So a snap general election huh! I bet it’s huge fun and games right now over in the Westminster bubble – bet there’s all sorts of Spads and private secretaries, liggers and laggers running amok. You’ll be able to cut the hysteria in the village with a knife, writes Jackie Sadek.
And it just goes to show that the commentator to watch is always the perspicacious Adam Boulton over at the Sunday Times, who predicted exactly this some months back.
Of course, this is a somewhat cynical and opportunist move on the part of Mrs May, and her critics will be quick to point this out. But hey! It is politics, after all: it’s an opportunists’ game. Having said that, it certainly could be construed as regrettable that she didn’t take this (probably entirely inevitable) step in time to co-ordinate the general election with the local elections on May 4 (as indeed Mr Boulton had suggested) thus saving UK plc a “wean o’pun” as the Scots would say – more on them, oh much more, in the coming weeks I reckon!
But Mrs May’s speech on the doorstep of Number 10 this morning made a cogent argument all right, although one might dispute the claim that “the country is coming together”, if you live, as I do, in a Brexit-divided family. And even if the country is indeed coming together (and isn’t still pretty ill spirited, bitter and grumpy about it all, in reality) it can hardly be surprising if those at Westminster, who live and breathe the political system, have not. And will not. And will never. All you are seeing here is that most of us are busy getting on with our lives, and that politicians have different priorities to the rest of us. ‘Twas ever thus.
And, although this country needs yet another national plebiscite (one every year for the past four years running) like a hole in the head, here we are again. On the upside, the calling of a general election, especially a surprise one, always unleashes a lot of energy, and I guess we are all viewing the prospect of the next few weeks with horrified fascination.
The Labour Party has absolutely nowhere to go. It cannot act like any sort of opposition, and will have to vote with the government tomorrow, like a lamb to the slaughter (even though half of those voting won’t be there on 9 June). And, as from Thursday onwards, all eyes will be on Scotland, and whether the (simply splendid) Ruth Davidson can make inroads to a divided SNP cohort; and on the North of England, and whether the Liberal Democrats and/or UKIP can turn the Corbyn disarray to their advantage up there.
Meanwhile, in Lambeth…
But life outside the Westminster bubble goes on. And, before I got distracted, I was going to write a piece today about the good news that the resurgence of good old fashioned regeneration continues apace over at Lambeth. This is to greet the welcome news that the Ovalhouse Theatre’s move to Brixton is about to take a big step forward, with contractors being invited to bid for the first phase of the Somerleyton Road regeneration scheme. Ovalhouse is a partner that any regeneration project would kill to have, it has built a formidable reputation for supporting new artists, and working with young people and communities, always an invaluable asset to any urban renewal programme.
And it transpires it has been looking for a suitable site in Brixton for more than eight years. So this is another great success story for Brixton Green, a local community benefit society (and good friend to us in UKR) with more than 1,300 members. And, along with the Ovalhouse Theatre, more than 300 new homes, and a new nursery will also be delivered. Paul McGlone, Lambeth council’s deputy leader, declared “I’m excited” and, a bit more weightily, “This is an important step in our ambitions for Somerleyton Road. Arts Council England is preparing to invest £3m in the new theatre and we want to move forward to ensure this key part of the development can happen as soon as possible”.
This is a project where the local community and Lambeth council are coming together to “build a street for all ages which will be designed and managed in partnership with the people who use it”. A place where “the community and businesses can thrive in the centre of Brixton”. They are to be congratulated. Brixton Green is a shining example of best practice in urban regeneration. They are a healing force.
But (and I’m sorry!) back to this morning’s announcement: it remains to see whether the country, let alone Westminster, can come together. And whether Mrs May can emulate on a grand scale the admirable example of the healing leadership we’ve just seen from Brixton Green in Lambeth. Time will tell. In the meantime I am just nipping down to Paddy Power to put money on Certain People getting promoted in the summer reshuffle (which you can almost certainly expect to play out from the ninth to 12th of June). I too can be an opportunist.