And then it had to come. The first anonymous, mildly threatening comment about me standing for the council. I don’t usually publish comments without a username and e-mail address, so this has spent the weekend stuck in a moderation queue…
Shock! I used to work for the BBC! But yes, it’s also true that I used to keep anonymous blogs – yes, I was one of those terrible people on the internet! – and used to make some ripe comments about places and institutions in this area. I used to caricature the Greenwich Millennium Village as the “yuppie village” back then; a tag I don’t really think is true now but it certainly had some resonance at the time. I’m not particularly proud of it, and I could have been a bit more tactful. While I cherish the hate mail I received telling me that I was jealous because I couldn’t afford to live there, I’m sorry if anyone was genuinely offended by it.
But the way GMV was going angered me back then, and I expressed an opinion, and found plenty of people agreed with me. There was also very little in the way of argument coming in the other direction – and it definitely had the air of a closed community at the time; even blocking accesses to the GMV website’s residents’ forum to non-residents.
Times change, facts change, and my opinion’s changed about the place too. I don’t think the creation of Greenwich Millennium Village was handled particularly well at the start, and sticking luxury apartments on what had been publicly-owned land wasn’t the most sensitive way of introducing local people to a new development, especially at a time when many local young people were being forced out of the area by an overheated property market. There was certainly an arrogance about the way it was marketed, although the developers came unstuck when they affixed the Olympic rings to one billboard. My grandfather used to work on that old gas works until the late 1970s, I spent a chunk of my childhood at the old British Gas sports ground where Sainsburys now sits. It was as if the “regeneration” of the peninsula had been for nothing but the enrichment of property speculators.
But since then, a wider, deeper community has built up in the Greenwich Millennium Village. Some shared ownership properties have popped up, and the population’s more balanced. I still think the way it was built and the way it was sold to people was badly flawed. There’s still a huge debate to be had about property development and speculation, but the Greenwich Millennium Village is a done deal now, and history can’t be rewritten.
The challenge now is to unite it with the rest of Greenwich, to make it easy to get up and down the peninsula, to create reasons for other locals to visit GMV, and not to abandon the people who took a chance on this windswept corner of SE10, and to make sure they enjoy the quality of life they believed they were going to get when they moved. I’m curious to discover more, because there seem to be all kinds of problems up there now.
As for me, well, I figured that venting anonymously on the internet had its limits. Although it can be a good thing – the message should always be more important than the person who writes it. I was only really anonymous because of my old job, something which actually became very frustrating. But while sometimes you learn things, sometimes you discover you’re wrong – you can only go so far under a pseudonym. And it can come back to bite you on the bum later on. Which is how I ended up here, today, with my real name, writing this blog. And trying the ultimate solution to put up or shut up accusations – standing for the council. Things still anger me, I still like to express my opinion and see if other people agree.
And as for my anonymous commenter? Just as I’ve discovered over the years, venting anonymously can come back to haunt you. This particular commenter came from IP address 188.8.131.52 – which is london.gov.uk; City Hall, in other words. Should people really be making veiled threats to people using London taxpayers’ computers? Probably not.
So who is my new friend? Well, I have one commenter who has a City Hall e-mail address, and has used phrases like “should be held accountable” here before, and has posted under a further psuedonym as well as his real name. I’m not going to name names because it’s tedious and this is just a diversion from the real issues. But trolling is not a nice thing to do. Especially if you’re involved with public life. So, for your own good, how about stopping it and concentrating on something important, eh?
Meanwhile, Adam Bienkov has got issues with another commenter with links to City Hall…