Tag Archives: elections

Where’s Robin – again?

29 Feb

WestHamLabour 2016 Feb 13

Visioncampaigns 2016 Feb 13

WestHamLabour 2016 Feb 27 1

WestHamLabour 2016 Feb 27

ChowdhuryAyesha 2016 Feb 27

Newham Labour activists (mostly councillors, if you look closely) have been out, pounding the pavements, ahead of May’s London mayoral and assembly elections. And of course they’ve been posting pictures of themselves all over Twitter and Facebook.

But one very prominent local member is conspicuous by his absence.

Where’s Robin?

Fifty shades

14 Jul

Desai4CityEast

Labour party members across east London received an email from Newham councillor Unmesh Desai over the weekend. He wants to be the party’s candidate for the London Assembly seat of City & East in next year’s election. The incumbent, John Biggs, now has more pressing business as mayor of Tower Hamlets so Desai hopes to realise a long-held ambition:

I am Unmesh Desai, I want to be your candidate for City and East London next May because I want to bring City Hall closer to our communities.  I want to see more important decisions made locally.

I have a solid track record of three decades of community campaigning across East London as an activist, trade unionist and a councillor. 
I am delighted to have received key endorsements from my local MPs Stephen Timms and Lyn Brown, Newham’s Mayor Sir Robin Wales and our MEP Claude Moraes. 50 Newham councillors are backing me, as are councillors, activists and campaigners from every parliamentary constituency, as well as the GMB.

I have the passion, commitment and determination to ensure our voice is heard loud and clear at City Hall.

Nominations close on 31st July and your constituency will meet before then to decide who to nominate. If you want to find out more about me and my campaign, please do get in touch.

Alternatively they could look at his campaign website, unmeshdesai.com.

You can see more about my experience here: INSERT LINK.

Oops.

Something else that’s missing is a list of the “50 Newham councillors” he claims are backing him. 

I’d back myself to name ten councillors who wouldn’t support Desai if he was running for town dog catcher, so the idea that he has the active support of every one of the rest is hard to believe.

But of course he could prove me wrong by publishing the names. Go on, Unmesh: INSERT LIST.

Election results – 2015

8 May

East Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Stephen Creswell Timms Labour 40563 78%
Samir Jassal Conservative 6311 12%
Daniel Charles Oxley UKIP 2622 5%
Tamsin Julia Mucha Omond Green 1299 2%
David Thorpe Liberal Democrat 856 2%
Mohammed Farid Aslam Communities United 409 1%
Lois Austin TUSC 230 0%

 

West Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Lyn Carol Brown Labour 36132 68%
Festus Akinbusoye Conservative 8146 15%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 3950 7%
Rachel Anne Collinson Green 2651 5%
Paul Reynolds Liberal Democrat 1430 3%
Andy Uzoka Christian Peoples All. 369 1%
Cydatty Bogie Communities United 115 0%

 

Stratford & New Town – council by-election

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Charlene McLean Labour 4607 57%
Matthew Gass Conservative 1778 22%
Isabelle Clare Anderson Green 1170 14%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 403 5%
Joe Mettle Christian Peoples All. 99 1%
Bob Severn TUSC 70 1%

 

There’s really not a lot to say about any of this. The results were a forgone conclusion even before the candidates were formally announced, though Stephen Timms’ 78% share of the vote is certainly eye-catching. I doubt there’s another MP in the country with as much as that.

Charlene McLean was easily returned to the council, with what is now the highest personal vote of any member. Something she might mention to Sir Robin when she sees him at Labour group on Monday!

In West Ham Festus Akinbusoye, the Tory candidate, put up a decent show in what he knew was an unwinnable seat. I don’t share his politics, but I can’t help but wish him luck for the future. The Conservatives made a lot of fuss about the number of new BAME candidates they had selected, while neglecting to mention that they were all in hopeless seats. If there’s any justice central office will give him a crack at something better next time. Samir Jassal’s ‘Vote for Firstname Lastname’ blunder on his leaflets – which went viral and even appeared on Have I Got News for You – is unlikely to be looked on so kindly.

The Greens can be proud of their achievements too. A saved deposit in West Ham (by 12 votes – who says every vote doesn’t count?) and over 1,100 votes – a 14% share – in the Stratford by-election. Starting from a zero base in the ward that is impressive. 

There was some concern on Twitter this morning about UKIP coming third in both seats. Yes, they did. But it is a very, very distant third. The hard right continues – thankfully – to struggle in Newham.

Finally, as I predicted, the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in both seats. Their failure to even put up a candidate for the council by-election shows they no longer have any real presence in Newham. Is that the sound of the world’s smallest violin I hear? 

Wreckless Robin

6 May

Wreckless Robin

The phantom leafleter of Forest Gate struck again last night, delivering a pre-election message to local households.

Previous examples of the phantom’s work:

Where’s Robin?

16 Apr

The start of the election campaign has seen Twitter flooded with pictures of activists out doing their bit for the party. Newham’s Labour councillors have been doing their bit, in locations from East Ham to East Dunbartonshire.

ChowdhuryAyesha 2015 Apr 04

Councillors Jose Alexander, Unmesh Desai, Ayesha Chowdhury & Susan Masters in East Ham

James Beckles 2015 Apr 11

Councillors James Beckles, Aleen Alarice and Terry Paul in West Ham

WestHamLabour 2015 Mar 28

Councillors John Whitworth, Aleen Alarice, John Gray, Julianne Marriott and Neil Wilson campaigning with Mike Gapes in Ilford

Tahmina Rahman 2015 Apr 04 2

Tahmina Rahman with fellow councillors Gray and Abdulmuhit

Mwarne 2015 Apr 13

A rare sighting of Forest Gate community lead councillor Rohima Rahman campaigning in Ilford with Unmesh Desai, Jose Alexander and Stephen Timms

WestHamLabour 2015 Apr 11

Lyn Brown talking to voters in Stratford with councillor James Beckles and by-election candidate Charlene McLean

Tahmina Rahman 2015 Mar 28

Eight Newham councillors on the doorstep in Scotland: Forhad Hussain, Ellie Robinson, David Christie, Joy Laguda, Hanif Abdulmuhit, Terry Paul, Lester ‘3 jobs’ Hudson and Tahmina Rahman.

There is one highly notable absentee from these pictures. Concerned citizens and Labour activists alike have to ask, where’s Robin?

Mysterious disappearing voters

8 Sep

How many voters are there in Newham?

This was sitting on the electoral register page of the council website for about a year (I took the screenshot in May, just after the elections):

Referendum 1

If 10,350 is 5% of registered voters, simple maths tells us that the total number of people on the electoral register in Newham in April 2013 was exactly 207,000.

But according to the published results for the council elections, the electorate in May 2014 was just 195,419. Some 11,581 voters vanished from the rolls in a year. 

The electoral register page has recently been updated. I grabbed this image today:

Referendum 2

So now the electoral roll stands at 192,600. Another 2,819 voters have disappeared in the last three months.

A decline in local voters is not entirely unprecedented. Between 1971 and 1998 Newham’s electorate declined from 183,00 to 139,000. But those were very different economic times. In recent years Newham’s population has been booming. Between 2001 and 2011 it grew from 243,905 to 308,000 – that’s an increase of close to 26%.

So why, I wonder, has the number of registered voters in the borough taken a sudden nosedive in the past 18 months?

Beckton by-election

23 Jul

Following the death of Councillor Alec Kellaway in June there will have to be a by-election in Beckton to replace him.

No date has yet been set, but the Notice of Vacancy has very quietly been published on the council website. 

The notice is dated 21st July and the election will have to be held within 35 working days of 2 local electors writing to the returning office to request it. Assuming this has been carefully choreographed and they do that this week, Thursday 4th September is the most likely date.

Labour’s candidate selection process is already well advanced. The final meeting will be tomorrow.

Local members are not being trusted to make their choice unaided, so two of Sir Robin’s close lieutenants, councillors Unmesh Desai and Ken Clark, have been placed on the panel. We can therefore be confident that whoever wins will have the mayoral seal of approval.

In May the leading Tory candidate, Syed Ahmed, finished 700 votes adrift of Alec Kellaway, but Labour can’t be too complacent.

At the last council by-election in Royal Docks in 2009, Steve Brayshaw only narrowly beat off the Tory challenger. His 15 vote majority was uncomfortably narrow. And those with longer memories will recall by-elections in Bemersyde in 1991 and Greatfield in 1992 that Labour actually lost. 

Sitting Beckton councillors Chowdhury and Christie would be advised to cancel any holiday plans and buy some comfortable shoes. They’ll be pounding the streets for the rest of the summer.

Turns out

9 Jun

Turnout

Newham’s electorate and turnout at borough-wide elections since 1964 (source: LBN)

Year Electorate Turnout
1964 179,870 29.4%
1968 177,134 25.1%
1971 183,134 29.4%
1974 176,445 22.5%
1978 176,760 31.1%
1982 163,758 31.4%
1986 160,536 34.9%
1990 157,951 36.5%
1994 151,895 37.6%
1998 139,273 28.4%
2002 157,505 25.5%
2006 187,702 34.5%
2010 195,058 52.74%
2014 195,419 40.6%

A few random observations:

Firstly, citizen engagement with local politics remains appalling low. Only once in the history of the borough has turnout exceeded 50% and that was driven by the general election being held on the same day. Even the lure (ahem) of the European elections wasn’t sufficient to get 60% of voters to bother.

Why don’t more people make the effort? This isn’t just a Newham problem. Across London turnout for local elections hovered around the 40% mark. Despite having come a long way from the low point of 22.5% turnout in 1974 there’s a looming crisis of democratic legitimacy.

The lazy answer is that we just need to make voting easier. But it’s already ridiculously easy: polling stations are within walking distance and open for 15 hours; postal votes are available on demand. It has to be about making local politics relevant and engaging people in conversations about things that are important to them and their communities; it has to be about making people feel their vote will count; and it has to be about making local politics more than just getting the vote out once every four years.

Secondly, take a look at the size of the electorate in 2010 and 2014. Thousands of new homes are being built in the borough and there’s been a significant increase in over-crowding. We know the local population is rising rapidly, yet the number of registered voters has grown by less than 400.

Does that strike you as odd?

Then there’s the difference between the size of electorate for local elections and for the European election.

According the results published by Newham, turnout for the Euros was 43.6% based on an electorate of 173,606. That’s almost 22,000 less than for the local election.

People entitled to vote in local government elections are all also entitled to vote in European elections – British citizens, Irish citizens, Commonwealth citizens and EU citizens living in the UK. So where did all those voters go? Were people who wanted to vote in the European election turned away?

Getting things in proportion

4 Jun

PR Council

Newham council would look very different under PR

Last week the Hackney Citizen reported that in their borough the Greens would have won seven seats under a proportional voting system, whereas they actually got none – despite getting more than 20% of the vote.  In total PR would have delivered twelve opposition councillors, rather than the seven actually elected (four Tories, three LibDems).

Things in Newham are even worse.

For the second election running, not a single opposition councillor was elected, despite one-third of voters choosing candidates from parties other than Labour. According to the council’s own results webpage, the Conservatives got 24% of the vote.

Using exactly the same analysis as the Hackney Citizen – applying the proportional representation system used in the European elections to the Newham results – the Tories would have won twelve seats, making them the largest opposition group. And, despite standing in only a handful of wards, UKIP would have two councillors.

Labour would have won all three seats in six of the 20 wards – Boleyn, Canning Town North, Forest Gate North, Little Ilford, Stratford & New Town, and West Ham – and two in all the rest. UKIP would have taken a seat in Canning Town South and in Custom House, with the Tories taking a seat in each of the 12 remaining wards.

How did I work this out?

The system used in the European election relies on voters selecting a single party, rather than vote for individual candidates as they do in ‘first past the post’ elections. To get around this I averaged the votes for the candidates for each party. I did this in every ward.  From this I could then apply the D’Hondt method to calculate the results.

Taking Forest Gate South as an example, this is the actual result:

Candidate Party Votes
Masihullah Patel Labour 2209 Elected
Dianne Walls Labour 2095 Elected
Winston Vaughan Labour 2023 Elected
Mahboob Rizu Ahmed Conservative 993
Asif Choudhary Conservative 976
Tim Roll-Pickering Conservative 693
William Heron Liberal Democrat 293
Niall Mulholland TUSC 238
Dieutane Jean Parson Christian Peoples Alliance 179
Malcolm Williamson Christian Peoples Alliance 159
Ionel Vrancianu Independent 101

This gives an average party vote of:

Party Votes
Labour 2109
Conservative 887
Liberal Democrats 293
TUSC 238
CPA 169
Independent 101

Since Labour has the most votes they win the first of the three seats available.

For the second seat the votes for each party are divided by the number of seats they have won, plus 1. So Labour’s vote is divided by two and the other parties are divided by one (so they stay the same), which gives us:

Party Votes
Labour 1055
Conservative 887
Liberal Democrats 293
TUSC 238
CPA 169
Independent 101

Labour still has the most votes and wins the second seat.

For the third and final seat the votes for each party are again divided by the number of seats they have won, plus 1. So now we divide the original Labour vote by three, as it has already won two seats, and the other parties stay the same:

Party Votes
Labour 703
Conservative 887
Liberal Democrats 293
TUSC 238
CPA 169
Independent 101

In this round the Conservatives have the most votes, so they win the last seat. Forest Gate South has two Labour and one Conservative councillor.

A note of caution

These are only approximations since there’s no way of calculating with absolute certainty the result under proportional representation because of the differences between this system and first past the post. There’s also no way of knowing if changing the voting system changes people’s voting behaviour. Or if a different voting system would encourage more parties to stand candidates in more seats.

But it does provide a reasonable basis – using real results and a system actually used in the UK – to argue that our current voting system for local government is broken. It delivers an unfair result and a council that does not truly reflect the diverse political opinions of the community it is meant to serve.

Random election facts

25 May

2014 05 24 17 27 24

  • Largest number of votes cast (ward): Little Ilford
  • Highest turnout (ward): East Ham North – 51.97%
  • Lowest turnout (ward): Beckton – 31.8%
  • Highest personal vote: Farah Nazeer (Labour, Little Ilford) – 2,997
  • Lowest vote (all):  Moriamo Sadiq (Christian Peoples Alliance, East Ham North) – 68
  • Lowest vote for an elected candidate: Anthony McAlmont (Labour, Royal Docks) – 1,201
  • Highest vote for a losing candidate:  Ilyas Sharif (Conservative, East Ham North) – 1,547
  • Beckton had the closest contest, with just 680 votes in it
  • The Conservatives finished in second place in 16 wards; UKIP were runners-up in 3 wards – Canning Town North, Canning Town South and Custom House – while the Green party finished behind Labour in Forest Gate North

In 2010 Labour not only won all 60 seats but had the top 60 candidates ranked by personal vote: no losing candidate in one ward got more votes than a winning candidate in another. That’s not the case this time. The 60 most popular candidates includes 3 Tories – Ilyas Sharif (East Ham North), Ashfaq Ahmed (Green St East) and Durai Kannan (East Ham North). In fact 7 unsuccessful Conservatives polled more votes than Anthony McAlmont, Labour’s lowest ranking candidate.

Ultimately this is meaningless, as the election is fought across 20 wards with varying electorates and turnouts. But it does point to the underlying absurdity of our current electoral system.