Monday, 24 October 2011

Together we can do it ... Boston's problems are cross-party - not just a challenge for the Tories

Now that next month’s march to protest about the impact of immigration on Boston has been called off for the time being, we hope that everyone will start looking forward – to find a way to solve some of the town’s problems.
And, as we suggested briefly on Friday, any progress should involve a more inclusive approach by Boston’s Tory leadership.
Whilst receiving – and apparently ignoring – calls from the council’s Labour group for a task and finish group … including one made in early July … council leader Peter Bedford last week announced the setting up of just such a group – as though no-one else had mentioned it.
Similarly, the news of secret talks with the Home Office was announced with the claim: “We had not been able to say anything until now about the sensitive talks we were having with the Home Office over the past few months which have concluded only recently with the Home Office agreeing to come to Boston to speak to people here about issues around immigration.”
Really? Why not?
Especially as, in both instances, Councillor Bedford had already let the cat out of the bag.
After Peter Hitchens's feature in the Mail on Sunday on 18th September, Boston Eye reader Geoff Rylott e-mailed a copy to Councillor Bedford – among others – asking for comments. Councillor Bedford replied promptly – the only councillor to do so incidentally – and said “we are in the process of setting up a task and finish group to involve all aspects of this type of problem, not just in Boston but throughout Lincolnshire…”
That was a month ago, but nothing more was said until last week.
Similarly, a fortnight ago, Councillor Bedford told listeners to the Peter Levy Show on BBC Radio Lincolnshire: “We are in talks with the Home Office and trying to get Boston classed as a special case because of the amount (of migrants) that have arrived. Hopefully, we will be able to make some announcement shortly, but that is with the Home Office at this moment in time.”
Yet again, nothing more was said until last week - when the strong impression was given that the sensitivity of these talks effectively embargoed any mention of them.
We’re sure that they are all grown ups at the Home Office, and cannot imagine that – if the people of Boston had been told much earlier that talks were underway – the mandarins would have thrown a hissy fit and refused to help.
As the talks began “even before the explosion in an illegal distillery in the town” –  the selfsame wording used by Labour councillors when announcing their appeal for a task and finish group, incidentally –  is it not possible that the news might well have defused matters ... and that the call for the march might not have been made? After all, it did not come until after the Hitchens feature in September.
It seems to us that this obsession with political secrecy could well have created some of the pressures that its ending has now eradicated.
We note that last week’s meeting between the march organisers and Boston Borough Council was again a Tory political affair – involving the leader and his communities portfolio holder, Councillor Mike Gilbert.
It could be seen as yet another snub to Labour's call for a meeting between all council group leaders and the organisers of the protest march – which we are sure that the other group leaders would have endorsed.
As we said on Friday, some issues transcend party political lines – and with many of the problems now confronting Boston, the people most affected often live in wards that are not represented by Conservatives.
Could we ask what right the leadership has to deny  non-Tory ward councillors involvement in some of the biggest issues to confront them for decades?
We accept that some councillors consider themselves also to be politicians in a bigger sense, but consider that this idea is vain and unconstructive.
The issues arising from migration to Boston are something for the borough to come to terms with – not some Tory-specific conundrum to be solved.
No ruling group can be infallible - as Boston’s history has shown - and the time is long overdue for the current leadership to show political commonsense and acknowledge that a problem affecting everyone should be addressed by the council as a whole.
Meanwhile, one question that needs urgently addressing concerns other marches announced at the time of the one planned for  Boston .
We assume that any direct “counter” to something that has now been postponed would be called off.
But other groups announcing events included Lincoln and District TUC, which has called for “working people from all nationalities to come along and get involved, and to unite in the trade unions and anti-cuts groups behind a common programme of defence of jobs, pay and public services for all.”
To date, we have found nothing to say that this had been called off.

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