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.

We’re voting for change

21 Apr

Our Mayoral Referendum: Are we asking the right question?

20 Apr

The mayoral model

IMG 0675 copy

By Cllr Susan Masters

Okay, so I start this stressing that art was among my worst subjects at school – apologies for the diagrams. However, over the last few days I’ve started wondering whether, in common with a few recent referenda, we might not be asking the wrong questions in our vote on May 6th. I’m not talking about the vote for London Mayor or the East Ham Central by-election (if you live in East Ham Central – I don’t) but the decision we all have to make about the model of governance that decides how our council will be run politically.

That question is set: We are being asked to decide between a Mayoral and Committee model of leadership. And yet, the more I think about it, the more I have realised that whichever model we opt for, that is just the start point – that both systems should have us asking a load more questions. In drawing out both systems to try and make the differences clearer, I am clear that even as someone who has served as a councillor for the last 7 years, I might have got some details wrong and am happy for this to be corrected as much as being a start point for debate but here are the questions I feel need to be asked – some equally round both systems, some just for one or the other.

And before I start – I am (just about) a supporter of change alias the committee model – though I now feel a very modified Mayoral system giving more power to cabinet members but, equally, stronger powers to scrutiny and Newham residents as a whole could be equally empowering. I should also stress that In both models officers will run the council day-to-day, from top to bottom, and provide data and reports under the direction of the political leadership but here are the issues that I feel beg questions

  1. Starting at the bottom line – the selection process. What kind of councillor do you want to represent you? Is it about a level of professional competence, personal experience or a relationship with a geographical or other community? Are those voices making it through? If not, what are the barriers? How can those be changed?
  2. The Mayoral model has been celebrated as a chance for the residents of Newham to select the person who leads them and the manifesto they are elected to take forward. But given that power is exercised only once, before a term has begun, where is the power to intervene when you feel that choice has gone awry? Should there be ways in which residents can track the extent to which a manifesto has been brought forward and perhaps have an input to renegotiate their mandate?
  3. Scrutiny. Under the Mayoral system scrutiny is the check and balance on the executive (the Mayor, her cabinet and commissioners/deputy cabinet members), where the other councillors (those not in cabinet, deputy cabinet members or commissioners) can review or explore, writing reports and passing recommendations to those leading. As the system stands, though, they have no power to force change – even when the desire to row back is huge. Does this, in itself, need to change? It should also be stressed that non-cabinet councillors do have other key roles serving on a series of statutory committees governing planning, licensing, audit, pensions and standards.
  4. But what of the residents? We have already discussed their lack of input within the four year terms to call the Mayor to account, but what can they currently do to participate in their council – well, they can bring petitions; attend council as a deputation to query policy and make alternative suggestions; attend public meetings; have access to reports and papers that our committees base their deliberations on; suggest projects to improve our borough through their citizens’ assemblies and raise matters with the Mayor or their local councillors. Though again, is that enough? How could that be improved and should it? Or should those residents, many of whom who have fought long and difficult paths to be councillors, exercise their own electoral mandate, unlimited?
  5. As my poor drawing of the Mayoral model shows, the Mayor has enormous power to appoint and sack cabinet members (as full-time roles with enhanced payments attached), decide how much responsibility and which issues are delegated to them to decide, appoint or lead external bodies and partnership boards. The Mayor also appoints deputy cabinet members and commissioners (part-time roles, but also with boosted allowances attached and who are answerable to the Mayor). Is that too much power/responsibility for one person or about clarity and ownership? Again, if we do stick with the Mayoral model is it time to look at this and ask whether cabinet leads deserve more responsibility to lead their portfolios and manage deputy members and should those who lead those portfolios equally need to be called to account for performance?
  6. What of the role of council in the Mayoral model? At the moment, it decides the budget, key strategies, key governance changes and motions brought by members among other policies. Should more power come back to it from cabinet?

So those are the questions I feel are begged by our present Mayoral model. Moving on to the Committee model, this is a system I haven’t experienced so there are queries galore and bits I might have got wrong. I hope any debate will allow for correction as much as deliberation.

Councillor selection raises the same questions but with the Mayoral model gone, the electorate just have the choice of 3 ward councillors to go forward to the full council. Council then elects chairs and members to a number of committees. As with the mayoral model, officers run the council day-to-day, collect data and supply reports and for councillors there are still the statutory committees that deal with licensing, planning, accounts, audit, pensions and standards, but the key policy decisions will be taken by a policy and strategy committee not a Mayor with or without cabinet – so…

Question 7: I would ask how the membership of that is decided and who is on it (and in what balance) as that will dictate the council’s direction. You also have to ask what other committees should exist to ensure effective political leadership. Apparently most committee model councils have 4-8 of these – what areas should they govern? Also, should there still be a full compliment of scrutiny committees? A Health scrutiny committee is required but what of our current other areas of scrutiny (crime and anti-social behaviour, regeneration and housing and children and young people)? Would a committee system allow for such checks and balances to go on within those committees or are additional checks required?

This leads into question 8, the processes by which that Committee model council chooses chairs, members and elects a leader as well as deciding how much power to keep and how much to delegate to its committees.

Question 9: Where do partnership bodies fit into all of this? These are the committees that bring together key local services largely round issues such as adult safeguarding, corporate parenting or health to ensure all those services work together smoothly.

And finally, question 10. What of residents? Where is their voice and how will our first steps into participatory democracy fare in a committee system?

These are just some of the questions I feel both systems need to answer. Others might have additional ones. I look forward to a lively debate.

Susan Masters has represented East Ham South on Newham Council since 2014. This post originally appeared on her Facebook page and is reproduced here, with permission, for the benefit of those who either cannot or do not wish to access that website.

Cross-party consensus

19 Apr

Newham Voting for Change leaflets

All four major political parties in the borough are supporting the committee structure in the forthcoming governance referendum.

In January, Newham Liberal Democrats voted to campaign for the committee system, saying “[we] are against concentration of power in a single person… this
concentration of power means that different perspectives and the whole range of views the citizens of Newham have gone unheard.”  

In February, West Ham Constituency Labour Party passed a resolution calling on members to campaign and vote for the Committee Model in the Newham Governance Referendum, stating that “the Committee Model ensures that there is greater equality between council members, with less of a hierarchy, as the council leader and committee chairs are elected by full council and all councillors belong to a decision-making committee.”

Last month, East Ham Conservatives agreed to support the committee system. “The Mayoral system is not working for Newham. We have seen too much power in one office leading to decisions being taken without proper public consultation or concerns taken into account… on 6th May 2021, Newham, we ask you to vote with us for the Committee system.”

Announcing their candidacy for East Ham Central last week, Newham Green Party convenor Danny Keeling said, “We have a real opportunity to inject democracy here in Newham… vote for the committee option in the Local Governance Referendum.”

Politics in Newham is often fractious and partisan, so it is good to see that on this key question of local democracy and governance there is consensus across all the parties that we need change.