Stella Creasy’s views on local government: getting better, but not yet best

I was interested to hear Stella Creasy MP tell Andrew Neil on last week’s Sunday Politics show: ‘Do you think local government matters, Andrew, because I do. Local government is often the first place where people come into politics’.

She is quite right, of course, and similar sentiments are exactly why I write this blog.

But has she really lived up to her own words?

There are plenty of things about Dr. Creasy to like. She is a good communicator, and has a high and generally positive profile in much of Waltham Forest. She deserves considerable credit for her campaign against loan sharks, particularly as this involved her in some totally undeserved and very unpleasant public abuse. And she is apparently less than popular in the higher reaches of the Town Hall, which, knowing some of the personalities involved, can only be to her credit.

So far so good. But has she walked the walk over local government, or even talked the talk? The opportunities certainly have been there. After all in the past decade, LBWF has blundered from fiasco to fiasco. Let’s look at the evidence.

I first met Dr. Creasy in 2004 when she was a local councillor for Lea Bridge Ward. We were at a meeting about the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF), and I well remember showing her documents which proved how spending was not being properly monitored and audited. She murmured concern. But as far as I know, she never uttered a word of public criticism about what the Council was up to, either at that time, or subsequently when NRF morphed into the Better Neighbourhood Initiative.

Since then, her record is better, though not strikingly so. I understand that she raised Worknet with the Council leadership, in the end receiving the same ‘it’s time to move on’ treatment as is regularly meted out to the rest of us. And I hear that she is concerned by the E11/Waltham Forest Business Board affair. But about asbestos in the Town Hall her silence is inexplicably deafening.

Perhaps we should be charitable. When first elected, John Cryer, my local MP, told me frankly that he was not interested in anything that might pit him against his Labour colleagues on the Council. So by that measuring rod Dr. Creasy is a Titan.

But there is a sense of disappointment that she has not said more, and that she doesn’t recognise her reticence as to some extent an Achilles’ Heel.

However, let’s hope her forthright comment to Andrew Neil signals a new beginning. Because one thing Labour needs right now like a rat sandwich is the same old tribalism, where its members and supporters bury their heads in the sand whenever someone on their own side is at fault.