Are Thurrock Council really interested in your views?

At this week’s meeting of Thurrock Council, the proposals for the Lower Thames Crossing were up for discussion for the first time since Highways England announced they would opt for Route C, running just west of Orsett, skirting round Chadwell St Mary to cross the river between Tilbury and East Tilbury. Feelings were running high at the meeting as campaigners against the crossing in the public gallery were prevented from asking questions and speaking: Thurrock Council meeting suspended after Lower Thames Crossing campaigners express their outragehttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15436135.VIDEO__Council_meeting_suspended_after_Thames_Crossing_campaigners_express_their_outrage_before_being_escorted_out/

The Tory leader of the council, Cllr. Rob Gledhill, presented a report setting out the authority’s next moves and creating a Lower Thames Crossing task force to lead their response. The council claim they want to listen to the views of residents on the crossing, however when George Abbott, the leader of the Thames Crossing Action Group requested to speak to the meeting, he was denied permission. The action group has over 9000 members on its Facebook page so it should have been considered influential enough to be allowed a voice at the meeting. The council didn’t see it that way and for reasons beyond us mere mortals, saw fit to deny George Abbott and other members of the action group a voice.

As you can see from the video clip in the Gazette piece, George Abbott was understandably not best pleased at being denied the right to speak to the meeting. Let’s just take a step back here and look at what Thurrock Council did… Despite claiming they want to listen to the views of residents about the crossing, they denied the leader of the action group the right to address the council. When George Abbott questioned that, the council meeting was suspended and security were called in to escort supporters of the action group out of the meeting.

To our eyes, this is the council wanting to control the narrative right down to the last full stop and comma and silence anyone asking difficult questions. This episode is not the first instance of Thurrock Council’s tendency to be control freaks. This is what we had to say a few weeks back about a proposal by the council to decide which news outlets could or couldn’t report on their proceedings: Thurrock Council in control freak modehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/thurrock-council-in-control-freak-mode/

We can’t help coming to the conclusion that Thurrock Council’s objections to the river crossing are mere window dressing and that they’re coming under pressure from central government and the Tory MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price, to not rock the boat. After the fiasco at these week’s council meeting our advice to the anti-crossing campaigners would be to not trust Thurrock Council as far as they could throw them…

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Dragging party politics into the campaign against the Lower Thames Crossing

Back in February 2016, we attended a packed and very lively meeting at the Tilbury Cruise Terminal to discuss the options on the table for the Lower Thames Crossing. Campaigners against the crossing such as George Abbott were there in force. Highways England were there to attempt to sway what was a largely hostile audience – they failed miserably! Also present were councillors and MPs from across the political spectrum. In the fractious world of Thurrock politics, it seemed that for one brief moment, divisions had been forgotten and we were all united against the crossing. The one thing we took from that meeting was the desire of the campaigners against the crossing to keep party politics out of it.

Fast forward to the present and we have this: Thurrock UKIP claim to be only party to “reject Thames Crossing proposals”http://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/05/20/thurrock-ukip-claim-party-reject-thames-crossing-proposals/ Yup, Tim Aker has attempted to hi-jack a non-party political campaign in a cynical bid to boost his election campaign in the Thurrock constituency. Aker is up against John Kent, the former Labour leader of Thurrock Council who’s also on record as being opposed to the crossing and the sitting Tory MP, Jackie Doyle-Price who was in favour of Option C, Route 4 that mainly went through the neighbouring South Basildon and East Thurrock constituency.

Supporters of Labour have waded into the debate refuting Aker’s claims to be the only party against the Lower Thames Crossing: Letter to Editor: UKIP wrong over Lower Thames Crossinghttp://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/05/21/letter-editor-ukip-wrong-lower-thames-crossing/ Fair enough, Labour have a right to counter the crap that Aker is coming out with but there are issues with this… Namely that responding in this way has turned the campaign against the Lower Thames Crossing into a party political football in what is a bitter election battle in the Thurrock constituency.

As much as we have occasionally questioned George Abbott’s strategy and tactics in the past, our sympathies go out to him and the other campaigners on the ground who want the crossing stopped and don’t want the fight against it sullied by petty political point scoring in an election clash. Dragging this campaign into the squalid realm of party politics and the squabbling and bickering that goes with it is going to damage it. That seems to matter little to the politicians who seek to exploit the issue to gain an advantage for their respective parties, regardless of the consequences. This is why we as anarchists want nothing to do with party politics and the system as it stands and why we prefer to work with grassroots campaigners whose concern is the issue they’re dealing with and not seeking political advantage…