The man who wants to save Camden Town

AFTER helping Tony Blair on his way to three triumphant election re-sults, Simon Pitkeathley knows exactly what needs to be done to win over voters

AFTER helping Tony Blair on his way to three triumphant election results, Simon Pitkeathley knows exactly what needs to be done to win over voters.

In 1997, 2001 and 2005 Mr Pitkeathley was part of the campaign teams who created history by orchestrating three consecutive poll victories for the Labour Party.

The success was all the sweeter for the man who is now chief executive of the business organisation Camden Town Unlimited, because of what happened on one night in 1992.

Mr Pitkeathley was there on that disastrous pre-election rally in Sheffield when Neil Kinnock's premature triumphalism was blamed for the Labour Party snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in that year's election.


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"I was the stage manager that night and my job was to make sure people got on and off the stage at the right time. I can't really take much credit or very much blame for that night. It did not appear disastrous for those of us who were there on the night.

It was only the TV coverage which was so killing. It was ill-conceived and the main problem was it went out live on TV. People remember Neil Kinnock doing his celebratory dance," he said.

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"Since then I have worked on three elections and they have been the most successful in the party's history."

In three years' time Mr Pitkeathley, 43, will have the job of convincing voters he and his team should be allowed to stay on and finish their job.

Except this time his electorate are the businesses and traders of Camden Town - or the wealthy ones at least.

Speaking to Mr Pitkeathley in the Inhibition coffee shop in the heart of Camden Town, the influence his previous dip into the world of politics has had on him is clear to see.

The former singer/songwriter talks passionately about the job he has to 'save Camden Town' and comes loaded with stats and facts to back up his case. It feels as if I am talking to a local councillor.

He said: "Well I suppose in some way I am, except I am elected by businesses as opposed to residents and it is my organisation rather than me personally. There is an element of us having to represent the voice of business, whereas the council represents the voice of residents. To some extent, as with councillors, they come to me and say 'I put up this money and what are you doing with it?' We have to prove to them we are doing something of value."

Camden Town Unlimited was formed in April 2006 when 84 per cent of the area's companies, which pay rates over £40,000 annually, voted to create what is known as a Business Improve-ment District (BID).

The scheme is based on a US model of regeneration and each year it has around £430,000 to spend on its three mission statements - 'cut crime', 'clean and green' and 'celebrate and promote'.

Their clients include heavyweights like the Holiday Inn, French Connection and Hugo Boss.

The man, who once performed on the famous stage at Camden Town's Dingwalls in his younger days, has a battle on his hands trying to get the police, the council businesses and residents to sing from the same hymnbook.

One of the most controversial decisions taken by Camden Town Unlimited, albeit one taken before Mr Pitkeathley took the helm, was to spend £100,000 on their own uniformed wardens to help beat drug dealers in the area.

The theory up to that point had been that uniformed officers on the street are ineffective tackling the problem but the wardens had an instant success and since then 20 new police community safety officers have taken to the streets in full uniform to head off the dealers.

"I would argue that without the BID this never would have happened," said Mr Pitkeathley.

"I am not sure you would get that same view from the council or from the police. I think it would be harder for them to see things that way.

"The drugs problem is chronic and our money brought the wardens in and that is difficult for people to see. We stirred people up and upset them a lot."

Seeing his organisation's ideas initially dismissed but then taken on is frustrating for Mr Pitkeathley, who accepts Camden Town Unlimited might never get the credit it deserves.

He said: "In three years' time we will have to be re-elected. We can keep coming up with visions and ideas and hand them over to people and they can adopt them as their own. We can be the catalyst that brings about the change. That is definitely the best way to go but the problem with that is we get no credit and then in three years' time we might disappear.

"My job description said 'you will have much influence and no power'. We hope to have influence but the reality is I cannot make anybody do anything."

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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