Tuesday, 2 March 2010

John Cryer v Ed Northover

Welcome to Leytonstone. This is a 'cycling friendly' road, according to Sustrans. And they're the experts!

The Labour Party’s new prospective parliamentary candidate for Leyton & Wanstead is John Cryer, who replaces Harry Cohen MP, who is standing down after a spot of bother with his expenses.

Not that Cryer, formerly MP for Hornchurch, is entirely spotless in this sphere:

Ann Cryer, who is still the Labour MP for Keighley, billed the taxpayer for the cost of living in a Westminster flat owned by her daughter Jane Kilduff and her husband, which they later sold for a big profit. At the same time, her son John Cryer, then MP for Hornchurch, also claimed the additional costs allowance on the flat.

The expenses files show that in 2004, both Mrs Cryer and her son designated the flat in Westminster as their second home for the purposes of claiming the additional costs allowance. Mrs Cryer paid her daughter £1,200 a month in rent, while Mr Cryer claimed £400 a month for food.

Mr Cryer, who represented the Essex constituency, 15 miles from Westminster, until he lost the seat in the 2005 election, completed his second home claim forms without including an address.

I checked out Cryer’s record on the environment. It yielded the revelation that he

Has never voted on laws to stop climate change.

Actually that designation is a bit unfair as the category only refers to a single piece of legislation and for all I know Cryer may have had a good reason for not turning up to vote.

Digging further I discovered that he is in favour of traffic calming

So that’s a definite plus. He’s also a trains man. But I get the impression that cycling is not important in his life, and nor is walking. Certainly not at a policy level, anyway. He’ll follow the party line on Green issues. Cryer, from the trades union establishment, appears to be a solid left-of-centre party loyalist with a maverick streak. He voted against the invasion of Iraq, which is double-plus-good. On the other hand he is a zealous enthusiast for ID cards and opposed the smoking ban (has a nicotine habit, presumably). He's also a Europhobe. His leftish foreign policy views probably won’t do him any harm in that large part of his constituency which lies south of the Green Man roundabout.

I chuckled at the assessments of the PPC short list made by local Labour Party member Jon Worth:

Terence Paul, Ahmad Shazad and Rokhsana Fiaz have not said anything in their campaign literature that has risen above general platitudes about inclusion and communication. Fiaz probably wins the prize for the most misguided statement in the campaign literature: “To launch a campaign website and also use social media to build contacts and engage young voters” – yet she doesn’t have a website for her campaign and searching for her in Facebook and Twitter delivers no results!

Cryer will be up against an ambitious young Tory named Ed Northover.

If the "Hall Farm Curve" near Walthamstow were reopened the town centres in Waltham Forest would be properly connected to each other and Stratford City.

We want reliable trains and safe, clean and manned stations.

Yes, Ed’s right. It’s utterly absurd that traveling by public transport from Walthamstow to Stratford, a distance of about three miles, involves a very slow bus journey or going to Tottenham Hale and waiting for a train which seems to come about once every two hours. What are the Olympics doing for fast public transport connections? Zilch, for the people of Chingford or Walthamstow or Leyton.

However, apart from revealing his unconscious sexism (things aren’t manned any more, Ed, they're staffed), Ed might care to reflect that it was the last Conservative government’s privatization that did for staffed stations. The local train franchises are not run for the benefit of local people but for shareholders, and bleak empty stations are the price we pay for privatization.

The bit on Ed’s campaign website that attracted my attention was this:

Despite the building of the A12, roads in Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead are blocked with cars. This is made all the worse by the disastrous one-way system in Leytonstone which is killing a once vibrant centre.

But the A12, or to give it the name under which it was built, the M11 Link Road, was forced through against the wishes of the people of Leyton and Leytonstone by the last Conservative government. It was claimed that local traffic jams would be a thing of the past once this high-speed concrete canyon was built.

The one-way section of High Road Leytonstone was deliberately designed to deter through traffic and to encourage it to use the A12 instead. Nothing wrong with that. Cyclists get a contraflow. Ed Northover is just a typical Tory who thinks that you can engineer your way out of traffic congestion by building more roads, or by somehow re-arranging the streets to cope with increasing car ownership and use. But the problem with Leytonstone is high levels of car ownership by people who have no off-street parking, exacerbated by multiple car ownership by single households, exacerbated by massive levels of car use for short journeys. All that could be turned around by getting rid of on-street car parking and by introducing safe, convenient, segregated cycle lanes on the successful Dutch model. But none of the three main parties has any serious interest in tackling car dependency.

Of course even if Ed Northover did get elected, he would have no political control over the one-way system in Leytonstone, because that is the responsibility of the local Council, not the MP.