As if he didn’t already have enough to worry about, Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican former film star and sex pest who currently presides over an unemployment rate of 12.1% and the fiscal freefall of a $26.3 billion budget deficit in the richest state in the US, has been invited by Newham’s Great Helmsman Sir Robin Wales to become the borough's ‘official civic guest’ at the Olympics. What a clash of egos that could prove to be.
According to the Newham Recorder, Wales has written to Schwarzenegger, who lived and trained at Charles ‘Wag’ Bennett's gym in Romford Road in Forest Gate in the 1960s, saying:
You have been an inspiration to weightlifters and sportspeople since you started winning titles during the 1970s, and have capitalised on your appeal by moving onto acting, and now governing California.The local rag also says that Wales “would like to talk to Arnold about saving money”. It says something about the monumental self-regard that the Mayor of Newham has for his own abilities that he now thinks he can ride to California’s rescue.
The success of our borough is largely because of the hard working men and women, like yourself, who have contributed towards continually improving Newham, which is the most ethnically diverse area in Britain.
Schwarzenegger, who has impoverished the most deprived sections of his own state by infamously making swingeing cuts to child welfare, health care for the poor and AIDS prevention efforts and by firing 5,000 state government employees (as well as proposing to close 220 state parks) hardly seems like a suitable choice for ‘official civic guest’ to one of the poorest boroughs in England.
However, that doesn't mean that we can't draw some inspiration from the Golden State. The massive campus protests by students and faculty members at the University of California, the scale of which, according to the Guardian, have shocked state authorities as they have escalated from a local dispute to a state-wide walkout, are a tremendous example to the rest of us in opposing the cuts in local services that a new Tory government is expected to introduce.