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Bonkers Blog May 2015

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5 May - Splash Wars. What’s the point? Work together or Bexley council wins

May I say straight away that the slogan you see below is not an endorsement of Anna Firth for Thursday. It’s the rather unfortunate result of the way browsers display scrolling images. I have not found any way in the time available of forcing an offset so that something less contentious appears.

One hell of a row has broken out on the Facebook page operated by the Save Belvedere Splash Park campaigners.

The organisers are “outraged” by being caught up in an election campaign against their express wishes. They and their followers are incensed that Conservative candidate Anna Firth has, as they might put it, muscled in on their Save the Splash Park campaign. I might be too but Anna is not without a few ideas and may be in a position to influence affairs if properly ‘tamed’.

Given that Anna circulated a letter yesterday (see below) which has her election slogan emblazoned across the top it is easy to see where the renewed outrage comes from, but the central point of Anna’s letter is not entirely without merit and does not deserve to be dismissed out of hand.

TogetherI would agree that the letter implies criticism of Teresa Pearce by reminding electors that she is the only candidate who has had direct access to Alex Sawyer, hardly surprising, he selected her as Erith & Thamesmead’s Conservative candidate and he is also the man who has the Splash Park plug in his hand. There is an election coming, Anna is a politician, almost anything goes. It’s what happens.

Teresa could equally say that she attended two of the three public meetings while Anna was still shopping in Orpington. (For the record Anna doesn’t live in Sevenoaks.)

Her protégée Eliot Smith has gone where wise men fear to tread and entered the Facebook fray. He seems to be a sensitive soul and thinks their language is “vile” although the worst I could find was a string of asterisks. It’s admirable that Eliot’s vocabulary is above the level commonly heard on buses at school out time, but positions have become entrenched and his lone voice has not found favour. Meanwhile Bexley council will be engineering the Splash Park’s demise.

My first words on this subject were…

Personally I do not rate the chances of retaining anything worthwhile at the top of Heron Hill at all highly. Bexley council under Teresa O’Neill has not improved the borough in any shape or form except when spending money from Boris, lotteries or housing associations. Hers is a scorched earth policy which is interested in nothing other than ensuring that Bexley’s 24th position in the council tax league doesn’t get any worse.

Can anyone point to any example of Bexley council responding to public pressure and putting its hand in its pocket? No, it simply doesn’t happen. The Splash Park deputation saw for themselves how minds have been made up. They have no friends behind the blue nameplates. “The Splash Park must go” and if councillor Daniel Francis and his Labour colleagues can be humiliated and shown to be ineffective in the process so much the better.

My default position with politicians is not uncommon. The first assumption must be that they are lying or that there is an ulterior motive. In five years of correspondence with Teresa she has shown herself - to me at any rate - to be above all that. Never have I found her to be anything other than totally open and I have got to the stage when I no longer consider that Teresa might just possibly be leading me up the garden path.

Anna on the other hand I have known for only five minutes. She seems like a nice lady to me but she is a politician and at this time in our relationship inevitably comes with the baggage one associates with her ‘profession’.

She tells me nothing, at least not by comparison with Teresa. When I asked Anna how Bexley council compared to Sevenoaks where she is a councillor she wouldn’t say. I rather suspect “dare not say”.

When the News Shopper reporter asked what all reporters seem to think is a good opening question, “How old are you?” Anna again refused to answer. It’s a tiny thing and it’s an irrelevant nosy question, unless perhaps the candidate is exceptionally young, but I found the refusal strangely off putting.

So with my defences hopefully intact I too will attempt to follow in Eliot Smith’s Facebook footsteps.

Cabinet member Alex Sawyer has been keen to tell us at every opportunity that he is an honest man doing his best to spend no money at all but save the Splash Park nevertheless. He probably walks on water too but by the lowly standards of Bexley’s Tories Alex may well be an honest man, albeit one under the thumb of a very dishonest woman. One prepared to trot off to the police station if she believes she is being undermined.

Take a look at Anna Firth’s letter. Ignore the electioneering, Just read her five numbered points and stop there.


Click or scroll for whole brochure.

Now stand back and think of where we are now and where we were six months ago. There is not an awful lot of difference despite Daniel Francis’ best efforts. The council claims it commissioned a technical report within days of last November’s protest meeting but it is still not available.

Does anyone seriously believe that expert consultants looking for their fee would not have come up with an answer by now? Much more likely is that Bexley council didn’t like the answer.

Closing the Splash Park, moving the southern playground across the road, closing the library and selling the lot to one of their favoured housing developers is a near irresistible temptation to a near broke council. The half million pound a year black hole that Tesco created in The Broadway makes it even more likely.

Make no mistake, Bexley council’s preferred option will be to close the Splash Park. They’ve made it absolutely clear that they are not going to come up with any new cash and they refuse to ring fence or otherwise allocate Cory’s generosity to the Splash Park. It is on course for closure, always has been. Meanwhile there is an almighty squabble between Mums and Dads from Bexley who want to save it and a mother from Halstead who wants to save it.

From what I hear Anna’s ideas are not as new as she might want us to believe and the campaign organisers have already conducted exploratory talks along very similar lines. If so I begin to see even more clearly that there might be “outrage”.

Even so there is little room for rivalry. Call Anna’s bluff. Embrace the ideas whoever thought of them first, get her truly on board if she is willing to jump. Persuade her to elaborate on her ideas before the election. She is offering to meet at the park at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening. Then vote for Teresa or Ronie if you wish. No one has to know. But the priority must be to get some flesh put on the skeleton plan whoever thought of it first.

Ask Anna what she plans to do if she finds she has lost the election on Friday. I have. She said, and I have it in writing, that there are several local issues that she feels strongly about and will continue to fight for. The Splash Park is one of them.

It sounds almost too good to be true and if she reneges on the promises you will know she is just another crooked politician and good riddance. All prejudices safely intact.

Anna Firth’s latest Splash Park message may or may not have won her a few votes among the general population, it may have upset the local Labour party, their supporters and the campaigners but nothing can be done about it. A clever politician has pulled a rabbit out of the bag. Whether or not it is a cynical stunt or a genuine offer only time will tell.

The Splash Park campaign needs every bit of help it can get. Bexley council will do everything it can to close the Splash Park. What is wrong with having one friend on the inside if it is a genuine one? And you never know, Anna just could be.

My message to the campaigners would be “Object to Anna taking this issue too far into the realms of politics if you wish but can you afford not to clutch at her straw? What will you say to your supporters if the battle is lost and they remind you that ideas, maybe not entirely new ones, were rejected. Ideas which may be just as promising as those Daniel Francis first came up with, just because those ideas came from someone wearing a blue rosette?”

Having once again trodden the blogging tightrope I can see only too well why I was never cut out to be a politician. In their world nothing is simple and no ground can be given which is perhaps why we are where we are nationally, let alone in Bexley. Yet another blog which risks upsetting half the readership. Perhaps I should take up fishing.


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