The casual vacancy

17 Sep

Grayee 2018 Sep 14

On Friday Boleyn ward councillor Veronica Oakeshott tweeted:

After three years as a Councillor I am stepping down today to move house, closer to my family. It has been a huge privilege to serve in Boleyn. Thank you Boleyn for your friendship – I’ll miss you!

Cllr Oakeshott won her seat in a by-election in 2015 following the death of Cllr Charity Fiberesima. She held it easily at the local elections in May.

During her time in office Cllr Oakeshott successfully campaigned to keep the Champions Statue in her ward and, less successfully, to ensure the council lived up to its promise that 35% of homes on the old West Ham stadium site would be ‘affordable’.

There will be a by-election to fill the ‘casual vacancy’, most likely in late October. Labour will, of course, hold the seat easily. The real interest will be in who is selected as the candidate.No names have emerged yet, but Momentum is already organising to ensure that it is one of their people.

UPDATE:

The date for the by-election has been set for Thursday 1 November. Boleyn ward will be holding its selection meeting on Tuesday 2 October. 

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New parliamentary constituencies – again

10 Sep

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

As part of the government’s drive to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make parliamentary constituencies more equally sized, the Boundary Commission has now published it’s final recommendations.

At the moment there are two seats in Newham – East Ham and West Ham. Each contains 10 of the 20 wards in the borough. But both seats are very large – in fact West Ham is the largest in London, with more than 80,000 voters. By contrast, the Kensington seat has only 55,000.

The Boundary Commission’s recommendation divides Newham between four seats, ripping apart West Ham and dividing it the bulk of it between three new constituencies. East Ham loses a couple of wards to a new seat, but gains Green Street West.

The exact make-up of the new constituencies, with wards, boroughs and current voters:

Poplar and Canning Town

Canning Town North Newham 8,333
Canning Town South Newham 8,543
Custom House Newham  6,971
Plaistow North Newham 8,215
Plaistow South Newham 8,290
Blackwall & Cubitt Town  Tower Hamlets 7,284  
Canary Wharf Tower Hamlets 6,517
Island Gardens Tower Hamlets 7,220
Lansbury Tower Hamlets 9,623
Limehouse Tower Hamlets 3,659
Poplar Tower Hamlets 3,418
  Total 78,073

East Ham

Boleyn Newham 8,696
East Ham Central Newham 8,867
East Ham North Newham 8,682
East Ham South Newham 8,347
Green Street East Newham 8,875
Green Street West Newham  8,752
Little Ilford Newham 8,873 
Manor Park Newham 8,636
Wall End Newham 8,418
  Total 78,146

Leyton and Stratford

Forest Gate North Newham 8,392
Forest Gate South Newham 8,862
Stratford & New Town Newham 12,471
West Ham Newham 8,073
Cann Hall Waltham Forest 6,921
Cathall  Waltham Forest 6,515 
Grove Green Waltham Forest 7,387
Leyton Waltham Forest 8,067 
Leytonstone Waltham Forest 7,691 
  Total 74,379

Barking and Beckton

Abbey  Barking & Dagenham 7,039 
Becontree Barking & Dagenham 7,631 
Eastbury  Barking & Dagenham 6,652 
Gascoigne  Barking & Dagenham 5,598 
Goresbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,637 
Longbridge Barking & Dagenham 7,599 
Mayesbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,013 
Parsloes  Barking & Dagenham 5,836 
Thames  Barking & Dagenham 6,625 
Beckton  Newham 7,335 
Royal Docks  Newham 6,081 
  Total 73,046

These recommendations now go to parliament. If they’re approved, the next general election will be fought on these boundaries.

Legacy

10 Sep

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Legacy, a play developed with residents of the Carpenters Estate and members of the Focus E15 campaign, will be staged for three nights at the end of the month at the Rich Mix arts centre in Shoreditch.

Legacy is a celebration of community, an analysis of class and part of an artistic and social groundswell to end the so-called housing crisis. This is a naturalistic play, with a fantastical counter reality, examining the impact of the Olympic legacy and corporate investment on estate residents and their health. Over 50,000 families have been shipped out of London in the past 3 years – a result of welfare cuts and soaring private rents. Official figures show that councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families each week. That number is increasing. The main inspiration is Mary Finch who, since 2010, has lived in uncertainty when plans to demolish part or all of the Estate, her home for the past 40 years, were proposed. Since then, she has witnessed the gradual decanting of her neighbours and has been vociferous in the campaign to repopulate the estate.  

The play is very timely as the Estate was marked for demolition this year.

I was lucky enough to see a reading of the play last year and it is excellent. Tickets are £10 to £12 and can be booked online.

Deselection roadshow latest

10 Sep

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Momentum activists have been busy on Twitter and Facebook promoting their ‘deselection roadshow’ meeting with Chris Williamson tomorrow night.

And to add a little extra incentive they’ve invited a couple of extra speakers. One of them is Steve Hedley (pictured above). He is billed as a ‘national officer of the RMT’ union. Which of course he is. But he is also a veteran opponent of the Labour Party.

Until 2013 he was a member of the Socialist Party, the organisation formerly known as Militant. He left not due to ideological differences but to insulate the party from embarrassment over allegations of domestic violence made against him by his former partner.

In 2012 and 2014 he stood against Labour on the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) ticket, first for the London Assembly then in the Newham council election in East Ham South. He finished in 7th place with just 3% of the vote.

Despite an RMT investigation clearing him of the domestic violence allegation, comrades on the far left were sufficiently disturbed that they petitioned the TUSC executive to remove its endorsement of his candidacy ahead of the election, saying

“We are writing to ask you to support this petition, opposing the selection of Steve Hedley as a candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in East Ham South ward, Newham:

“We do not think this an unreasonable demand for a socialist organisation that claims to stand for ensuring “women have genuinely equal rights.”

I am not a Momentum member, so it’s not up to me to say who they should and shouldn’t invite to meetings, but it seems peculiar that an organisation of Labour members wants to hear the opinions of someone like Mr. Hedley on a matter of internal party democracy.

Unsurprisingly, I won’t be there to hear him.

Newham and the IHRA

4 Sep

No-one can accuse Newham council of not being ahead of the curve. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition of antisemitism’ was debated in September of last year. And, as with the national Labour Party now, there was disagreement about the 11 illustrative examples. A motion to adopt the definition in full, with all examples, was proposed by Cllr Clive Furness and seconded by Terry Paul.

Concerns about free speech and the ability to criticise Israel were raised in Labour Group and I am told there was a “left faction” led by Cllr Anam Islam who claimed many Muslim voters were ‘troubled’. There was another group, led by Rokshana Fiaz, then a backbench councillor, who championed the removal of the examples in order to maintain group cohesion. That argument won the day.

An amendment was put at council – and accepted by the proposers – that removed all 11 examples and made some other minor adjustments to the text. 

The amended motion was unanimously agreed by Council (reproduced below exactly as it appears in the minutes):

This council notes: 

This Council expresses alarm at the rise in antisemitism in recent years across the UK. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes. Criticism of Israel can be legitimate, but not if it employs the tropes and imagery of antisemitism.

This Council therefore welcomes the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, making Britain one of the first countries in the world to adopt it. This definition has also been adopted by the Labour Party and featured in the Labour Party’s Race and Faith Manifesto (page 12) published during the 2017 General Election. The IHRA definition defines antisemitism as thus:

This Council notes that:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

This Council welcomes support within the Council for combating antisemitism in all its manifestations.

This Council hereby resolves to adopt the above definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism through awareness raising and education; and through engagement with the range of Jewish opinion on how best to address antisemitism in addition with all communities that live in Newham.

This Council also condemns all forms of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and sexism and on-line abuse and we commit to fighting against them.

Kilmainham Gaol

3 Sep


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Clew Bay Sunset

3 Sep


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