Just vague enough not to cause trouble

26 Jul

West Ham MP Lyn Brown spoke in yesterday’s Summer adjournment debate in the House of Commons, accusing the government of Brexit-induced cowardice in the face of human rights abuses around the world:

I usually use this debate to talk about very local issues. Today I want to deviate a little, because many of my constituents have written to me about their concerns for people who live elsewhere in the world and their fear that our voice might be silenced or muted because of Brexit and our pursuit of trade deals.

My constituents have pointed out Trump’s obsession with walls and putting children in cages, and his insidious support for the damaging and highly dangerous great replacement conspiracy theory. They asked, “What did we do in response?” Well, we gave him a state visit.

There are concerns about other powerful countries too, like China. As we know, more than a million men, women and children are in detention camps, based on their ethnicity and their Muslim faith. Families have been torn apart by the state, children from their parents. Credible reports say that detainees are forced to swear oaths of allegiance, renounce their religion and learn Mandarin in place of their mother tongue. Some reports even talk of summary execution and the harvesting of organs.

Our Government has recognised that human rights abuses are happening today on a huge, almost unimaginable scale. Uyghur Muslims fear a genocide. Why have we not taken targeted steps? Frankly, we do not need more words. It is clearly a business. We could identify those who develop racist software to identify the targets. We could identify those who are building the camps. We could refuse them contracts with the UK, couldn’t we? We could speak up much more strongly about Hong Kong as well, couldn’t we? We could address the increasing fear of Hong Kongers that their free society is just slipping away. We could help—but we have not, and I fear that we will not because China might move away from freer trade, and we need that free trade now as a substitute for what we are losing.

I fear that it is the same with Modi’s Government.

On 17 June, when the new Indian Parliament was being sworn in, members of the ruling party chanted the Hindu nationalist slogan “Jai Sri Ram” whenever a Muslim representative stood up to take their oath. It was an attempt to intimidate and delegitimise those elected representatives based on their religion. Those words could simply be an expression of faith, but they have been twisted into something horrifying.

Since then, there have been repeated Islamophobic attacks, accompanied by that same chant. On 22 June, Tabrez Ansari was tied to a pole, beaten and abused by a crowd in the open. He cried and begged for mercy. After the crowd were done with Tabrez—after they had forced him to repeat their slogan and taken yet another step to erase his difference—the police took him into custody. Reportedly, he was refused medical help. His family members were threatened with similar beatings and not permitted even to see him until, four days later, he died of his injuries.

There have been many further attacks. A Hindu video is being shared, with the lyric:

“Whoever doesn’t say Jai Sri Ram, send him to the graveyard.”

Frankly, that is the language of genocide.

As hon. Members will know, I could go on. I wanted to talk about Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Saudi Arabia and our arms deals as well. To be entirely honest, it seems to me that FCO Ministers, many of whom I deeply respect, have raised human rights issues in terms just vague enough not to cause trouble.

What is our role in this new world if we swallow our words and turn away when we see persecution escalating, risk to lives and liberty, and possible genocide on the horizon? How will this new Government show us that they are not cowards, they are not distracted and they are not restricted because of Brexit?

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Councillors for Corbyn

22 Jul

Labour councillors across the country have responded to “continuing right-wing attacks” on Jeremy Corbyn by signing an open letter expressing their unwavering support for the leader:

We are elected councillors who are proud to publicly represent the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. We feel compelled to write this letter to express our support for Jeremy Corbyn whilst he is personally subjected to accusations of racism and antisemitism. He is a decent man who has fought hate and fascism throughout his life. It is unjust to witness such a personal attack on a man, who was twice democratically elected because of such principles.

We owe it to ourselves to fight the scourge of antisemitism, and all other forms of hate and racism both within our party and society. We believe that a vast majority of Labour members are good, honest people who wish to create a society free from bigotry and discrimination. If there are incidents of racism, antisemitism or any forms of hate we all demand action is taken.

We strongly believe there is now a rigorous effort to reform and improve the inadequate disciplinary processes that our current General Secretary, Jennie Formby, inherited when she took over the role last year. There is still more work to be done, but we have every confidence that Jennie Formby can do this whilst protecting members’ rights to natural justice and due process.

The targeting of Jeremy Corbyn – who has a lifelong record of opposition to all forms of antisemitism, racism and hate, even when this has meant him speaking as a minority – undermines all of our efforts to achieve a fair and just society free from all forms of hate. We have no doubt in his integrity and sincerity in fighting discrimination, and we are proud to give Jeremy Corbyn the full support he deserves.

So far the letter has been signed by “over 600 councillors,” which is not quite as impressive as it sounds when you consider the party has more than 6,300 councillors (it used to be more, but the last couple of election cycles haven’t worked out that well).

Of the 60 Newham councillors, nine have so far added their names:

  • Cllr Daniel Blaney
  • Cllr John Whitworth
  • Cllr Moniba Khan
  • Cllr Sasha Das Gupta
  • Cllr Aisha Siddiqah
  • Cllr Anamul Islam
  • Cllr Mas Patel
  • Cllr Susan Masters
  • Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit

With both East Ham and West Ham CLPs in the borough now firmly in the hands of ‘Corbynistas’ (as their private WhatsApp group is called), how long before the other 51 are questioned about their lack of loyalty?

LGBT or not LGBT?

28 Jun

By Rohit K Dasgupta

Today at my CLP I lost the LGBT Officer post because a straight white man stood against me.

His statement did not have one sentence about LGBT campaigning. Those sharing homophobic content today clapped. There was mass walkout in disgust. I might actually be done. Over to you @UKLabour

How can someone who espoused homophobic views just today get to vote on who represents the LGBT community in our CLP? Tell me why those who have been homophobic & intimidated us – complaints of which were sent a year ago – are still in the party and can pass judgement on our lives?

A straight white man was voted by a straight majority GC to be the LGBT Officer. Tell me how the Labour Party is still the party for equality and social justice? Tell me why I shouldn’t tear up my card right now. Tell me why this CLP is still not under special measures @UKLabour.

As we left we were booed and asked to f*** off by several people? Who were they?

  1. Someone who compares Gay people to paedophiles!

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  1. Then there was another who tweets about traditional marriage and retweets Mufti Menk (a homophobic hate preacher).

  2. And of course, there was the one from today who shared videos about disrupting inclusive SRE in the borough & claimed his phone was stolen & other people shared it. @UKLabour, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t want to name & shame them until you deal with the complaints

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Finally the person who stood against me who doesn’t for once say how he self identifies in his statement or in his speech. This is what we are dealing with. How is he going to ensure a strong voice for LGBT people when every LGBT person left the room after his election in disgust.

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This was my 1 min speech. I am now on an overnight train to Scotland for a conference.

If someone told me five years ago we would be seeing a roll back of LGBT rights I would have laughed but with the rise of the far right that is exactly what is happening.

I grew up in India where being gay was criminalised until very recently- threats of arrest, threats of death and threats of physical violence is what has shaped my queer politics & I won’t cower.

I joined Labour ten years ago because we are the party of equality & social justice. During this time I have been a parliamentary candidates, a Euro candidate and elected a councillor.

Last year we became the first local authority to celebrate LGBT history month and fly the inclusive rainbow flag.

There are two big issues LGBT people currently face in this borough – racism & homophobia. For me they go hand in hand. As Audre Lorde said there are no single issue politics as we don’t lead single issue lives.

Being queer is more than an identity for me, it is my life. From fighting oppression to challenging injustice I will continue to not just be a political officer in this role but a street campaigner.

Please support me.

Come what may LGBT rights will need a voice in this borough & I alongside my fab 🏳️‍🌈 councillors & friends will continue that.

No threats can stop us. Starts next week✊🏾

 

Originally posted as a Twitter thread on Thursday 27 June 2019. Reproduced by permission

West Ham CLP chair resigns

28 Jun

Josephine Grahl, chair of West Ham constituency Labour Party has resigned, less than 24 hours after the AGM where she was re-elected unopposed.

With a huge sense of relief I have just resigned as Chair of West Ham CLP.

The exhausting experience of chairing a set of increasingly hostile meetings has taken a personal toll. Last night’s AGM gave me no sense that there is a majority on the general committee who are interested in a collective effort to achieve our shared aims.

If there is a time when the left ought to be generous, confident and open it is surely now in Britain, despite the dark times we live in. I’ve never been interested in factional politics; I’ve never thought that individual political positions should take precedence over any other qualities, such as kindness, honesty, or diligence; and I’ve never understood why political disagreement should be a cause for personal hostility.

The arid insularity of some political activism pre-Corbyn always struck me as a symptom of the weakness of the left, not a viable way to organise for a better future. This is no longer a ‘pre Corbyn’ political era, and that excites me and motivates me. It includes an inevitable conflict, but I don’t believe that this has to be played out in the local party as it currently is in West Ham – a situation which looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In any case you can’t chair this kind of war; you can only fight it, or refuse to fight. I have no intention of continuing to preside over a battleground in which defeating one’s internal opponents takes precedence over advancing the cause of socialism. There are more productive outlets for my political energy.

I’m saddened that people who have worked tirelessly to achieve what I saw as our shared aims – a better party, a better Labour Council, a Labour government – were rejected last night in favour of those who have no such record.

Furthermore, there are publicly and privately expressed concerns that one of the new self-identifying officers has not been sincere about their identification. If this is the case, it’s also a deeply concerning situation. Seema Chandwani, the Vice-Chair of London Labour, has already picked this up; at a time when the rights of LGBT+ people are under threat globally the left must be in the forefront of the struggle to defend these.

Some of the best people I know are in the local party and I hope they know who they are. In particular I wouldn’t have been able to endure the low points of the last year without the kindness, integrity, and wisdom of John Saunders.

The struggle continues. But not this struggle.

Disclosure: I attended the AGM last night as delegate from Newham Co-operative Party

Lobby the council

17 Jun

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From the Stratford and New Town Labour Party Facebook page (inline links added):

We encourage all ward members to read

the cabinet paper (PDF)

that has been put forward proposing a Public Space Protection Order which could see Stratford Centre closed and rough sleeping criminalised within the Centre and the areas around it.

This is a major issue for ward members and Stratford and New Town Branch Labour party will be discussing the issues around this as a matter of urgency, either at our next ward meeting on the 4th July or if necessary at a special ward meeting, depending on the timetable for consultation.

There are serious human rights issues with Public Space Protection Orders and Liberty have campaigned against the use of these by local authorities. We are also concerned about the criminalisation of vulnerable people and limiting access to the Centre, which is a public thoroughfare, for Stratford residents.

A lobby of the council is planned for tomorrow evening, details [in the image above]

The cabinet paper, linked above, sets out the problem – from the council’s perspective – with crime and disorder arising from an increase in rough sleeping in the shopping centre. It also

outlines the current support and action being taken to provide tailored support to vulnerable individuals. The report details the outreach and support work that is undertaken and any temporary provision that will be put in place pending the availability of a more permanent solution.

Criminalising the poor and vulnerable was a policy vigorously pursued by the previous regime, which issued ASBOs to rough sleepers around Stratford. It would be a shame (to put it mildly) if the new administration went down the same road.

Update (Monday 17 June, 20:10)

The Mayor has just announced at full council that the report on Street Homelessness in Stratford proposed for Cabinet tomorrow has been withdrawn.

East Ham gets the go-ahead

14 Jun

SyedTaqiShah1 2019 Jun 06

East Ham chair Tahir Mirza and secretary Syed Taqi Shah with Peterborough candidate Lisa Forbes

After several years in the doldrums East Ham CLP finally got itself back on its feet earlier this year. Branch AGMs were held, general committee (GC) delegates elected and a CLP meeting elected a new slate of officers in February.

Since when nothing much has happened. There hasn’t been a GC meeting and members have been left wondering what’s going on.

But there is good news – the investigation by London regional office to ensure all the elected GC delegates were legitimate has been completed. It was delayed for several months by staff being deployed to the local elections, the European elections and then the Peterborough by-election, but an approved list of delegates has now been sent to the East Ham secretary. So the CLP can get on and hold meetings.

The first will be a special trigger ballot meeting on City and East London Assembly member Unmesh Desai next Thursday (20 June).

East Ham’s trigger meeting is the last in City and East. So far Unmesh Desai has won five and lost one, in West Ham. This means he has already passed the threshold to be automatically re-selected as the Labour candidate in 2020. 

The ‘regular’ GC will follow on, including an election for party conference delegates. Nominations have to be submitted by 5pm on the day and, given that most branches won’t meet before the GC, it’s hard to see how they can put forward valid nominations.

No doubt London region will be keeping an eye on things.

European election results 2019

30 May

Britain and the EU 992x561

The returning officer has released the full results for Newham from last week’s European election:

Party

Votes

Percent

Labour

33,379

51%

Liberal Democrats

9,192

14%

The Brexit Party

7,730

12%

Green Party

5,353

8.2%

Conservative

3,756

5.7%

Change UK

2,234

3.4%

UKIP

1,336

2.0%

UK European Union Party

917

1.4%

Animal Welfare Party

640

1.0%

Women’s Equality Party

572

0.9%

Others (independents)

312

0.5%

Total votes

65,421

100%

Compared to the previous European election in 2014, Labour lost 7 points of vote share and the Conservatives lost 11 points. UKIP also lost share, down over 6%, though their previous vote was bettered by Farage’s new Brexit vehicle.

The big gainers were the Liberal Democrats, up 12% and the Green Party up 3.6%.

Turnout was down 3%, from 39% to 36%.