Bin strike – a councillor’s view

20 Sep

New refuse workers on strike

The following post has been written by a member of Newham’s Labour Group of councillors

I’m a member of a trade union and I believe in a worker’s right to withdraw their labour. This is a legal right but it’s also a moral right. It’s in everyone’s interest that workers receive a sustainable wage from their employers – proper pay is the bedrock of a better society. And the truth is workers across the board need a rise in wages to deal with the Cost of Living crisis that has been caused by the Conservative government. I think very few people in Newham would disagree with what I’ve written.

Unite’s recent action in Newham has been difficult for Newham’s Labour councillors. We are caught between an inclination to support strikes, and our role as members of a council which is the subject of strikes. In public, councillors are limited in what we are able say – these strikes are an HR matter, and councillors aren’t able to get involved.

Along with a number of my colleagues I attended a meeting with Steve Edwards, the Unite lead for this strike, a few weeks ago. In that conversation, Steve explained Unite’s reasoning for taking strike action. He made the point that refuse workers in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich are paid more than equivalent workers in Newham.

Whilst this is undoubtedly true, it was surprising that he chose to make this comparison. The boroughs he mentioned receive inner-London weighting – they are given additional funding to pay workers. Central government classifies Newham as an outer-London borough – so it does not receive additional funding for its workers. The council has long argued that the borough should be given inner-London weighting, but this is not within its power to decide.

Councillors in the meeting raised this with Steve and he offered to provide analysis comparing Newham worker’s pay with pay in other outer-London boroughs. Steve also said that, even accounting for outer-London weighting, Newham would lag proportionally behind other borough’s pay.

I’m unsure what point Steve was trying to make here. Previously he had said he wanted Newham workers to receive the same pay as, for example, Hackney workers, but his comments on London weighting suggested he was looking for a smaller proportional raise, in line with the outer-London pay grades. Steve was asked if he could provide further analysis comparing Newham’s wages with inner-London boroughs, taking into account outer-London weighting. He agreed to send this to all councillors. As of yet, I’ve not received either piece of analysis from him.

During the meeting, Steve mentioned that Unite had ideas about how the council could fund the additional wage rises for workers.

The first of these was around reducing the council’s use of consultants in designing waste collection timetables. Steve pointed out that the council is planning to hire consultants as part of their service refresh specifically to look at how workers are timetabled.

I have mixed feelings about this proposal. Public sector bodies can rely on consultants too much, and consultancy firms aren’t cheap. Nevertheless, using consultants is a one-off cost. The council wouldn’t be hiring this consultancy on an on-going basis, so to suggest that this one-time cost could pay for wage increases feels poorly thought through. (I’ve seen a few people argue that increased wages could be funded with Section 106 money. This idea is a non-starter for the same reasons).

The second suggestion Steve offered was that the council could make recycling collections twice a month instead of weekly. This proposal has more legs. Despite the council’s long-held aim to move to weekly collections, many people still only get their recycling collected at this rate anyway. Yet, I’m not sure how much money this proposal would actually save. Again, Steve couldn’t provide hard details. The proposal would lead to a worse service for Newham residents. That goes without saying. But it seems unlikely that this dispute can be resolved without services being affected.

I left the meeting confused and disappointed that a settlement between Unite workers and the council wasn’t nearer. I had previously attended briefings from the council, where Colin Ansell, Newham’s CEO, quite convincingly showed councillors that a large amount of baselining work had taken place. Colin seemed confident that the council’s offer was a fair and comprehensive one

More strikes are now due to take place, starting today, and the tactics that Unite are using to push for a better settlement have escalated.

On Saturday, councillors were shocked to find out that a Unite officer, Onay Kasab, had directly emailed their employers.

In his email, Onay states

We are writing to all organisations linked to Newham council or where Newham councillors are engaged to let you know that we will be escalating our campaign on behalf of our refuse service workers…we are now extending our activity to include organisations linked to the council which is the reason why we are making contact with you today.

The email goes on to threaten Councillor’s employers with leafletting and lobbying activity outside their premises.

This email has been received poorly by councillors. I felt a visceral dread when I had to explain to my manager why activities I pursue outside of my office look like they might have an effect on my workplace. Councillors who work already have a hard time juggling their commitments, and it’s not unknown for them to perform poorly in their day-jobs because they’re focusing on their political roles. Unite’s actions may well add more stigma to councillors at work, and this targeting may well dissuade talented people from standing to be councillors in the future.

The approach also feels discriminatory. Many councillors don’t have to worry about a threat to their employers. They may be retired, own their own businesses, earn their money through landlordism, or be in cabinet positions already. The councillors affected by Unite’s threats are those who have a day-job. These councillors are more likely to be poorer, younger, and female. There’s a feeling amongst some that it’s not a great look for Unite to throw fellow workers under the bus.

Finally the letter… doesn’t really help Unite. In our mayoral system, councillors have very little influence over how the executive operates. The most realistic support councillors could give strikers would be to pass a motion at Labour Group asking the Mayor to find a settlement with the refuse workers and meet their demands.

But the Mayor is not compelled to take that advice. Nor could she, if she felt that this would damage the long-term financial viability of the council.

Targeting councillors, who don’t have power to help Unite achieve their aims then, seems odd. It adds to the sense that Unite’s team have not really understood how Newham’s systems work, that they’ve not done their homework.

Unite had a huge amount of good will from councillors across Newham prior to their recent actions. Most were embarrassed by the Mayor’s ill-judged statement on the strikes. Now, however, that good will is dissipating. Part of that is because of the threats to employers. But much of it is because councillors have been unimpressed with their limited interactions with Unite’s negotiators.

There is a feeling amongst councillors that Steve Edwards should have been more knowledgeable in recent meetings and a dissatisfaction that the analysis Steve promised to send them hasn’t arrived yet. Councillors are also asking why this analysis hadn’t been done before strike action took place. And Unite’s actions seem to have created sympathy for the Mayor (“poor Rokhsana, having to deal with all this!”).

Nevertheless, you’re unlikely to hear councillors say this out loud. Most still support Unite’s general aims, even if they’ve been unimpressed by their conduct and performance. A few are acutely aware that Unite’s endorsement could help them pick up a winnable parliamentary seat later on in their careers.

The real losers here are residents, some of whom have not had their bins cleared for weeks. And the real winners? The Tory government, who have presided over the cost of living crisis, and systematically failed to fund local government services properly, have seemingly managed to escape any blame for the situation on local social media. Both the Mayor and Unite have failed to contextualise this strike within a wider national picture of vicious government cuts. Consequently, Newham residents seem to either be blaming the strikers themselves, claiming refuse workers are greedy (“they earn more than teachers!”) or council mismanagement, rather than structural issues with the country’s economy.

All sides in this dispute would be well-advised to tone down their rhetoric and focus on negotiating towards realistic outcomes.

Paul and Beckles quit

16 May

Cllrs Terry Paul and James Beckles

Before the mayor had the chance to announce her new executive team two members of her previous cabinet announced their decisions to stand down.

First was Cllr Terry Paul

It’s been an honour to serve the residents of Newham since 2018 as the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, but with regret, I have declined the offer of a different role in Cabinet.

I’m proud to have restored Newham’s financial sustainability and improved its governance and reputation. I have left Newham’s finances in a better place than when I found them, and Newham is in the best financial position to face the challenges of the future.

Over the last four years there are many achievements I’m proud of, but my personal highlights were:

  1. The Covid-19 response: Newham spent £30m keeping services going and protecting residents. This was meaningful to me as I had to shield during the early stages of the pandemic;
  2. The London Living Wage was given to 700 care workers across Newham to the London Living Wage, making sure that those caring for our most vulnerable residents were rewarded fairly for their work. Thanks to this, we were also able to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter.
  3. Restructuring the Council finances to provide more money for services: through more efficient use of council funds, we found ways to improve funding for Young People, Children & Adult services, and libraries.
  4. Taking on the banks: Newham renegotiated better terms on its disastrous LOBO loans of circa £435m, reducing our interest payments to the banks and freeing up money for council services.
  5. Addressed the need for improved temporary accommodation in Newham, developing a Temporary Accommodation Housing Programme over 18 months to provide quality homes for people in urgent need.

I’d like to thank my Cabinet and council colleagues for their commitment to making Newham a better place. No one goes into local politics without a desire to improve their local area, and that is apparent in the work all my fellow councilors do for their communities.

It’s a privilege to have the trust of Stratford’s voters, and I intend to continue working hard and speaking up strongly for them over the next four years.

The digital ink was barely dry before Cllr James Beckles announced that he too was returning to the back benches:

After nearly 3 and a half years in the cabinet, I will be stepping down as the Cabinet Member for Crime and Community Safety. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Newham leading a front-line service that has positively impacted the lives of many of our residents.

I’m proud of a number of things that have been accomplished in my three years including:

  • Launching Newham Council’s Women’s Night Safety Charter with Stratford Business Crime Reduction Partnership.
  • Maintaining a council-funded Met police team, able to respond to council priorities.
  • The Days of Action every six weeks tackling ward-based anti-social behaviour.
  • Newham’ Trading Standards, Licensing, and Regulatory Services team winning a National Hero Award from the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards for their rigorous inspection work during the pandemic.
  • Launching our council’s Modern Day Slavery Strategy.
  • Co-ordinated work with the Met Police to disrupt and arrest drug dealers in Stratford Park.
  • A Violence and Vulnerability Reduction Action Plan commended by the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

All this could not have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of council officers who are the backbone of our organisation and turn our political ideas into reality.

I’m looking forward to the new term and working for the people of Custom House, who have put their trust and votes in me and my ward colleagues.

Reaction from across Labour’s political spectrum was swift and consistent.

Rita Chadha, recently elected in Canning Town North, said on Twitter

 

Known @Terrympaul for more than 20 years, not always agreed, but you would be hard pressed to find a better representative and public servant. A big loss to the cabinet in Newham

 

Former councillor Daniel Blaney, very much from the left of the party, tweeted

 

Unbelievable! Me & Terry are on different sides when it comes to Labour Party NEC elections and argue all the time, but he delivered progressive policies like London Living Wage for careworkers. This is disappointing news.

To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one cabinet member, Ms Fiaz, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

Ten things about the election

11 May

1. Turnout was abysmal

Perhaps to spare the blushes of the various parties and candidates that fought the election the council has published any turnout figures, although reports on social media from the count said it was just over 28% for the mayoral election. Looking at the number of votes cast in some wards, it will have been lower than that in a number of places. This is shocking and everyone involved in Newham politics needs to take a long look at themselves and ask why the local electorate has become so disengaged.

2. Labour still dominates

The party won 64 council seats and retained the mayoralty. It took 56.2% of the votes for mayor and 61.5% for council. Although this was not the 100% sweep of recent elections, Labour is still by far the biggest force in Newham politics. Across the 26 wards in the council election the party took 100,535 votes.

3. The Greens are number two

For the first time since 2006 an opposition party won seats on the council, as the Greens took both in the newly created Stratford Olympic Park ward. They were the only other party to field a full slate of 66 candidates (the Tories had 65). Although they narrowly missed out on second place in the mayoral election they finished as runners-up on total votes across the council election with 27,268 – 4,000 ahead of Tories.

4. Your surname is worth votes!

In 21 of the 26 wards the candidate with the most votes had a surname closer to the front of the alphabet than their party colleagues. So in Beckton James Asser finished ahead of Rohima Rahman and Tonii Wilson. In Green Street West Lewis Godfrey topped the poll, followed by Mumtaz Khan and Ama Virdee. The candidates that bucked this trend were Rachel Tripp, Neil Wilson, Mariam Dawood, Steve Brayshaw and Imam Haque.

5. Is Manor Park Labour’s safest seat?

Measured by the gap between the lowest ranked elected councillor and the highest ranked loser, Manor Park is the safest ward in Newham. The opposition will have to close a gap of 1,647 votes to take even one of the three seats.

6. Or is it Maryland?

The new Maryland ward saw Labour score its highest individual vote share, with Carolyn Corben getting 33.8%. Her running mate Ken Penton scored 30.3%, more than 20 points clear of the next best candidate. Given the entire ward is covered by low traffic neighbourhoods and the candidates were unashamedly in favour of them on the doorstep, this should be seen as a vindication of the policy. 

7. Plashet is the most marginal ward

On the same basis, the newly created two councillor ward of Plashet is the Borough’s most marginal. Independent Mehmood Mriza finished just 196 votes behind Labour’s Pushpa Makwana. Beckton is also tight, with a margin of 230 and the Greens only have a 267 vote cushion between themselves and Labour taking back a seat in the Olympic Park.

8. The Independents got nowhere 

The group made a huge fuss about leaving ‘right wing’ Labour and standing on a ‘socialist’ platform of free parking permits, more traffic and setting illegal budgets. They won no seats and five of their seven candidates scored fewer than 200 votes.

9. The Christian Peoples Alliance is surely over

This has been true for several election cycles now, but they keep up coming back. This time their 26 candidates averaged just 131 votes and two of them recorded the joint lowest score across the entire borough with 25 votes each in Stratford Olympic Park. Maybe that’s God’s way of telling them to stop.

10. First Past the Post leaves many voters unrepresented

Labour took 61.5% of the votes and 97% of the seats. The Greens got 16% of the vote and 3% of the seats. The Conservatives got 14% of the vote and no seats at all. Is that fair? I don’t think so.

 

UPDATES (13 May)

First of all, a bonus thing about the election: more people voted to abolish the Mayor in last year’s referendum (36,424) than voted for the mayor last Thursday (35,696). I know it changes nothing, that turnout was lower and it’s a binary choice versus a multi-candidate election, but it amuses me.

Secondly, Cllr Nate Higgins has been in touch to point out – quite reasonably – that looking at closeness by number of votes instead of by percentages makes it seems like the smaller wards are closer than they actually are. The Greens are almost 20 points clear of Labour in Stratford Olympic Park; it’s just a low population ward (because of expected growth). 

No surprises

11 May

FSFQrzNX0AAggh

To absolutely no-one’s surprise Rokhsana Fiaz was re-elected for a second term as mayor of Newham.

The Labour and Co-op candidate took comfortably more than 50% of the first preference votes. Conservative Attic Rahman finished second, narrowly ahead of the Green Party’s Rob Callender.

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Attic Rahman Conservative Party 7,390 11.64%
Lois Austin Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 2,096 3.30%
Simeon Adewole Ademolake Christian Peoples Alliance 2,405 3.79%
Saleyha Ahsan Liberal Democrat 3,528 5.56%
Robert Alexander Callender The Green Party 7,003 11.03%
Rokhsana Fiaz Labour and Co-operative Party 35,696 56.23%
Mehmood Mirza Independent 5,369 8.46%
  Total 63,487  

Who’s side are you on?

2 May

Mcg sd kxnwCu7Pp

Mehmood Mirza is standing as an independent candidate for the Mayor of Newham.

At a Mayoral hustings last week, at which Mr Mirza did not appear in person – preferring instead to be represented by a member of his campaign team – the issue of his property portfolio was raised.

Despite posturing as a left-wing socialist Mehmood Mirza is a significant private landlord. He and his property company, Phoenix M Properties Ltd (No. 10216604), own or control at least 10 homes in Newham. Filings at Companies House show that Mr Mirza is the sole shareholder and director of the company.

The availability of good quality, affordable housing is a huge issue in Newham. According to the Office for National Statistics 35.5% of households in the borough live in the Private Rented Sector. Many of these homes suffer from overcrowding, disrepair and have poor standards of amenity and thermal efficiency at a time when energy costs are heading skywards. Combatting abuses by private landlords and improving standards has been a priority for the council under both the Wales and Fiaz administrations.

Were he to be elected, Mehmood Mirza would have a significant conflict of interest to manage between his role as Mayor in enforcing the Council’s policies on the Private Rented Sector and his role as a rentier property owner whose actions would be regulated by, er, himself.  It is unclear as to how he would resolve these conflicts.

Mirza has said very little about how he would treat the Private Rented Sector if he were elected as Mayor of Newham. His published leaflets are silent on the matter.

By contrast, the Labour manifesto for Newham is quite clear on its approach to the private rented sector, stating that the next Labour Council will:

  • Seek Government approval to extend the private landlord registration scheme for an unprecedented third term of 5 more years.  It will include all Temporary Accommodation.
  • Introduce an enhanced inspection regime for the private rented sector in Newham, zero tolerance of poor landlords and provide the staffing resources needed for rigorous enforcement activity.
  • Set clear property standards so that landlords have to provide high quality housing that has good space standards, is safe and well managed.
  • Place particular emphasis on establishing minimum standards of energy efficiency so that private rented homes meet EPC Band C where practical, cost effective and affordable and also have high standards of security. 
  • Campaign for a future Labour Government to introduce both rent controls and security of tenure, subject to cause, for private rented sector tenants.

So here are ten questions Mr Mirza needs to urgently answer ahead of the polls on Thursday:

  1. How many homes do you and any companies that you have an interest of any sort in, own in Newham?
  2. Do you charge more than the Local Housing Allowance to any of your tenants/occupants and by how many percent have you increased your rents in the last one, two, five and 10 years?
  3. Are (or have) any of the homes that you own/control /have a beneficial interest in ever been in a state of disrepair or had repairs outstanding for more than a short period of time?
  4. 35.5% of homes are in the Private Rented in Newham. How can the residents of these homes expect you to treat them fairly when you are a significant private landlord?
  5. As a significant private landlord, explain how there would be no conflict of interest between your role as a landlord seeking to maximise your profits and your role as Mayor policing the private rented sector in Newham and rooting out wrongdoing?
  6. If you were elected Mayor would you rid yourself of all interests in the property you own or control and, if so, how would you do this? If not, how would you resolve your conflicts as a private landlord with the responsibilities of the Mayorality?
  7. How would you ensure that all the decisions you made on the private rented sector were open and accountable to scrutiny?
  8. What lawful policies would you pursue as Mayor to increase the supply of social rented homes and reduce that of private rented homes?
  9. Do you agree that the Council should crack down on private landlords, campaign for security of tenure for private tenants and for rent controls? Should the Council issue Compulsory Purchase Orders on the homes operated by private Landlords in Newham who misbehave?
  10. How much income do you receive in either salary or dividends from the homes that you own/control/have a beneficial interest in, directly or indirectly, and is this the income that allows you to say that you will only take a Living Wage from the Council?

The people of Newham deserve answers. Will they be voting for someone who is on their side, or the side of landlords?

Spot the difference – 2022 edition

18 Apr

Mirza  and Rahman

Below are a dozen policy statements, six from Conservative mayoral candidate Attic Rahman and six from his independent rival Mehmood Mirza. But can you tell which is which?

  • employ new community patrol officer teams to pursue those who drop litter and issue on the spot fines
  • effective enforcement to deal with flytipping and rubbish on our streets
  • a thorough review of parking across the borough to ensure residents and businesses are not punished
  • meaningful consultation on parking issues
  • abolish the first car MiPermit tax to help meet the cost of living
  • free first car permit for every household
  • more resources for the police to tackle crime and support those who want to live in a peaceful and safe borough
  • bring back our own enforcement team to deal with crime, drugs and prostitution
  • primary school children will receive a free breakfast
  • invest in youth centres and services
  • raise housing standards to support private renters
  • no more council tax increases – freeze council tax for four years

Harder than you would imagine, given Mr Rahman’s professed admiration for Boris Johnson and Mirza’s previous Corbynite affectations.

By coincidence, both are also standing for council in Plashet ward. Neither has a running mate, so their almost identical policy platform means it would make sense for them to campaign together.

Greens announce a full slate

5 Apr

For the first time in its history, the Green Party will be fielding a full slate of candidates for the local elections: 66 candidates across all 24 wards in the borough, and a candidate for Mayor of Newham. The party’s aim, it says, is to elect the first opposition councillors in Newham since 2006, in Stratford Olympic Park and Beckton wards, and to beat the Conservatives to become Newham’s second party.

In 2018, the Newham Green Party stood just 11 candidates and in 2014 just two. Standing a full slate in every ward places the party in a strong position to beat the Conservatives across Newham and to firmly define itself as Newham’s second party. No other currently active national party has ever succeeded in fielding a full slate of candidates in Newham, besides Labour and the Conservatives.

Nate Higgins, co-chair of the Newham Green Party, who is standing in Stratford Olympic Park said: “When I set out over a year ago to recruit the widest and most diverse slate of candidates the Newham Green Party has ever fielded, I never even dreamed we would be this successful. In one of the most diverse and young London Boroughs, I am proud we have a slate of candidates who are more like the people we wish to represent than ever before, and who share their experiences. With 66 candidates in this election, we are now in a fantastic position to beat the Conservatives across Newham for the first time ever, and to elect some opposition councillors. I know through my year-round hard work in my home ward of Stratford Olympic Park how excited people are about having the chance to vote Green for the first time, and I know we can win.”

The Greens claim that this slate of candidates represents the party’s most diverse ever, with a wide range of ethnic minority, women, young, working class, and LGBTIQA+ candidates. Almost every ward has at least one woman or non-binary candidate standing.

Danny Keeling, the other co-chair of the Newham Green Party and also a candidate in Stratford Olympic Park said “The Green Party stands ready to give Newham voters the chance to use all of their votes on a Green Party candidate for the first time ever. Greens will not let the people of Newham down like Labour and the Conservatives consistently have.”

The full list of Green candidates:

Beckton

Solveig Bourgeon
Karen Webb Green
Alison McLucas

Boleyn

Peter Bright
Helen Lynch
Roxana Toderascu

Canning Town North

Charlotte Croft
Oscar Lessing
Cassie Leanne Thomas

Canning Town South

Oliver Reynolds
Deb Scott
Benjamin Ian Smith

Custom House

Gareth Bannister
Sean Labode
Rupa Sarkar

East Ham South

Mark Lamptey-Harding
Alex Mchugh
Liam Palmer

East Ham

Tim Boxall
Maddy Catriona
Ed Toso

Forest Gate North

Gary Pendlebury
Mike Spracklin

Forest Gate South

Ben Beeler
Kieren Jones
Emma Sorrell

Green St East

Tassadduq Cheema
Joe Hudson-Small
Rose Waddilove

Green St West

Ron Harris
Adam Mitchell
Joseph Henry Sorrell-Roberts

Little Ilford

Terrence Stamp
Amy Wilson
Waleed Zuoriki

Manor Park

Deyan Atansov
Ros Bedlow
Jenny Duval

Maryland

Chris Brooks
Ainsley Vinall

Plaistow North
Elsa Malki
Francis Moore
Aki Turan

Plaistow South

Nicholas Drew Dowden
Iain Mckeil
Anca Zahan

Plaistow West & Canning Town East

Jacintha Christopher
Christopher Luke Slevin
Peter Whittle

Plashet

Stephen Charles
Joshua Robinson

Royal Albert

Jane Lithgow
Daniel Rodrigues

Royal Victoria

Rob Callender
Gloria Goncalves

Stratford Olympic Park

Nate Higgins
Danny Keeling

Stratford

Pau Ingles
Moira Lascelles
Ed Lynch

Wall End

Melanie Bax
James Peter Buttress
Matthew Talbot Savage

West Ham

Clare Hardy
Lyubo Ivanov
Ben Parker

Mayor of Newham

Rob Callender

Your 2022 – 2026 councillors… probably

26 Mar

Finally, we have a slate of @newham_labour candidates for the election in May.

Although other parties – and the voters! – will have their say, recent electoral history suggests these will be the 66 councillors filling the benches for the next four years.

Sitting councillors are marked with a * although boundary changes mean some are now standing in a different ward

BECKTON
James Asser*
Rohima Rahman
Tonii Wilson*

BOLEYN
Mohammed Osman Gani
Harvinder Virdee*
Cecilia Welsh

CANNING TOWN NORTH
Rita Chadha
Areeq Chowdhury
Shaban Mohammed*

CANNING TOWN SOUTH
Rohit Dasgupta*
Alan Griffiths*
Belgica Guana*

CUSTOM HOUSE
James Beckles*
Thelma Odoi
Sarah Ruiz*

EAST HAM
Olufemi Falola
Haque Imamul
Shantu Ferdous

EAST HAM SOUTH
Mussawar Alam
Susan Masters*
Lakmini Shah*

FOREST GATE NORTH
Rachel Tripp*
Sasha Das Gupta*

FOREST GATE SOUTH
Anamul Islam*
Madeleine Sarley Pontin
Winston Vaughan*

GREEN STREET EAST
Larisa Kilickaja
Miraj Patel
Mohammed Muzibar Rahman*

GREEN STREET WEST
Lewis Godfrey
Mumtaz Khan*
Amar Virdee

LITTLE ILFORD
Elizabeth Booker
Nur Nahar Begum
Abul Bashar Syed

MANOR PARK
Jennifer Bailey*
Mariam Dawood*
Salim Patel*

MARYLAND
Caroline Corben 
Ken Penton 

PLAISTOW NORTH
Zulfiqar Ali*
Joy Laguda*
Daniel Lee-Phakoe*

PLAISTOW SOUTH
Carleene Lee-Phakoe*
Jane Lofthouse*
Neil Wilson*

PLAISTOW WEST & CANNING TOWN EAST
Dina Hossain 
John Morris
Simon Rush

PLASHET
Zuber Gulamussen*
Pushpa Makwana*

ROYAL ALBERT
Ann Easter*
Anthony McAlmont*

ROYAL VICTORIA
Caroline Adaja
Stephen Brayshaw*

STRATFORD
Joshua Garfield*
Sabia Kamali
Terry Paul*

STRATFORD OLYMPIC PARK
Nareser Osei*
Muhammad Ravat

WALL END
Luke Charters
Lester Hudson*
Jemima McAlmont

WEST HAM
John Gray*
Charlene McLean*
John Whitworth*

Congratulations to all those selected and commiserations to those who applied but were unsuccessful. 

UPDATE: the original version of this post listed Aisha Siddiquah, a sitting councillor, as candidate in East Ham and Alison Davenport, a new candidate, in Canning Town North. Cllr Siddiquah decided not to accept the nomination and was replaced by Shantu Ferdous. Ms Davenport’s nomination did not proceed and she was replaced by Areeq Chowdhury.

Strange bedfellows

16 Feb

The lion lies down with the lamb, owls hoot at noon, up is down – and left is right.

Observers of Newham’s political scene may have noticed some strange shifting of alliances over the last few years, but perhaps none stranger than the recent amity between the left-wingers now departing the Labour party in a flurry of online resignation letters, and the last men standing (yes, they are all men) from Sir Robin Wales’s cabinet.

This improbable friendship had its genesis in the infamous ‘dirty thirty’ letter, when a number of councillors wrote an open letter to the Newham Recorder to express dismay at the mayor’s plans to address the borough’s terrible air quality with an emissions-based scale of charges for resident parking. The letter was widely celebrated by most of Mayor Fiaz’s political antagonists, who felt that in the face of the worst air quality in London, the policy of Newham Council should be to… continue providing free car parking to every resident, a policy not offered by any other borough in inner London.

Newham’s Twitterati will have cleaned their glasses and wiped their screens when the resignation of the Labour whip by Cllr Quintin Peppiatt (East Ham South) prompted admiring remarks about his integrity and principles from anonymous accounts Newham Resists and Newham Socialist Labour. As lead member for education under Robin Wales, Cllr Peppiatt oversaw and encouraged the academisation of many of Newham’s schools as part of Wales’s ‘resilience’ programme – something the tweeters behind both Newham Resists and Newham Socialist Labour claim complete opposition towards . 

Cllr Patrick Murphy (Royal Docks) beat Cllr Peppiatt to the punch, resigning the Labour whip the day after Fiaz’s reselection was announced and claiming that the Labour party had “ignored” or “condoned” unspecified criticisms of her leadership. Long-standing readers of this blog will remember Cllr Murphy’s role as the Procedures Secretary who oversaw the ill-fated first trigger ballot for Newham Labour’s Mayoral candidate selection in 2016 – in which he saw no conflict of interest with his position as a ‘community lead councillor’, appointed at Sir Robin’s pleasure and with a special responsibility allowance of over £6,000 a year. 

Despite their closeness to the mayor knighted by Tony Blair, Cllrs Murphy and Peppiatt found an unlikely champion in left-wing scandal-blog Skwawkbox, which expressed outrage that Cllrs Murphy and Peppiatt were not able to resign the Labour whip without also having their Labour party membership withdrawn. Clearly, Skwawkbox has more confidence in Cllr Murphy’s ability correctly to interpret the Labour rulebook than most party members in Newham would share.

Meanwhile, Open Newham, a recent local addition to the scandal-blogging scene, has taken a break from nudge-nudge, wink-wink Islamophobia and personal attacks on the borough’s women of colour to express their solidarity with that persistent irritant of the Fiaz administration, Mehmood Mirza. The site, of which the only named contributor is former Wales ally Clive Furness, has experienced a change of heart towards Mirza, taking up his case after he was blocked by Newham Council on Twitter following a years-long campaign of obsessively replying to every post by the Council with a stream of photos of fly-tipping sites. “You don’t have to like his politics,” Open Newham coyly opens “to know that Mehmood Mirza has been the most consistent and energetic campaigner against fly-tipping and rubbish in the borough”. How touching to see them offer support to a man whom, three years ago, they were not-so-implicitly accusing of antisemitism.

Chairs of West Ham and East Ham CLPs, Carel Buxton and Tahir Mirza, plus a couple of branch chairs, recently resigned from the Labour party announcing their intention to stand candidates again Labour in the local government elections in May, under the flag of ‘Newham Socialist Labour’.

Are the last of Sir Robin’s lieutenants intending to stand – or fall – with them?

Now is the letter of our discontent

17 Dec

Five of the six declared applicants to be the next Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham have co-signed a letter calling for the NEC to let local party members have a say in the selection.

VERY URGENT

15 December 2021

The Party Leader,

The General Secretary

And

The NEC Members

Labour Party UK

Newham Mayoral candidate Selection Process for May 2022

We, the undersigned applicants for Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham, request the Party Leader, the General Secretary, and the NEC members of the Labour Party to open the Newham Mayoral selection process for members via open ballot.

Labour Party members in Newham should be allowed to participate in the ballots to democratically select their final candidate. We understand this may have to be based on 2018 membership
lists as this was found acceptable for the previous Mayoral selection process.

Membership irregularities of course have to be investigated but it is vitally important that the process has legitimacy, transparency and credibility in the eyes of the Newham public given the powers of the elected Mayor who they will be electing . This can be achieved whilst addressing the issue of membership irregularities via the alternative we suggest.

We also ask you to take into account the recent letter signed and sent by East Ham MP Stephen Timms and GLA member Unmesh Desai asking for the local membership to be given some say in how their representatives are selected

Yours sincerely,

Canidates (sic) to have declared intention to stand so far

The letter is then signed (if crudely cutting and pasting images of signatures can be called signing) by Ayesha Chowdhury, Unmesh Desai, Lester Hudson, Lakmini Shah and Syed Taqi Jawad Naqvi. There’s a space for Rokhsana Fiaz’s signature, but it is of course blank.

Is this a principled call for democratic involvement, or a cynical ploy to play up to certain elements within the local party? For sure, the five signatories know they have little chance of winning the selection if it’s left up to the NEC. Barring some outrageous scandal, the party simply isn’t going to ditch a BAME woman as candidate. So calling for an open vote makes tactical sense.

But, as the letter acknowledges, the two CLPS in Newham have been suspended for ‘membership irregularities’. The party has no confidence that current lists are accurate and there may be dozens – possibly hundreds – of fake members on the books. The solution suggested in the letter is to go back to 2018 and use those lists.

Why 2018? Well, that was when Rokhsana Fiaz was selected and if it was good enough then it should be good enough now, right?

Well, no. The idea of using old membership lists is problematic, for a number of reasons. Firstly, does the party have an accurate list of who was a member in Newham in 2018 or could it realistically re-create one? Even if it does (or could) a significant number of people will have left the party (voluntarily or otherwise) or moved out of the area in the meantime. So the NEC would have to remove them from the franchise, unless the candidates think people who are no longer members or don’t live in Newham now should be given a vote!

Secondly, what date in 2018 do you choose for the freeze date – the 1st of January, the 31st of December, or any of the 363 days in between? (I should declare an interest here, as I re-joined the party in March 2018 – should I get a vote or not?)

But the biggest problem is that going back to 2018 doesn’t ‘address the issue of membership irregularities’ at all. They did not suddenly spring up out of nowhere in 2021 – the likelihood is that they have been going on for years. And the NEC needs to take the time to address them properly, not in some half-arsed rush.

Of course Labour members should get a say in who their candidates are. But they are not being denied that in Newham because of an authoritarian NEC diktat but because of significant misbehaviour, which needs to be investigated and rooted out.

All of the five signatories of this letter are longstanding councillors or CLP officers. They of all people should want the problems sorted properly.