Very few council leaders are subjected to the sort of onslaught which beset him following the fiasco over the proposed parking charges in the West End. Pretty much everyone, cross party, locally and nationally were against the idea. I’m sure even the Pope would have had a word or two to say if asked; which brings me nicely to my point. Because, contrary to popular belief it was not the well run Evening Standard or the flurry of other media campaigns which dealt the final blow. I’m pretty clear it was the churches. Had the ex council leader not messed with the Sunday worshippers, then he may just have got away with it. Thank goodness he didn’t!
This whole episode reminded me of my days as a councillor a few years back when I attended a centennial dinner to mark the formation of the City of Westminster. During the event, I noticed a very strong clergy presence from places like Westminster Abbey & Westminster Cathedral. When l asked why this was, l was politely told that before the Council came into being, the churches ran things for 400-500 years in the City. You only have to look at the primary schools in the borough, to be reminded of their past roles and continuing presence. So, well before the local press, businesses and celebrities jumped on the evening and weekend parking band wagon, it was the churches and their congregations which mobilised to fight the cause.
If there is a lesson to be learned for local politicians, it is, don’t dare to take on the churches on such matters although the whole of Westminster has much to thank them for; bless them.