AH, the looney left. It is a funny old phrase. It brings us back to the good old eighties with stories of coffee without milk and jam jars, black flags hanging outside the GLC, Sandinista, Verenceremos and Greenham Common.
Thurrock Tories are keen to describe newbie Ockendon councillor, Aaron Kiely as a new breed of “loonie left” Some would say: “you mean defenders of social justice. You mean concerned with the erosion of liberty and rights. You mean concerned with poverty and police, both locally and globally?”
But at times you just wonder if young Aaron doesn’t help himself? Since he was elected in May, we have not received a single press release about any project he is involved with in his ward. We have asked a few times but to no avail.
Of course, senior Labour members say: “Just because he isn’t courting the press doesn’t mean he isn’t working on case work.” Fair point.
But there have been frustrations (vented privately) among council officers that they haven’t seen him for some time and his name doesn’t come up when you speak to residents (and voters). They all make reference to Tory councillors Lynn Carr and Amanda Arnold (anti-social behaviour on Flowers Estate, planning application near Ockendon station, friends of Brandon Groves, lorry routes etc.)
Indeed on Tuesday night, we went from a scrutiny committee where we saw Belhus councillor Wendy Curtis to a neighbourhood action panel where another Belhus councillor Sue Gray was taking minutes. We then went along to the launch of the Friends of Brandon Groves where we saw another Belhus councillor, Mr Mayor Charlie Curtis plus Ockendon councillor, Amanda Arnold. Also there were prospective parliamentary candidate, Polly Billington, former councillor Barry Johnson and possible contender for May, Martin Kerin.
There is also the question of Facebook and Twitter. Aaron’s is a really keen tweeter and facebooker but it all seems to be to do with advancing his London left wing credentials. It is Aaron supporting Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Hugo Chavez.
Indeed, Aaron’s twitter profile is: “NBSA & SBL @nusUK Executive member, @nusBSC activist. @HackneyAbbott & @SalmaYaqoob are my heroes. Left-wing anti-racist, anti-imperialist.”
Aaron’s facebook profile is: as a National Executive Councillor at the National Union of Students.
No mention of Ockendon or being a councillor at all.
These are all noble causes and you may say, you cannot have it both ways. You can’t say on the one hand that young people are disengaged with politics and then criticise a young man who is clearly very passionate about social justice.
We did contact Aaron on Thursday and ask for five minutes of his time, any time on Friday, Saturday or Sunday to record an interview on his first ten months as a councillor. It is something we do every year. This year we interviewed Labour’s Victoria Holloway and the Conservative’s Shane Hebb.
Aaron declined to be interviewed, informing us that he would be very busy studying. However, according to his facebook, he was in London at the University of London student elections on Friday night. He then had time to publish a blog on homophobia and transphobia and at time of writing seems to be writing in depth on the death of Whitney Houston.
He has also reprinted a poem written by the nephew of reggae singer, Smiley Culture, who committed suicide in the middle of a police raid on his home last year.
Young Aaron is obviously a Conservative dream but then again, they have offered up enough material to Labour. And let’s be honest, the good people of Ockendon are worried about their jobs, crime and getting their houses repaired and not a young trots twitters. But Labour have been putting a lot of work in that ward because it is a key bell weather ward and may have been the difference between winning and losing the 2010 General Election.
In conclusion, it just appears to us, (and we could be wrong and often are) that this young man worked really hard to win the seat. It would be a shame if that was all undone.