Famous by-election opponents Simon Hughes MP and Peter Tatchell praised each other for achievements over three decades as they faced each other before an audience at Sands Films.

Rotherhithe & Bermondsey Local History Group staged the discussion last Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bermondsey by-election which attracted 15 contestants. After a turbulant campaign, during which the Labour’s Peter Tatchell was briefly disowned by the party leader and then suffered serious homophobic attacks, a safe Labour seat went Liberal in the biggest by-election swing in British political history.

“I hope in the years from then I have tried to heal some of the wounds,” said Liberal winner Simon Hughes who still holds the seat. “Peter has been very generous to me over the years. I pay tribute to him again as I have done privately and publicly. I apologise to him privately and publicly for what happened. Many of the things which happened to him were completely unacceptable.”

He added: “I pay tribute above all to your human rights campaigning abroad as well as at home.” In his main address Peter Tatchell, turning to Simon Hughes, said: “I don’t personally blame him. I don’t frankly know what he knew and didn’t know. I suspect he did not know. But undoubtedly some members of the Liberal Party did pitch for the homophobic vote.”

Investigations into who or which party published the most notorious ‘Which Queen will you vote for?’ leaflet had, he said, never been conclusive.

Tatchell praised Simon Hughes for support he had received from him shortly after the election when organising the world’s first Aids and Human Rights Conference.

Student journalist Fern Tomlinson, chairing the discussion, first recalled the “turbulent” political state of Britain in the early 1980s. She recalled that the Labour Party was at a low ebb and about to lose the post Falklands general election. But first there was the historic Bermondsey by-election on 24 February 1983.

Ms Tomlinson said that the two guests were the key players but council leader John O’Grady, standing as Real Bermondsey Labour and backed by Bermondsey’s former MP Bob Mellish, was also a significant candidate. O’Grady had been considered a possible winner until the last few days when anti-Tatchell support switched to the Liberal candidate.

Simon Hughes said that he joined Bermondsey Liberal Party as member number six at the invitation of Stan Hardy who heard that the recently graduated Liberal student had not, after several letters, had a reply from Peckham Liberals. Mr Hughes was soon the failed GLC candidate for Bermondsey.

He described the local Labour Party run by O’Grady in the 1970s as an ‘Irish mafia’. Peter Tatchell recalled it as a ‘corrupt and moribund party’. Change came when he and friends managed to recruit 800 new members in one year.

“I stood on policies I still stand by today which now of course are the mainstream although at the time I was vilified as an extremist,” said Peter who listed the minimum wage, equality laws and a negotiated settlement in Ireland.

He detailed verbal attacks, street incidents and death threats which led to his home having to be boarded up. He admitted he was terrified. He had support but was refused police protection. He confessed to one of the darkest periods of this life as he suffered post traumatic stress after the contest.

He claimed that the public revulsion afterwards quickly led to gay and lesbian candidates being able to fight elections without suffering attacks.

Both ex-candidates spoke candidly when asked by today’s Bermondsey Labour Party secretary Sheila Taylor what they regretted most.

“I wish I had been brave enough to say ‘can we call a halt to personal abuse?’,” reflected Simon Hughes. “Sometimes people have to step out of their political corner.” He explained that as a young candidate he was on the campaign trail not always knowing what was happening in the HQ.

Peter Tatchell also spoke of a sense of powerlessness and wished he had been able to persuade MPs to come and help him. Labour’s stars failed to make the short journey from Westminster to join in the campaign.

The two rivals, who had operated without modern speedy communication, were asked to provide a Tweet for Thursday 24 February 1983. “My policies are motivated by love and not hate” said Peter who explained he wanted to be positive.

Simon said: “Tomorrow first vote. If you want someone to take on Mrs Thatcher and the failing Labour Council…” Both ran out of characters for their imaginary tweets but agreed that housing was a central issue in 1973 just as in 2013.

Local history group chairman Michael Daniels said: “The evening was a sell-out and had become the ‘talk of the Blue’, as well as the local pubs!

“I found it both enlightening and humbling to hear Simon and Peter give such honest and open accounts, and fascinating to witness the degree to which many of their views converge.”

The group’s next meeting is on Wednesday 27 February when the speaker will be transport writer Christian Wolmar.

Canada Water Library may have been a critical and popular success, but plans to recoup some of the running costs from hiring out meeting rooms and the culture space have run into trouble.

This is from the council’s budget papers for next year:

There is pressure on income achievement at Canada Water Library. Whilst the income target for the library is £160k, the forecast after 9 months of the year is for actual annual income achievement to be only about £85k.

Thames Clippers sent this email to passengers on Friday:

Please be advised that further improvement works to Greenland pier will commence on Monday, 28th January for a period of approximately two weeks (excluding weekends). Please be aware that there may be some disruption as a result. The pier is due to be closed for short periods while the works are carried out, however we will ensure that closures take place during off-peak times. A further update on this will be sent next week.

Following the Mayor’s proposals to close police stations across London, and to open other police front counters to replace them, Simon Hughes MP and Southwark Liberal Democrats are asking for views from SE16 residents on where they would like most to see the new Rotherhithe front counter to open.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has told the MP that Rotherhithe Police Station will not close without opening a suitable alternative that is able to serve both Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

However, Southwark Council leader Peter John this week told council assembly that MOPAC and the Met has not been able to tell the local authority how much it is willing to spend on the new front counters and this is hampering council efforts to identify possible locations.

Simon Hughes MP the Southwark Liberal Democrats are asking for people to put in order of preference the following potential sites for a new SE16 police counter, and to make any other suggestions.

Sites suggested by Simon Hughes MP and Liberal Democrats in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are:

  1. Southwark Council’s new ‘My Southwark‘ shop in the square at the Blue
  2. A London Underground Station
  3. Surrey Quays Shopping Centre
  4. Lower Road shops [opposite Osprey Estate]
  5. Albion Street
  6. Jamaica Road
  7. Canada Water tube and bus station
  8. Bermondsey tube station
  9. Surrey Docks overground station
  10. Rotherhithe overground station
  11. Nearest available place to the Jamaica Road/Lower Road roundabout

Rank your five top suggestions here.

“Most people in our local communities do not want to see the closure of any existing police station. But if Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, decides that Rotherhithe will close on its present site, then the community needs to find the best possible alternative,” said Simon Hughes MP.

“I hope that with a large response from people who live in SE16, we can give a clear indication to the Mayor as to where we want the Rotherhithe to be based in the years ahead.

“I am clear that the police should be based where the public can easily find them, talk to them and report crime and other information. I shall do all I can to make sure that we end up with the best possible alternative police base as well as the maximum number of police and police community support officers on our streets and around SE16.”

This week’s creation of a magnificent Dr Salter snowman provides a timely reminder that the Salter Statues campaign to replace the stolen statue of Alfred Salter and create a new Ada Salter statue to complement it has recently added an online donation facility to its website.

Time and Talents is a small charity based in Rotherhithe and founded over 125 years ago. Today it runs our own projects (including those for older and younger people) and offers space for a range of groups and individuals to use as well as providing volunteering opportunities for the whole community.

Time and Talents offers :

  • Guaranteed Gold Bond places
  • Fundraising and training advice
  • Your own web page
  • A team running vest

Minimum sponsorship required £1500

Register on the Time & Talents page at www.crunch.org.uk/time or call 020 7232 5660 for more information.

See also www.timeandtalents.org.uk

Last month Southwark Council’s cabinet agreed to the next stage of work towards the rejuvenation of Albion Street.

The council says it will work with local residents on the Albion Street Regeneration Framework which will have four main strands.

The next stages include proposals to expand Albion Primary School, further consultation with residents on the Albion Estate to see how they can benefit from wider regeneration, ensuring that the redevelopment of the former Rotherhithe Library on Albion Street supports the hopes of local people and enhancing public spaces in the area.

Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy said: “Albion Street was once a lively and successful area – home to a popular street market and at the heart of the Rotherhithe community.

“Despite the tremendous changes we have seen in the Rotherhithe and Canada Water area, Albion Street area has not really felt the benefits.

“We are fortunate that there is a lot of enthusiasm and many great ideas coming forward from local tenants, residents, councillors, businesses and groups such as the Scandinavian churches. We want to make sure that there is a role for all local representatives to get involved in improving the area.”

Three mature plane trees on Rotherhithe New Road are likely to be felled, says Southwark Council.

The trees, which the council says are encroaching on the pedestrian space on the public highway, could be felled after adjacent landowners refused to sell the council a small plot of land to enable the pavement to be widened.

“I am extremely disappointed that the only course of action available to the council is to remove these trees from the local community,” said Cllr Peter John, leader of the council.

“Not only are they great for the environment but they add a unique vibrancy.  We would not normally fell healthy trees of this age but in this case we have no option. Sadly the landowners have refused to cooperate in helping us to resolve the situation so our hands are tied.”

Whilst the council has pointed the finger at the Residential Management Group, the firm has responded on Twitter:

Three replacement new trees will be planted in a nearby location.

Lib Dem councillor Graham Neale said: “I have suggested that the pavement is built out into the road to make room for the trees rather than removing the wall, which could save the trees from the chop and improve the road at the same time.

“The pavement opposite is more than wide enough to provide a ‘chicane’ traffic calming system. This is a chance to start managing roads in a way that puts pedestrians and cyclists at the front of road management in our borough.

“Instead of listening to alternatives, Labour have decided to chainsaw the trees which date back to Dr Salter. After all the warm words and phoney consultation we’re back to Plan A, which is to take the easy option and get rid of the trees. How many times must we listen to hollow promises?

“Residents and campaigners have spent a lot of time and effort trying to save these trees. It’s a waste of our time, and a waste of a great opportunity, but I’m afraid that’s the way Labour are running Southwark.”