Archive | December, 2015

No mayor, no Christmas

21 Dec

Labour party members in Manor Park had to cancel their Christmas social at short notice last week because the mayor couldn’t attend.

The ward party chair sent round an apologetic email, explaining that the social couldn’t go ahead because of Labour party “rules”:

I have to inform you, regretfully, that after an emergency meeting, the Manor Park Social Event for next week (17th), has been cancelled. 

This is due to three rules: firstly, one of our guests cannot attend. (If our Mayor cannot attend then we cannot proceed with the social). Secondly, branches are not allowed to officially socialize as part of the Labour Party, only CLP. Finally, no guests outside of Newham are allowed to be invited to a Labour Party social event and there was some doubt about the music and choir at a Labour Party event.

This is very disappointing, as it was discussed and agreed at our branch meeting three weeks ago. 

However, I have asked the Chair of East Ham CLP if we can have a social event in 2016 for all of East Ham branches and this can go ahead. So we can look forward to this event.

I am very sorry for any inconvenience this cancellation may have caused. 

My sincere apologies.

Anyone searching the Labour party rule book will, of course, come away empty-handed. There are no such rules. It is straightforwardly an attempt to control and stop East Ham members meeting up and working together ahead of the trigger ballot to confirm Sir Robin, yet again, as the mayoral candidate. Divide and rule!

The ward chair was instructed to cancel the event, but maybe she should have seen it coming. She is also East Ham’s social secretary and has previously complained to the CLP secretary, Mariam Dawood, about the impossibility of organising activities without access to the full list of party members.

These shenanigans are an interesting contrast to the West Ham party, which has held many events open to all Labour supporters, mostly without the mayor. Some have included non-Newham guests – and even non-Labour people (disclosure: I’ve been to a couple).

Members in East Ham ought to be asking themselves about the motives of the people running their local party. Whose interests are they looking after?

At home he’s a tourist

15 Dec

Hanif LibDem

Somehow it escaped my attention until a few days ago that Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit had once upon a time been secretary of Newham Liberal Democrats.

That was before he joined Respect, for whom he stood successfully for council in 2006, defeating the incumbent Labour members. He also stood in 2008 as the party’s candidate for the London Assembly seat of City & East.

As Respect disintegrated he reinvented himself again, serving out the remainder of his term as a Labour councillor. He had to sit out the 2010 elections before returning as a thoroughly reconstructed representative of Newham Labour in 2014. He is now mayoral advisor for Building Communities (Adult Care Integration) and community lead for Green Street. 

But he obviously never stays in one place too long, so Newham Greens should be on the lookout for his membership application any day now.

(hat-tip to Gary Stevens for the image)

[And in case you were wondering about the title: At home he’s a tourist – Gang of Four]


15 Dec

Team Obaid Khan

A small gesture of solidarity from West Ham Labour at last week’s Christmas quiz night.

Shuffling the pack

14 Dec


Sir Robin has written to councillors to announce some changes to his team of ‘mayoral advisors’, including a couple of additions to the already bulging executive payroll.

Cllr Ellie Robinson (Forest Gate North) is taking over responsibility for Commercial Opportunities, leading “work to make the Council more commercial, to ensure we have a strong income stream to mitigate the loss of government funding.” This probably means resurrecting the mayor’s crass MoneyWorks payday loans idea, flagged in the 2014 manifesto but largely forgotten since. The other money-spinning manifesto promise, a kind of BrightHouse competitor to flog white goods to the poor on the never-never, has also vanished from sight. Perhaps Ellie will be tasked with reviving that too. 

Having passed over the commercial brief, Cllr Forhad Hussain (Plaistow North) will be able to spend more time with Ken Clark, working on ‘Community Neighbourhoods.’ Lucky man.

Ellie’s previous role as lead for OneSource, the partnership with Havering council to share back office services, will be taken up by deputy mayor, Cllr Lester Hudson (Wall End). According to Sir Robin, this “will enable us to better harness the synergies between strategic and operational finance work.” Beings as the perennially useless “Three Jobs” is already cabinet lead for finance AND he chairs the audit board AND he chairs the investment and accounts committee, this further consolidation of financial responsibility looks like a governance disaster waiting to happen. 

Cllr David Christie (Beckton) gets responsibility for the “Newham 2020 transformation programme” and the “reconfiguring of our services.” Which will make him the public face of everything that goes wrong in local public services for the next five years. 

Joining the ’special responsibility allowance’ gravy train for the first time are Cllrs Julianne Marriott (East Ham Central) and Tonii Wilson (Beckton).

Cllr Wilson will be taking Ellie Robinson’s seat on the OneSource board. With 14 previous directorships – all at companies which are now dissolved – she brings a wealth of boardroom experience.

Cllr Marriott is a surprise addition to the team. As recently as last June she was one of nine councillors excluded by the mayor from a budget pow-wow at a swanky hotel in Chigwell. But time (and money, no doubt) heals all wounds. Like Forhad Hussain she will be spending a lot of time with Ken Clark in her new role. The mayor assures councillors that her appointment to the Regeneration brief “will give us more capacity to ensure we are delivering regeneration that genuinely transforms people’s lives.” Perhaps by scheduling extra buses to ship them out of town before their homes are bulldozed to make way for yet another ‘luxury development’? 

Residents interested in finding out what any of these ‘jobs’ actually entails or what councillors will be doing to prove they are worth their additional allowances will be out of luck. There won’t be anything resembling a job description on the website for months. And even then nothing by way of performance targets. Luckily for our mayoral advisors, if there are no targets they can’t miss them. Trebles all round!

Newham Nativity

14 Dec

Newham Nativity Show

The phantom leafleter of Forest Gate struck again on Saturday evening, delivering some seasonal cheer.

Previous examples of the phantom’s work:

Three and out

10 Dec

Angry Robin

Cllr Khan was once very close to the mayor

Boleyn councillor Obaid Khan has been suspended by the Labour party.

That makes three local councillors currently on the naughty step.

I haven’t seen the email that was sent to councillors about this, but I understand Cllr Khan’s suspension relates to two separate incidents.

One involves the way he allegedly spoke to a councillor from Barking & Dagenham at an event. The other was a bit of argy-bargy at the Boleyn by-election count where he squared up to Cllr Forhad Hussain. Unfortunately for Khan, this was witnessed by ‘the leadership’, who wasted no time in reporting the matter to higher powers.

One might reasonably ask why either of these ‘incidents’ justifies a councillor’s suspension, when similar events involving the mayor (with the Focus E15 mums), Cllr Ian Corbett (to a receptionist at East Ham town hall) and Cllr Ken Clark (to Cllr Noor at this year’s Newham Show) did not. The Mayor and Cllr Corbett were found guilty by the Standards Committee of breaching the code of conduct, but the Labour party did nothing to reprimand them. Calls to discipline Ken Clark have been ignored.

Quite perplexing.

Except that Obaid Khan was instrumental in thwarting the leadership’s plan to have Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit’s wife, Aisha Siddiqah, selected as the party’s candidate in the Boleyn by-election. He also kicked up a fuss about the shenanigans that resulted in Femi Alese being elected chair of East Ham Labour party. And, to top it all off, he’s joined the pro-Corbyn ‘Momentum’ group. Sir Robin, you will remember, was one of the 4.5% that backed Liz Kendall for the leadership.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold.

Boleyn result

4 Dec

Boleyn result

Image via @BritainElects

Congratulations to Veronica Oakeshott, the successful Labour candidate, and commiserations to the rest.

A big Labour win was never in doubt, but it is still surprising to see the party increasing its share of the vote, albeit on a very low turnout – just 21% of electors made it to the polls.

But the bigger surprise is the collapse of the Tory vote – down more than 12 percentage points – and the Liberals coming (a very distant) second. Bear in mind that in the 2014 general election the LibDems lost their deposits in both Newham seats and couldn’t even find a paper candidate to put up in the Stratford by-election.

The Greens also did a little better than their 2014 result would have suggested – they polled around 3% in East Ham. I think they’ll be reasonably pleased.

But for UKIP, this is a truly dismal result – though one that will hearten the rest of us. The hard right has never amounted to much in Newham and this continues that happy record.