In the early seventies the Conservative Government of Edward Heath had to contend with an oil crisis prompted by new demands from the Middle East which coincided with a miners’ strike lead by Joe (later Lord) Gormley. The country really suffered – workers went on a 3-day week and many of our offices were lit by candles.
The Labour party was lead at that time by Harold Wilson and, according to Joe Gormley’s autobiography, he and Mr Wilson met in the Turkish Baths near Westminster and discussed the crisis – quite understandable at that time that a committed Union leader would meet with the Labour leader. During that discussion Joe Gormley told Wilson, in confidence, that he had worked out a compromise that if miners were paid for the time that they showered after a shift, then the Government’s wage freeze would not be compromised and everyone could get back to work.
The next day in the Commons, Harold Wilson put Joe Gormley’s idea to the House as his proposal and, by making a political point of it, made it politically impossible for the Prime Minister to adopt the idea. Joe Gormley said that never spoke to Harold Wilson again and our 3-day weeks continued up to an early General Election won by Harold Wilson.
Whether you blame the political intransigence of Heath or the deceit of Wilson, playing politics in that way cost us all money, drove us further into recession and illustrates the flaws of the tribalism that has infected our democracies.
In Sutton, when the Conservatives abstained from the vote on the local plan, their abstention, rather than voting against the plan, was said to have been influenced by not wanting to appear to be against building a school.
Well to our ward, that plan represented a further land grab of Metropolitan Open Land in Beddington Lane as well as the disruption of Sheen Way as they look to develop a school on the playing fields. And so it was left to our Independent Councillor, Nick Mattey to represent our views – of course the other Beddington North Ward Councillors, Liberal Democrats Pathumal Ali and Nighat Piracha followed their party line rather than consider local sensibilities.
We are poorly served by the present administration of the London Borough of Sutton. We need voices in Council that are not constrained by political diktat or PR, not guided by a complex party manifesto and not full of financial inducements and promises that may not be kept. Local people deserve representation by their peers – local people who live in the same environment who want to be proud of where they live.