Young pretender Zac Goldsmith offers political advice to old-timer Vince Cable
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. With London borough elections coming up in less than a year, I am astounded to see the LibDem leadership of Richmond Council repeat the exact same mistakes that lost them the borough in 2002.
Back then, the shennanigans which surrounded a proposed redevelopment of Twickenham Riverside caused a swing which brought the Tories into power for the first time in decades. They, too, failed to appreciate the importance of local planning issues in local elections and were duly booted out in 2006.
Now the LibDems are backing the wrong horse all over again - and on the same site. This time, though, the row is engulfing national politicians with Vince 'Saintly' Cable well in the frame.
In a local referendum, conducted by Electoral Reform Services a few weeks ago, Twickenham residents overwhelmingly rejected council plans to sell a riverside site, which is home to a popular cafe, children's playground and a David Bellamy Award-winning garden, to controversial property developers. Council leader Serge Lourie alleged the referendum question was "rigged". Cable appears to have adopted this line, stating that "the phrasing is so obviously loaded". And he announced he would not to intervene on behalf of his constituents because "I represent Twickenham in Parliament, not on the council".
This sophistry is not going down at all well among the voters, but it is helping Dave Cameron's green-eyed boy, Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for the adjoining constituency of Richmond Park. "Local people have voted overwhelmingly against the proposals", he told me. "As a believer in democracy, for me that ought to be the end of it. Vince is missing a trick here, and risks losing credibility. I hope he comes to his senses."
So do I, Zac. So do I.