Having lived and worked – both permanently and as an aid-worker – in several countries on three continents, among them questionable democracies and outright dictatorships, I used to have complete trust in British democracy and political transparency in this country.
This trust was seriously shaken at a local election campaign meeting on May 14 in St John’s Church Hall, Leytonstone.
On a number of occasions I have read in the Guardian articles and letters asking Clyde Loakes to explain his own role in the alleged mismanagement and waste of public money in and around the E11 BID.
As we, the citizens of Waltham Forest, still wait for his clarification, I took the opportunity to raise the question at this public meeting.
However, I didn’t get far; I was interrupted mid-sentence by the chairwoman of the meeting and not allowed to continue. It was down to a minor technicality, she claimed.
I live in the wrong part of Leytonstone.
The obvious borough-wide interest in the question did not warrant an exemption to that rule and it seemed as the politician in question was happy to hide behind that - he made no attempt to speak.
Cllr Loakes wields power over all of Waltham Forest.
There are extremely serious questions for him to answer, but I, as a tax-paying member of the community, was denied my right to ask him for a clarification as to where some of that money has gone.
In my memory, this experience will remain in contrast with an experience I had years ago in a far less democratic country.
As the only woman – and European – in the crowd, with no permanent address in town, I was still allowed to ask the incumbent candidate a rather critical question.
I am in no doubt that his reply was a fair bit from telling the truth, but at least I had been allowed to speak.
From my perspective I would not classify the ‘election’ this man took part in as democratic.
However, there are reasons to compare: though the election Cllr Loakes is part of is democratic, the deputy leader is still allowed to hide behind minor technicalities when asked a difficult question.
Please remember, this is the man who tomorrow will probably be re-elected as the most powerful man in Waltham Forest. We get what we deserve.