Archive | September, 2018

Conference pairs

25 Sep

Jess Shawcroft Buxton 23 Sept 2018

West Ham CLP delegates posing with former NEC member Christine Shawcroft (picture via Newham Momentum)

It’s party conference time and it seems like half of Newham council has trekked up to Liverpool.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz had a prime slot to address conference on youth violence as a public health issue and various councillors have appeared on fringe platforms and in the media. Stratford’s Josh Garfield featured on BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire show and Canning Town councillor Rohit Dasgupta was interviewed on BBC Asian Network. East Ham North’s Daniel Blaney spoke at the Labour CND fringe meeting.

Other councillors attending either the official conference or Momentum’s parallel ‘The World Transformed’ gathering include James Beckles, Terry Paul, Susan Masters, John Gray, James Asser, Sasha Das Gupta, Shaban Mohammed, Hanif Abdulmuhit, Mohammed Muzibur Rahman and Suga Thekkeppurayil.

Despite the vast number of them, none of these councillors are actually delegates. West Ham CLP is represented by Tina Jess and Carel Buxton (pictured above), while East Ham has no official representation. It seems odd that a CLP for a seat with one of the largest Labour votes and majorities in the country doesn’t have a delegate. But that is a consequence of it being essentially non-functioning. Which is itself a consequence of Sir Robin’s approach to party management.

Hopefully, for the sake of ordinary party members, that is something that can quickly be put right.

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Let’s not take a backward step

21 Sep

By Josephine Grahl

In May 2018 a record number of woman councillors were elected in Newham – 28 in total – as well as a woman Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, who then went on to appoint a majority female Cabinet and a woman Deputy Mayor, Charlene Maclean.

This was achieved thanks to a Labour party selection process which determined that, where a council ward was already represented by two female councillors, or where a male candidate was stepping down and creating a vacancy, Labour party branches would be asked to select at least two women for the three available seats.

Essentially this meant that eight of the twenty council wards would have all-women shortlists (AWS) for two of the three available seats, with the remainder having to select at least one woman.

The exception was Royal Docks, where the three incumbent men were reselected; if a vacant seat becomes available in that ward, one would hope it would be filled through AWS.

Boleyn was a ‘two-women ward’, where the suspension of Cllr Obaid Khan from the Labour party created a vacancy and the local Labour party selected sitting councillors Veronica Oakeshott and Harvinder Singh Virdee and new candidate Genevieve Kitchen to contest the ward.

It was a surprise, therefore, when Labour party members in Newham were informed that the candidate selection for the Boleyn ward by-election – where Cllr Veronica Oakeshott is stepping down – would be open to both male and female candidates. Historically, open selections in Newham have almost always led to the selection of male candidates, so it looks all too likely that this will be a backward step for gender balance in Newham Council.

When asked why the selection was not an AWS, the London Regional Labour party cited the party rulebook, namely Appendix 4. B. i. b: “In winnable wards with two or three members at least one candidate must be a woman.” But there’s nothing in the letter of that rule which suggests that an all women shortlist can’t be used in Boleyn – and the spirit of that rule is the encouragement of wider participation by women in standing for elected office, here being undermined.

Newham Council has had a solid Labour majority for decades, often with sixty Labour councillors out of sixty, and with only minor and short-lived incursions by other parties. This makes the Labour party’s selection process for council candidates key to the make-up of the Council. It’s disappointing, therefore, that the party has opted not to require that an outgoing woman councillor be replaced by another woman – and will be even more disappointing if the Boleyn by-election leads to a reduction in the number of women holding local office.

Josephine Grahl is writing in her personal capacity, not as chair of West Ham CLP.

Purge!

19 Sep

Another day, another paranoid conspiracy theory.

Labour’s London regional office has been running standard membership eligibility checks in East Ham and some members have received letters asking them to verify that they are on local electoral roll.

This is, of course, a huge Blairite conspiracy to root out supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Because it’s only “Team Corbyn” who have received the letters.

Quite how regional office knows who’s on “Team Corbyn” is not explained. Nor how the Corbynites know that no-one else has had a letter. Believing it is, I suppose, enough.

Like their counterparts on the right, the Brextremists, Corbynites are the dog that chased the car and caught it – they have no idea what to do with it now they have it.

“You’ve won; get over it.”

Stop looking for plots and witch hunts; start leading the party.

You’re in charge now.

 

The casual vacancy

17 Sep

Grayee 2018 Sep 14

On Friday Boleyn ward councillor Veronica Oakeshott tweeted:

After three years as a Councillor I am stepping down today to move house, closer to my family. It has been a huge privilege to serve in Boleyn. Thank you Boleyn for your friendship – I’ll miss you!

Cllr Oakeshott won her seat in a by-election in 2015 following the death of Cllr Charity Fiberesima. She held it easily at the local elections in May.

During her time in office Cllr Oakeshott successfully campaigned to keep the Champions Statue in her ward and, less successfully, to ensure the council lived up to its promise that 35% of homes on the old West Ham stadium site would be ‘affordable’.

There will be a by-election to fill the ‘casual vacancy’, most likely in late October. Labour will, of course, hold the seat easily. The real interest will be in who is selected as the candidate.No names have emerged yet, but Momentum is already organising to ensure that it is one of their people.

UPDATE:

The date for the by-election has been set for Thursday 1 November. Boleyn ward will be holding its selection meeting on Tuesday 2 October. 

New parliamentary constituencies – again

10 Sep

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

As part of the government’s drive to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make parliamentary constituencies more equally sized, the Boundary Commission has now published it’s final recommendations.

At the moment there are two seats in Newham – East Ham and West Ham. Each contains 10 of the 20 wards in the borough. But both seats are very large – in fact West Ham is the largest in London, with more than 80,000 voters. By contrast, the Kensington seat has only 55,000.

The Boundary Commission’s recommendation divides Newham between four seats, ripping apart West Ham and dividing it the bulk of it between three new constituencies. East Ham loses a couple of wards to a new seat, but gains Green Street West.

The exact make-up of the new constituencies, with wards, boroughs and current voters:

Poplar and Canning Town

Canning Town North Newham 8,333
Canning Town South Newham 8,543
Custom House Newham  6,971
Plaistow North Newham 8,215
Plaistow South Newham 8,290
Blackwall & Cubitt Town  Tower Hamlets 7,284  
Canary Wharf Tower Hamlets 6,517
Island Gardens Tower Hamlets 7,220
Lansbury Tower Hamlets 9,623
Limehouse Tower Hamlets 3,659
Poplar Tower Hamlets 3,418
  Total 78,073

East Ham

Boleyn Newham 8,696
East Ham Central Newham 8,867
East Ham North Newham 8,682
East Ham South Newham 8,347
Green Street East Newham 8,875
Green Street West Newham  8,752
Little Ilford Newham 8,873 
Manor Park Newham 8,636
Wall End Newham 8,418
  Total 78,146

Leyton and Stratford

Forest Gate North Newham 8,392
Forest Gate South Newham 8,862
Stratford & New Town Newham 12,471
West Ham Newham 8,073
Cann Hall Waltham Forest 6,921
Cathall  Waltham Forest 6,515 
Grove Green Waltham Forest 7,387
Leyton Waltham Forest 8,067 
Leytonstone Waltham Forest 7,691 
  Total 74,379

Barking and Beckton

Abbey  Barking & Dagenham 7,039 
Becontree Barking & Dagenham 7,631 
Eastbury  Barking & Dagenham 6,652 
Gascoigne  Barking & Dagenham 5,598 
Goresbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,637 
Longbridge Barking & Dagenham 7,599 
Mayesbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,013 
Parsloes  Barking & Dagenham 5,836 
Thames  Barking & Dagenham 6,625 
Beckton  Newham 7,335 
Royal Docks  Newham 6,081 
  Total 73,046

These recommendations now go to parliament. If they’re approved, the next general election will be fought on these boundaries.

Legacy

10 Sep

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Legacy, a play developed with residents of the Carpenters Estate and members of the Focus E15 campaign, will be staged for three nights at the end of the month at the Rich Mix arts centre in Shoreditch.

Legacy is a celebration of community, an analysis of class and part of an artistic and social groundswell to end the so-called housing crisis. This is a naturalistic play, with a fantastical counter reality, examining the impact of the Olympic legacy and corporate investment on estate residents and their health. Over 50,000 families have been shipped out of London in the past 3 years – a result of welfare cuts and soaring private rents. Official figures show that councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families each week. That number is increasing. The main inspiration is Mary Finch who, since 2010, has lived in uncertainty when plans to demolish part or all of the Estate, her home for the past 40 years, were proposed. Since then, she has witnessed the gradual decanting of her neighbours and has been vociferous in the campaign to repopulate the estate.  

The play is very timely as the Estate was marked for demolition this year.

I was lucky enough to see a reading of the play last year and it is excellent. Tickets are £10 to £12 and can be booked online.

Deselection roadshow latest

10 Sep

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Momentum activists have been busy on Twitter and Facebook promoting their ‘deselection roadshow’ meeting with Chris Williamson tomorrow night.

And to add a little extra incentive they’ve invited a couple of extra speakers. One of them is Steve Hedley (pictured above). He is billed as a ‘national officer of the RMT’ union. Which of course he is. But he is also a veteran opponent of the Labour Party.

Until 2013 he was a member of the Socialist Party, the organisation formerly known as Militant. He left not due to ideological differences but to insulate the party from embarrassment over allegations of domestic violence made against him by his former partner.

In 2012 and 2014 he stood against Labour on the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) ticket, first for the London Assembly then in the Newham council election in East Ham South. He finished in 7th place with just 3% of the vote.

Despite an RMT investigation clearing him of the domestic violence allegation, comrades on the far left were sufficiently disturbed that they petitioned the TUSC executive to remove its endorsement of his candidacy ahead of the election, saying

“We are writing to ask you to support this petition, opposing the selection of Steve Hedley as a candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in East Ham South ward, Newham:

“We do not think this an unreasonable demand for a socialist organisation that claims to stand for ensuring “women have genuinely equal rights.”

I am not a Momentum member, so it’s not up to me to say who they should and shouldn’t invite to meetings, but it seems peculiar that an organisation of Labour members wants to hear the opinions of someone like Mr. Hedley on a matter of internal party democracy.

Unsurprisingly, I won’t be there to hear him.