tribal Politics. She writes, “Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. We crave bonds and attachments, which is why we love clubs, teams fraternities and family. Even monks and friars belong to orders. But the tribal instinct is not an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.”

She adds, “Once people belong to a group, their identities can become oddly bound with it. They will seek to benefit their group mates even when they personally gain nothing. They will penalise outsiders, seemingly gratuitously”.

Such a mind set doesn’t bode well for Tower Hamlets. That is the right of it.

Terry McGrenera

The Housing Times.

Terry McGrenera biography

Terry McGrenera

Terry McGrenera is a journalist who has lived in Tower Hamlets for more than 30 years.

His original ambition was to be a sports journalist having been a soccer referee but after coming to live in the borough and saw how the borough was changing due to the right-to-buy legislation and later the stock transfer of council estates to housing associations under New Labour felt it was storing up problems for the future as regards housing for people unable to buy a home.

The dissertation for his masters degree in journalism was on affordable housing in London – a losing battle.

After the Housing and Planning Act 2016 he started the Housing Times to highlight the housing crisis in London and founded the House Party: homes for Londoners for the same reason.

Terry stood in the 2016 elections for the London Assembly.


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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Terry McGrenera says:

    I don’t think I would want to knock on your door. I think I would avoid doing so . Terry

  2. Randal Smith says:

    Engagement isn’t measured by rallies. That’s just the tribe gathering. Thousands of engaged discussions take place throughout the political cycle. Of course it intensifies around election time – but it doesn’t stop. The Labour Party is out regularly (other parties are available and may act otherwise – indeed some don’t make it from one election to the next). Elections seem to occur annually so of course that is another reason why it seems to be closely tied to the electoral cycle. However, the biggest reason is well known to anyone who has done doorknocking (Terry has stood in at least two elections in my area and I’ve never seen him at my door) is that at best 1 in 8 of doors are opened when we knock. We pick up and address all sorts of case work in this way – Terry may be overlooking this vital point – and people even engage so much that the choose to join the party. Not a lot, but that does happen.

    Engagement is better done by going to where people are, rather than arrogantly expecting people to come and see you. There is a place for “town hall meetings”, but probably not in campaign periods.

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