Archive | April, 2013

People’s Republic of Newham

29 Apr

People's Republic of Newham

Local communities are increasingly required to use campaigning tactics to defend services, resources and rights in the face of indifference from largely unaccountable local institutions. There is also an urgent need for local campaigns to support and learn from each other.

The People’s Republic of Newham is a network of local independent activists who want to try and help and support community campaigns by sharing the wealth of knowledge, skills and experience in the borough that can help campaigners have greater chances of success.

It is currently organising on Facebook but if there is enough interest, it could expand into an email group and meetings, depending on what members feel is most helpful.

Of power and patronage

29 Apr

Hands up who wants Sir Robin to be mayor for another four years?

On Friday it was announced, to no surprise whatsoever, that Sir Robin Wales had been re-selected as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Newham.

Given the choice in a ‘trigger ballot’ between keeping the incumbent and running an open selection process, party members chose not to give themselves a choice. It’s a deeply depressing decision.

Writing for Left Futures back in January Jon Lansman asked why Labour’s most powerful politicians – its directly elected mayors – are the least accountable and explained why it was inevitable that Sir Robin and the other incumbent mayors would win these ‘trigger ballots’:

Because they have no challengers.

Why do they have no challengers? Because as well as the power and the patronage, they can carry on long as they wish. It’s a vicious circle.

Of course, each Mayor has their own personal style and different levels of willingness to tolerate criticism. But the value of the patronage in these boroughs is far more significant than in Parliament where MPs are paid a minimum of £65,738. In Newham, London’s poorest borough, the £15,856 which Sir Robin Wales dispenses (on average), in addition to their basic allowance of £10,829, to 29 of Newham’s 60 Labour councillors (there is no opposition) is not chicken feed. For many, it is their only or main income. How likely is it that a Cabinet member who is full-time, dependent on their allowances of £41,871, will take on Sir Robin in Cabinet or Labour Group never mind in a contest to be a mayoral candidate?

So, in essence, Sir Robin has ensured the loyalty and compliance of those around him. Put simply, those most likely to offer a realistic challenge have the most to lose from making one. And they know Sir Robin is ruthless in his treatment of dissent.

Lansman concluded:

The least that Labour’s executive could do is to ensure that if Mayors are allowed to serve a fourth term, they should at least face a full selection procedure.

Sadly, Labour passed up that opportunity and agreed to the trigger ballot process. With the inevitable outcome.

Crime down across London, but up in Newham

15 Apr

Latest crime figures

Bad news for Sir Robin Wales. Despite spending millions on his own private police force, buying in additional officers from the Met and blanketing the borough in CCTV, crime is on the rise in Newham:

  • Homophobic Crime – up 100%
  • Racist & Religious Hate Crime – up 70%
  • Homicide – up 50% (though thankfully from a very base)
  • Domestic crime – up 5%
  • Violence against the person – up 3%

Yes, some crimes have reduced – notably robbery, burglary and sex crimes. And there have been fewer crimes using guns.

But overall crime in the borough is up by 3%. By contrast, across the whole of London it fell by almost 4%.

That’s a real embarrassment for someone with Sir Robin’s city-wide ambitions. And the Evening Standard won’t be as docile as the Newham Recorder when it comes to holding him to account.

Perhaps our 60 councillors might like to ask him a question or two as well. After all, isn’t oversight and scrutiny part of their job?

(hat-tip to @StopCityAirport for unearthing the stats)

Turn again, Robin Wales

15 Apr

Despite being on the verge of re-selection – unopposed, of course – as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Newham in next year’s local elections, Sir Robin Wales wants to be mayor of London.

What’s interesting for Newham people – apart from the happy prospect of waving goodbye to the Dear Leader – is that the London elections are in 2016, exactly halfway through Sir Robin’s next term.

When Labour selected Ken Livingstone as candidate for the 2012 election it did so in the autumn of 2010, a full 21 months ahead of time. And this was following a 3-month campaign in which he defeated former Bethnal Green MP Oona King.

Assuming the London Labour party follows the same timetable, Sir Robin would start his campaign for the nomination barely a month after being re-elected in Newham. If he won that he’d face a long slog round London raising his profile among the voters of the other 31 boroughs.

How much time will he have left to do the job he’s being paid £81,000 a year by Newham council tax payers for?

If I were a Labour party member who’d just cast his vote in the ‘trigger’ ballots I’d be a bit pissed off to discover, just a few weeks later, that our candidate is no longer that interested in the job – that he hopes to serve just half his term before resigning in favour of something bigger and better. And that he’s unlikely to devote much of his time to Newham.

I might also wonder if we have to have an open process to select a candidate for the mayoral by-election in 2016, why not save ourselves the trouble and select someone now who will serve a full four years?

Something else George Galloway doesn’t do…

11 Apr

Collectors's item: George Galloway speaking in parliament

… his job.

George Galloway has missed 87% of all Commons votes during his first year as a Bradford MP and spoken in just seven debates.

Data compiled on website shows that Mr Galloway has taken part in just 13% of the votes over the past year. Most MPs average between 70 and 80%.

He has spoken in just seven debates – the average for MPs being around 30.

Can I respectfully suggest that Mr Galloway spends a bit less of his time in Newham and a lot more of it in parliament working for his constituents? After all, that’s what they elected him to do.


Wales will go on… and on

8 Apr

Wales will go on… and on

This month Newham Labour party is holding ‘trigger ballots’ to decide if they want to run a full, open selection process to pick their candidate in next year’s mayoral election. The alternative is simply to let Sir Robin run again.

The results thus far have been depressingly predictable. Sir Robin will not be challenged.

He will be Labour’s candidate next May and he will be mayor for another 4 years.