This morning Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) our Daughter and I went to St Paul’s Church for Harlow’s first ever Civic Service.

The Civic Service was arranged by Harlow’s Conservative Chairman Tony Hall who was also responsible for suggesting that we appoint the first Chaplain to the Council last year.

It was a lovely service, attended by lots of people who are involved in the civic life of the town, and a great chance to showcase something good about Harlow to the rest of the county, who sent representatives in the form of many Mayors and Chairmen. Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex was also in attendance, welcomed by both the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Council.

There were readings and thoughts from Tony, Robert Halfon the Conservative candidate for Harlow, the Council’s Chief Executive and the Labour MP – who snuck out part way through the service (I’m sure he had some important Government work to do on a Sunday afternoon) and a former MP for the town who is the Chairman of Harlow’s Civic Society.

The congregation were also in rather good voice for the Hymns, and the National Anthem at the end of the Service.

The whole congregation were all then invited back to the Civic Centre for light refreshments by the Chairman.

There were only two things wrong with the morning, the first, something that irritated me – I sat behind Stan Newens, the former MP for the town, an ardent socialist who I don’t get on with at the best of times. To give you an idea of his outlook on the world, he wrote a book praising Nicolae Ceauşescu, and his exploits in Romania. Anyway at the national anthem, Stan visibly shuddered and clamped his mouth firmly shut. I am sure it was only coincidence that the entire row behind him sang with even more gusto.

The second thing, which annoyed me, but really should annoy everyone in Harlow, is that there was not a single member of the opposition in the congregation; and just so I am not being biased with the evidence, the majority of the Conservative group were in attendance.

Now I know Councillors are busy people (seconded by Mrs J!) and I know that not everyone can make everything, but not to have any members of the opposition, either from the nine Liberals or the five labour members, is frankly disgusting.

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