The biggest item of the night was councillor Craske’s Motion that “The London Borough of Bexley supports the proposal for a tunnel at Silvertown” which is no surprise because he has been trumpeting his special line in spin for quite a while and filling the local paper with it. In the event Craske marshalled an impressive range of old platitudes and presented them in a convincing manner. The only suggestion of Misconduct in Public Office was his assertion that all the people of Bexley are against a Gallions Reach crossing when every single bit of real evidence suggests otherwise. But as it is Craske we are dealing with you have to forgive the occasional lie, he knows no other way.
Despite that he correctly said the issue “should have been resolved decades ago” and that the issue now is “what sort of crossing and where”. It was a great night for statements of the obvious.
He reminded us of the recent transport improvements and gave Ken Livingstone due credit. “The DLR now goes to Woolwich and it would be great if it could be extended to Bexley. Boris Johnson has given us the cable car too (surely he jests?) but what we need is more vehicle crossings”. Tell us something new Peter.
Ah, here he goes, sort of…
“Silvertown has all the infrastructure in place, north and south, for a new tunnel. The same is true for a [Gallions Reach] bridge except in the south.” Aah, so it’s not quite true then, Craske must be getting back on form. After a brief interlude for political name calling over the original proposals, Craske said he was against tolls on any new crossing.
Councillor Colin Tandy seconded Craske’s Motion. He wanted a Silvertown tunnel “as soon as possible, if not sooner. Blackwall is an absolute nightmare and the tunnel is a totally viable solution. We must have it.”
At this point councillor Munir Malik stood up to make a point of order. Unfortunately he wasn’t standing up straight enough and incurred the wrath of the pen-jabbing mayor. Maybe he should try a salute or a curtsey. Malik stood to attention and said he was “happy to be standing” which is apparently sarcastic. The mayor’s criticisms might be justified if they were applied consistently but they are not. Later on Conservatives were laughing and jeering at one of Malik’s proposals but not a word of admonition came their way. Eventually Munir was able to make his point of order. He wanted to move an Amendment the most important section of which is featured below.
The Labour amendment took no issue with the Silvertown proposals but had gone in for some serious blue sky thinking. “Bexley,” councillor Malik said, “is a forgotten outpost of greater London. Ten years ago the only proposal on the table was the bridge but today we have opportunities to mitigate the Gallions Reach site”.
He suggested tunnelling under the river and extending it to the A2 (four miles by my reckoning) with a slip road or two into the North of the Borough and perhaps the middle. That way only local traffic would spill on to Bexley’s roads.
The tunnelling technology and skills are already here thanks to Crossrail, he said. He wanted the Underground to come to Bexley as well as the DLR via Gallions. Ambitious stuff.
Munir said he had made a formal submission to the Mayor’s office and offered to give councillor Bacon a copy which he declined. Bacon said such submissions are considered confidential but a copy fell into my hands and in case Bacon changes his mind about reading it he may click here.
Councillor Borella seconded the Amendment. “Boris has not ruled out a bridge at Gallions Reach” and he reminded everybody of the public put down councillor Bacon received at his hands for being an old stick in the mud. Like everyone else he labelled the proposals for tolls as a South London jobs tax.
“Residents are in favour of a tunnel as may be seen from the local press. If your Mayor can support a [Gallions Reach] crossing, why can’t Bexley Conservatives?”
Next to stand up straight and raise his hand was Labour councillor Seán Newman. His concerns were tolling and the fact that Bexley residents had already suffered a long list of stealth taxes and a host of crossing related scare stories from Bexley council. Their real motives were political, to stop Bexley Conservatives in the central borough wards “haemorrhaging votes to UKIP”.
Bexley Conservatives however do not like original thoughts so councillor John Waters stood up to say that he would be “delighted to oppose this amendment”. He aimed sarcasm at councillor Malik accusing him of being a bad accountant and bad engineer and feared that the Thames Bridge might “rise like a zombie. Like all Labour governments Malik could not make up his mind. Bexley would gain few benefits from their scheme”. (Surely more benefits than the preferred tunnel sited eight miles away in another borough though?)
The debate had run out of time but the mayor offered an extension. The Conservatives shouted out they wanted a vote right then, so one was taken with the obvious result. (100% party unity.)
Then councillor Gareth Bacon belatedly decided he wanted to sum up the Motion, so the mayor grudgingly gave him five minutes. Such a momentous decision for the future of the borough, but Conservatives did not want to extend the debate and mayor Downing allowed just five minutes for a Tory to have the last word.
Bacon began by referring to Ken Livingstone’s decision to ban the contra-flow in Blackwall tunnel, Ken blaming it on police advice but Bacon assuring us that that excuse was a lie. He then went on about “partisan rants from Newman and Borella” and that was about it. All very relevant stuff I am sure you will agree. The vote was taken again and no one had changed their minds. Conservatives are unwilling to debate sensibly, they have all made up their minds and road block Teresa has spoken. End of story.
News Shopper report.
Note: Labour’s submission to the Mayor of London was provided by a councillor. A clear indication it was intended for publication.