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.

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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.

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.

Kilmainham Gaol

3 Sep


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Clew Bay Sunset

3 Sep


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Westport White

3 Sep


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Gaining Momentum

22 Aug

Newham Momentum members with Chris Williamson MP

Newham Momentum members with Chris Williamson MP in Ilford

Chris Williamson MP will be in Forest Gate next month to address the Newham branch of Momentum, as part of his Democracy Roadshow. Although ostensibly a call for mandatory re-selection of all Labour MPs, these ‘road show’ events are mostly being held in constituencies held by MPs on the centre left of the party, leading them to be dubbed by some as the ‘Deselection Roadshow.’ 

Earlier this month Williamson spoke in Ilford, whose two MPs – Mike Gapes and Wes Streeting – are noted Corbyn-sceptics. A number of Newham Momentum members attended, including the chair of the council’s Labour Group, Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil and former councillor Obaid Khan. This resulted in the invitation to for Williamson to come to Newham. I wonder what Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms make of that?

The Derby MP previously courted controversy by suggesting that Labour MPs who agreed with Theresa May that Russia was behind the Salisbury poisonings were as much “political enemies” as the Tories. He suggested they should face de-selection (are you sensing a pattern here?). He has also shared a platform with Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from the Labour party for haranguing Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch of the party’s anti-Semitism review in 2016.

Yesterday the Huffington Post reported:

A Labour MP has said it was a “privilege” to meet and listen to a talk by a controversial pro-Assad blogger, who has previously described murdered MP Jo Cox as a “warmongering Al Qaeda advocate”.

Vanessa Beeley made the comment in a tweet almost a year after Cox’s death, and has also written that “Zionists rule France”.

… She has written that the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from the rubble of Syria’s civil war, is a terrorist-linked organisation that fakes its activities to elicit sympathy in the West for a regime change plot against Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Who you appear on a platform with and how their views then attach to you is a hot topic right now. Might councillors who are now so publicly embracing Chris Williamson come to regret it? It’s not just MPs who can find themselves in a re-selection battle.