My Freshman Year in RBKC

Posted 26 May 2019 by Walaa Idris

This May, I am celebrating my first year as an RBKC (the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea) councillor. The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is very true. The past twelve months went by in a flash. I was very lucky to have a number of varied positions. I sat on the Planning Applications Committee, Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee, the Governance Review Panel and was deputy to the Communities & Culture lead member. I judged competitions, chaired a number of meetings, visited community hubs, sat on neighbourhood safety briefings and even accompanied Madam Mayor on a few events. For an afternoon, I was a book in the Human Library and spoke in the Council Chambers on Brexit, saving the No 11 & 19 Buses (which we saved), Housing, Policing, Transport and gave my maiden speech. I also responded to hundreds of emails and addressed a number of residents’ issues in the ward and borough wide.

It was truly a memorable year. One where I learnt a lot about myself and others. I met some fantastic people in the Town Hall, my ward and the borough. I made new friends, and strengthens older relationships. At times I was more tired than I ever imagined I could be, but it was all so exhilarating I didn’t mind it much. Luckily, a few weeks after I got elected, I was advised by a former councillor to 1) pace myself and not over do things, and 2) carve out some down time to recharge. I did both and they helped me to stay relaxed while being productive. I highly recommend doing both.

My second year started with a bang. A few weeks ago, I was asked by our incoming Mayor, Cllr Will Pascall, to become his deputy. I proudly accepted. This was one of the roles I dreamt about holding one day, and in all honesty expected it, but one day in the very far future not on my second year. So, as you can imagine, I am over the moon with joy and pride. I will continue sitting in Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee, and as Vice Chair in the Planning Committee. I will also sit in the Executive and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee. So, more to do and much more to learn.

All of this won’t have been easy if it wasn’t for the love and encouragement I get from my beautiful daughters. Thank you for always being there, for your unconditional love and unquestioning support. I shall use all you give me to make RBKC a little better by the end of my sophomore year.

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Save the 11 & 19 bus routes

Posted 20 Oct 2018 by Walaa Idris

Route 11

The mayor of London is about to turn the lives of Londoners upside down with his latest transport plans. If you use any of the routes he is planning to reduce or remove, please speak up. Have your say. Don’t let him disrupt our lives and destroy our transport.

I really don’t understand the logic behind changing routes 11 & 19! In Chelsea, we need them to continue as they are, because they are vital to many. Particularly those on fixed low incomes. The disruption of these routes causes enormous difficulties to parents with children, carers with charges, shoppers with bags, visitors with cases and all wheelchair users.

My ward (Brompton and Hans Town) residents of all ages and socioeconomic standards heavily depend on these two buses for their daily pursuits, be it for business or pleasure. And, as a parent, I know most parents would not want their older children, travelling on their own, waiting on bus stops and changing from bus to bus to get to school or back home. Besides being time consuming, it presents a safety and security concern, especially in dark winter nights.

This is what Jill, a constituent and regular bus user said “Buses 19 and 11 have been part of our lives ever since we have lived here. Do TfL and the Mayor really think people will be happy to change buses every few stops in the cold and the rain? Are they targeting smart people living in RBKC or is it change for changes sake? They will just encourage everyone to drive, which I thought was the last thing they wanted. It is particularly outrageous that there will be no direct route from Sloane Square to Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross. It does not work very well by tube if one has to walk up that steep hill from Embankment with a suite case.”

The general consensus from all those I spoke with, is TfL should engage with local residents, schools etc. prior to any implementation, because as it stands this is a regressive measure when the objective is to encourage bus use.

Please have your say here, closing date is Friday, November 9th 2018.


My Maiden Speech

Posted 18 Oct 2018 by Walaa Idris

It’s been almost a year since my last blogpost. No, I did not give up blogging all together, but took a break to focus on getting selected and elected Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

For those who don’t know yet. I was selected to stand in my home ward Brompton and Hans Town and proud to say in May 2018 I was elected Councillor. I have since, spent the past months settling in my new role and getting to know and understand my duties and the people around me who help me do them.

To date I have attended a number of committee and scrutiny meetings and three full council meetings. Last night I gave my maiden speech, below is the full text.

Good evening!

Thank you, Madam Mayor

I am honoured and delighted to stand before you as an elected Conservative councillor of this outstanding borough. And, especially as a representative of my own ward the beautiful and vibrant Brompton and Hans Town.

But before I get carried away. I would like to pay tribute to my former councillors and dear friends Tim Coleridge and Nick Paget-Brown. Who between them served this borough for 64 years. And, on behalf of the ward’s residents thank them for their long service and selfless dedication to public life.

Nick & Tim had many wonderful achievements Borough wide. More recently was turning Exhibition Road into a landmark and making it more accessible for disabled and elderly visitors to the museums.

Madam Mayor, 27 years ago, with a toddler and six months pregnant, I immigrated to the UK from the Sudan. London and RBKC became our home. But unfortunately, in 2002 we became homeless. After 3 years of moving from one temporary accommodation to another, we qualified for permanent housing south the borough, in the then Hans Town Ward.

Our 2-bedroom flat, with its charming balcony overlooking beautifully kept gardens was built in 1947 for war veterans and their families. Wiltshire Close is a warm and diverse community in the heart of Chelsea.
That is why, as a council tenant, I am excited by Cllr. Taylor- Smith’s commitment to build a variety of social housing. I am also delighted the government will lift the cap on how much councils can borrow to build new homes. Both are excellent news.

Madam Mayor, I entered politics to help those who need helping. After years of flirting with the idea of becoming a Member of Parliament I realised I will better serve my community and give back to my adopted home by becoming a councillor. By achieving small significant changes to improve people’s lives, I will attain more and help better. It took me a few years to get here but it was worth the wait. Because now, I represent my home ward and my neighbors.
Brompton and Hans Town with it’s pretty streets, historic buildings, boutiques, shops, restaurants and many international attractions, is also home to over 5500 residents and hundreds of fashionable and international businesses.

This beauty and vibrancy come with its own challenges. Millions yearly visiting the museums, high end retailers and establishments, puts enormous pressures on residents’ lives, council services and the community. But, it is also what makes this ward so desirable to live and work in.

As a resident, I know too well these challenges and face them daily myself. From roaring supercars, to the chronic begging outside Harrods or amplified busking around Exhibition Road and South Ken station. Plus let’s not forget the latest craze of motorcycle crimes. All these are issues I aim to work hard to reduce if not totally eradicate in my tenure.

As a K&C councillor, my duty extends to the whole borough. And as such I intend to passionately serve every corner of it. In the past few months, I saw clearly the pain felt by some in north the borough. My goal is to soothe that pain. I know it’s an ambitious goal, some might even say it’s a dream.

But Madam Mayor, I am a dreamer, who dreamt of studying in the US and I did. Dreamt of making London our home and I did. Dreamt of becoming a K&C councillor and I am. My dream now, is to play my part in easing that pain, and I will.

Thank You!

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Prince Harry needs to be very careful which POTUS to invite

Posted 29 Dec 2017 by Walaa Idris

Prince Harry

Of the young Royals, Prince Harry is the fun loving, cheeky popular one. He’s also the one without the weight of the throne on his shoulders. As a result, he gets to be what he wants, and do almost anything he wants to do. He is lucky in that he can nearly live his life as normal as the rest of us. However, as a Royal, everybody wants to be his friend and acquaintance. But like most associations these relationships can sometimes come at a cost.

The two princes, Harry and William, have a good relationship with the Obamas. However, while the princes are not political, the Obamas are very much so. Furthermore, while Prince Harry might want to simply please his future wife by inviting Barack and Michelle to their wedding, he should be very careful of the cost of inviting a former POTUS at the expense of the current one. Particularly as he is expected to be non-political and this invitation could be viewed only as political. His future wife made sure of it with her comments and remarks on the current US President.

As a monarchist Harry should tread carefully and show his maturity by maintaining neutrality. He should either invite both the former and current president or none. What he must never do at this sensitive time for our nation is to appear to be taking sides. The US is an important ally and friend, and with Brexit around the corner we need the current administration to feel the full strength of that importance.

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Country before Party

Posted 11 Oct 2017 by Walaa Idris

PM Theresa May

In 2016, choosing a leadership candidate was very easy. I am a Leaver, and at the time I thought the only leader that can deliver Brexit and the best outcome for our nation is a Leaver, so my choice was Andrea Leadsom. Whom I got to know a little when I was a parliamentary candidate. We all know what happened then and like any loyal Conservative I accepted the outcome and fell behind my new leader, encouraged by her message of hope I was optimistic.

Though not my choice, in time I warmed to the Prime Minister. She struck me as a woman who knew her mind and a person who ‘believed what said and said what she believed.’ Then a few month later she called that election. Calling the election was not the problem. The problem to me was going back on her word, after affirming many, many times that she won’t call a snap election.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with people changing their mind. I do it all the time, and think changing one’s mind out of necessity or clarity is rather healthy. Just this weekend, I went for a family meal and had a choice of beer, Mojito or Prosecco with my big brunch set meal. After tossing over beer or Mojito, for a good 5 minutes, I ordered the later, yet after just two sips I changed my mind a third time and swapped it for the Prosecco. Now, that change of mind is acceptable, buying a pair of shoes, taking them home and a week later returning them because you no longer like them as much is acceptable. But telling voters and the world, in more than on occasion, you will not call an election then do in a matter of months is a big deal. Because it goes to trust, stability and that old adage of ‘saying what you mean and meaning what you say.’

That is why, when yesterday, in her LBC radio interview with Iain Dale, Theresa May refused to answer which way she will vote if the referendum is rerun, I was comforted and delighted.

So far, May, who wasn’t my preferred candidate, bar that snap election, has shown she is the best choice and has been a superb and sound leader. Dare I say, she is actually the best person for this post. The job of negotiating leaving the EU and putting up with the bullying of Brussels not to mention the relentless abuse from the opposition, celebrity Remainers and even some Leavers. Through it all she showed some guts.

Mrs May is primarily the Prime Minister of the UK. That means, even though Brexit is a priority, she is the head of the 52% that wanted to leave but also the 48% that didn’t. And, by not siding with either she just proved that she puts Britain’s interest ahead of her personal choice. To me that is the sign of a just leader.

It is for that reason I was shocked by those who misunderstood her refusal and started attacking her for it. Particularly those who call themselves Conservatives. Because attacking Theresa May will only weaken her and our stance as a nation in the world stage while strengthen the opposition.

To my fellow Conservatives, May is still the best and only viable leader for our party and the country. I don’t believe in hard or soft Brexit. To me Brexit is just leaving the EU with all its institutions. We don’t want a Canadian Deal, a Swiss or a Norwegian Deal, what we are seeking is a British deal that suits the UK and its unique makeup. Mrs May understands that and from the very beginning promised she will deliver what the country voted for despite herself voting to Remain.

So, let’s forget about what we personally want, and focus on what is best for our country, our children and the future generations. I didn’t want May to lead us, but she has proved to be a good leader. She admitted her mistake so let’s give her the respect and support she needs, unite behind her and stand strong against those who want derail Brexit.

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How did we get here and when did racial intolerance become acceptable?

Posted 27 Jul 2017 by Walaa Idris

Sir Martin Moore -Bick

As a black person, I am proud to say in the twenty-six years I lived in the UK, though I met a few ignorant people, I have never directly or indirectly experienced racism at work, on the streets or while using public services.

Having said that, I am not so naïve as to think this is the norm or the experience of most people of colour, even though it should be. However, I believe it is an indication that while there are some people with bigoted and ignorant views, overall Britain is a very tolerant, diverse, and accepting society.

That is why when I read the Grenfell Tower saviours again challenged, Sir Martin Moore- Bick, the retired judge leading the enquiry into the disaster, by telling him “You don’t represent us, you don’t look like us” and asked for him to be removed predominantly based on him not looking like them! I was shocked. Stunned, at the level of open and seemingly acceptable prejudice. Horrified at the nonchalant reporting by mainstream media, the unquestionable acceptance by the public and even some elected politicians!

The first time it happened, it could be excused as an overreaction at a distressful time after the unspeakable Grenfell fire tragedy. But to happen again and no one objects to it, or seems bothered or alarmed by it, is appalling. This level of bigotry, no matter the circumstances, should never be tolerated or excused by anyone. It goes against our humanity, our decency, our civility, and against all that is British and who we are.

If you think my concern is an overreaction, then ask yourself this. If the tables were turned, and the judge wasn’t a white man, could the same language be used without anyone squirming or complaining? Ask yourself what would the public’s reaction be? What would the media, and dare I say the politicians say?

So I ask you again, why in 2017 when racial discrimination in most quarters is a thing of the past. A white judge is asked to vacate his appointed post because of the colour of his skin? What does it say, about us and about twenty-first century Britain?

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The Queen Speech, May’s first outing, and reality

Posted 22 Jun 2017 by Walaa Idris

Three weeks after failing to secure the large majority she called the election for, Theresa May took to the dispatch box, and delivered her government programme. Playing to her strengths she was sincere and considerate. She apologised as Prime Minister for both national and local government failings in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire tragedy, and spoke about the different terrorist incidents and our solidarity in facing them.

Her speech had a little of everything, contrition, confidence and even some humour. Watching her take blow after blow from the opposite benches, I was delighted to see the pre-general election May emerge. She handled attacks and support equally graciously and showed she is ready to lead both our country and her party. This was her first test, her second is today when she attends the European Council Summit in Brussels and her major third test comes next week when she faces Corbyn at PMQs. Particularly after his new-found confidence and publicised desire to overthrowing this government by any means possible.

Although, many Conservative MPs, are not yet ready to forget or in some cases forgive the election and its outcome. On the other hand, most Labour backbenchers are not yet behind Jeremy Corbyn. While they, and their media chums might like to flaunt in every opportunity their surprising election results, Tories are still the legitimate winner of the 2017 general election and therefore the ruling party, and Theresa May is still the leader of the Conservative party and the Prime Minster of the UK.

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Where did Theresa May go wrong?

Posted 10 Jun 2017 by Walaa Idris

Theresa May

In my opinion Mrs May made many mistakes. They started six weeks ago when she surprised us with a snap election. The election she fervently denied many, many times will happen any time before 2020. This was a mistake not because she changed her mind, but because of the timing. For someone who painted herself as a straightforward lady, her timing looked a tad opportune. Also, in doing that she conveniently forgot voters neither like nor respect leaders who don’t stick to their guns.

Her second mistake was running a national campaign from Downing Street with only her policy advisers as confidants, and none of the party’s political campaigners including its chief campaigner. Why hire a political strategist yet never listen to them!? If she didn’t like Lynton Crosby, she could have hired someone else. However, Crosby won David Cameron two consecutive elections and made the Tories electable for the first time in almost 20 years. That’s why she should have listen to him despite any differences they have.

Thirdly, Katie Perrior was instrumental in getting Boris Johnson elected Mayor of London twice, letting her go was a huge mistake. If Katie was head of communications at Number 10, the 2017 campaign would have had a different tone and energy, particularly in London where we lost very big on the night.

Her fourth mistake was gagging local associations and forcing them to run campaigns that worked on paper but not on the ground. Not listening to associations, when they are your local eyes and ears, and the ones that understand the issues street by street and ward by ward is both counterproductive and demoralising to those who work and vote for you.

Finally came the straw that broke the camel’s back – the manifesto. While the manifesto itself wasn’t much of a problem, besides being lukewarm and lacklustre. The proposed social care caused a problem. It wasn’t clearly outlined and created a great deal of anguish among a core voting group and a community that already gave a lot to the society. When the PM tried to explain her manifesto pledge, it created even further problems. As it became clear she was the only person who fully understood the policy. So, when others were questioned on it, they gave different responses to hers. This allowed Labour and the others to weaponize that discrepancy and use it to attack the rest of May’s manifesto.

Labour’s sums where all over the place but nobody seemed to care where the promised money is coming from. Nor did they care about garden taxes affecting almost every home owner. Tax rises on corporations, free university education to all, promising to re-nationalise railways, utilities …., and half way through the campaign promising to forgive every student debt were all very popular promises, never mind they weren’t costed. It became obvious that after seven years of wise spending people wanted some freebies.

Simply put, the social care policy and removing the pension triple lock lost Conservatives their core voter and Labour’s lies and empty promises clouded the rest.

So, did we do badly? Absolutely. Is it the end of the road? Absolutely, not. Our limping results are a revelation and an opportunity to turn things around.

Now, more than ever Theresa May has a phenomenal opportunity to change her fortunes. With the right moves, she can come out of this stronger than when she went in. First, she needs to hold her nerve and not show when irritated. She is lucky Article 50 has already been triggered. For the coming two years, Brexit should be her main if not sole focus. The negotiation should and must go on as planned. Bringing home a good deal will refocus everyone.

If she survives after that, then my advice is to listen. She needs to learn to listen not only to her personal advisers, but to everyone, voters, associations, her own MPs, the party machine.

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What the others should learn from the Tories

Posted 8 May 2017 by Walaa Idris

Rosettes

People who say Labour is finished because they are a very divided party, or UKIP has no reason to exist anymore because they are a one issue party (leaving the EU) and the issue has now been achieved, or the LibDems are on the way out because they only have nine MPs and most their traditional voters are in strong Leave constituencies, are bad students of political history.

Time and time again, history has shown, that although some parties after going through a turbulent time finished and died, most did not. The majority of political parties used their stormy times to access and rebuild.

Take my own party, the Conservatives, many wrote us off after our 1997 defeat. But in less than ten years we rebranded and became a viable opposition. Granted, as conservatives, we are far more disciplined than most, and the hungriest to lead and govern, but nonetheless we were written off, decommissioned, and relegated to the past. After Tony Blair’s landslide victory, most pundits confined the Tories to the wilderness and filed us under ‘has been’. Looking back, our time in obscurity could have been much longer had we not, very early, accepted our defeat, assessed where we went wrong and what needed to change. Being honest with ourselves and going through a root and branch reform is the reason, twenty years from that defeat, Tories today are a very united party and have under their belt, a Conservative led coalition government in 2010, a small majority government in 2015 and now in 2017 stand as the only viable government to negotiate a successful Brexit deal with the European Union.

Now, will we have a Conservative landslide in four weeks’ time? Who knows. Will the others suffer even worst defeats than they did in 2015? Maybe. Will they all or any of them suffer a total wipe-out and become extinct? ONLY if they allow it to happen.

A wise person once said: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.” And since we are in the business of knocking each other down, those of us who quickly get back up will never die or vanish. Also, it will be good to remember that the person who might lead any of the other three parties to its electoral success is probably hasn’t been elected yet.

Just think about it, David Cameron who reformed the Conservative Party and led it to it’s first victory in 2010 was elected in 2001. Theresa May, the godmother of more Tory women in parliament and the current leader was elected in 1997. That could very well mean, the person who could change the fortunes of any of the current opposition parties probably hasn’t been elected yet. This might not be what those in agonising opposition now want to hear. But this is politics. It goes in cycles, up and down, causes loads of frustration and demands tones of staying power.

In closing, my advice to the other parties, is to be a good sport and gracefully accept defeat, regroup, rebuild, and don’t rush the natural process. Respect the pain, it will ultimately strengthen you and your resolve.

As Conservatives, if next month things change negatively for us, we will do it all over again and comeback even stronger.

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Sorry Don Hodges, but you're wrong

Posted 16 Apr 2017 by Walaa Idris

Dan Hodges, whom I consider to be a moderate centrist, is wrong to think Mrs May is a part-time custodial who will walk away from Number 10 after delivering Brexit. Because that is not the attitude of an ambitious woman. Unfortunately, his assessment is the analysis of a man who clearly doesn’t know any driven women. Unlike men, ambitious women tend to be tunnel visioned and laser focused when it comes to achieving their goals.

May had one goal, to lead the Conservative party and become the second female British Prime Minster. She comes from a generation of British women who saw Margret Thatcher rise and fall. They lived every step of that era and understood too well what it takes for a woman in the male dominated Westminster to succeed on merit alone.

So only someone who does not fully understand those facts will say this.

“On entering Downing Street, she discovered that being PM isn’t really for her. So she intends to serve out the rest of this parliamentary term, deliver a deal on Brexit, then ride off into the sunset….”

“ I don’t know the exact timetable, but she’s certainly a transitional PM”

“She’ll fight an Election, then be gone in 18 months”

These are opinions of people who clearly don’t know Theresa May, they are the analysis of people who are either too lazy to read and understand her or wishful thinkers who hope she won’t continue as a PM. As for the rest of us, it’s one of many dreamy ideas and makes a good Sunday read.

Happy Easter!

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