Charlton Conservatives: “Your children are a nuisance”

Most people who read this blog will know that I’m standing in May’s council elections for the Green Party in Greenwich borough’s Peninsula ward. (Find out more here.) So I’m well aware of the fun and games involved in electioneering and trying to get potential voters’ attention. Now the election’s in sight, I also don’t want to start laying into other people pounding the streets and risking the ends of their fingertips in shoving leaflets through letter boxes because they want to serve their communities. But this struck me as a bit odd, and I thought it deserved a wider debate. And so I hope this entry will be taken in the spirit it’s meant.

The other day, I came across a newsletter from Charlton’s Conservative “action team” – despite my rival affiliation, it’s good to see real, live politics taking place in a ward that the incumbent Labour party appears to have taken for granted for donkey’s years. All solid, true-blue, Labour-bashing stuff. And then there was this curious story…

Those darn kids! But then I realised I used to use the back gate at Blackheath Bluecoat too. My sixth form was shared with them, so I spent a little bit of time there (admittedly lazing around in their common room on Monday mornings). That back way out was a handy way back home to Greenwich. That was in 1990, nearly 20 years ago. So that back gate’s been there for decades. What’s changed to make it such a problem?

Clearly if the school’s pupils are playing up in these quiet back streets, then some kind of remedy’s needed. Police support officers could come along to keep an eye on things. A bit of help for the school in keeping order outside the gate, maybe. But there’s no evidence in the copy that there is a problem. The only issue, it seems, is that young people are walking the streets to go to and from their comprehensive school.

Closing an entrance that’s been there for decades? Strikes me that the Conservatives are claiming that Blackheath Bluecoat’s pupils pose some kind of threat to people’s quiet lives. Haven’t we got away from demonising teenagers yet? Some of them will be old enough to vote – and stand for election – this May.

There’s also one, more practical flaw, in this bright idea. If I was a parent of a Blackheath Bluecoat pupil and lived in Charlton ward, I’d be pleased my child had a quiet and swift way home. Because that back gate the Conservatives think should be closed is the school’s only way out into the ward…

So, in short, the Conservatives have delivered a leaflet in one particular ward telling families to vote for them, because their children don’t deserve a quick and safe way home from school. Doesn’t strike me as the best way to win friends and influence people. “Vote for us, because we don’t like your kids!” Way to go…

You may think differently, of course. But it seems an odd message to me…

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53 comments

  1. It’s called “marketing”.

    The average person will read the leaflet and conclude that there must be a problem, that the local council is ignoring it, and that the Conservatives will fix it.

    Whether the problem exists or not is actually irrelevant to the marketing message being delivered.

  2. Well spotted.

    But branding teenagers in the ward as a problem to be shunted away out of sight? Not nice.

  3. Darryl,

    I see you are attributing the quote “Your children are a nuisance” to Charlton Conservatives? Did we say this? No. We haven’t said this anywhere in the copy or anywhere else for that matter.

    And at the end of the article here’s another fabricated quote: “Vote for us, because we don’t like your kids!”

    Leaving your fabrications aside, the simple fact is that the Charlton Conservatives have extensively consulted residents in the affected streets. The majority of residents supported the closure of the back gate.

    We have a duty to represent our residents. This is what we have done.

    James

  4. Hello James –

    Why didn’t you say in the story that you’d consulted residents?

    And do you think it’s sensible to imply that teenagers going to and from school are a nuisance?

  5. The cynic in me says that Tories might be dog whistling on this. Especially knowing the demographics of Bluecoats.

    Is there simaliar campaigns happening in other schools across the borough?

  6. Well, to be fair, local council elections should be about your back yard.

    But I don’t think it’s particularly clever to imply a local school’s pupils are a nuisance – especially when the candidates seem pretty youthful themselves (making me feel old and bitter by raising the point).

  7. Hello Darryl,

    Actually, I don’t think it’s sensible on your part to imply that we are saying that the kids are a nuisance or damnable. To be blunt, it wasn’t clever at all.

    You are the one who chose those words, not us. Wouldn’t you agree that it is your choice of words which is crass?

    I would suggest that it is you who has been irresponsible in overblowing this story to make a political point.

    What I wrote in the article which you’ve reported on is this: The streets around BBCS back gate are unsuitable for mass use. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I am not suggesting there is any intent of nuisance on behalf of the kids.

    I won’t hold out for an admission that your blog post has – for whatever reason – misrepresented what I wrote.

    James

  8. So if the kids aren’t a nuisance, why would you want the back gate closed?

    There certainly didn’t seem to be any problem with having a back gate at Blackheath Bluecoat when I passed through the sixth form there in the early 1990s. What’s changed?

  9. Darryl,

    Your first question has already been answered in my last post. Please don’t pretend otherwise.

    And if you are only going to answer a question by asking more questions, then it is pointless to debate with you.

    It seems like questioning me is a way of deflecting the fact that you have nothing substantial to say and that what I have said about you misrepresenting our story is true.

    James

  10. IanVisits has hit the nail on the head.

    I would however take isssue with the “…real, live politics taking place…”. Greenwich Tory councillors turn up at the Council’s Annual meeting, whinge that they never get a turn at being Mayor and then sit back for the rest of the year letting Chris Roberts do whatever he wants.

  11. Well, “real live politics” as in people discussing things and ideas and whatever, where the people can see them, rather than the unseen world of the council chamber.

    I’m looking forward to the leaflet which suggests Floyd Road is “unsuitable for mass use” and suggests closing The Valley *ducks*

  12. Darryl,

    I notice that you’ve now resorted to sarcastic comments (to no-one in particular) in the absence of proper debate.

    I don’t doubt you are looking forward to the next leaflet as it gives you an opportunity to make more unconstructive, snide and false remarks.

    I suppose it’s just as well that it is only among your loyal followers that you’re proving yourself to be a supercilious, cynical local politician.

    James

  13. Hear, hear to that last comment James.
    Darryl, I have respect for a lot of what you do, such as pointing out that Greenwich time is a load of rubbish.
    But often it seems that you go looking for problems, and if you don’t find one will twist things till you do find one, often overlooking any positives that might be there.
    The reason that James and I comment on here is not because we are looking for an argument, it is because we genuinely, genuinely care about the local area and are passionate about it, which is why you would see us out so frequently.
    We would be far more active than Labour in Charlton, which is basically paper candidates. We would seek to and have been seeking to solve local resident’s problems as best we can and would continue to do so if we became councillors.

    Complacency would not be an issue with us.

    ps. Used the wrong email so it got put in moderation, sorry

  14. I don’t think calling me a “supercilious, cynical local politician” is “not looking for an argument”, is it?

    All I was doing was wondering if an item in a newsletter which appears to brand a local comprehensive school’s pupils as some kind of problem was wise. That’s all.

    What would you say to someone who wants, say, her daughter to carry on being able to use the short cut home that Blackheath Bluecoat’s back gate offers?

  15. I would like to point out that the fact that it is a comprehensive is in no way relevent to this, the sheer numbers of people walking through a small residential area, is.. As I think was previously stated, James himself attended the school, at around the same time as you.

  16. But talking of “sheer numbers of people”, Charlton ward also contains The Valley.

    If Lizban Street is unsuitable for schoolchildren, what about Floyd Road, Harvey Gardens and Valley Grove with 18,000 football fans?

    And if James went to Blackheath Bluecoat, what would he have thought if some aspiring politicians at the time were seeking to make his life more difficult?

  17. Well, the 18,000 people going through Floyd Road happens once every 1 and a half to 2 weeks, whereas the school children is every single weekday.

    There is also a lot more police around on a match day. Not suggesting that the kids need to be policed more than a group of fans, but at the same time, it makes people feel a lot safer when there is sufficient policing.

    As for a young James, Im not personaly sure and Im sure he will comment, but I personally would probably not appreciate it, but thats most likely because I wouldn’t appreciate the concerns of SOME of the local residents for whom it is a real concern. Its not a huge inconvenience for these kids, but it is a large weight of some resident’s minds…

    The police handle the fans at The Valley brilliantly, I was a season ticket holder up till this season, couldn’t afford it. And the only trouble I have ever seen has been dealt with very swiftly.

  18. Darryl,

    You are proving yourself to be cynical. It’s there in black and white. You wrote the blog so I’m not sure how it’s me who’s looking for an argument.

    How short do you think that short cut really is? Is it hours? No, it shaves off a few minutes from your journey time. That’s it.

    I myself was at BBCS too, so I know what I’m talking about. You don’t have the monopoly on local experience.

    And please, not the “All I was doing was wondering” bathos!

    Just be honest and state that you were spinning a story for political purposes.

    James

  19. Darryl,

    You need to improve your debating skills if all you can do is put up straw-man arguments.

    Comparing the Valley and BBCS is not comparing like-for-like. The residents of Lizban Street don’t also live in Floyd Road, do they? Football at the Valley probably happens once a week at the most. School kids go to and from school twice-a-weekday, maybe four if they have home-lunches.

    And why would closing the back gate necessarily make life more difficult for the kids? Explain that.

    When I was at BBCS, sometimes I went via the front-way, sometimes the back. There really isn’t much difference.

    For the record, no one is trying to make anyone’s life more difficult.

    James

  20. Am enjoying this most local of political debates.

    What I find strange about this issue is that the road is a public right of way which leads to a school. If you live on a public road that leads to a school you might expect school children to use that road.

  21. Galvo has kind of hit the nail firmly on the head.

    If it’s what those kids do, then get the NPT or council wardens on site to manage the dispersal.

  22. Let me see… so if police can deal with 18,000 football fans, why not see if there’s room to get a single PSCO (or yeah, the mysterious council wardens who loaf around Greenwich chatting up chuggers) to keep an eye on things in Lizban Street instead of deciding all the Bluecoat kids are a problem and shutting their back gate?

    If there’s a problem, it may calm it down. But you don’t actually seem to have indicated that Blackheath Bluecoat pupils cause any problems other than by daring to walk down a public highway.

    Why would closing the back gate necessarily make life more difficult for the kids?

    Well, if you live in Charlton you’d have some extra minutes added to the journey home, for a start. Don’t you think school children have the right to be able to have a journey home which avoids main roads?

    I wonder – when Southeastern tried (and failed) to close the side gate at Charlton station, would you have dismissed people’s complaints about that? After all, it’s only another couple of minutes, etc.

  23. ‘Gategate’: London’s most hyperlocal news story.

    I’m inclined to think that if schoolkids using your street to go to school is the most pressing issue you have, life in the street can’t be too bad. It doesn’t really seem like the kind of problem that would really get people mobilised to vote. I may be wrong.

  24. To those who talk about public rights of ways etc. you are missing the point.

    The point is very simple: We were responding to residents’ concerns.

    Galvogalvo “If you live on a public road that leads to a school…” How do you know most of these kids live on public roads that lead to the school?

  25. galvo is of course right. if residents beside westcombe park or charlton train station complained about commuters using one of the exits would you take them seriously?

  26. James,

    you have misread (or misinterpreted) Galvo’s comment. He’s saying that if you live on a road near a gate to a school, then it’s reasonable to expect that pupils will use it.

  27. Galvo (& Sarah) sorry for reading your post incorrectly.

    I get your drift. Well, just because a resident lives on a road – whether they chose to or not – which leads to a school shouldn’t mean that we dismiss their concerns.

  28. The leaflet says that the Conservatives are going to petition for a change in the school policy about entrance and exit to the school. I assume this proposal is borne out of the results from when they’ve spoken to people on the doorstep. Having a couple of hundred of kids passing your house everyday may not be ideal, but if you choose to live near a school that’s what you get.

    The leaflet implies that the influx of children after school creates a noise problem. All schools should have a complaints policy and it would be interesting to know how many complaints have been received by the school and what, if any, action has been taken. Kids fighting outside school is a problem, but what I suspect is happening is that the kids are daring to talk to one another and have a chat and a laugh with their mates. They want to get out of the vicinity of the school as quickly as residents want them to leave. At my old school local residents would report any problems they had, such as the occassional gobby chav, and the headteacher would probably know who it was but if they didn’t, believe me they would find out. Often teachers hung around the gate to hurry people on. Has any of this happened? Are the school aware that one or two people may have concerns?

    Effective crowd control isn’t achieved by pushing all pupils out of the same entrance. All that will happen is the main entrance will become crowded and unsafe. You need to disperse people in different directions. Why is that entrance particularly busy? I don’t know the chucking out time but if a greater proportion of pupils are using the back entrance maybe they could stagger the gate opening. Main gate for the first ten mins, then open the back gate. I don’t know but without a history if identified problems I don’t see the case for closing the gate altogether and Darryl is right, it gives the impression that the kids are a problem that we need rid of. Of course, the community’s views matter, but young people are a part of the community too. It’ll be interesting to see how many local residents sign your petition

  29. Darryl,

    Who said “all” of the Bluecoats kids are problems? If you can’t present facts then you just continute to discredit what you write.

    Being an enthusiastic local blogger and an active member of the Green Party there is a danger of what you write becoming “neither fish nor fowl”.

    As I’ve said, I walked home via the front exit and I didn’t consider it a Herculean task.

    About the SouthEastern analogy – What’s that got to do with this discussion?

    If you’re asking do we listen to objections and counter-opinions, of course we do. I’m having trouble, however, giving you much credit because you delight in ad-hominem attacks against us.

    Sacrcasm is evidently more valuable to you than proper discussion.

    James

  30. James,

    what’s wrong with the southeastern analogy? It seems that it is the fact that these are schoolkids and not commuters is the only difference.

    i’m failing to see what the issue is exactly. All I can see is that kids are choosing a quicker (and possibly safer) way to get home from school and it’s upsetting residents that “common” kids are in their street. I wonder if an independent school would cause them to have the same concerns.

    Darryl,

    I think that you should go down at the school bell and have a look for yourself. Seems like NIMBYish behaviour to me.

  31. Sash,

    Am I allowed to eat my dinner? Or do I have to sit at the computer all day in case someone called “Sash” wants an answer from me?

    James

  32. James,

    This is Darryl’s blog – if there’s any place in the world he should be allowed to air his opinion, it’s here.

    It is actually your responses that are snarky and sarcastic and as much as you claim otherwise, you actually haven’t answered a lot of the questions raised but have rather politic’d around them.

    This kind of arrogant is typical of politics. As far as I am concerned you don’t deserve office unless you are willing to hear dissenting views with a bit less offence taken

  33. I don’t see any demonising going on. In Lyveden Road, there’s been graffiti, damaged fences, litter and scratched cars. A resident who remonstrated with the “kids” was clumped.If in those circumstances I were asked “would you like them to go home another way?” I’d probably say yes. They’re not going to Charlton. They’re going to the Charlton Rd bus stops because Bluecoats hasn’t been doing particularly well and isn’t popular with local parents.
    20 years ago, you probably walked out of the back gate and through Blackheath club. After various incidents their gate was closed a few years ago, and now the kids have to walk the length of Lyveden to the cut-through. Making them walk out to Old Dover Road just detars them from the quieter streets and adds a few yards to their journey.
    I don’t think what the Tories are doing here is particularly inspired, but it strikes me as perfectly legitimate – unlike putting in quotation marks things that aren’t quotes or close paraphrases.

  34. What’s in the Conservative handout contains none of what you say, though. It just claims there’s “pressure” on local streets used by young people using public highways to get to and from school.

  35. Yes, 7 courses (including a delightful palate cleansing gin sorbet) then an hilarious after dinner speech by the UK’s 87th most influential man Iain Dale.

  36. Very funny.
    Regardless, what Darryl said, deliberately misquoting our leaflet in a defamatory manner, would be considered libelous.

  37. Louis, has James finished his dinner yet? There are some points from readers that he might like to answer.

  38. I can’t speak for James, but myself, I have a few points.

    1. Deliberately misquoting is libelous.
    After your rant about your potential constituents in Peninsula, it would be fair to say that you resent them. However, if I was to say:
    Darryl Chameberlain “I hate all of you that live in Greenwich Peninsula” that, would be libelous. I would however be able to quote anythign that you said within that article and criticise it.

    2. I am not the Press Complaints Commission. We do not have a role in criticising your comments about Greenwich Time. Furthermore, claiming that everything is “doubleplusgood” is not really something that would defame a paper.

  39. 1. i don’t think it was a deliberate misquotation. It was clearly Darryl’s opinion about the piece you produced; to argue that it was a misquote would somehow have to rely on the logic that it was something people would reasonably expect your party so say. Surely, it would be evident in your view that your party would neve rmake such a remark.

    In the unlikely event that a reader believed the headline was a direct quote, that is immediately quashed by the fact that Darryl analysed your piece in detail and presented it in full for readers to make up their own minds. That would never happen in a ocnventional press article which woul dmake the potential risk of misquotation greater. There is no political subtext; Darryl is clear that he is a member of a political party at the beginning of the piece and throughout the blog.

    2.i am not sure if GT signs up to the PCC Code and am unclear as to whether they would only cover commercial papers. But that’s by the by.

    I think you should forget about the headline and focus on the article and the comments it has generated. Whether or not it was your intention the article states that the street is quiet and the “unnecessary” use of it by children is adversely affecting the quality of life of residents. People have merely asked why you take that view.

  40. It would still be be interesting to know if the Conservatives have spoken to the school about this, and whether any similar consultation has taken place with residents on Old Dover Rd (who would be affected by the apparent nuisance of more children using their street).

    If I was a parent of children at the school I think I’d be less than impressed with the idea of sending more of the children on to the much busier Old Dover Rd, for the convenience of the residents behind the school.

  41. […] In other areas, Labour can put their feet up – publicity for Charlton ward doesn’t even feature the usual map showing the party’s achievements in the area – because, I’d suggest, there are none to report. I’ll be interested to see how the Conservatives do in Charlton; despite a couple of howlers their publicity’s been pretty good- it’s almost as if they’d been reading this blog for ideas. If only their candidates hadn’t been so thin-skinned when I took them to task over having a pop at local schoolkids. […]

  42. […] – How much thinking about cycling seems stuck in the days when planners used to try to prevent kids on bikes (that’s when they rode them, of course) from getting about. The Sun-in-the-Sands tunnels are part of the London cycle network – but their sister subway at Siebert Road has a great big “no cycling” sign on. If you want kids to cycle to Blackheath Bluecoat school, how about removing the “no cycling” signs from the wide path close to its rear gate? […]

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