The Public Gallery: The u-turn that wasn’t and the pay packet that isn’t

By - Thursday 31st October, 2013

David Lean ‘reopening’ is less of a u-turn than it looks

At long last, the tireless efforts of the Save the David Lean Campaign have been rewarded. The group is to be allowed to use the eponymous David Lean cinema in the Croydon Clocktower to show films. Is this the start of a reversal of Croydon Council’s culture policies, decried as ‘vandalism’ by Labour and proving surprisingly divisive among the electorate? Have they been forced into a ‘humiliating u-turn’?

Not exactly, as it happens. For all the gleeful shouts of ‘u-turn’ (a term with far more negative connotations than it deserves – I’m sure most of us would welcome a u-turn on disability benefit cuts), the fact of the matter is rather more nuanced. The outright closure of the David Lean has been undone – a good thing, however you look at it. And it is gratifying to learn that the SDL (Save the David Lean, not the Scottish Defense League) are going to be able to put their impressive energies towards running the cinema they love.

But they’ll only be able to do it for one day a week – and they have to pay for the privilege.

The private hire of formerly public assets doesn’t seem to be an out of character move for a Conservative administration

Yes, the David Lean is not, in fact, being returned to full-time operation as a cinema, with council funding. No-one’s been claiming that it is, in fairness, but as Election 2014 looms it seems important to stress that any Conservative claims that ‘we re-opened the David Lean cinema’ would be somewhat disingenuous. What’s actually happened is that the David Lean is being reopened as the multi-purpose ‘David Lean Auditorium’, and the SDL are welcome to be one of the groups seeking to use it. The private hire of formerly public assets doesn’t seem to be an out of character move for a Conservative administration.

The council, therefore, haven’t exactly u-turned on this. To extend the metaphor, it’s more like they’re just bearing a little further to the right.

St Jude brings high winds, hot air, and a ray of sunshine named Paul

In a classy move, Cllr Tony Pearson of New Addington used Monday’s spate of fallen trees across the borough as an excuse to perform an impressive feat of mental gymnastics. Referring to the unending spat about flytipping in the north of the borough, Pearson attempted to imply that Labour councillors would not be interested in reporting fallen trees because they (in his words) ‘say it’s not their job to report’. His tweet was not well-received, and indeed it’s hard to conceive of why (or indeed if) he thought politicising an extreme weather event in which four people had died would be a good idea.

The lack of internal logic in the tweet is a similarly baffling matter. Then again, this is the man who tried to suggest the absence of Labour councillors from one Royal British Legion meeting was a metaphorical spit in the face of Britain’s servicemen and women.

In brighter news, and following on from last week’s look at non-politically-affiliated activism, the storm was something of a finest hour for Croydon’s apolitical champions. Paul Collins of All About Croydon received praise from all sides for tirelessly tweeting updates about roads, public transport and dangerous areas. His work helped my family personally, so I’m certainly very grateful.

Rumours abound that Croydon Village Outlet has yet to pay some staff

It seems the concerns raised in TPG on 3rd October about the Croydon Village Outlet were not entirely without cause. Readers of TPG have contacted the Citizen and claimed that, at time of publication, it has been six days since payday (25 October) and less than half of staff salaries at the store have been paid. This unpopular turn of events is allegedly being blamed on ‘funds issues’ relating to  ’poor HR management’. CVO has been contacted for comment, but as of noon on Thursday 31 October no comment has been received. This article will be updated should a statement materialise.

The council are already rumoured to be miffed and feeling outmanouevred by Marco Cash (the Chief Executive of CVO) after he publicly promised hundreds of new jobs on the then-vacant site. Katharine Street sources claim that this was the first the council heard about the plan, and were therefore unable to properly scrutinise the proposals. To reject a ‘done deal’ promising jobs would have been electoral suicide. Now, if rumours are to be believed, the employees of CVO are suffering the consequences.

The partisan dividing lines on Riesco are leaving an important viewpoint out in the cold

The fund, which is seeking to raise £20,000 to finance a high court attempt to stop the sale of the council-owned porcelain collection, is gathering momentum – the controversy earned a mention in the latest issue of Private Eye. The high court plan, which Labour are throwing their weight behind and the Tories are unsurprisingly opposed to, is the latest in a series of big plays regarding the Chinese collection by both parties – though is explicitly non-party-political.

Of course, as I seem doomed to repeat until the end of time, there is a third school of thought in the Riesco debate. Neither Labour nor the Tories seem interested in the somewhat more academic ‘Elgin Marbles’ argument. It was put forward by local China expert Jake Thurston and echoed by the former Chief Executive of the Chinese Information and Advice Centre in London, Kam-Sang Law. Rejecting the ‘quick buck’ approach being pursued by the council, Thurston also expressed dissatisfaction with Labour’s insistence that the pieces remain in Croydon.

As Thurston pointed out back in June, Raymond Riesco’s removal of the artifacts in the 1910s can be argued to have been less than impeccably moral. Whether or not that is the case, there is certainly something questionable about holding on to pieces of another country’s heritage in the name of tradition. An agreement with a Chinese museum, where the pieces could be loaned under the banner of ‘the Croydon Riesco Collection’, would provide some money for the borough and have a more clearly moral outcome. And who can honestly say they wouldn’t get some pride from schoolchildren in Beijing learning where Croydon is?

Tom Black

Tom Black

Tom is the Citizen's General Manager, and spent his whole life in Croydon until moving to Balham in 2017. He also writes plays that are occasionally performed and books that are occasionally enjoyed. He's been a Labour Party member since 2007, and in his spare time runs an online publishing house for alternate history books, Sea Lion Press. He is fluent in Danish, but speaks no useful languages. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

More Posts - Twitter

  • Anne Giles

    Just looked at your profile here which says that you don’t speak any useful languages. English is useful! :-)

  • Anne Giles

    Interesting about the Croydon Village Outlet, which I have not yet visited. The man sounds a bit of a shark. I feel very sorry for his poor staff.