Roll Up, Roll Up for the Dame Shirley Porter sequel

BY PAUL DIMOLDENBERG The news that there will soon be a play both on the West End stage and on Radio 4 charting the Shirley Porter Homes for Votes scandal will once again put Westminster Conservatives most notorious episode in the spotlight. According to the Evening Standa

The news that there will soon be a play both on the West End stage and on Radio 4 charting the Shirley Porter 'Homes for Votes' scandal will once again put Westminster Conservatives' most notorious episode in the spotlight.

According to the Evening Standard: "It's the story of a Tesco heiress who became leader of Westminster Council, but was then toppled for gerrymandering and driven into exile in Israel. The tale of Sir Jack Cohen's daughter Dame Shirley Porter, who sold off cemeteries for 5p each and was ordered by the House of Lords to pay �49 million after the infamous "council homes for votes" scandal, is about to be told in a play called Shirleymander."

With award-winning actress Imelda Staunton tipped to play Dame Shirley, the West End is sure to see another long-running play pulling in the crowds from far and wide.

The only people who will be unhappy about this are Westminster Conservatives who do not like to be reminded that they were responsible for the biggest ever scandal in local government history.

This is particularly so because some of the major players in the scandal, including deputy council leader Robert Davis and Abbey Road councillor Judith Warner, still occupy leading positions on the flagship Conservative Council. And former council leader Simon Milton was another member of the Porter gang responsible for housing policies which cost council taxpayers over �42 million.

I was one of those who said "it could never happen again". But sadly, I may be proved wrong.

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The same Westminster Conservatives have now hatched a new plan under the guise of 'regeneration' and plan to knock down parts of housing estates in Church Street, Maida Vale, Westbourne and Pimlico, so that they can reduce the number of council tenants and build new flats for incomers.

The Conservatives claim that the 3,000 flats on these estates are 'council house ghettos'. But they conveniently forget that over 40 per cent of the Church Street and Pimlico flats have been sold off and are now private.

These areas are now true mixed communities and there is no need to reduce the council housing stock any further. Indeed, there is a very strong argument for increasing the amount of council housing in order to deal with increased overcrowding!

But, of course, just like Shirley Porter, today's Conservatives have a political agenda to reduce the number of council tenants in Westminster because they do not think that they will vote Conservative.

Just like Porter, today's Westminster Conservatives are using public money to force through their partisan agenda.

And just like in the bad old days of Porter, the people who will lose out will be the poor, the overcrowded and those least able to fight their corner.

That is why Labour councillors will oppose the 2009 version of Shirley Porter's mean and nasty housing policies with just as much force and commitment as we fought the original plans over 20 years ago.

And just as we exposed and won back over �12 million from Porter for the people of Westminster, we will not allow today's Conservatives to get away with the evil that they plan for their own council tenants.

Paul Dimoldenberg is leader of the Labour Group on Westminster Council

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