Archive | October, 2016

Trigger democracy

31 Oct

How else are you supposed to illustrate a post about a Trigger ballot?

The process to select Labour’s candidate for mayor of Newham at the May 2018 local elections has begun. And it’s being run to a very tight timetable.

An email went out last week from Cllr Patrick Murphy to members of the local campaign forum (LCF) setting out the process. Local party branches and affiliated organisations – trade unions, the Co-op Party – have to meet before 4 December to consider an ‘affirmative nomination’. The borough-wide result will be announced the next day.

The clear intention is that Sir Robin Wales will be re-selected unopposed via this so-called ‘trigger ballot’. Only if a majority of branches vote No will there be an opportunity for other candidates to put themselves forward.

But why the hurry? The election is more than 18 months away and Newham is rock-solid Labour. There’s no disadvantage to the party in taking a bit more time to select its candidate.

Perhaps there’s a clue in Cllr Murphy’s email. In it he also announced the freeze date – October 25th. Only members who have been in the party for six full months prior to this date are able to participate in the vote. So all those new, enthusiastic members inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign who joined over the summer are bang out of luck. 

And it’s certainly no coincidence that the person in charge of the process – Cllr Murphy – is a member of the mayor’s inner circle. He’s on the payroll as ‘community lead councillor’ for Royal Docks and has a personal interest in getting his man into position ASAP. Indeed he is so keen that he has already been out door-knocking unsuspecting party members to canvass support for the incumbent. In any sensible organisation his role as Procedures Secretary would be untenable. 

But maybe – just maybe – this time Sir Robin won’t get things all his own way.

A group of local activists has launched a campaign called Trigger Democracy, calling on local members to vote No to the affirmative nomination and trigger an open selection.

They point out that Wales has been running Newham since 1995 – first as leader of the council and then from 2002 as the directly elected mayor. Only once in all that time has he faced a contested vote among party members. In 2002 he defeated John Saunders for the very first nomination. A lot has changed in Newham and the Labour party in the past 14 years!

Of course an open selection does not necessarily mean the end of Sir Robin. He might prove to be the best possible candidate and if so members could re-select him. But the very least that the party should do is give themselves a choice. Surely among the 60 councillors there are a few who have the ambition and vision to offer an alternative. Or maybe there is a credible candidate in another role?

I’m not in the Labour party – I left more than 10 years ago – but I urge all those who are to vote No. Give yourselves – and the rest of us – a chance to debate an alternative vision for Newham’s future.

There’s more information on the Trigger Democracy campaign on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook.

West Ham tickets – who’s getting them?

11 Oct

From the ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ website:

More than half the free tickets for West Ham United home matches distributed by Newham Council have gone to their own employees, it has been claimed.

From a total of 5,970 tickets handed out thus far by the Council as part of their arrangement with West Ham, just 2,728 reached members of the local community – with the remaining 3,242 being allocated to employees of Newham Council, according to a KUMB source.

The 3,242 tickets snapped up by Newham employees were used for the Europa League qualifiers against Domzale (1,433 tickets) and Astra Giurgiu (1,010) plus the recent EFL Cup tie with Accrington Stanley (799) – resulting in 55 per cent of the available tickets intended for local residents going to unnamed Council workers.

“Newham previously stated that ‘the tickets are used to reward residents for being active and resilient members of the community’,” said the source. 

“Lead councillors for each of our community neighbourhoods will have a role in managing these rewards, and settling the criteria for distributing tickets to their residents who are making a contribution to their community. 

“Why is it, that in each of the three games referred to, there were more tickets given to Newham Council staff than went to those ‘active and resilient members of the community’?”

Those ‘free’ tickets are among the supposed benefits of the £40 million ‘loan’ the council made to help cover the enormous cost of making the stadium ready for multi-millionaire-owned West Ham United.

Can anyone at the council explain this?