20 July 2009 10:28 AM

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.


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The 'David Bellamy Award-winning garden' is actually somewhere else, on Sherland Rd, a small part of a former bomb site, now garages, which is to be used for social housing. The scheme is only an issue in the parts of 2 wards close to it - residents of Richmond and Barnes rarely visit Twickenham for any purpose.

The site is being developed to pay for a River Centre on it, sponsored by the Environmental Trust for Richmond upon Thames and many local conservation groups. You can read all about it at:

MPs can and do help their constituents when asked to do so, so I don’t understand why Vincent Cable is ignoring 6,000 plus residents of the Borough who have signed a petition and ignore the results of a recent Referendum whereby 93.5% of respondents voted NO to the sale of Twickenham Riverside to Countryside Property Developers for exclusive luxury housing.

I appealed to Dr Cable for his help in 2004, when Richmond Council was briefly run by the Conservatives and I discovered that the well used garage site, gardens and trees opposite my house might be sold off for development. He offered to “kick up a fuss” but was assured any potential sale would be a long way off and no need to take any action.

How ironic then that this site - which thanks to the efforts of the local community has to date won eight environmental and conservation awards, two of which were presented by Prof David Bellamy - has been linked to Twickenham Riverside in the most unfortunate way.

When returned to power, Dr Cable’s party started cooking up a “linked sites strategy” whereby they can waive planning obligations and exclude the social rented and affordable housing from prime sites such as Twickenham Riverside and instead, cram it into smaller sites elsewhere in the borough, on sites that are in no way "linked" to the Riverside and regardless of the suitability or impact on existing communities and their needs.

Unlike his counterpart MP Susan Kramer, campaigning publically against garden grabbing developments on the other side of the Bridge, this is one spotlight Dr. Cable does not want to be under. If this was still a Conservative Administration I have no doubt Dr. Cable would be speaking out about the unfairness of such a scheme.

I was on the recent march in Bushy Park Teddington, headed up by Dr Cable, in which park users were protesting about the Royal Parks’ proposed parking charges. He was quick to speak out for residents then. Why? Because he told all assembled that he knew the proposal would be dropped and obviously he saw it as a great PR exercise.

The current Liberal Democrat Administration in Richmond upon Thames has made ever issue a political one. It ignores the results of its own consultations, brands anyone who dares to speak out a "tyrannical articulate minority" imposes frozen meals on the elderly, imposes hiked parking charges on parked cars and in its capacity as BOTH landowner and planning authority, is now about to sign a contract and grant itself planning permission on a Riverside Dome and luxury housing estate, which will be the final nail in Twickenham's coffin.

As if this wasn't bad enough, it is grossly unfair that our MP now appears to cherry pick which campaigns to publically support.

Vince Cable was very quick to get involved when his constituents were fighting an unwelcome planning application opposite them across the Thames at Hampton Court. Could it possibly be because Elmbridge Council has 28 Conservative Councillors as opposed to 8 LibDem, or Surrey Council is Conservative run? His little local difficulty is not helped by him being involved with the Environment Trust, whose River Centre is at the centre of this totally unwanted development. Referendum result - 93.5% against housing development; 159 independent traders say NO; 6,000 sign petition saying NO; Local Conservative, Labour and Green parties say NO. Vince and his LibDem pals on the Council ignore us. Democracy is dead in this Borough.

Vince Cable missing a trick I think that is the understatement of the Year.
This man is the alleged MP for Twickenham, useless it it’s an issue that goes against his Richmond Council
Lib Dem chums cllr Sergie Lourie & Co.

I voted for Vince at the last election,not knowing how ineffective a man he really was. He has well and truly lost the support of the people of TWICKENHAM,who have now got used to man who spends more time getting himself involved in media events or his online column in a uk newspaper.

Vince the clue is in the title "MP for Twickenham"

Defend this email Mr Chris Squires


Graeme Tallantire

Richmond Council arranged a supervised public vote between 3 housing schemes but did not abide by the people’s choice. Now the Liberal Democrats will not recognize the independently run referendum, paid for by residents. The 3 opposition parties (Greens, Labour and Conservatives) have united to try to stop the development but the Liberal Democrat controlled Council has refused to discuss alternative community proposals. People say that Vincent Cable’s halo is slipping. Of course, VC is no saint – he is a politician. Some people did not think the Mr Bean comment was worthy of such ensuing popularity. I also believe Vince was chief economist for Shell when the company was very unpopular with Nigeria's Ogoni people(the time when Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 Ogoni leaders, who spoke out against environmental damage to the Niger Delta, were executed).

If Vince is for the Riverside proposal, fair play to him, but to try and hide behind “it is a council issue” just sums up how “unsaintly” our MP actually is! Our MP is quite happy to get involved in other local issues, so what is the difference with this one?

What concerns most people is the feeling of a lack of transparency with these developments. And the Council’s lack of response to their constituents feelings. This seems to sit at odds with, as a former LD voter, my understanding of the what the LDs stood for - local democracy. Is it ok to have local democracy when the people are for you, but not when they are against?

When you get LD councillors sitting in judgement on planning applications, such as the Sherland, Shacklegate and Church Road garage developments associated with the Riverside development, saying things such as “the problem with this area is that it is too gentrified”, and that “people just want too many cars” as one LD Councillor did at the planning meeting for the garage development. You know you are not talking to an impartial meeting, but probably to people who have some sort of social axe to grind.

Given that these areas are full of fireman, school teachers, local government workers; and the LDs are allowing some sort of social engineering by developing ‘luxury’ houses on the river, but shoving social houses somewhere slightly less salubrious, the above comments seem strange and even ironic.

As someone previously said – welcome to the People’s Republic of Richmond. All hail Comrade Cable!

Twickenham MP, Vincent Cable, has said that intervening in the controversial Twickenham Riverside issue is "Not My Job" but an article on the Katy Gordon website shows that Dr Cable has been involved in supporting the "Save Our Schools" campaign in Glasgow.
Of course, Dr Cable has protested against a variety of local issues but refuses to help constituents who wish to prevent Richmond Council selling Twickenham Riverside to property developers.

When Dr Cable was elected in May 2005 he promised that his first priority was to serve all in his constituency:

"I am deeply conscious that what the electorate give they can take away and my first responsibility is to the people. Whatever happens nationally, the first priority is to serve all in this constituency," he said in a typically understated victory speech.

In an independent Referendum carried out by Electoral Reform Services 93.5% people voted against the sale of riverside land to a property development company, over 200 Twickenham traders have signed a petition which calls for the preservation of existing facilities (opened in 2005) on the Riverside and the provision of Open Space as the Predominant immutable feature of any scheme. Over 7,000 residents have also signed the petition.

Local people have called for the Council to stop the sale of Twickenham Riverside and to enter talks with community groups who have community plans for the site.

Lib Dem Dr Vince Cable has refused to represent the views and wishes of the people of Twickenham with regard to the Riverside development proposals. He states that he doesnt get involved in Council/planning issues. That is simply not true. He wrote a letter on behalf of a minority of local residents of just one road, to Richmond Councils planning department (Planning Ref: 05/2442/cou) stating that he thought planning proposals for a small winebar should be refused as they were inappropriate for the area. Precedent set.

It isnt rocket science to work out why our MP refuses to do his job representing local people, the 'junta' in charge of the Council are all Lib Dems and it seems party is more important than people. Dr Cable was elected to represent the people of Twickenham, if he isnt prepared to do that he should resign.

See, even the Liberals are capable of ignoring their constituents.

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