23 and me

16 Oct

In my previous post I provided an overview of the council’s proposal for redrawing ward boundaries and distributing council seats ahead of the 2022 election.

If the council’s scheme is approved there will be 66 councillors representing 23 wards – 20 of which will elect three councillors each and 3 will elect two.

Let’s take a look at the 23 wards in turn, starting with the new Stratford wards:

Stratford East Village

This is basically the northern half of the current Stratford and New Town ward, covering the East Village development, Westfield shopping centre, the International station and a chunk of older housing on the streets between Leyton Road and Leytonstone Road. It is projected to have an electorate of around 11,500 and will return three councillors. The preponderance of new, more affluent voters living in the apartment buildings of the East Village will make this a tempting target for both the Liberal Democrats and Greens. Indeed, the Lib Dems have submitted their own proposal for an ‘Olympic ward’ covering the East Village, but excluding the older ‘New Town’ area east of Leyton Road.

Stratford Olympic Park

The southern part of the current Stratford and New Town ward, including the London Stadium and the shopping centre, stretching south to Three Mills. It will also take in streets south of Forest Lane and west of Water Lane that are currently in Forest Gate South. The new ward will have 12,600 electors represented by three councillors.

Canning Town

Such has been the pace of development south of the Canning Town flyover that a new three-member ward can be created from the small area bounded by Newham Way, the Jubilee Line, Victoria Dock Road, Munday Road and Radland Road. This compact ward will hold 11,300 voters. As with the East Village, this ward may be an opportunity for someone to break Labour’s complete stranglehold on the council. 

Canning Town North

Slightly reduced version of the current ward, but retaining three councillors. Bounded to the north by the District line/C2C railway and to the south by the A13, it takes in West Ham station, the Memorial Ground, Eastlea and Rokeby schools and Rathbone Market. 12,500 voters.

Victoria Dock

This new ward is made up of the western half of the current Royal Docks ward, plus a bit of the old Canning Town South. It will include the whole of the community in Silvertown and Britannia Village on the south of the Royal Victoria Dock. Its northern boundary captures the new developments around the DLR line. Victoria Dock will have 8,500 voters and elect two councillors.

Albert Dock

The other, eastern half of the current Royal Docks, taking in City Airport, the North Woolwich community and the developments around Gallions Reach. The council notes that the boundary between this and Beckton could be problematic due to future developments. It suggests the Boundary Commission may want to take a further look, so this ward may yet change. As currently proposed, its 8266 electors will be represented by two councillors.

Plaistow West

That the council has suggested Canning Town East as an alternative name for this ward tells you a lot about where it is. This new ward is bounded by the A13 to the south and the District line the north, with Plaistow High Street/Greengate Street to the east. Hermit Road and the East London cemetery mark the western edge. The Greenway slices through the ward from east to north-west. 11,673 voters will elect three councillors.

Plaistow North

This ward most obviously breaks the council’s own rules about ‘impermeable boundaries’. The District line splits it in two and there is only one crossing point to move from the southern to the northern half. The southern part sits between Plaistow High Street/Greengate Street and Green Street (up to and including Queens Market), north of Barking Road. The northern portion is south of Plashet Road, to either side of Stopford Road. The three councillor ward holds 11,300 voters.

Plaistow South

A rejigged version of the current ward, taking in part of the old Canning Town South ward, so that its western boundary is now New Barn Street. It takes in the area between Barking Road and the A13, with Prince Regent Lane running more or less through the middle. The south east quarter of the ward covers Newham University Hospital, Cumberland School and Newham Leisure Centre. It’s 11,300 electors will be represented by three councillors.

Custom House

Although there is an existing Custom House ward, it is quite different to the one proposed by the council. It takes in the eastern half of the Old Canning Town South and the western half of the current Custom House. The A13 provides the northern boundary and the Excel Centre sits to the south. To the north east the council has opted not to use Beckton District Park as a boundary and therefore residents around Sheerwater Road and Fulmer Road will find themselves in Beckton ward rather than Custom House. This 12,600 voter ward will return three councillors.

Beckton

The geographically largest ward in the borough is mostly unaltered, bar the changes with Custom House mentioned above and a small number of properties going into the new Albert Dock ward. With 12,729 voters returning three councillors, Beckton is at the outer edge of acceptable electoral variance (+9%).

Boleyn

This densely populated ward covers the area north and south of the old West Ham football ground – now a new housing development. There are some small boundary changes from the existing ward, which ‘improve electoral equality’. Just over 11,000 electors and three councillors.

West Ham

No changes from the current boundaries. 10,800 voters, electing three councillors.

Forest Gate South

Apart from the loss of a few streets west of Water Lane to the new Stratford Olympic Park ward, Forest Gate South remains unchanged. Water Lane now forms a distinct boundary between Forest Gate and Stratford. FGS retains three councillors, who will be elected by around 11,500 voters.

Forest Gate North

No changes to this three councillor ward, which is home to 11,329 electors.

Green Street West

Another ward with no changes. With just 10,600 voters and three councillors it is at the margin of acceptable electoral variation (10%). The council says it is difficult to identify changes that would improve this.

Green Street East

Remains within unchanged boundaries. It’s electoral variance is -9% (10,695 voters and three councillors) 

Manor Park

Popcorn time for Labour watchers. This ward is reduced in size with properties furthest from the centre moving to Little Ilford and Plashet wards, leaving just 8,300 electors. As a result, it will only have two councillors and one of the current three will have to look elsewhere for a seat. 

Little Ilford

Unchanged, bar the addition of First Avenue and streets to the east, and a section of Romford Road from Manor Park. The reconfigured three-councillor ward will have 12,200 voters.

Plashet

The ward previously known as East Ham North gains a few properties from Manor Park (Monega Road and parts of Shrewsbury Road and High Street North), but is otherwise unchanged. 12,150 voters with three councillors.

East Ham

The new name for East Ham Central. This ward covers the area either side of the High Street, south of the District line and encompasses the main shopping area, the old Town Hall and Central Park. To improve ‘electoral equality’ there are some minor changes to the boundary with Burges ward (or Wall End, as it is currently known). East Ham ward will have 11,770 voters and three councillors.

East Ham South

The ward takes in a few streets on its western boundary from Boleyn, but is otherwise unchanged. It covers the residential areas either side of High Street South down to the A13. It is projected to contain 11,791 voters and will be represented by three councillors.

And finally…

Burges

The current Wall End ward, with the addition of Keppel Road, Streatfield Road, Latimer Road and Altmore, plus properties on the north side of Barking Road east of Keppel Road (all from East Ham Central). I have no idea why Burges is a better name than Wall End for this ward – does it have some local significance? 11,500 Burges-ites will have three councillors representing them.

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View from the Boundary

10 Oct

The current structure of Newham council – a directly elected mayor and 60 councillors representing 20 wards – has been in place since 2002.

The mayoral system was put in place after a referendum 17 years ago and its future will be decided in another vote, probably 18 months from now. In the meantime, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England is taking a look at the rest of the council. How many councillors do we need and how should the wards they represent by drawn up?

The last review, which produced the 20 wards we have today, was in the late 1990s and a lot has changed since then! The population has grown substantially and that has resulted in considerable ‘electoral inequality’ between wards. Stratford and New Town has more than 18,000 electors, while Royal Docks has just 8,600. Yet both elect the same number of councillors.

Newham has argued – apparently successfully – that the total number of councillors should increase from 60 to 66, to take account of the growth in population and the large amount of casework (especially around housing issues) that has resulted. It has also put forward its own proposal on how the borough should be divided up into wards.

The council claims its proposal reflects existing local communities and the few ‘natural’ boundaries in the borough – the A13, the District line and the Docks. 

The new map, if agreed, would result in 23 wards, 20 of which would elect 3 councillors and three that would elect only two. The council rejected the option of creating single-member micro-wards. 

Of the 23 wards, nine are completely new, three have significant changes and 11 are either unchanged or have minor adjustments. All of the wards are within 10% (plus or minus) of ‘electoral equality’.

The biggest changes are in Stratford & New Town, where the existing mega-ward is split into two new – East Village and Olympic Park – and Royal Docks, which is also split in two, with each of them represented by two councillors. Canning Town South disappears; its western half becomes a more ‘electorally equal’ Canning Town ward while the eastern parts go into the new Plaistow West and a substantially redrawn Custom House.

Keen observers of local Labour politics will want to get the popcorn in for the reselection meeting in Manor Park, which will go from three councillors to two.

The full list is:

Ward name Forecast voters (2025) Councillors Electoral Equality
Beckton 12729 3 9
Boleyn 11067 3 -6
Burges* 11481 3 -2
Canning Town 11363 3 -3
Canning Town North 12425 3 6
Custom House 12594 3 7
East Ham South 11791 3 1
East Ham 11771 3 0
Forest Gate North 11329 3
Forest Gate South 11477 -2
Green St East 10692 3 -9
Green St West 10607 3 -10
Little Ilford 12185 3 4
Plaistow North 11321 3 -3
Plaistow South 11297 3 -4
Plaistow West 11673 3 0
Plashet** 12157 3 4
Stratford East Village 11522 3 -2
Stratford Olympic Park 12620 3 8
West Ham 10825 3 -8
Manor Park 8334 2 7
Albert Dock 8266 2 5
Victoria Dock 8530 2 9
Totals: 258056 66  
  • Burges is the current Wall End (with some small additions).

** Plashet is the current East Ham North ward (again, with small additions) renamed.

In the next post I’ll look at the make up of each of the 23 new wards.

Pass Notes: the ‘People’s Petition’

8 Oct

Tahir Mirza

East Ham CLP chair Tahir Mirza is the public face of the ‘people’s petition’

What’s the story?

A “people’s petition” has been launched to force a referendum next year after councillors voted to push the date back of a public vote on how the borough is governed, according to the Newham Recorder.

Whose bright idea is that?

The petition is the ‘brain child’ of a group calling themselves Newham Democracy, though in reality this is a small group of ‘left’ Labour activists led by East Ham CLP chair Tahir Mirza. Others involved are West Ham vice chair Mehmood Mirza (no relation), former councillor Obaid Khan and Councillor Suga Thekkeppurayil. 

Didn’t the mayor already promise to have a referendum?

Yes, it was a key part of her manifesto in the Labour candidate selection and it was in her election manifesto for mayor in 2018. She pledged to

Hold a referendum on having a Directly Elected Mayor by 2021 and change the way the Council works so that we build a culture of trust and openness that involves our residents in our decision making.

That sounds unequivocal. Has she broken her promise?

No. Council recently voted to to hold the Governance Referendum on a date between June 2020 and May 2021, with an indicative date for 1st April 2021.

Didn’t the council vote before to have it in May 2020, on the same day as the London elections?

Sort of. In November 2018 it voted to hold a binding referendum by May 2020, on a change of governance from a directly elected Mayoral model to a Leader and Cabinet model. 

So the date has slipped then?

Yes, but council agreed to that in April 2019. A report from the chief legal officer pointed out that

the motion was not sufficient to be taken as part of the statutory process to commence a referendum. In short this is because, as a motion, it did not comply with the statutory requirements for such a Council resolution and did not provide a rationale for holding a referendum, that would comply with the legal principles for making a council decision, which in turn would place the referendum process at risk of legal challenge had it been commenced.

What were the problems with the motion?

Well, first of all it didn’t specify a date but, more importantly, it didn’t take account of the variety of alternative governance models that might replace the directly elected mayor. These should be consulted on rather than councillors simply saying what they want. And there’s a detailed process to be gone through before the referendum can happen.

But it could still be held in May 2020, right?

In theory, yes. But in practice there are big disadvantages to holding it on the same day as the London elections. There are already three different ballot papers (mayor, City & East assembly member and London-wide assembly members). This is confusing for a number of voters and adding a fourth ballot risks making it worse. London elections already have a high rate of rejected ballots and City & East has one of the highest rates. 

That might be a problem for Sadiq Khan…

Quite. From a purely partisan Labour point of view, confusing voters with both an election for one mayor and a referendum to abolish a different mayor on the same day is not a great idea. And more spoiled ballots in a solid Labour area in a potentially tight election is not a genius tactic. In fact, Sadiq Khan and the London Labour Party have been pretty clear they doesn’t want to take the risk.

Even so, holding to on the same day would save the council money…

Yes, but not much in grand scheme of things. The report estimated savings compared to a standalone vote at just £40,000.

Okay, so what happens now?

A democracy and civic participation commission has been set up and part of its remit is to propose different models of governance for Newham. These might include leader and cabinet; council and committees; or even delegating powers down to a new tier of ‘community (parish) councils’. Council will consider the commission’s recommendations before deciding which alternative model to put on the ballot paper against the current one. 

The commission will be chaired by Professor Nick Pearce. Professor Pearce is Director of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and Professor of Public Policy at the University of Bath.  He has previously worked as Head of the No 10 Downing Street Policy Unit.

Yawn. That’s going to takes ages, isn’t it?

Not really. The Commission will hand down their final report with findings and recommendations in March 2020.

I’ve seen people on Twitter say that the sooner we have the vote, the sooner we can get rid of the directly elected mayor.

They’re wrong. Even if we had a vote tomorrow the change couldn’t take place until the next local election in 2022. That’s the law and there’s no getting round it.

Newham Democracy says that holding the vote in 2021 means there won’t be enough time to put the change into effect before 2022 and we’ll have to have an elected mayor for another four years. Is that true?

No, it’s horse shit. In 2002 there was a referendum to change from being a ‘normal council’ to having a directly elected mayor. That was at the end of January. The first mayoral election was at the start of May, just over 3 months later. A year is plenty of time to change to reverse the change.

So, the mayor and council have already agreed to have a referendum in 2021; there’s no financial or legal advantage to having it earlier; and the Labour Party doesn’t want it at the same time as the London elections. Why are these Labour members organising a petition?

Now, there you’ve got me… 

Do say:

“The directly elected mayoral model places too much power in one person’s hands and, as we have seen in Newham, leads to cronyism and poor decision-making. We will be well rid of it in 2022.”

Don’t say:

“That Rokhsana Fiaz needs to be shown who’s boss.”

(apologies to the Guardian for ripping off their format)

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?

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!

D GgeEgXYAIMMQH

 

  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

D GgfDOW4AEXqNM

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.

D GgfdpX4AUVAdA

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