Tories enter mayoral contest

ANDREW BOFF will be a candidate in the elections on Thursday 6 May 2010 for the position of mayor of Hackney — salary £75,846.14 (don’t forget those 14 pennnies) — but says he will not take a salary. What’s more, though he is the Conservative candidate, he did not go to Eton (not even Harrow), which should make him less vulnerable to complaints about Tory toffs potentially occupying 10 and 11 Downing Street, and the London and Hackney mayoral chairs. (Or is Hackney’s a throne?)

The former councillor for Queensbridge Ward and resourceful editor of the quirky colour freesheet EASTeight might have a wee problem with his name, however: you can see redtop papers having fun with Bozza and Boffa. Something for the spin doctors to work on, eh? Boff lives in a flat in the borough and, unlike the other candidates and Dalston’s MPs (we sort of have two at present), he is open about his age — 51.

MISCHA BORRIS was the first politician to announce a challenge to Jules Pipe in the mayoral elections. The Stoke Newington-born Green Party campaigner and lawyer is quitting Hackney council, where she represents Clissold ward.
Jules Pipe, a former Sunday Telegraph journalist, is standing for a third term; at least, he has hinted as much. “Les”, as he is known behind his back, has impressed the Labour Party hierarchy with his leadership of Hackney council, once considered the worst-run borough in Britain and now keeping the council-tax rise at zero, helpful during an election year. He does not appear interested in a peerage. Plenty of time later for Lord Jules of Pipedom, His Lesness, etc.
The BNP – no connection to BNP Paribas, a French bank, or to brain natriuretic peptide, a medical test – persuaded the Hackney Gazette to run a story that the tiny right-wing party would set a candidate against Pipe, although it was unable to provide a name; the BNP has a history of making exaggerated claims about its electoral intentions.
The Liberal Democrats say they will field a candidate. They haven’t made up their mind who. Tempus fugit, folks.


FAREWELL, then, Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South & Shoreditch (presently); Hello Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington (ditto). The St Hilda’s College, Oxford educated Blairite who became a Broonie and was rewarded by Gordon with a post, Minister for Identity (sic), is having Dalston ward hacked out of her constituency at the general election. If you do not want to lose your chance to vote, probably best to be around on Thursday 6 May. Abbott (Newnham College, Oxon.) is likely to become our MP because Hackney seats have traditionally been safe for Labour. A voter turnout even moderately better than that at the last general election could easily change that.
The Hackney council letter telling residents of the change did not explain why, politically speaking, we Dalstonians have become Stokies. Which is not at all Stokey-okey.
Do not bother phoning the council, as the advisory letter offered: the people in the Mare Street bureaucracy become suddenly shy if not positively irritable if you ask them why the change. Perhaps the neighbour MPs don’t get on with each other. The tetchy exchange in the House of Commons between the two on 10 February 2010 gave the impression that they are never going to use each other for two-for-one cinema dates, let alone house-sitting.
One voter’s naughty thought is that the boundary was moved to embrace Abbott’s Middleton Road home within Hackney North constituency. What, to save Abbott the trouble of moving home? No, that couldn’t be true. Could it?
My only contact with Hillier has been by email – the poor thing had to find a way of telling me why the Trident nuclear-submarine-missile system is such a good investment for UKplc. She replied in detail and quickly, which suggests that she is at least a responsive constituency MP.
Abbott was elected in 1987. Despite experience in the real world as a media worker, she has shown occasional clumsiness in dealing with journos. One instance was when she was accused, unfairly, of calling for black teachers for black boys. (As if a socialist would advocate any form of educational apartheid.) And she is still sensitive about the accusation that she betrayed her leftish views when she booked her son into a £10,000-a-year independent school. (As if any other Hackney lefty would do that.) But she has always been a bit of a Labour rebel; hence no ministry.
What’s Abbott lately been doing, then — apart from joining former Tory cabinet minister Michael Portillo on a sofa to shake with mirth at Andrew Neil’s self-mocking quips on BBC1’s This Week politics show? She disappointed activists when she kept clear of the protest against the grandiose but dull property development at Dalston junction. A riffle through turns up little on ecology or cycling, although she did describe a Bikes on Estates scheme as “ground-breaking” and she praised the London Cycling Award. Impressive? Oh, and she assures voters that she is “genuinely committed” to taking action on the environment and to green taxes.
Now why does that “genuinely” sound excessive?




DIANE ABBOTT was on good me-me-me form when she eventually went on Any Questions?, Radio 4’s weekly discussion show. The word “eventually” is apposite because the TV star and Stokey (so far) MP was said to be still smarting from the row over her sending her son to an independent school rather than a Hackney secondary.
So on 19 February 2010 the razor-sharp present Eddie Mair got it out of the way by mentioning the imbroglio – Abbott had been accused of hypocrisy — in his intro. He also made an excellent joke: that she’s married to her This Week sofa-sharer Michael Portillo. But let’s not delve into that.
Dalston’s likely next MP (see above, “Identity crisis…”) then got on with some unsubtle electioneering in her answers to topical questions, for example, giving a blow-by-blow account of her public-transport journey (subtext: I’m just like you and me), from her home in Hackney (I live, well, near, her constituency) to the venue at Diss in Norfolk, including that she started her epic journey by jumping on a 149 bus (yes, an MP, on a bus!), then… Too much information, dear.
Even a question about protecting the Falkland Islands that Britain felt obliged to recapture from Argentina in 1982 by mounting a huge military operation was an opportunity Abbott could not resist. The islands are a far-flung group of grassy knolls in the South Atlantic Ocean but Abbott just had to mention that she had last year visited, no, not the Falklands, but somewhere on the other side of the world, Afghanistan (subtext: I support the boys and girls fighting for us: I’ve been to a war zone).
Fate, however, was sharpening a rapier and Abbott’s name was on it. A few minutes before the end of the programme panellists were asked what building they would like to save if they had access to £30 million of funding, a question inspired by news of the sale of the Abbey Road studios.
Abbott said: “I’d certainly give a couple of million to this building [the programme venue].” (Subtext: slurp, slurp.) Some in the audience wearily cheered. Then, placing her tongue slightly in her cheek – risky on radio when the outside audience cannot see movement inside your mouth (it’s radio) — the politician bemoaned the lack of an underground station in Hackney and added: “I would build the Diane Abbott Memorial Tube Station.” (Is she not aware, incidentally, that Hackney is getting a quasi-tube at Dalston Junction, a reinstatement of a line shortsightedly broken up by British Rail 25 years ago?)
Fellow panellist Maya Jaggi, an arts journalist, was cutting. “I thought,” she murmured, looking at the MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington, “the Hackney Empire was in need of something…”
As they said during the Falklands campaign, “Gotcha!”



HACKNEY has many illegal radio stations — or pirates — and now it has a new legitimate station. From Friday 19 February 2010 at 2.30pm, Radio Pedro is broadcasting on line. Started by the 1929-foundedPedro Club, it aims to involve people living around Rushmore Road, Clapton, where the youth club, a registered charity, is based. It recently applied for £50,000 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes National Lottery money to charities.

Radio Pedro is part of the club’s music project. A recording studio is being developed on the premises so that young musicians can make a CD under professional instruction. Pat Sands, the club’s secretary, says that anyone who wants to get involved in programme production and other aspects of radio should contact the club.


JOHN CAMPBELL Street, running by the Rio Cinema up to Kingsland High Street, is the undistinguished two short rows of late-Victorian terrace houses in varying states of repair that has somehow got itself attractively and expensively repaved. I hear a whisper that some of its residents are objecting to the popularity of the Turkish coffee bars and eating places immediately north of the cinema that have so livened up the area. The noise of passers-by is, apparently, spoiling their evenings as they sit in their front parlours debating the merits of Proust v. Montaigne over a few glasses from TFC’s three-for-a-fiver vino offer.

The Rio has asked Transport for London to rename the bus stop nearest the theatre. But TfL says it “does not use business names”, a statement that ill fits with the Dorchester Hotel, Sadlers Wells Theatre and other stops its website namechecks. TheRio-istaswant their stop named for the cinema. Good move – my family and friends always refer to it as “the Rio stop”. It’s 50m north of the theatre but it’s safer than the stop before it, the one nearest to Dalston Kingsland station, which is a night-time home to the junkies and alkies asboed out of Gillett Square.

Even better would be for TfL to reposition the stop right outside the Rio. On second thoughts, don’t: the Rio might attract more cinemagoers and that could give JC Street a collective nervous breakdown.

A web search reveals that there are John Campbell streets in Hobart and in Gourock, Renfrewshire. The Tasmanian capital would obviously not suit the easily upset residents: it has restaurants and pubs. Perhaps the bar-intolerant Campbellies should move to the Scottish town. It’s a pleasant enough burgh and it’s miles from everyone else in Dalston.


YET AGAIN a film crew moved its lorries and trailers into the Kingsland Centre in the shadow of Matalan’s sinister tower. Before you get excited about seeing Hollywood or Bollywood luvvies (shouldn’t that be Mollywood… like, Mumbai, yeah?), I can tell you that the canteen and other equipment was set up as a base… for a Nike TV commercial being filmed in the area. Budget £1 million.

Wed 10 Feb: the film crew has vanished, leaving its place in the car park as clean as an abandoned Romany campsite. The director of the commercial was so efficient that filming in E8 was quickly completed. Dinna fash yesel: there’ll be another crew along soon enough.

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