David Gardner’s campaign week

What a weekend of intense campaigning all around Blackheath Westcombe from Blackheath Village in the south down to Maze Hill station in the north.

My eldest daughter came out with the team on Saturday morning (actually we had three teams out that morning) enjoying the sun and meeting people in Vanbrugh Park and Ulundi Road. Many good conversations and one woman who only spoke French, no English. So my daughter put her best A-level French to use only to find that the lady was a visitor and it was her daughter who was the voter – and she was out. On Saturday evening, we all went to the excellent Westcombe society hustings at Mycenae House to set out our stall and face questions from the good citizens of Westcombe Park. Very positive feedback from people and trust we answered all the points fully. Very pleasant Liberal Democrat candidates at the hustings, but no evidence of them around the roads and avenues of the ward whatsoever. The Conservatives went on a bit about controlling immigration and fatherless families which I think almost stigmatised those migrants fleeing persecution or who have come here to make a great contribution to our health service as doctors and nurses etc. or care workers or indeed many as teachers let alone the many single mothers who have been abandoned by their partner or, worse, abused by them. I do think that while I am married with children, it is extremely important not to sit in moral judgement about the way other people live their lives and their family circumstances and certainly not to build our tax system to favour one type of family over another as the Tories propose.

On immigration, obviously we need some fair controls and people should not be in the UK illegally but at the same time we must recognise that Blackheath Westcombe comprises people from all corners of the world – from Australia to Zimbabwe and most in-between. Many have key roles that provide London with its global position as the leading world city and some have roles that keep vital services going – all make an economic contribution that benefits everyone. I think this richness is part of our character in Blackheath and Westcombe Park and in the wider Borough. One house can be a well-to-do Dutch banker and next door there might be a couple of Indian students in a basement flat with a Polish care worker above and a Scottish family on the upper two floors. What is essential – and here the Westcombe and Blackheath society and our countless more local resident groups – play a huge role is that we all pull together to help each other out regardless of our nationality or colour.

On Sunday after my run, we managed a coffee morning in The Keep (some new volunteers to help) followed by some Open Gardens, then afternoon tea and a walkabout of the Vanbrugh Park estate in Combe Avenue. Looking over from the raised Combe mews terrace over the Heath on such a sunny afternoon reminded me just how tranquil the area was. Some good ideas on how the are underneath where there were once garages could be better used for local residents and how the estate needs some adapting to modern recycling needs. Then back home to welcome back my middle daughter who had spent the week on an immersion French course before her GCSE. Luckily, she was not flying but being driven down by parents of her friend.

And just to tail things off nicely, when at maze hill station this morning, a woman approached me said she had seen my photograph what a great job we were doing and well done getting the Olympics to the Park! Which after having been on the receiving end of so many understandable concerns (and quite a few myths about the Olympics) was very refreshing.

David L Gardner


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