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.

Parklet life

17 Nov

Example of a parkelt in Walthamstow

By Lewis Godfrey

I’ve just come out of a really dispiriting meeting with Newham council, and I need to vent about it.

The Newham Community Assemblies allocate money to implement different projects, which are put forward by residents. You can read more about them here.

Being reasonably civic-minded, I volunteered to sit on the Green St Community Assembly working group, the role of which is to scrutinise the projects and how they are implemented.

These projects were voted on by local residents. One of the most popular projects in Green St, where I live, is a project to deliver “pocket parks”, or parklets. You can read about it here if you like.

This looks like a fantastic idea doesn’t it? The London Parklets campaign would of course approve.

So what’s happened? Well, despite the public support for the pocket parks, Newham Council has got involved and watered down the initial proposal. Now instead of replacing car parking, the Green St parklets, so the proposal currently goes, will be put on the footway…

Huh. The initial proposal was fairly clear about where these pocket parks would be placed. Terms like “traffic calming” are used 5 or 6 times throughout the first bid. A second supplementary proposal talked about a need to mitigate rejections from motoring groups.

All of the working group understood that this proposal involved swapping car parking space for a pocket park. I assume most of the people who voted on this thought the same thing. 

Why’s this important? Well a few reasons. Firstly, Green St footways are BADLY congested at the best of times. This means that if you’re walking on Green St it can be impossible to socially distance (remember, Newham is one of the places most affected by Covid, and the pandemic hasn’t gone away. It might not for a while…). 

Secondly, a big reason to install parklets is to reduce the car parking available. You can ask The London Parklets campaign about this – reducing the parking available in an area cuts down on the amount of cars people in that area use. 

Reducing car usage is important in Newham, where a third of people get less than half-an-hour’s activity/ week, and which has the worst air quality of any place in the country.
Thirdly, the initial proposal was pretty clear that taking car parking space was the plan. Seems a bit…weird…dare I say…undemocratic… to change the proposal at the last minute…

So putting the parklet on the footway is a bad idea, I reckon. What’s more, doing so will affect other proposals to implement parklets. If I want to put a parklet in Canning Town, but somebody doesn’t like losing a car parking space, what’s to stop them pointing to Green St and demanding one goes on the pavement? It sets a really unhelpful precedent.

So…hmmm. At the meeting we just had about these issues, I asked why the proposal had been watered down. Well look, I won’t tell you exactly what was said, but the gist of it is that some people “may object”…

Of course, the working group knew people may object already, because the initial proposal had described ways of mitigating these objections, as discussed.

So where does that leave us? Well, not in a great place. The plan is currently to still take space from the existing public footway. Meanwhile, “people who may object”, who may well not live in Green St, are given a working veto over what people who do actually live in Green St get to do with our roads.

I’m very sad about this. The community assemblies were a way for residents to come up with cool projects, which tackled things like our lack of green space in innovative ways. But it seems that the things residents came up with were too radical.

If Newham Council shows guts, this project could still be a radical, exciting way of reimagining our street space. But I’m worried that the plans will be scuppered by a small, undemocratic group of very loud, very angry people. Let’s hope that Newham sees sense, and implements the project as initially proposed.

This post was originally a thread on Twitter. Reproduced here by permission.

Consolidation and concentration

11 Nov

Newham’s Labour group of councillors met on Monday evening, as they do before every Council meeting, in private. This is one of the few arenas where political disagreements can be aired and the Mayor can be challenged. Decisions are taken at Group and then in the council meeting itself the Labour position is whipped, so the public sees a (theoretically) united front. Given every councillor is Labour and there is no formal opposition party, this has the potential to be a a powerful body.

But the reality can be somewhat different, due to the patronage powers held by the executive mayor. Appointments to the executive – cabinet members, deputy cabinet members, commissioners – are entirely within the mayor’s gift. Those who hold these positions, and those who aspire to in the future, are heavily incentivised to back the Mayor in any vote where they have a strongly held view.

Most Labour Groups on other councils have observers from the local party to report back to members, but that doesn’t happen in Newham. Both local constituency parties are suspended and there has been no functioning Newham-wide Labour Party body since before the end of the Robin Wales era. There is no accountability to local members.

Monday’s meeting was well-attended, at least according to the participants list on Zoom, although only a minority had their cameras on. A number of ‘attendees’ were simultaneously at a GLA party in city hall in Southwark hosted by Unmesh Desai AM. I understand a room was set aside to allow partygoers to vote.

The agenda included some items of business left over from the Group AGM earlier in the year, including proposed rule changes to improve the independence of Group from the executive.

The first proposal was put forward by the Labour Group secretary Susan Masters. The amendment suggested a limit on the number of group officers – chair, secretary, treasurer, women’s officer, equalities officer etc – who also serve on the Council executive. This would be a progressive step away from the practice of the previous mayor, where Group was chaired by a ‘mayoral adviser’, whose career and pay was in the hands of the Mayor. So Labour Group business was rushed through before any time for dissent.

Although proposed by Cllr Masters, this idea had been discussed through a working party and appeared to be uncontroversial; there were no speeches against. But when the votes were counted the proposal was defeated. So the officers can continue to be entirely drawn from councillors whose livelihood is in the hands of the Mayor. If the proposal was so objectionable, why couldn’t those opposed to it put forward a single speech to explain why?

Next, Cllr Daniel Blaney proposed that deputy cabinet members (appointed by the Mayor and given £19,242 per annum as a result) should not vote in group elections for the chairs of council scrutiny committees. These are meant to hold the Council executive to account and, obviously, need to be entirely independent. The mayor and cabinet members already do not vote on nominations for scrutiny chair and Blaney’s amendment would have extended this.

During the May 2021 governance referendum the campaign to keep the mayoral model insisted that scrutiny was a crucial function that ensured proper checks and balances in the system, so there was no need to change things. This is obviously undermined if in practice the executive chooses the who does the scrutiny. The previous regime elevated this practice to an art form! [link: https://forestgate.net/2016/05/13/visions-of-scrutiny/%5D

Cllr Blaney, alongside his ally Cllr John Whitworth, was a prominent campaigner for the committee system last May. That Cllr Whitworth recently lost his role as scrutiny chair in a vote, including those cast by deputy cabinet members, is no doubt a coincidence.

There were a number of speeches against the amendment arguing that deputy cabinet members had so little influence it would be nice if they could vote in the scrutiny elections! If that is indeed the case, what it is that they do that justifies their generous special responsibility allowance?

Blaney argued this was obviously problematic because of the inflated number of jobs being handed out by the mayor and the role of patronage. It was, he said, reminiscent of the Robin Wales era, and a far cry from the promise of a smaller executive she made in her 2018 manifesto. To be fair to the mayor, it isn’t correct to say she has as big a ‘payroll vote’ as Robin Wales. Not quite.

Sadly, Blaney’s amendment was lost.

Finally, there was a proposal to add a new role to the Labour Group officer team: a ‘deputy leader’. But who would the deputy leader be? The leader is the mayor, a role she holds ex-officio under Labour Party rules. Does this mean the deputy mayor (who is appointed by the mayor) must be the deputy leader? Neither the proposer, the mayor herself, nor the seconder, deputy Mayor Charlene McLean, could say.

The Chief Whip, Cllr Anamul Islam, suggested that the matter be deferred pending clarification. He wanted confirmation first that this would be a new post elected by the group. The alternative would further entrench mayoral patronage in the Labour Group, adding another payroll vote to the officer team. However Cllr John Gray, group chair, said it had been proposed legitimately and would be voted on. Unlike the earlier proposals which sought to limit the power of patronage, this was successful.

At the end of the meeting the chair noted a request that Labour Group start meeting again in person. He suggested this would be perverse while councillors are working on a rota basis to attend Full Council in person. I think this is the right call, but the case for continued remote or hybrid meetings is seriously undermined when a number of councillors attend a busy indoor party while logging remotely into a meeting on their phones.

We will have an executive mayor for the next ten years (at least). But it won’t always be Rokhsana Fiaz. Councillors who voted to consolidate the patronage powers of the the mayor within Group may regret their decision if the next mayor – be that in May 2022 or 2026 – is a less benign figure. There are certain figures in the local party with aspirations for office who would not hesitate to use these powers to their advantage.

Another view from the boundary

9 Jun

We’ve been here before, many times in the past ten years, but the Boundary Commission has published its initial proposals for new parliamentary constituencies. In theory, these will be in place for the next scheduled election in 2024, but it’s always possible Boris Johnson will cut and run early and the election will be fought on the current boundaries. So none of this may happen before 2028. Sigh.

If you’re interested, I blogged about the previous reviews in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018. Each of those put my own ward of Forest Gate North in a different seat: Stratford constituency; Bow & Stratford; Forest Gate & Loxford; and Leyton & Stratford. And we’re in yet another one this time!

The previous reviews were all premised on the Tory government’s promise to ‘cut the cost of politics’ by reducing the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs. That has now been dropped.

If these proposals actually go through, they will be the first changes to Westminster constituency boundaries since 2010, and will see seats redrawn so they each have between 69,724 and 77,062 registered voters (with some exceptions such as island constituencies). It means, in practice, that England gains 10 seats while Wales loses eight and Scotland two; the north of England and Midlands will lose seats to the south. London gains two additional seats, meaning it will have 75 MPs.

The Commission has divided London into five sub-regions, one of which is Tower Hamlets and Newham. There are currently four seats across the two boroughs and the new arrangements will increase that to five (shown in bold below)

Newham and Tower Hamlets together have a mathematical entitlement to 5.02 constituencies. This pair of boroughs currently has four constituencies, but significant growth in the number of electors in this area means that all four existing constituencies are considerably above the permitted electorate range, and an additional constituency is allocated to the sub-region. This further supports our proposal for a constituency crossing the River Lee in this sub-region. We propose a Stratford and Bow constituency, which crosses the Lee between the Stratford and New Town ward in Newham, and the Bow East ward and Bromley North ward in Tower Hamlets. We note the significant transport links across the river here, including the A118 road, the Central underground line, the Docklands Light Railway, and national rail services, as well as pedestrian crossing points.

While there would be a degree of unavoidable disruption caused by the creation of an additional constituency, we have tried to preserve the four existing constituencies in Newham and Tower Hamlets as far as is practicable. Our proposed East Ham constituency retains eight wards from the existing East Ham constituency. The Beckton ward and Royal Docks ward are consequently included in our proposed West Ham and Beckton constituency. In Tower Hamlets, our proposed Poplar and Limehouse constituency retains nine of its existing wards and spans a similar geographical area, from the Isle of Dogs in the south, to Mile End in the north, and the Tower of London in the west. The areas of Bethnal Green, Spitalfields, Stepney, and Whitechapel then comprise our proposed compact constituency of Bethnal Green and Stepney.

Let’s look at the three seats that cover bits of Newham.

East Ham

Proposed East Ham constituency

The seat will, on December 2020 numbers, hold 70,902 electors within the present wards of Boleyn, East Ham Central, East Ham North, East Ham South, Green Street East, Little Ilford, Manor Park and Wall End.

West Ham and Beckton

West Ham and Beckton map

70,950 electors, across eight of the current wards: Beckton, Canning Town North, Canning Town South, Custom House, Plaistow North, Plaistow South, Royal Docks and West Ham.

Stratford and Bow

Stratford and Bow map

73,849 electors, across seven wards, of which four are in Newham: Forest Gate North, Forest Gate South, Green Street West, Stratford and New Town.

From Ridley Road in the east to the far edge of Victoria Park in the west is about 5 miles. It is the only constituency in London that crosses a river.

As we know, Newham’s internal ward boundaries are changing and if the Boundary Commission doesn’t want the complication of splitting individual wards across constituencies there will need to be some fiddling around on the margins, but given the constraints of electoral equality and fitting five seats across two boroughs I think this proposal will likely move forwards. 

If you want to submit a response to the Boundary Commission, you can do so at www.bcereviews.org.uk

How Newham voted (part 3)

7 Jun

This time it’s the city-wide list vote. Across the borough as a whole Labour took 55.8%, the Tories 20%, the Greens 7.6% and the Liberal Democrats 3.5%.

Below is how the vote broke down between the four main parties in each ward (and among postal voters)…

WardLabourCons GreenLib Dems Others
Newham Postal Vote52.7%19.5%6.8%4.3%15.6%
Beckton48.1%22.7%7.3%3.4%15.6%
Boleyn57.4%19.4%5.8%2.8%10.6%
Canning Town North51.4%21.4%6.0%2.8%14.8%
Canning Town South46.3%22.2%8.9%4.2%15.5%
Custom House47.8%24.0%5.9%2.9%16.3%
East Ham Central55.3%22.9%5.1%2.5%9.0%
East Ham North61.1%20.1%3.6%1.6%9.3%
East Ham South54.4%21.5%5.3%2.7%11.9%
Forest Gate North51.4%13.5%15.3%3.1%13.8%
Forest Gate South57.0%14.7%9.8%2.8%12.9%
Green Street East59.8%19.8%4.0%1.8%9.0%
Green Street West58.7%21.2%4.9%2.0%8.5%
Little Ilford62.8%18.1%4.3%2.0%8.7%
Manor Park56.1%19.3%6.7%1.8%12.1%
Plaistow North57.3%18.1%7.0%2.2%11.4%
Plaistow South51.4%21.6%6.9%3.4%13.1%
Royal Docks47.8%20.0%10.5%5.8%13.6%
Stratford & New Town50.8%14.3%14.0%6.8%11.9%
Wall End61.6%19.5%4.1%1.8%8.9%
West Ham51.6%18.2%10.3%3.3%12.8%

Despite Little Ilford scoring the biggest pro-Conservative swing in the whole of London in the mayoral election it returned Labour’s best vote share in the Assembly list. The party exceeded 50% in 16 of the 20 wards and among postal voters.

The Conservatives placed second in 19 wards, with Forest Gate North being the exception. This was also the ward with the lowest Tory vote share – 13.5%. Their best result was Custom House, with 24%. As I noted in a previous post, Shaun Bailey ‘won’ Custom House in the mayoral election, so this is clearly a target ward for them (though the ward boundaries will be somewhat different for next year’s council election).

The Greens did best in Forest Gate North, taking second place with 15.3%. They also exceeded 10% in Stratford, Royal Docks and West Ham.

If the Liberal Democrats were looking for a good showing in their target wards in the north of the borough – they have hopes for the new Olympic Park ward – this will have been a disappointment. Although Stratford & New Town was their best result they still finished in fourth place with less than half the Green share of the vote.

How Newham voted (part 2)

26 May

A bit more on how Newham voted in the London mayoral election.

Turnout

Overall turnout was 38.6%, which is more or less par for local elections in the borough. The best turnout was among the 31,377 postal voters; 20,519 sent back their ballot (65.4%).

Highest on-the-day turnout was in Green Street East, with 41.2%. And the lowest was Beckon, where barely more than a quarter of voters (25.7%) took the trouble to cast a ballot.

First preferences

Labour took 50% or more of the vote in 11 out of 20 wards: Boleyn, East Ham Central, East Ham North, Forest Gate South, both Green Street wards, Little Ilford, Manor Park, Plaistow North, Stratford and Wall End. My own ward, Forest Gate North, fractionally missed the cut; Sadiq Khan scored 49.98% of first preferences

The Tories’ best result was in Custom House, where they actually “won” – 38.6% to 36.3%. They got 30% or more in five other wards: Beckton, both Canning Towns, East Ham South and Plaistow South.

The Greens best results were in Forest Gate North and Stratford & New Town wards, where they got 10.5%. They got 8.3% in Royal Docks.

Young YouTuber Niko Omilana came fourth across Newham with 4.2% of the vote. He scored especially well (6% or more) in East Ham North and the two Green Street wards.

The Liberal Democrats will probably be disappointed, coming fifth on first preferences with just 2.5%. They failed to hit 5% anywhere, including among postal voters. And, similar to the Greens, their best results were in Stratford & New Town and Royal Docks, where they got 4.6%. 

Second preferences

One explanation advanced for Sadiq Khan’s relatively poor showing, at least compared to the wider Labour vote, is that he was running against 19 opponents and the supplementary vote system allowed electors the option to register a protest vote or to vote for their genuinely preferred candidate, confident that their second preference would end up keeping the Tories out. And the data does support that, to some extent. 

Khan took 17,329 second preferences (25.4%), comfortably ahead of Sian Berry of the Greens (10,635, 15.6%) and Shaun Bailey (9,470, 13.9%). No-one else got above 8%.

11,972 voters gave no second preference.

Rejected votes

One of the more disappointing outcomes of this election was the high number of rejected votes, the vast majority of which were ‘over votes’ (voting for too many candidates) caused by really bad design of the ballot paper, There’s a great piece on this on the On London website.

Of the 87,189 votes cast in Newham a massive 5,533 were rejected because voters were confused by the ballot paper. 

Green Street East saw 11.5% of votes rejected for over-voting; Wall End and East Ham Central also had 10% or more of their votes discounted for the same reason. This is an absolute scandal.

London Elects – how Newham voted

24 May

The London Elects website has released results from the recent mayoral and London Assembly at ward level, which means we can see how Newham voted.

Mayor of London

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Sadiq KHAN Labour Party 39,732 49.4%
Shaun BAILEY Conservative Party 21,327 26.5%
Sian BERRY Green Party 4,455 5.5%
Niko OMILANA Independent 3,374 4.2%
Luisa PORRITT Liberal Democrats 2,043 2.5%
Brian ROSE London Real Party 1,752 2.2%
Richard HEWISON Rejoin EU 1,099 1.4%
Piers CORBYN Let London Live 1,037 1.3%
Laurence FOX The Reclaim Party 892 1.1%
Count BINFACE Count Binface for Mayor of London 634 0.8%
Farah LONDON Independent 632 0.8%
Vanessa HUDSON Animal Welfare Party 585 0.7%
Mandu REID Women’s Equality Party 485 0.6%
Peter GAMMONS UKIP 473 0.6%
Nims OBUNGE Independent 396 0.5%
Kam BALAYEV Renew 383 0.5%
Steve KELLEHER Social Democratic Party 325 0.4%
David KURTEN Heritage Party 292 0.4%
Max FOSH Independent 231 0.3%
Valerie BROWN The Burning Pink Party 226 0.3%

 

London Assembly – City & East

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Unmesh DESAI Labour Party 51,329 60.1%
Nick Vandyke Conservative Party 17,219 20.2%
Tim Kiely Green Party 8,666 10.1%
Richard Flowers Liberal Democrats 4,810 5.6%
David Bull Reform UK 3,417 4.0%

 

London Assembly – list

Party Votes Percent
Labour Party 47,142 55.8%
Conservatives 16,859 20.0%
Green Party 6,421 7.6%
Liberal Democrats 2,967 3.5%
Rejoin EU 1,927 2.3%
Christian Peoples Alliance 1,480 1.8%
Animal Welfare Party – People, Animals, Environment 1,361 1.6%
Vote Women’s Equality Party on orange 1,180 1.4%
London Real Party 1,018 1.2%
ReformUK – London Deserves Better 826 1.0%
Let London Live 750 0.9%
UKIP 723 0.9%
Communist Party of Britain 405 0.5%
Heritage Party – Free Speech and Liberty 347 0.4%
Trade Union and Socialist Coalition 327 0.4%
Social Democratic Party 293 0.3%
Londependence 274 0.3%
National Liberal Party – Self determination for all! 178 0.2%

 

There are three things that jump out from these results.

Firstly, that Sadiq Khan substantially under-performed compared to his party on both the London-wide list and City & East ballot. Unmesh Desai has the advantage of being local, but that alone doesn’t explain an almost 12,000 vote gap. The answer is the hugely unpopular Silvertown Tunnel. Khan took the decision to go ahead and build it and it has cost him. I know many local Labour activists who sat on their hands rather than knock doors or deliver leaflets for him. Some may not even have voted him (voting for another party is an expulsion-level offence in the party rulebook, so they likely stayed at home or filed a blank ballot).

Second, that the Conservatives over-performed compared to their usual Newham vote share, taking 20% in both Assembly elections and 26% in the mayoral contest. They took 12% against Rokhsana Fiaz in 2018 and around 15% across the two local seats in the 2019 general election. 

Thirdly, the Green Party is clearly the third party in Newham, getting double the votes of the Liberal Democrats.

I’ll post something on voting in each of the 20 local wards later in the week.

Labour holds East Ham Central

13 May

Farah Nazeer election leaflets

Labour easily held its seat in the East Ham Central by-election, with Farah Nazeer returning to the council after an absence of three years. Cllr Nazeer previously represented Little Ilford ward from 2010 to 2018.

The results:

Farah Nazeer – Labour & Co-op – 2,297 (53%)

SK Zakir Hossain – Conservative – 1,288 (30%)

Danny Keeling – Greens – 283 (7%)

Ed Comaromi –  Lib Dems – 239 (6%)

Paul M Jobson – Christian PA – 115 (3%)

Lois Austin – TUSC – 91 (2%)

Turnout: 42.6%

Although Labour’s vote was somewhat down from the 2018 election – despite a higher overall turnout and a wider choice of candidates on the ballot – the party still garnered more than 50% of the vote.

The Conservatives did very well, growing their vote from 509 to 1,288 – a whopping 150% increase. Perhaps the ‘yellow’ referendum campaign helped drive this? Their leaflets, which were distributed across large parts of East Ham, pushed policies on cars and parking charges which were indistinguishable from Shaun Bailey’s. And the local Tory candidate said he would suspend the MiPermit parking scheme. By playing to the grievances of a minority that feels it is not being listened to in the town hall, the ‘yellows’ may have pushed voters towards the party that shared the same outlook.

Neither the Greens nor Lib Dems stood in 2018 and both will probably be quite pleased with their results. The 13% they took between them might well have gone to Labour last time in the absence of any other progressive alternative. Results elsewhere last week will encourage both parties to think they have chances in 2022.

Bringing up the rear, TUSC and the Christians did about as poorly as expected.

East Ham Central is largely unaffected by the boundary changes that will be introduced next year, so Cllr Nazeer will likely be defending the same territory although the name will be a little shorter – just East Ham.

Governance Referendum result and statement

10 May

RESULT OF THE REFERENDUM

For the directly elect mayor: 45,960 (56%)

For the committee system: 36,424 (44%)

CAMPAIGN STATEMENT

Newham Voting for Change is disappointed with the outcome of the governance referendum but the fact that 44% voted for the committee system shows that there is significant support for a more cooperative and collaborative politics.

Our campaign focused on democracy and inclusion and we must accept that the people of Newham have spoken. After twenty years of a directly elected mayor, they have opted to stick with that system for at least the next decade.

We would like to thank everyone involved in our campaign for their hard work over the past few months and congratulate those in the pro-mayoral ‘Right to Vote’ campaign for their part in helping residents understand the important issues at stake.

Newham Voting for Change also pays tribute to Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz for keeping her promise to hold a referendum and for ensuring that voters had a real choice on the ballot paper.

Chair of Newham Voting for Change, Josephine Grahl said, “although it is disappointing that we did not win it is encouraging to see local people engaging in the debate about how their council is run. While the directly elected mayor system will continue, we are encouraged by commitments made to wider participation through citizens’ assemblies and the proposed trialling of small-scale community councils where some powers are devolved to local areas. We hope the mayor recognises that Newham voters are enthusiastic about more open and transparent decision-making at all levels within the council.”

Pass Notes: the Newham Referendum

27 Apr

Newham Voting for Change leaflets

So what’s this referendum all about then?

This is it – the referendum promised by Rokhsana Fiaz when she was elected in 2018, on the future of Newham governance – basically, who has the power and who makes the decisions. The options on the ballot on 6 May 2021 will be the Directly Elected Mayor (what we have now) and the committee system (a different model).

Oh yes. I’ve seen the garish yellow leaflets. Is it true that if I vote for the committee structure, parking charges will be abolished, council tax will be cut, diamonds will rain from the sky, and every Newham resident will get a free pony?

Don’t count on it. The referendum is about governance structures – the way that the council works and decides things – not policy, which is decided by the majority party elected. Look out for Newham Voting for Change’s materials (see above), which take a less Nigel Farage-style approach.

So how do I get a free pony?

When the Free Pony Party gain a majority of seats on Newham council; so not any time soon, I’m afraid.

So if it’s not about parking charges what’s in it for me?

It’s about having a council where power is more diversified – at the moment the Mayor has full executive power in Newham Council, but with the committee system it would be shared between all 60 councillors.

How does that work?

Newham Council has published the plan for the initial set-up. There will be four committees covering Children and Education, Environment and Transport, Economy and Housing, and Adults and Health, plus a Policy and Resources committee which has general oversight – for the corporate plan and the council’s budget, for example.

So who would be in charge?

The council would still elect a leader, but they wouldn’t have the vast executive power of the current Mayor.

Sounds interesting. Do any other councils work like that?

An increasing number. And on 6 May Sheffield are also holding a referendum on moving to the committee structure. There’s more information on the website of Newham Voting for Change, the campaign for the committee structure. 

Do they make the yellow leaflets?

No – their leaflets are purple, and deal with the actual governance issues we’ll be voting on: who has the power, and how decisions are made.

Why are there multiple campaigns?

Newham Voting for Change was set up last year by residents and councillors who’ve supported a more open system for a long time. The ‘yellow leaflet’ campaign are less transparent about who’s involved, but seem to be connected to Newham Democracy, who earlier this year unsuccessfully sued the council to take the committee structure off the referendum ballot paper.

Wait – so they were against the committee structure then, but now they’re saying it will bring about an earthly paradise?

Welcome to Newham politics. They also seem to spend a lot of time on twitter arguing about which of their accounts is the official one.

And what about the other side in the campaign?

Newham Right to Vote are campaigning to keep the Mayoral system, arguing that residents need a right to vote for the person who’s in charge.

But under the committee structure the councillors would have more power, and we vote for them, right?

Exactly.

Do say:

The committee structure is a more open, representative, co-operative and accountable way of doing things. Vote for change on 6 May!

Don’t say:

£350 million a week for free parking.