Ham&High letters: U3A London, Cllr Gardiner, MS, measures and lockdown

The Old Town Hall in Haverstock Hill. Picture: WAC Arts

The Old Town Hall in Haverstock Hill. Picture: WAC Arts - Credit: Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

A gem hidden in the old town hall

Shireen Gunasekera, Edgware, writes:

Having seen the advertisement for the U3A London, and Maggie Crawford’s letter to the editor, I am tempted to write of my own experience as a U3A London member.

There is indeed a gem hidden away in the Hampstead Old Town Hall - and that is the U3A London. For those of a certain age, it is the place to go, to learn something new, meet people, make friends.

The U3A offers a wide array of classes, covering a variety of interests, and numerous social activities. Since my retirement, I have learnt tai chi, tap dancing, pilates, yoga, belly dancing. A particular highlight was the belly dance troupe being invited to perform at the Retirement Show at London Olympia for three consecutive years. I also continue to pursue my passion for bridge, playing there regularly.

As one gets older, it is said that it becomes that much harder to make friends. I have made many lasting friendships while participating in U3A activities. I do enjoy my U3A London membership.

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For those fellow seniors who have not yet sampled the U3A London experience, I say give it a try, you will not regret it - Life begins at 60.

In support of Cllr Gardiner

Katharine Bligh, Mary Ryan and Pauline Ryan, addresses provided, write:

We are writing to express our solidarity and support to Councillor Thomas Gardiner who is being subjected to obvious and unfounded bullying by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties. Cllr Gardiner is an active, effective and brave advocate for Kilburn ward.

He is a committed anti-racist and in stark contrast to the inactivity of political preeners such as Cllr Cooper and Cllr Porritt, he has spoken out and acted against antisemitism wherever it appears.

The Tories and Lib Dems should stop trying to profit from the fears of Camden’s Jewish communities and instead seek to emulate Thomas Gardiner’s excellent record in defending Jews and other minorities.

Labour members: Chris Powell, Shezan Abdul, Paul Renny, Cllr Ranjit Singh, Elaine Donnellan, Gareth Murphy, Heather Bower, Tom Selwyn, Sarah Friday, Cllr Sue Vincent, Cllr Leo Cassarani, Cllr Simon Pearson, Cllr Gail McAnena Wood, Cllr Douglas Beattie, Cllr Nayra Bello O’Shanahan, Cllr Awale Olad, Zohreh Kamali-Nejad, Julian Hough, Mary O’Sullivan, Shirine Azzi, Stephen Kapos, Richard Kuper, Robert West, Elizabeth Dore, Amanda Sebestyen, Linda Lefevre, Helena Aksentijevic, Una Doyle, Anna Rose, Mark Dennison, Diane Pearson, Paul O’Brien, Ruth Appleton, Harriet Evans, John Purcell, Felicity Taylor, Susanna Mitchell, Michael Brown, Kumiko Shimizu, Peter Robbins, Andrew Feinstein, Lord Hendy QC, Patsy Downey, Tom Reed, Nico Csergo, Jo Rostron, Jimena Castro, Peter Wickenden, Zulma Wickenden, Luke Pearson, Martin Fahey, Bernard Miller, Mary O’Sullivan, Thomas Muirhead, Agnes Kory, Lucy Moy Thomas, Nicholas Weaver, Rimsha Abdul, Eli Machover, Dorothea Hackman, write:

We are writing as Labour Party members in Camden in support of Cllr Thomas Gardiner who has an exemplary record of upholding anti-racist values. We were astonished to hear that Camden Cllrs from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are opportunistically calling for the resignation of a duly elected Labour Cllr.

We can understand that it would be more convenient for them if such a stalwart defender of social justice in our borough were out of their way, but they have to understand that we need politicians like Cllr Gardiner to legitimately represent minority groups and interests. He is committed to fighting discrimination and is a ready ally for those suffering injustice.

Do they not remember how he supported the expansion of a local synagogue when others were encouraging residents to oppose it?

And actively campaigned for reforms in Camden’s planning rules to make it more straightforward for Jewish and Muslim communities to obtain permission for places of worship?

The EHRC report to which they refer finds no wrongdoing by Cllr Gardiner, but rather references improvements he brought about.

It is disingenuous at best of the opposition Cllrs to use such an important issue as antisemitism to attempt to instruct the majority Labour party to remove a thorn in the opposition side.

We none of us tolerate antisemitism and want to re-educate any who do. As [Camden] leader Georgia Gould says, we work together “to eradicate the evil of anti semitism from our party and community”.

Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

Dan Thomas, the leader of Barnet Council, has made headlines criticising Labour over its record on antisemitism.

He must on reflection realize that his remarks are both misleading and irresponsible. Misleading, because it is an unfortunate fact, borne out by statistics, that there are pockets of Islamophobia and antisemitism in all British political parties, among which the Conservatives are marginally more guilty than Labour. In Barnet, it is good to note that the multifaith activists include prominent members of all political parties, who work together to promote friendship and harmony among the community.

As to Dan’s assertion that “antisemitism became institutionalised under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party,” I trust that he will withdraw this insinuation that Mr Corbyn’s record has been other than of consistent support for harmony between the states and citizens of Israel and Palestine. If Dan listened to Daniel Barenboim’s address to an audience at the Proms by his orchestra, composed of young musicians from Israel and Palestine playing in harmony, he would share my view that peace can be brokered in Gaza, and that a British foreign minister such as Jeremy Corbyn, with his international reputation for tolerance and negotiation, will make an ideal mediator between Israel and Palestine. There can be peace overnight in Gaza once politicians of both sides have the will to achieve it.

It would be gracious and welcome for Dan Thomas to rephrase his remarks on his outspoken views, to acknowledge that there are racists in his own party equally to be eradicated, and to withdraw his irresponsible comments on some of his political rivals.

The Society

Mary Sleater, Colindale, writes:

More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and many rely on services like physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and exercise classes to stay active, manage their condition and do the everyday things many others take for granted. The MS Society’s report Too Much To Lose shows that since lockdown began, 69 per cent of people with MS couldn’t speak to a rehabilitation professional when they needed to. Without this support, people with MS are losing their mobility, their confidence and their independence.

My initials are MS. I have MS. My initials are easy to live with MS isn’t. Every day is different, yesterday I went to the supermarket today I’m finding it hard to write this as my energy is so low. My thought process is sluggish. Without support from my MS nurse and other agencies I would wither away. I don’t want that would anyone?

Readers can help by asking health leaders to support better access to rehabilitation for people with neurological conditions like MS. Visit mssociety.org.uk/local-health.

On being the measure of things

Derek Coltman, North End Road, Hampstead, writes:

Now we have left the EU, we should return to Imperial measurements - feet, inches, pounds and ounces? They’re miles better! America still thinks so. It’s hard to believe that in 2001 a Sunderland trader was fined over £2,000 for not selling his goods in kilos and grammes.


Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, writes:

None of us wanted to see another lockdown, but it has sadly become necessary because of this government’s failings.

A failure to listen, a failure to put in place an effective test, trace and isolate system and ultimately a failure of leadership.

Labour called for a circuit breaker three weeks earlier in line with SAGE’s recommendations. Boris Johnson ridiculed and rejected the idea and time has now been lost. That delay will come at an economic and human cost.

I know how tough this winter lockdown will be for so many and I support it with a heavy heart. The sacrifices the people of Hornsey and Wood Green are making must not be squandered for a second time by this government. The lockdown must be used to fix test and trace, sack failing Serco and put these crucial services back in the hands of local councils who have the expertise and knowledge.

Businesses must be provided with the financial support they need to close their doors during what is for many the busiest time of the year. There were huge holes and gaps in the government’s support packages last time – particularly for many self-employed and freelancers – I’ll keep pushing for these gaps to be plugged this time round.

Unemployment has soared by 182 per cent in Haringey since March with nearly half of all workers in some areas out of work. The government must scrap the benefit cap, confirm now that they won’t be cutting universal credit, reinstate the ban on evictions and repossessions so that no one loses their home and fund and rapidly introduce access to training for the more than a million people who have already lost their jobs since the crisis began. Those on low pay must not be penalised financially for isolating and those who are clinically vulnerable must be supported to stay at home.

It is hugely frustrating that Johnson’s dithering and delay has meant this lockdown doesn’t coincide with the school half term holiday. I support efforts to keep our schools open as I know how damaging their closure was, particularly for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. However, that must be accompanied by sufficient funding for schools to implement rapid Covid testing and other safety measures and the government must reinstate – and actually deliver – the promised laptops to tackle the growing digital divide in our schools and further education colleges.

Finally, the government must recognise the mental health impact of another lockdown, particularly in the dark winter months. Sport provides so many benefits, to physical and mental wellbeing, community cohesion as well as saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year. I’ve raised concerns about the proposed closure of sports facilities including activities such as outdoor swimming which I believe can be carried out in a Covid safe way.

I’ve received hundreds of emails in the past 48 hours and I know many local residents have questions and concerns about how the lockdown will affect you. I’m here to help – contact my office on westc@parliament.uk or 020 7219 6141 and we will do everything we can to assist, or direct you to the best place for advice and support.