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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.


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.


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.


Parting gift

12 Jul

My thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who spotted that Douglas Trainer was paid £75,350.00 as “Compensation for loss of employment” when he left Newham Council in March.

In section 34 of the Draft Statement of Accounts 2017/18, relating to Officers’ Remuneration (page 79) it is stated that Mr D Trainer – Director of Customer and Strategic Services was paid the following:

  • Salary, Fees & Allowances £112,790
  • Compensation for loss of employment £75,350
  • Council’s contribution to Pension Fund £23,122

This arrives at a total Remuneration Package of £211,262.

This would make Mr Trainer the highest paid employee of the Council in 2017/18.

You will recall chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry’s email to councillors of 16 March which said:

“I would like to inform you that Douglas Trainer, Director of Customer and Strategic Services, has decided to leave us to pursue new opportunities elsewhere”

If it was his decision to leave, why was he given a £75,350 parting gift?

This happened on Sir Robin’s watch. His successor – or her cabinet member for finance – should ask Mr Bromley-Derry for an explanation. And also whether Nick Bracken and Deborah Hindson, who both resigned from senior positions after the mayoral election, have received similar payments. We shouldn’t have to wait for next year’s accounts to find out.

Rejecting Lakminism

23 Mar

Motion passed by West Ham Labour Party last night:

“Whether or not a political candidate has children is never an issue for men and nor should it be for women. It’s deeply inappropriate that anyone in the Labour Party – a party committed to equality- should make it so.

“The West Ham Women’s Forum aspires to a Newham in which a woman’s family status is never a barrier to achievement. There is much to be done nationally and locally to achieve this, whether further improving the child care offer for our residents or respecting the opportunities or private choices of party members and politicians. We urge all MPs, Councillors and Labour Party members to commit to this vision and work with us to achieve it.”

Lakmini Shah, take note.

Trainer out

16 Mar

Small beer compared to today’s other big news, but Douglas Trainer has left Newham Council.

In an email to councillors, chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry writes:

Dear Members

I would like to inform you that Douglas Trainer, Director of Customer and Strategic Services, has decided to leave us to pursue new opportunities elsewhere.

Douglas joined Newham Council in January 2011 as Head of Communications before taking up duties as Assistant Chief Executive in 2016 and most recently as Director of Customer and Strategic Services.

During his time here Douglas used his experience in public relations and public affairs to instil across the organisation an increased awareness of wider strategic, reputational, and policy matters.

We thank him for his contribution to delivering the council’s strategic priorities and many of our resident-facing activities.

Douglas’ contact details have been updated and he’s now available on [email redacted] and [phone redacted].

He is having some leaving drinks [details redacted] to which, he says, you are all invited.

This won’t come as much of a surprise, as rumours of his departure having been circulating for a while, along with lurid stories of him being marched out of the building.

It seems Mr Trainer got himself on the wrong side of chief operating officer Nick Bracken. And there was only ever going to be one winner in that fight.

All in all, not a great day for the Scottish community in Newham.

Lyn Rokhs

9 Mar