Ealing Borough Senior Citizens Action Group hosted a visit to the Borough by Deputy Mayor, Nicky Gavron, today. Although EBSCAG, as they call themselves, profess to be non-political they had the Labour deputy London mayor talking about London issues and Labour councillor Ranjit Dheer talking about local issues so it was definitely Labour in broadcast mode. Gavron was half an hour late so people were already getting restive when Gavron kicked off.
She started off with five minutes on herself which included the anecdote that her mother had been asked to dance for Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. This made me laugh as a nice lady from Hammersmith sitting next to me had already told me the same anecdote about Gavron – obviously this is part of her usual patter. Most of what Gavron said was pretty irrelevant to the audience and my neighbour complained that she was bored. I was too. It was basically a ramble around her and Ken’s marvellous achievements.
She covered the Freedom Pass giving more bogus reassurances and a rather twisted description of the “reserve scheme”. This is the mechanism, unique to London because it is pretty weird, whereby the Mayor, who is also Chairman of TfL, gets to arbitrate in disputes between London councils and their supplier TfL. Remember it is London councils who pay the entire Â£227 million bill for the Freedom Pass, the Mayor has never contributed a penny. Gavron got confused about the hours of operation of the Freedom Pass and had to be put right by the audience. Although Gavron is old enough to qualify for a pass she clearly doesn’t use one. Gavron’s comments about falling crime were met with evident incredulity from the audience.
Cllr Dheer rambled around for 5 minutes in his usual ineffective way. He muttered darkly about certain people being against the Freedom Pass but that was as controversial as he got.
The question time was slightly shambolic as the roving mike was playing up and the audience refused to ask questions but wanted to make statements instead. The biggest cheer went up when a lady complained that whilst she dutifully queued up to show her Freedom Pass when she got on the bus the under 18s simply barged their way on without showing anything. A couple of people complained about the standard of bus drivers. The second biggest cheer was for the person that complained that bendy buses were effectively free buses. The third most popular comment was the lady who raised perennial cycling on pavements issue. Gavron promised to take some of this stuff back to City Hall. If she was expecting to be thrown bouquets today she would have been disappointed.
She left 15 minutes before the end of the meeting complaining that it takes an hour to get back to City Hall. Yes dear, we know.