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By-election. But not yet.

26 Aug

Julainanne Marriott

Julianne Marriott (left) in her role as education lead

Julianne Marriott has resigned as a councillor for East Ham Central ward. She had announced at a meeting of the Council July that she was standing down as Cabinet member for Education and is now leaving the council altogether.

If a by-election is called to replace her it won’t take place until 6th May 2021, in accordance with the current Coronavirus regulations. So there’s plenty of time for Newham’s political parties to pick their candidates!

Ms Marriott was first elected in 2014 and was re-elected 2018. She will now be devoting herself to a new full-time job. My understanding is that her new role is not politically restricted, so there was no legal requirement for her to resign. She could have sat quietly on the back benches until the next election, collecting the £11,000 a year allowance. That she chose not to is entirely to her credit.

In a farewell note to colleagues she said (emphasis added)

Representing the people of East Ham Central and being part of Newham Council for six years has been an amazing experience and one that I’ve learned so much from. I will forever be a cheerleader for Newham and the role of local government. I can only hope that this Tory Government learns to feel the same way.

The Tories have systematically underfunded and undermined local government over the last 10 years and has now left us with an over £33m bill for supporting our most vulnerable residents through Covid-19. I can only sign off with the exhortation that there is a real enemy out there – and it’s one we need to focus our energy on fighting.

i look forward to seeing you on the doorstep as part of our journey to getting the Labour government Newham’s residents need.

Notice of a casual vacancy has been posted on the council website.

One man, four parties

16 Apr

Albdul Karim Sheikh

Former councillor Abdul Karim Sheikh

Tributes were paid this week to Abdul Karim Sheikh, former councillor and ceremonial mayor of Newham, who has sadly passed away at the age of 82 having contracted Covid-19.

On Twitter Newham Jack (who he?) asked ‘Is he the only person to have stood for election in Newham representing four different political parties?’

While I don’t know the answer to that I can confirm his political career did indeed span standing for four very different parties.

He first stood for the council in Plashet ward in 1986 for the Independent Newham Broad Alliance. He finished in last place with 401 votes.

By 1990 he had joined Labour and was selected to contest Kensington ward, where he romped home with a majority of 1,300. He switched to St Stephens ward in 1994, winning re-election easily. In 1998 he was selected for Upton ward; as no other party put up a candidate the Labour slate was returned unopposed.

2002 saw him stand for the last time on the Labour ticket, this time in Green Street West. He defected to Respect in 2005. 

In an interview with Socialist Worker he explained

The new system of a directly elected mayor, brought in four years ago, has changed the council into a dictatorship. The mayor, Robin Wales, was originally against the mayor plan, but changed his mind after the referendum.

I left the Labour Party and joined Respect last year, partly because I felt councillors were no longer listened to.

The system takes power away from even elected members of the council. That’s why Respect is talking about trying to reverse this system.

Cllr Sheikh was narrowly re-elected in Green Street West for his new party in 2006 alongside Hanif Abdulmuhit, who has since returned to the Labour Party.

He left the council in 2010 after Respect were heavily defeated.

2014 saw him try again in Green Street West. This time for the Conservatives. He was unsuccessful, trailing the winning Labour candidates by more than 1,500 votes. He contested the 2018 election for the Tories again and, completing the circle started 32 years before, he came last.

One man, four parties. Perhaps a unique contribution to local politics.

Suspended?

22 Feb

Mehmood Mirza with Peter Willsman

Mehmood Mirza (right) with Peter Willsman in September 2018

Alternative ‘news’ site The Skwawkbox is reporting that West Ham CLP membership officer Mehmood Mirza has been suspended from the Labour Party after a compliant about his conduct. Mirza is currently running for a seat on the party’s national executive committee as the BAME representative.

According to The Swawkbox

Mehmood Mirza, who received 75 nominations from local parties, would be unable to publicise the nature of the complaint because of Labour’s confidentiality requirements. However, while the precise nature of the complaint is unknown, a Labour source has told the SKWAWKBOX that parts relate to Mirza applauding a speaker’s comments at a Labour Party meeting and walking around a meeting after members were asked to remain seated.

The SKWAWKBOX also understands that Mirza’s supporters allege that the complaint was lodged by a figure on the left of the party.

Two hours before Mirza received notification from the party, he received a call from the right-wing Telegraph newspaper asking him to comment on the complaint.

The story has indeed reached the Telegraph, although it is less certain about his suspension

Mehmood Mirza, the frontrunner to become the next BAME representative on Labour’s ruling body, was reported for posting an allegedly anti-Semitic cartoon on Facebook.

The member of public who reported Mr Mirza, the vice chair of the West Ham Labour party, has not heard back from the party despite the complaints being initially made in October last year.

The cartoon in question, which Mr Mirza shared on his Facebook page, depicted a sticker with the words “anti-Semitism” being placed across the mouth of a man who has a “free Palestine” band around his head.

The cartoon was created by Carlos Latuff, a Brazillian artist who has previously been accused of creating anti-Semitic content by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the human rights organisation.

… Mr Mirza still appears as a candidate on the party’s official website, though The Telegraph understands he may have been suspended.

Whatever the outcome, this will be an embarrassment to those who have endorsed him.

West Ham CLP’s general committee meets on Thursday. If Mirza has been suspended he won’t be able to attend.

Election 2019 Results

16 Dec

Stephen Timms, Rokhsana Fiaz and Lyn Brown

No surprises in Newham, as Labour easily held both of the borough’s Parliamentary seats. The party’s share of the vote declined slightly, but neither Stephen Timms nor Lyn Brown will be losing any sleep over that.

East Ham

Stephen Timms (Labour) – 41,703

Scott Pattenden (Conservative) – 8,527

Michael Fox (Liberal Democrat) – 2,158

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert (Brexit Party) – 1,107

Mike Spracklin (Green Party) – 883

Kamran Malik (Communities United Party) – 250

Labour majority of 33,147

 

West Ham

Lyn Brown (Labour) – 42,181

Sara Kumar (Conservative) – 9,793

Eimear O’Casey (Liberal Democrat) – 4,161

Danny Keeling (Green Party) – 1,780

Emma Jane Stockdale (Brexit Party) – 1,679,

Paul Jobson (Christian People’s Alliance) – 463

Humera Kamran (Communities United Party) – 143

Labour majority of 32,388

Maryland Point

30 Oct

Map of proposed Maryland ward

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has published its draft proposal for re-warding Newham and it represents a major victory for local campaigners in Maryland. They argued that their community deserved direct representation on the council and the Commission agreed.

When I wrote about the council’s own proposals I expected them to be accepted. I was mostly right – but also quite wrong.

The Boundary Commission has adopted the majority of Newham’s recommendations, but re-drawn the map in the north of the borough to accommodate a new Maryland ward, which extends from Leyton Road in the west to Field Road in the east and takes in the roads around UEL’s Stratford campus in the south. If adopted, it will elect three councillors.

As a result three other wards have significant changes. The proposed Stratford East Village ward is now smaller and renamed Olympic East Village; it will have two councillors. Forest Gate North is also smaller, having lost almost all of the streets off Forest Lane west of the community school. But it gains the parts of the Woodgrange Estate that currently sit in Forest Gate South. The redrawn FGN will elect two councillors. Forest Gate South, shorn of the Woodgrange Estate, the area around the UEL and streets west of Water Lane, is also reduced to two councillors.

Stratford Olympic Park ward will simply be known as Stratford.

For what it’s worth, I think the boundary between the proposed new ward and Forest Gate North is absurd. Even if you accept that Maryland is a distinct community (I am personally unconvinced) there is no way it extends almost the entire length of Forest Lane. A more sensible boundary would be the western edge of Forest Lane Park and the cemetery.

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?

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