In August the Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan went on a publicity seeking visit to the Calais Jungle.
With the Labour leadership contest under way at the time he felt it was an appropriate opportunity to boost Owen Smith’s campaign with a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn. He said:
“Yes, I’m attacking Corbyn – it’s not coming from the frontbench of the main parties and it should be.”
But soon he warmed to his more familiar theme – telling us what a caring and moral person he is and how uncaring and immoral the Conservatives are. Cowan declared:
“This is a crisis. I don’t think we can walk by on the other side of the street. There’s a moral imperative that we act. We want to do more than our bit. We can’t look the other way.”
Once the camera’s stopped rolling the facts began to emerge.
The Council has only agreed to take ten unaccompanied children. Even then terms and conditions apply. Central Government must pay the full costs. The children won’t be placed in the borough – simply managed by the Council’s social workers. So far as the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme is concerned the Council has only taken three people. That is over a year after it attacked the Government’s national total of 20,000 over five years for being too low.
The Council has not yet written to residents inviting them to offer accommodation. It hasn’t even put a link to this document from the Hammersmith & Fulham Refugees Welcome committee on its website. That document gives practical advice. The Council just keeps putting out boastful press releases.
So the reality is that the Council is walking by on the other side. It is not doing it’s bit – let alone more than its bit. It is looking the other way.
Will Cowan apologise for such staggering cynicism? Don’t hold your breath.