This is me lurking behind a copy of my book about the recent, revealing and often unpleasant fight to become London Mayor, which I covered extensively for the Guardian. I completed the book within ten days of the election on 5 May and it was out as an eBook a few days after that. Then, it became a paperback. I have published the book myself as a sort of experiment, which has turned into a voyage of discovery. Five boxes of "Zac versus Sadiq", each containing about 50 copies, have arrived at my house. Some of those copies - three, I believe - have already been sold at our local bookshop, Pages of Hackney. There are further copies there, just aching to be purchased. I would love it if you bought one. It would help create more space in my house. Thanks.
It's been years since an estate agent planted a sign heralding a "former toilet" above what was, indeed, the site of a defunct public lavatory at the confluence of Mildenhall and Millfields Roads - nearly ten years, would you believe. In 2011, an architect's design appeared in virtual form along with plans. There was a public consultation. But 18 months later nothing had happened and went on not happening until suddenly, recently... serious construction action! Will it look like what was envisaged five years ago? Will anyone who isn't absolutely loaded be able to afford to live there?
Pupils of Millfields community school have elected their first prime minister at the end of a week of fervent campaigning and passionate debate. Eleven year-old Cem Owens led his Millfields Mania party to a narrow but decisive victory after votes were cast on Thursday afternoon. Quoted in the Millfields Daily newspaper, produced by student reporters each day, the newly sworn-in PM said he felt "honoured and grateful" and pledged to run an inclusive premiership in which "everyone's voice is heard."
On Sunday I attended an election hustings at the new home of the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, organised by the excellent Hackney Citizen. The eclectic panel comprised (from left to right) Hackney North and Stoke Newington candidates Diane Abbott (Labour), Simon De Deney (Lib Dem), Amy Gray (Conservative), Heather Finlay (Green), Keith Fraser (Ukip), Vanessa Hudson (Animal Welfare Party, actually standing in for the indisposed Jon Homan) and Jonathan Silberman (Communist League). The woman in the middle is the Arcola's Feimatta Conteh, who made a fine job of chairing the event.
Judging by the half hour I spent hanging around the bus stops by the Pond first thing this morning, the first London-wide bus strike for decades has been well supported by the drivers. I spotted just two in the space of about an hour. The aim of the stoppage, called by Unite, is to bring about a single, pay deal for drivers employed by all the different bus companies that operate routes in the capital.
Meet Gilbert and Lawrence, two very nice members of the Labour Party campaigning outside Palm 2 the other week against the government's public spending cuts. They were rallying support for the big TUC March For The Alternative on 26 March. Of course, there are a number of anti-cuts positions. I saw two very different ones being set out at the Town Hall the other week. One was our Labour Mayor and Council's regretful wielding of the scissors handed to them by Eric Pickles and the other was the "shove your scissors" position of the assorted Outer Left agitators in the public gallery.
Our very own Leabridge Councillors and three others had, for a while, lined up with the "shove your scissors" tendency but changed their minds. There is a problem with Councils defying government orders on spending that wasn't there in the past. If you break or ignore the Law you don't get surcharged or sent to jail. You just can't make a martyr of yourself these days. Instead, officers and men from the ministry set the budget for you. Not much of a victory. I wrote about Hackney's budget night for my Guardian London blog. If you've comments you'd like to make - no trolls, bores or abuse - I'd be very happy to publish them here.
You might have read about Ken Livingstone's recent visit to the now former Railway Tavern, which has just turned into a Paddy Power. I'm sad to see the pub go, partly because I used to know the landlady (hello Tina) and partly because I agree with Livingstone - and with Jules Pipe Lammy who was also on the scene - that the proliferation of betting shops is going too far. That said, the arguments for halting it need to be solid. Do they really encourage crime and anti-social behaviour? If they do, wouldn't restricting the number of high street bookies just send it elsewhere? Some politicians, including the more libertarian Tories, would probably maintain that these things are better left to the market and point out that betting shops close down as well as open in response to local demand (though they might find a stroll down Chatsworth Road enlightening). Others would complain that do-gooders have no business depriving the working - or non-working - man of a traditional pleasure (a workerist position) or that the real growth in betting is online so getting agitated about a few more high street shops is missing the point (a betting industry view).
At the start of my all-night election results coverage for The Guardian I wrote that,"Election fever isn't burning as hot here in Hackney as in other parts of the capital: it's a stubborn Labour stronghold." This turned out to be both right and wrong. In terms of how the borough voted, we turned out to be even more solid for Labour than before, with both of our Labour MPs, our Labour mayor and our Labour council strengthening their positions compared with previous elections in 2005 (for parliament) and 2006 (for mayor and councillors).
I still take a perverse pride in Hackney's obdurate performance at the last borough elections in 2006. All around us - Camden, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Barking and Dagenham - weird and sometimes frightening swings were taking place, but in Hackney the message from the voters was a resounding "Labour: no change". Indeed, practically no change at all. But was I right to read the result as a cantankerous yet somehow endearing indication that we Hackneyites are not fickle or easily swayed by fashionable opinion? Is it really all that clever to be as stubbornly unchanging in our political alliances as we appear to be? Should we rejoice in the fact that the Liberal Democrat surge will scarcely trouble our two Labour parliamentary candidates at all? Is it likely that the Council's Labour edifice will be significantly disturbed and, if not, what will it mean?