Daffodils… and Alastair Darling

The daffodils have finally emerged around Blackheath and Westcombe Park and the sun has been doing its best to make its presence felt between the showers. Spring is here and the clocks have gone forward. Indeed, I was very pleased to be up on Sunday at 8am to get in my weekly 10k run before heading off to the doorsteps with our MP Nick Raynsford. Not everyone answering though, while of course pleased to see the Labour Party, looked as if they had readjusted their clocks!

In Westcombe Park on Saturday, we met some really excellent supporters in Ruthin Road and Glenluce Road with a small section of Westcombe Hill. A small section because we soon discovered that we were following in the well-trodden footsteps of the Jehovah Witness’ canvassers and a double knock especially after the non-voting JVs in one morning does not always go down well. So hotfoot around the corner to the very peaceful but fascinating slopes of Ruthin and Glenluce. There was general satisfaction with Labour nationally and locally though of course a few niggles on a variety of issues. A significant number of non-British EU citizens in these roads and we kept having to remind people them – Dutch, Polish, German, Spanish etc that they can vote in the local elections but not in the parliamentary election. Only UK, Irish, Maltese and Cypriot citizens within the EU can vote for their MP though, as can citizens of all other Commonwealth countries (from Australia to Zambia).

Two issues did come clearly through – the need to keep pressing ahead with raising achievement in our schools and it was excellent to hear Invicta praised as well as Halstow – but particularly our secondary schools. On this score, it is noteworthy that the three state schools in the new Greenwich and Woolwich constituency have doubled the number of 16-year olds gaining five or more good GCSEs from under a third to over two-thirds since Labour came to power in 1997. But it will and must improve further, and John Roan will be leading the way. However, there is a danger

John Roan School

with any change of Government that Conservative cuts and freezing teacher salaries will deflate morale and capacity for continued improvement. Back to the budget and hats off to Alastair Darling for putting the emphasis on jobs and enterprise, ensuring the burden is being more fairly shared but avoiding knee-jerk measures. He has actually confounded his detractors and proven to be a quiet but resilient backbone to the Government that, despite the UK’s exposure to global financial services, has weathered the global recession significantly better than predicted.

David L Gardner

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