Archive | April, 2014

A conversation with Hanif Abdulmuhit

29 Apr

Frustratingly WordPress won’t display embedded Storify content, so you’ll have to click the link below.


Manifesto, what manifesto?

28 Apr

Manifesto meeting

So if Sir Robin was able to tell Labour members back in February what would be in the party manifesto for the local elections, why are voters still being kept in the dark?

With less than a month to go to polling day there’s no sign of it on the Newham Labour website. Where is it?

Sir Robin and – in all likelihood – his 60 councillor candidates will be elected in May. Shouldn’t we have some idea, beyond a few bland bullet points on a leaflet, what they plan to do for the next four years?

Other local parties have produced excellent manifestos, with detailed proposals. For example, Plymouth Labour Party and our neighbours in Tower Hamlets.

The difference is that those parties are in genuine contests where they are fighting for every vote; where there is competition between competing visions for the future of their areas.

But Newham is a one-party state and the local Labour party’s contempt for voters is staggering: they think it better we don’t worry our little heads about trivial things like policies and just gratefully vote them back into office.



Your council candidates

25 Apr
Across Newham there are 208 candidates standing for the 60 seats on the council. Broken down by party there are:
  • Labour: 60
  • Conservative: 60
  • Christian Peoples Alliance: 55
  • Liberal Democrats: 11
  • Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition: 8
  • UKIP: 7
  • Independent: 3
  • Green Party: 2
  • Communist Party: 1
  • Communities United Party: 1

The candidates for the two Forest Gate wards are:

Forest Gate North

  • Seyi Akiwowo – Labour Party Candidate
  • Alan Charles Cooper – Green Party 
  • Lynn Denise Donaldson – Christian Peoples Alliance 
  • Christina Doyle – Christian Peoples Alliance 
  • Shaeb Khan – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • Dawn Lennon – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • Jane Alison Lithgow – Green Party 
  • Brian Maze – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • Christian Moon – Liberal Democrats 
  • Ellie Robinson – Labour Party Candidate 
  • Bob Severn – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 
  • Rachel Tripp – Labour Party Candidate

Forest Gate South

  • Mahboob Rizu Ahmed – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • Asif Choudhury – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • William James Francis Heron – Liberal Democrats 
  • Niall Mulholland – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 
  • Dieutane Jean Parson – Christian Peoples Alliance 
  • Masihullah Patel – Labour Party Candidate 
  • Tim Roll-Pickering – Conservative Party Candidate 
  • Winston Vaughan – Labour Party Candidate 
  • Ionel Vrancianu – Independent 
  • Dianne Walls – Labour Party Candidate 
  • Malcolm Williamson – Christian Peoples Alliance

Your choice for mayor

25 Apr

There are eight candidates standing for mayor of Newham:

  • Lois Austin – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • Alex Ocan Latim – Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Jane Alison Lithgow – Green Party
  • Kamran Malik – Communities United Party
  • David Mears – UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  • Stefan Mrozinski – The Conservative Party Candidate
  • David Thorpe – Liberal Democrats
  • Sir Robin Wales – Labour Party Candidate

One name obviously missing from that list is George Galloway. Despite his thunderous promises last year about a ‘Newham Spring’ that would sweep Sir Robin and his Labour administration from power, there is no Respect Party candidate for mayor. In fact there are no Respect candidates at all in any of the 20 wards.

As if it wasn’t already obvious, I think we can safely conclude that Galloway is a buffoon and a blowhard. Newham is far better off without him.

The full list of council candidates for each ward is on the council website.

Selling Newham by the pound

24 Apr

Newham sold

The pile of last-minute news stories pushed out by the mayor’s PR team just before the pre-election quiet period included the announcement of NewShare – an “innovative shared equity programme” aimed at helping

hard working Newham residents who may not be able to afford a large deposit or the costs of purchasing a property on the open market, buy their own home.

This Tory rhetoric is accompanied by some suitably Tory action: Sir Robin has awarded an exclusive contract to the private sector to market residential properties through this new scheme.

As the council spinmeisters put it:

Countrywide PLC is one of the largest estate agents in the UK … with a proven track record managing and marketing affordable home ownership programmes.

Countrywide will be the “sole point of contact” for people wanting to buy shared equity properties from Newham and they will

guide potential purchasers as to which product is most suitable for them in respect of their earnings and aspirations. Part of their role will be to ensure that whilst applicants are not overstretched, they do maximise the equity stake they can afford to buy.

There’s no mention of how much the shiny-suited wideboys are being paid for this service, but that sounds like an incentive to push people as far as they possibly can to raise maximum revenue. What could possibly go wrong?

But where exactly are these properties going to come from, given that there’s a desperate shortage of affordable homes in Newham and the council is already committed to building 3,000 homes and buying another 500 for its private rental business Red Door Ventures?

NewShare consists of three different housing offers … new homes built by the council, street properties acquired by the council and empty council properties. [my emphasis added]

Yes, the council is going to address its lack of social housing by selling off empty council houses. And then selling the new properties it builds. But it’s all okay because council tenants who buy into the scheme will free up their current home for someone on the waiting list. Ta da!

And if that’s not enough doublethink to convince you:

The scheme will also increase the total volume of affordable housing in the borough as for every three empty council properties which are transferred to the new scheme the council will be able to build or buy two further new homes to offer for shared equity.

In Newham two is a bigger number than three! Selling three homes and building two to replace them will increase the supply of affordable housing.

For your consideration…

23 Apr


The Left Vote has a list of Green and other left-of-Labour candidates standing in this year’s Newham mayoral and council elections:



  • Boleyn: Ben Robinson (TUSC)
  • East Ham Central: Helen Pattison (TUSC)
  • East Ham North: Thennavan Keerthikan (TUSC); Rod Finlayson (Communist)
  • East Ham South: Steve Hedley (TUSC)
  • Forest Gate North: Jane Lithgow & Alan Cooper (both Green); Bob Severn (TUSC)
  • Forest Gate South: Niall Mulholland (TUSC)
  • Green Street East: Lois Austin (TUSC/SP)
  • Green Street West:  Mark Dunne (TUSC)


Getting mighty crowded

23 Apr

Image from The Economist

Despite the building boom across the borough the proportion of residents living in overcrowded households has risen by almost 50% in the last four years.

In 2010 the Office for National Statistics reported that 17.9% of households in Newham had fewer bedrooms than they needed, as defined by the ‘bedroom standard’.[1]

The 2014 report, published last week, showed that this is now 25.2%.

That’s not a happy statistic, especially when coupled with the fact that there are 24,000 families on the council house waiting list with almost no prospect of ever being offered a home.

So you have to ask how has this been allowed to happen? How can so many new homes have been built – look at the shiny new apartment blocks in Stratford, the Olympic village, the developments in Canning Town – yet the number of overcrowded households has gotten bigger?

Despite all the rhetoric about cracking down on rogue landlords and driving up the quality of housing in the borough, this is a damning record of failure by the mayor.

[1] ‘Bedroom standard’ is used as an indicator of occupation density. A standard number of bedrooms is allocated to each household in accordance with its age/sex/marital status composition and the relationship of the members to one another. A separate bedroom is allocated to each married or cohabiting couple, any other person aged 21 or over, each pair of adolescents aged 10 – 20 of the same sex, and each pair of children under 10. Any unpaired person aged 10 – 20 is paired, if possible with a child under 10 of the same sex, or, if that is not possible, he or she is given a separate bedroom, as is any unpaired child under 10. This standard is then compared with the actual number of bedrooms (including bed-sitters) available for the sole use of the household, and differences are tabulated. Bedrooms converted to other uses are not counted as available unless they have been denoted as bedrooms by the informants; bedrooms not actually in use are counted unless uninhabitable.

Easter Sunday morning

20 Apr

via Instagram

Planning ahead

11 Apr


Sir Robin Wales surrounded by his 2026 re-election campaign team.

Busy busy busy

10 Apr

Sir Robin unveils his new ‘Every Child a Chess Player’ initiative

It looks like Newham council’s PR machine is going into overdrive to promote the mayor ahead of May’s elections.

Of the ten news stories published on the council website this week eight prominently feature Sir Robin.

On Sunday – this is a seven-day-a-week operation! – they reported that

Sir Robin Wales and Madani Sow, Chairman of Bouygues UK and Bouygues Development, marked [the completion of the first concrete structure for Hallsville Quarter, the new centre for Canning Town] by placing a time capsule in cement on the site. They were joined by representatives from partners One Housing Group, Mountain Capital and Morrisons.

On Monday

Mayor Sir Robin Wales joined more than 160 children from 13 schools across the borough to launch the Newham Primary Schools’ Team Chess Tournament at the Old Town Hall in Stratford…

…Sir Robin said: “Chess is another skill that young people can learn. It improves their concentration and we believe it improves their cognitive skills. Giving children opportunities to find the things they enjoy builds their resilience, and that’s what we’re about.”

The start of a new ‘Every child a chess player’ campaign, perhaps?

Then on Tuesday ‘Every child a Chinese lion dancer’ took centre stage:

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales joined students at Beckton’s Kingsford Community School who got some expert lessons in traditional Chinese lion dancing thanks to Royal Albert Dock developer ABP… Sir Robin visited the school with ABP vice chairman Nancy Xu and London Executive Director John Miu to present a lion’s costume and some Mandarin books.

Later the same day

Mayor Sir Robin Wales helped launch an initiative that will see girls at Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford be able to choose their perfect prom dress thanks to a leading bridal and special occasion retailer.

The diary was packed on Tuesday, as our leader took inspiration for the soon-to-be-unveiled ‘Every child a cheerleader’ programme:

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales gave a big cheer to more than 350 young people from the Ascension Eagles cheerleading squads as they put on a show at their annual Spring Showcase event.The Mayor visited the ExCeL exhibition centre in the Royal Docks to applaud teams from 15 primary and secondary schools from across the borough, and children with special educational needs, who receive cheerleading and dance coaching from the Eagles funded by the council.

Wednesday rolled around and Newham PR kicked off with news about Workplace, claiming that it has now “secured employment for more than 20,000 Newham residents.”

Sir Robin Wales Mayor of Newham said: “We’re extremely proud of our highly successful employment service, Workplace. It has done an amazing job in supporting so many Newham residents into sustainable employment.”

Not letting the grass grow under his feet, the mayor went tree planting in Canning Town

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales joined Ian Sutcliffe, executive director of Countryside Properties, head teacher Violet Otieno, and 15 pupils to plant a tree in the new rooftop garden [at Keir Hardie Primary School]…

…[he] said: “We’re committed to providing our residents with great homes, excellent schools and new and exciting neighbourhoods as part of the Canning Town and Custom House regeneration programme.”

Despite it being the first week of the Easter holidays, this was followed by a report on visits to no fewer than four other schools in the borough

to see how the [building] works were progressing, meet head teachers and pupils and to perform topping out ceremonies…

… ”It was great to meet the teachers and pupils at these schools and see the breadth on teaching on offer. Our primary schools already provide a wealth of learning opportunities to inspire our young people and help them achieve their potential.”

It was of course simply a happy coincidence that this bustle of activity occurred just before the start of the election campaign and that the council’s slick PR team could report it all in such gushing terms.