A riverside tale of rats, water voles and another Viridor grant

WALTER CRONXITE on the latest political defection in south-west London, and the influence it may yet have over Viridor’s role with the Beddington incinerator

So the Liberal Democrats have reached the final day of their annual conference in Bournemouth, with their much-heralded #LibDemFightback so far delivering precisely… one defection, and that of a LibDem councillor to Labour. Oh.

Jennifer Churchill: opted for Corbyn's Labour over Farron's LibDems

Jennifer Churchill: opted for Corbyn’s Labour over Farron’s LibDems

And yesterday’s announcement by Kingston councillor Jennifer Churchill that the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader has persuaded her to join Labour could make for some interesting discussions over the breakfast table with her partner, Stephen Knight, who is half of the LibDem presence on the London Assembly.

Churchill, a councillor for Teddington ward, is the first Labour councillor for 13 years to serve on Kingston Council – which together with Croydon is part of the South London Waste Partnership which has commissioned the £1 billion Beddington incinerator to be run by Viridor.

Tim Farron delivered his first leader’s speech to conference today, begging people to sign up to the LibDems. But according to Churchill, Farron “doesn’t seem to stand for anything”. That’s a line that’s sure to re-appear frequently on pamphlets ahead of next May’s London elections.

Knight launched his bid for re-election to the London Assembly last week with a leaflet. Maybe Churchill had glanced at a copy of it in their living room before making hr decision to quit the LibDems. Knight’s glossy double-sided A4 full-colour leaflet spelled out his vital contribution at City Hall, and his important role in the LibDems’ electoral successes. This presumably includes the LibDems being left with just a single MP in London, Carshalton and Wallington’s incinerator-loving Tom Brake.

Knight’s leaflet also tells of the advice he has given to party members in local government; presumably something along the lines of “don’t give up the day job”.

Stephen Knight: Assembly Member has been advising LibDems on election strategy

Stephen Knight: Assembly Member has been advising LibDems on election strategy

If Knight’s leaflet was unable to convince the mother of their two children, it may be lacking in persuasive power with the voters of south-west London.

Churchill’s ward is in the Twickenham parliamentary constituency, where Vince Cable was MP until May.

In a totally unrelated matter, Twickenham Rowing Club was recently the lucky recipient of a generous £100,000 donation from Viridor Environmental Credits. Viridor Environmental Credits is the charity arm of the incinerator operators, Viridor, and is the same body which was so generous with their landfill levy money to a church hall in Tom Brake’s constituency.

Viridor Environmental Credits is supposed to distribute money to help communities whose lives are adversely affected by living close to landfill sites. The affluent riverside suburb of Twickenham is nine miles upwind of the nearest Viridor landfill, at Beddington. But leading LibDem Cable, when he was still the constituency’s MP, made sure he was on hand for the official re-opening of the rowing club after it had received the Viridor largesse.

Sir Vince, as he is now, forecast only days ago that Jeremy Corbyn’s election triumph would cause people to rethink their political loyalties. Churchill has proved him right, though possibly not in quite the manner he meant.

People will have to make their own judgement if Churchill’s defection is a case of a rat leaving a sinking ship… But the real vermin are becoming an increasing problems for residents in the high-profile BedZED eco village in Hackbridge – which is much closer than Twickenham to the landfill site at Beddington.

Despite soon to have a 302,000-ton-a-year incinerator built on their doorstep, Hackbridge and Beddington residents have not had any Viridor hand-outs. And they don’t seem to be getting much help from the LibDem-run Sutton Council, either, when it comes to their unwanted visitors.

A water vole, according to Sutton Council

A water vole, according to Sutton Council

It is alleged by a BedZED resident that when they called Sutton’s pest control department, the official who visited identified the creatures as not being rats but in fact water voles. He told the sceptical resident that water voles are a protected species and that he was not permitted kill protected species. And with that, the council worker promptly left.

Feeling he was victim of a cruel hoax, the concerned resident called a commercial pest control company for a second opinion.

After a short investigation, the pest controller identified the animals not as water voles, but as rats. Measures were taken to deal with the pest problem.

Whether anyone has a similarly effective way of dealing with the rapidly diminishing number of LibDems in this part of London, though, remains to be seen.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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