The seat of El Brute power
The seat of El Brute power

With less than three weeks to go until polling day we ask the crucial question, “Who will be the next Brutes?”. Obviously we can’t answer that question but we can still ask it.

The local elections on 22nd May allow residents to have their say on how their borough should be run. There are European elections on the same day too but, quite frankly, despite the fact that Twickenham is actually part of Europe, no one really knows or cares who their MEP is. Be honest, you don’t do you? No, you don’t! So let’s keep it local and stay focused on the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames aka LBRuT.

Will ‘Lord’ True, the Blue Baron, get to be Brutmeister General for another four years? Or will the locals rise up as one, blunt pencils in hand, and vote to go yellow and return the Lib Dems to the position of top Brutes? And what of UKIP? Could we actually see them gain a seat in the Council chamber through the backing of voters? Don’t rule it out.

If a week is a long time in politics then 200 weeks must be a bloody eternity. Think back to the 2010 election. If you do you will recall unrest over the Liberal Democrat Council’s plans for Twickenham riverside and exasperation at the convoluted engine-size parking charges thing which strove to save the world by charging different amounts for permits in the borough’s Controlled Parking Zones. As well as the usual boredom which often leads to a change of control, there was anger too, so out went Serge and the gang (that’ll be Lib Dem leader Serge Lourie who didn’t even get re-elected) and in came the Blue Baron’s battalion.

And what’s happened since? For starters, there’s been progress on Twickenham riverside. The old pool site is now the Diamond Jubilee Gardens (or the ‘Trubilee’ Gardens to give it its formal title), there’s a Twickenham Action Plan aimed at improving our fair town complete with Fancy Dan new pavements and a 20mph zone. Work continues on Twickenham Embankment. There’s even talk of a ‘town square’ by the river off Water Lane (it’s being much touted in the run up to the election although details remain rather sketchy – funny dat). Sixth forms are being introduced to local schools and Council tax has been frozen for several years. The Conservatives want to continue all this work. Good news.

But freezing Council tax can also mean something’s got to give and there are examples of cuts to local services. You might also be pondering on the two (yes two) judicial reviews where controversial decisions made by the Council have resulted in legal action. We are of course talking about the Solum Regeneration plans for Twickenham Station and the approval of a faith-selective Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided school. We’ve covered those issues many times on twickerati over the years and they’re subjects that generate strong opinions. And not just strong opinions, we’re talking real anger too. Will the voters who opposed either (or both) forgive and forget when they enter the polling booth? Or will those who supported the Council press down just that bit harder when they mark their Xs on the ballot paper?

The only viable challenge to the Tories comes from the Lib Dems. Will the Stephen “The Yellow Knight” Knight wrestle control from the Blue Baron and fly the Lib Dem banner from York House once more? They’re pushing the agenda of a ‘fairer, greener, safer Richmond’ which protects frontline services. In other words, don’t bank on more Council tax freezes; take one for the team.

And what of UKIP? With barely a candidate back in 2010 they’re a much stronger presence now. Of course Richmond Council already has a UKIP councillor doesn’t it? Sort of. In 2010 Twickenham Riverside ward returned three Conservative Councillors. Just one remains. One went to Cornwall and the other turned purple, perhaps partly in a state of rage over the whole Twickenham station thing (see above). This time UKIP is fielding one or more candidates in many wards.

Before it descends into a ‘he said, she said’ battle, let’s take a very quick look at the parties standing locally:

  • Twickenham Riverside – Three each from the usual suspects, including the one remaining incumbent Tory, Susan Chappell. Add to that one Green and three, yes three, from UKIP. Obviously former Tory Riverside Councillor, Scott ‘Nails’ Naylor, is leading the charge but he’s accompanied by Barry Edwards and Sarah Meagher. Strangely, Messrs Naylor and Edwards have registered addresses in the same Isleworth road, just 9 doors apart so expect to see Nigel Farage, pint in hand, roaming that part of the borough very soon. Voting in Riverside could be interesting
  • South Twickenham – no UKIPs here, just the usual suspects from the three main parties and a sole Green. The three incumbent conservatives – Clare Head, David Marlow and the other one – are all standing for re-election.
  • St Margarets and North Twickenham – as above it’s the 9 usuals, a Green but with a single Ukipper too. It could be interesting here as the 2010 election returned 2 Lib Dems and 1 Tory.
  • West Twickenham – 3 Conservative, 3 Labour, 3 Lib Dem, 2 UKIP and 1 Green. It’s currently represented by 3 Lib Dems.
  • Heathfield Ward – 3 Conservative, 3 Labour, 3 Lib Dem, 1 UKIP and 1 Green. Like St Mags, the 2010 result returned 2 Lib Dems and a Conservative so it could see a bit of a change.

In 2010 the good burghers of Richmond returned 30 Conservative and 24 Liberal Democrat Councillors. In 2006 it was 36 Lib Dem and 18 Tory whilst back in 2002 it was 39 Conservative and 15 Lib Dem. In other words, things can change round here. It’s not just about Twickenham though, there are other, lesser, places in the Borough too, like Hampton, Whitton, Richmond, Teddington and those posh bits far, far to the east who will help decide the make up of the Council.

Here at twickerati HQ we’re not going to tell you who to vote for and we hope that even if we did you’d make up your own mind. Will Richmond stay blue, will it go yellow, could a purple person hold the balance of power? Maybe Labour or the Greens might even get a look in? We doubt that.

Only one thing is certain, and that’s whoever takes control of the council on the morning of 23rd May, we’ll be sure to find something worth having a dig at.

So, vote early, vote often. And if you’re not yet registered to vote, the deadline for that is 6th May.

Who’s it going to be?

* Richmond Council Elections Page
* List of candidates
* Previous Election Results