Hopefully this’ll be the last time I write a post about the meeting where Greenwich councillors ignored pupils from a school set for closure, as well as a heap of other matters, and hurried up a meeting so they could go over the road and drink some wine. You know, this meeting…
The reason I’m dredging this up again? In their haste for wine, Greenwich’s councillors forgot something rather important, I’m told. The boundary changes, which will see south-east London’s constituencies torn up and replaced with new ones. The deadline for responses to the Boundary Commission’s plans, which (among other things) will see Greenwich itself split between two new seats is 5 December.
The next council meeting was due to be some time after that. So, because Greenwich’s councillors were too thirsty to remember to do the job at the end of October, they’ve moved the next meeting forward to 1 December to make sure they get it on time. That meeting is likely to involve endorsing a Labour Party proposal which will, among other things, keep SE10 with just one MP.
Some eyeballs have rolled at this. “Other boroughs have managed to pass motions on this without moving a meeting,” grumps my agenda-thumbing informant, who adds the last time Greenwich played around with meeting dates, it was when one Labour councillor returned from Australia after nearly six months away, before flying off again. Cynics – oh, nasty cynics – maintained it was to avoid a difficult by-election.
That said, I reckon the good councillors will be right to reject a daft plan which will split SE10 up and endorse something a bit more sensible. I wrote about the Boundary Commission’s plans when they were revealed, which include a Greenwich and Deptford seat slicing right through SE10 but uniting Deptford, a Woolwich seat stretching up to the Royal Naval College, and an Eltham constituency probing deep into Sidcup.
Labour’s alternative includes keeping the current Greenwich and Woolwich seat, and adding Kidbrooke with Hornfair and Lewisham’s Blackheath wards – which has the happy spin-off of uniting all of Greenwich, all of Charlton and most of Blackheath under a single MP. Makes sense to me. It also includes a new Eltham and Plumstead seat which Conservatives say is there just to make sure Eltham keeps a Labour MP – but that feels no more dodgy than an Eltham seat which has some Tory wards in Bexley bunged on the end. Thamesmead would also keep one MP under the plan, which retains Erith & Thamesmead, while there would also be seats for Deptford & Nunhead, Lewisham & Catford and Chislehurst & Sidcup under Labour’s ideas. Unfortunately, I don’t have a publicly-available list I can give you, but that’s what they’re suggesting.
It’s not just councils and political parties that can take part in the consultation – you can too, by getting in touch with the Boundary Commission by 5 December. Just like the council has to. I just hope they remember this time, instead of being distracted by a booze-up.
If you want some other views on this, here’s what current Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford thinks, and here’s the thoughts of the local Conservatives.
Incidentally, if this sort of thing excites you, or you just like brain-bendingly tough puzzles, take a look at Boundary Assistant – you can build your own constituencies and see if you can do a better job than the Boundary Commission or the Labour Party. It’s a little difficult to fathom out. But after a while, it feels less like an exercise in democracy, and more like a strangely-addictive game…