Gazette letters: Outdoor swimming, Brexit, street parties and Grenfell Tower


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The route between my house in Dalston and Hampstead Heath, and between my office off the Essex Road and the heath, were my most trodden this week, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

It is amazing how incapable we are in this country of concentrating on almost anything beyond the weather. How each change in temperature or cloud is so all-consuming. Cycling up Holloway Road I could barely imagine a world without rivers of sweat running down my back – despite the fact only a week ago I was on the edge of despair at the thought the unending downpours would never relent long enough for me to dry out my socks.

It is worth it once arrived at the heath. Plunge into the water and swim a few strokes before turning on your back and floating still, for a moment, only your thoughts and a blue sky. It is the quietest place I know in London – ears beneath the water, a wall of sycamore trees whispering in the breeze.

Out of the ponds on a hot summer’s day you might be treated to one of London’s greatest displays of nature: the gaggle of male peacocks (homo sapiens variety) parading on the grassy slope, jostling and shouting to compete for the attention of others. Their courtship display is less structured than their avian counterparts but no less predictable.

My final spring highlight was the sight of a couple of seagull chicks nesting on a chimney. If you come across birds nesting, please stay away, and if they become problematic contact

the council.

For the second national ballot running, Islington has ended up on the wrong side of an extremely close result, writes Paul Elliott, Islington Green Party.

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Last year the borough voted solidly for “remain” in an EU referendum that chose “leave” with only 4 per cent separating the two sides. Last week Islington’s two constituencies both voted strongly for Labour and saw the Tories win marginally more seats in parliament – with just 2.5pc between the overall votes of the two parties.

National voting patterns in the two ballots look very similar. The major cities vote one way, the shires the other. Within this, there are more subtle trends. The young tend to vote with the cities and, indeed, are one of the driving forces of the city vote. The level of education seems also to play a part, as does the degree of multi-ethnicity.

The country is more divided than ever in my political lifetime. Worse still, the balance of power between the opposing camps is so finely drawn and the Sun, the Daily Mail and their friends online are doing their best to stoke up hostility between them. Taking their lead, Theresa May was happy, prior to the general election, to huddle down with a tiny clique of Tory right-wingers to pursue a radical Brexit strategy that took no account of the views of the 48pc who voted remain and even, we can assume, the views of many who voted leave.

We cannot go on like this, pitting right against left, young against old, city dwellers against country dwellers and liberal professionals against self-employed tradespeople. Everyone seems to agree Brexit is one of the most important decisions made by this country since the war. Then why is the view from the rest of Europe that we’re in a total shambles?

At this critical juncture in our history we need our political leaders to work together in a grown-up manner. We need transparent consultations with business, trade unions, the farming and fishing industries, and so on. We need our Brexit negotiations run by a multilateral parliamentary group, so the EU can see our position is both united and genuinely representative of the will of the British people. And then, when the dust has settled, we need to review our political processes, and consider whether the first-past-the-post system is still fit for purpose.

Street parties can bring us together, writes Dr Lynne Friedli, Mayton Street, Islington.

It’s encouraging to see the growth of street festivals in Islington.

We need these opportunities for communities to come together and celebrate more than ever.

As a long term Mayton Street resident, I’d like to put in a special word for our festival on July 8 (noon til 6pm). It dates back to the Second World War, when tea and currant buns were served from trestle tables in Pakeman School playground.

That tradition continues, because a unique feature of our festival is free food, cooked by local residents, with many ingredients supplied by local traders. Plus live music and fabulous activities for kids. All are welcome.

As many of your readers will be aware, the contractor responsible for the refurbishment of north Kensington’s Grenfell Tower is Rydon Group, writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

What they may not know is that Rydon holds the repairs-contract for 6,600 Islington Council freehold street-properties – including maintenance of smoke alarms.

Rydon Property Maintenance is one of the four tentacles of Partners Islington, the £750million PFI (private finance initiative) arm’s length organisation that “manages” those homes on behalf of the council. For years, housing campaigners have been arguing for the termination of this contract on the grounds of shoddy work and inadequate accountability but have been told repeatedly by local political and housing bosses that it would be too expensive to do so.

That must now change, as residents find it repulsive that Rydon can continue to be a beneficiary of public money. And questions will inevitably be asked: what were the council’s lawyers doing when they signed off a contract with a “break-clause” that would cost millions to implement?