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Councillors for Corbyn

22 Jul

Labour councillors across the country have responded to “continuing right-wing attacks” on Jeremy Corbyn by signing an open letter expressing their unwavering support for the leader:

We are elected councillors who are proud to publicly represent the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. We feel compelled to write this letter to express our support for Jeremy Corbyn whilst he is personally subjected to accusations of racism and antisemitism. He is a decent man who has fought hate and fascism throughout his life. It is unjust to witness such a personal attack on a man, who was twice democratically elected because of such principles.

We owe it to ourselves to fight the scourge of antisemitism, and all other forms of hate and racism both within our party and society. We believe that a vast majority of Labour members are good, honest people who wish to create a society free from bigotry and discrimination. If there are incidents of racism, antisemitism or any forms of hate we all demand action is taken.

We strongly believe there is now a rigorous effort to reform and improve the inadequate disciplinary processes that our current General Secretary, Jennie Formby, inherited when she took over the role last year. There is still more work to be done, but we have every confidence that Jennie Formby can do this whilst protecting members’ rights to natural justice and due process.

The targeting of Jeremy Corbyn – who has a lifelong record of opposition to all forms of antisemitism, racism and hate, even when this has meant him speaking as a minority – undermines all of our efforts to achieve a fair and just society free from all forms of hate. We have no doubt in his integrity and sincerity in fighting discrimination, and we are proud to give Jeremy Corbyn the full support he deserves.

So far the letter has been signed by “over 600 councillors,” which is not quite as impressive as it sounds when you consider the party has more than 6,300 councillors (it used to be more, but the last couple of election cycles haven’t worked out that well).

Of the 60 Newham councillors, nine have so far added their names:

  • Cllr Daniel Blaney
  • Cllr John Whitworth
  • Cllr Moniba Khan
  • Cllr Sasha Das Gupta
  • Cllr Aisha Siddiqah
  • Cllr Anamul Islam
  • Cllr Mas Patel
  • Cllr Susan Masters
  • Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit

With both East Ham and West Ham CLPs in the borough now firmly in the hands of ‘Corbynistas’ (as their private WhatsApp group is called), how long before the other 51 are questioned about their lack of loyalty?

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European election results 2019

30 May

Britain and the EU 992x561

The returning officer has released the full results for Newham from last week’s European election:

Party

Votes

Percent

Labour

33,379

51%

Liberal Democrats

9,192

14%

The Brexit Party

7,730

12%

Green Party

5,353

8.2%

Conservative

3,756

5.7%

Change UK

2,234

3.4%

UKIP

1,336

2.0%

UK European Union Party

917

1.4%

Animal Welfare Party

640

1.0%

Women’s Equality Party

572

0.9%

Others (independents)

312

0.5%

Total votes

65,421

100%

Compared to the previous European election in 2014, Labour lost 7 points of vote share and the Conservatives lost 11 points. UKIP also lost share, down over 6%, though their previous vote was bettered by Farage’s new Brexit vehicle.

The big gainers were the Liberal Democrats, up 12% and the Green Party up 3.6%.

Turnout was down 3%, from 39% to 36%.

 

Itchy feet

19 Nov

Having finally got rid of Sir Robin Wales, some Labour councillors are itching to ditch the directly-elected mayoralty altogether. A motion is being put to Labour Group tonight (Monday 19 November):

Motion for a change in Newham governance arrangements 

Since 2002, the London Borough of Newham has been governed using the directly elected Mayoral model of executive arrangement to determine how decisions are made in the Council.

This Council recognises that democratic engagement should be continually promoted and Newham’s system for local governance must always reflect the ongoing need for strong democratic engagement and accountability. It should also ensure that it has a model of governance that best ensures scrutiny and a rigorous series of checks and balances on the exercise of power.

The Council notes the Localism Act 2011 which permits the holding of a binding referendum on the abolishment of the directly elected Mayoral model and replace it with a Leader and Cabinet model.  

Therefore this Council commits to hold a binding referendum by May 2020, on a change of governance from a directly elected Mayoral model to a Leader and Cabinet model.

The motion is being proposed by Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil, who is chair of the Labour Group, and seconded by Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit.

Obviously, I fully support having a referendum and will campaign for abolition of the directly elected mayoralty. But this is already the policy of the new administration. At the election in May Rokhsana Fiaz promised to hold a referendum on the directly-elected mayoralty, saying:

The Directly Elected Mayor model of governance is broken in Newham. We will hold a referendum on its future before the end of my third year as Mayor.

Despite some councillors might think (or hope), holding a referendum in May 2020 instead of 2021 won’t end the directly-elected mayoralty any sooner. Whatever happens, any change to Newham’s governance arrangements won’t come into effect until the next local elections. Rokhsana Fiaz will be the mayor until 2022.

What might happen if a referendum is held in May 2020 is the election of a Tory mayor of London. Whilst Sadiq Khan is a popular mayor his re-election is not guaranteed. Every vote will count and there’s a lot of Labour votes in Newham. Do local campaigners really want to be distracted by having to spend part of their time canvassing to get rid of the Newham mayor while at the same time trying to get votes to re-elect the London Mayor? That’s a recipe for confusion.

Labour Group should amend the motion to read ‘by May 2021’ and pass it. Then, after (hopefully) re-electing Sadiq Khan they will have a year to plan and execute a successful campaign to return Newham to a more sensible form of local government.

UPDATE:

An amendment has been submitted by Cllrs John Whitworth and Daniel Blaney removing the specific date and replacing it with

in good time for any consequent constitutional changes to be factored into the 2022 Local Elections.

A bluffer’s guide to Boleyn – redux

23 Oct

Boleyn map

The Boleyn by-election will be held on Thursday 1 November. It has been called following the resignation of Veronica Oakeshott, who is moving away from London for family reasons. Cllr Oakeshott was first elected to the council in a by-election in 2015.

History 

Boleyn ward came into existence in 2002, following a major reorganisation of boundaries in Newham, which reduced the number of wards from 24 to 20. The newly created Boleyn ward was made up from bits of the old Bemersyde, Castle, Central, Greatfield and Plaistow wards.

Greatfield ward, from which the southern part of Boleyn comes, was once a stronghold of the Residents & Ratepayers. They held the ward at every election from 1968 to 1982, when the SDP-Liberal Alliance won. Labour took all three seats in 1986, but lost two of them in 1990 to the Conservatives. The ward went back to Labour in 1994 and stayed that way.

The northern part of Boleyn mostly comes from Castle ward, where Sir Robin Wales first cut his teeth in Newham politics. He was elected there, as plain old ‘Robert A Wales’, in 1982.

Although Respect came close to causing an upset in 2006 Labour has won Boleyn ward at every election since it came into existence.

At the election in May there were 9,900 voters on the electoral roll in the ward. Entirely predictably, the three Labour candidates cruised home.

Candidate Party Votes
Genevieve Kitchen Labour 2824
Veronica Oakeshott Labour 2544
Harvinder Singh Virdee       Labour 2280
Md Fazlul Karim Conservative 693
Sayadur Rahman Conservative 450
Helen Lynch Green 405
Khatija Meaby Conservative       384

Population & Demographics*

Population:

  • Total: 15,932
  • Male: 53%
  • Female: 47%
  • Average age (mean): 31
  • Median age: 29

Households:

  • Total: 4,928
  • Avg HH size: 3
  • One-person HHs: 24%
  • Deprived HHs: 77%
    • Single deprivation: 37%
    • Multiple deprivation: 40%
  • Owner-occupied: 42%
  • Private rent: 31%
  • Social rent: 26%
  • Overcrowded HHs: 33%

Religion:

  • Christian: 35%
  • Hindu: 10%
  • Muslim: 40%
  • Other: 3%
  • No religion/not stated: 12%

Ethnicity:

  • White British: 13%
  • Other white: 9%
  • Asian/British Asian: 55%
  • Black/Black British: 16%
  • Mixed/multiple: 4%
  • Arab/other: 4%

Place of birth:

  • Born in UK: 46%
  • Born in EU (ex. UK): 8%
  • Born other countries: 47%

Time in the UK:

  • In the UK less than 5 years: 35%
  • In the UK 5 – 9 years: 20%
  • In the UK 10 years or more: 45%

Economic activity (16-74 yr olds)

  • Economically active: 49%
    • In employment: 32%
    • Self-employed: 7%
    • Looking for work: 9%
  • Economically inactive: 51%
    • Retired: 23%
    • Looking after home/family: 7%
    • Long-term sick/disabled: 14%
    • Other: 5%
    • Students: 3%

* Based on 2011 Census. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

2015 candidates

Labour’s Moniba Khan has lived in the ward for the past 18 years and has been active in community campaigns. Her husband, Obaid Khan, represented the ward from 2014 to 2018.

Fazlul Karim also lives in the ward with his family and runs two businesses on Barking Road. In the May local elections he stood as one of the Conservative  candidates in Boleyn, finishing fourth.

Green party candidate Frankie-Rose Taylor describes herself in her Twitter bio as a ’Performance artist/Comedian/Poet.’ She is convenor for Newham Greens and co-chair of London Young Greens. She fought the Boleyn by-election in 2015 and contested Forest Gate North in May this year.

The Liberal Democrats are standing Arunsalam Pirapaharan. He previously contested Wall End ward for the party in 2010 and stood before that as an independent.

The issues 

Housing. Housing. Flytipping. And housing.

Look at the map. The Boleyn Ground stands at the heart of the ward. The 850 ‘luxury homes’ to be built there will have a huge impact on the character of the area. Shortly after the last by-election Newham Council secured agreement that 25% of the homes would be ‘affordable’. The then mayor, Sir Robin Wales, announced in a press release his intention to ‘top up’ the affordable housing allocation by a further 10% by making an £18m investment, thereby bringing the total amount of affordable housing to 35%. This promise was subsequently broken when the council decided it would buy the original 25%, rather than allow another social housing provider to acquire them. Newham spent its money (including the £18m) on buying the original 25%, leaving nothing left for the 10% top up. The net result was 84 fewer affordable homes.

Labour’s opponents will talk about this and the generally filthy state of the borough. Efforts to tackle the scourge of fly tipping are being made, but it’s all too easy to point at the rotting mattresses and broken furniture and promise to make it go away. 

Counting cock-up

11 Oct

Newham council has been forced to correct the results from the May elections in three wards after mistakes were made in tabulating the counted votes.

The error was spotted by a Green Party election agent, who filed a complaint. The subsequent investigation involved the Electoral Commission.

Hundreds of votes were incorrectly attributed to the wrong candidates, but the mistake did not affect the overall outcome of the elections – the right people were declared the winners.

The issue arose where candidates who had used a ‘commonly used’ surname on the ballot paper. By law, the ballot paper must put candidates in alphabetical order of commonly used surnames. Then once the votes were counted, they are transferred onto the declaration of results. However, the declaration of results (and supporting declaration sheet) must place the candidates in order by legal surname. This can change the order of the candidates between the ballot paper and declaration where the surnames are different. In Stratford and NewTown, the Green candidate appeared on the ballot paper as Rachel Collinson and on the declaration sheet as Rachel Nunson. As a result her name was lower on the declaration sheet than the ballot paper.

When officials transferred the number of ‘split votes’ (where voters hadn’t cast all of their votes for the same party) on to the declaration sheet they failed to account for the changed positions and attributed votes to the wrong candidates.

As a result the Green candidates in two wards had their results significantly under-reported. In Stratford and New Town, Labour’s Josh Garfield was deprived of over 800 votes. Conservative, Christian and Liberal Democrat candidates were each reported as receiving hundreds more votes than were actually cast for them. 

Nate Higgins, who was a Green Party candidate in Forest Gate North, said 

“The truth is that though the council’s incompetence, there is now doubt in the entire foundation our democracy is based on. This only came out through the hard work of a local Green activist. Greens are holding the Labour one party state in Newham to account even before we’ve been elected to the council. It’s time for Greens to do it from within the council chamber. If they’ve bungled something as important and serious as our elections, what else have they screwed up?”

The correct results, and the variance from the originally published totals, are shown below:

Stratford and New Town

Candidate Party Original Revised Change
Gareth Benjamin Evans Liberal Democrat 1478 1195 -283
John Falana Christian Peoples Alliance 734 172 -562
Joshua Isaac Daniel Garfield Labour 2481 3288 807
Andrius Kavaliauskas Conservative 1341 642 -699
Sheree Venessa Miller Liberal Democrat 741 848 107
Rachel Anne Collinson Green 387 1017 630
Nareser Osei Labour 2970 2970 0
John Milton Oxley Conservative 639 635 -4
Terence Matthew Paul Labour 2821 2825 4
James Alan Rumsby Liberal Democrat 790 790 0
Shardi Claire Shameli Conservative 529 529 0
Esther Smith Christian Peoples Alliance 136 136 0

Beckton

Candidate Party Original Revised Change
Syed Hussain Ahmed Independent 598 598 0
James Edward Asser Labour 1722 1722 0
Ayesha Chowdhury Labour 1717 1717 0
Chike Dunkwu Christian Peoples Alliance 142 142 0
Emmanuel Finndoro-Obasi Conservative 454 296 -158
Joshua Darren Lindl Conservative 635 454 -181
Jane Alison Lithgow Green 152 428 276
Constance Nasmyth Conservative 296 359 63
Alice Olaiya Christian Peoples Alliance 144 144 0
June Taylor Christian Peoples Alliance 193 193 0
Tonii Wilson Labour 1445 1445 0

Green Street West

Candidate Party Original Revised Change
Hanif Abdulmuhit Labour 2991 2991 0
Muhammad N. Chishti Conservative 696 696 0
Mushtaq Hussain Labour 2715 2715 0
Mumtaz Khan Labour 2591 2591 0
Abdul Karim Sheikh Conservative 611 709 98
Kamran Yousaf [Qureshi] Conservative 709 611 -98

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.

Newham and the IHRA

4 Sep

No-one can accuse Newham council of not being ahead of the curve. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition of antisemitism’ was debated in September of last year. And, as with the national Labour Party now, there was disagreement about the 11 illustrative examples. A motion to adopt the definition in full, with all examples, was proposed by Cllr Clive Furness and seconded by Terry Paul.

Concerns about free speech and the ability to criticise Israel were raised in Labour Group and I am told there was a “left faction” led by Cllr Anam Islam who claimed many Muslim voters were ‘troubled’. There was another group, led by Rokshana Fiaz, then a backbench councillor, who championed the removal of the examples in order to maintain group cohesion. That argument won the day.

An amendment was put at council – and accepted by the proposers – that removed all 11 examples and made some other minor adjustments to the text. 

The amended motion was unanimously agreed by Council (reproduced below exactly as it appears in the minutes):

This council notes: 

This Council expresses alarm at the rise in antisemitism in recent years across the UK. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes. Criticism of Israel can be legitimate, but not if it employs the tropes and imagery of antisemitism.

This Council therefore welcomes the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, making Britain one of the first countries in the world to adopt it. This definition has also been adopted by the Labour Party and featured in the Labour Party’s Race and Faith Manifesto (page 12) published during the 2017 General Election. The IHRA definition defines antisemitism as thus:

This Council notes that:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

This Council welcomes support within the Council for combating antisemitism in all its manifestations.

This Council hereby resolves to adopt the above definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism through awareness raising and education; and through engagement with the range of Jewish opinion on how best to address antisemitism in addition with all communities that live in Newham.

This Council also condemns all forms of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and sexism and on-line abuse and we commit to fighting against them.