The day the whole Council was sent to prison…

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The day the whole Council was sent to prison…

With the Council Election looming in May, I thought we should try and understand what is right and what is wrong in electioneering…

So, today we are having a History lesson and English lesson in one, and the topic is “Poplarism v Popularism”

Poplarism is when Councillors decide to do something to that contravenes what is required of them by the Government.

Popularism is gaining cheap votes by doing short-sighted popular things when you are entirely focussed on the next set of elections.

Now, let’s look at two examples:

Popularism is when a foolish group of elected representatives such as Councillors and back-benchers panders to the NIMBYs and they slam the brakes on their Local Plan, and they argue that they are too special to take housing growth, or the Green Belt is sacrosanct. Or when back-benchers threaten a revolt against their own Government to get rid of housing targets (and ignore the dire economic consequences of their action) to make themselves more popular with NIMBYs.

Poplarism on the other hand…

It was the year 1921 and Poplar Borough Council was one of the most deprived areas of the country. Now this was long before the days of fair(ish) central government grants and the Councillors in Poplar introduced some ground-breaking social reform. They introduced equal pay for female staff and minimum wages for their workers. At the same time, they also had to collect the precept rates for the cross-London authorities; London County Council, the Police, the water board etc. All of these were skyrocketing after the first world war (sounds familiar?).

So, the Councillors, led by a chap with a very impressive handle-bar moustache called George Lansbury (yes, it sounds familiar he was actress Dame Angela Lansbury’s grandfather) then refused to collect the precepts and further impose financial burden on the people they serve.

The London County Council etc. took a dim view of this and dragged the Council to the High Court. The Court then sent 30 (yes thirty) Councillors, including six women to prison for failing in their duty.

Cllr “Handle-tache” Lansbury addressed crowds through the prison bars and this led to wide-spread revolt and eventually the David Lloyd-George and his Government rushed new legislation through the House in the space of two days to stop the unfair tax system and quell the revolt. Just shows you want people power can do.

So, to all our Council candidates standing in May, don’t subscribe to Popularism, subscribe to Poplarism and do what is right. We need more housing to for those on lower incomes and those trying to get on the housing ladder. Stand up and be counted! Go to prison for helping ordinary people get housing!

Until next week,