Tag Archives: Labour

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?

LGBT or not LGBT?

28 Jun

By Rohit K Dasgupta

Today at my CLP I lost the LGBT Officer post because a straight white man stood against me.

His statement did not have one sentence about LGBT campaigning. Those sharing homophobic content today clapped. There was mass walkout in disgust. I might actually be done. Over to you @UKLabour

How can someone who espoused homophobic views just today get to vote on who represents the LGBT community in our CLP? Tell me why those who have been homophobic & intimidated us – complaints of which were sent a year ago – are still in the party and can pass judgement on our lives?

A straight white man was voted by a straight majority GC to be the LGBT Officer. Tell me how the Labour Party is still the party for equality and social justice? Tell me why I shouldn’t tear up my card right now. Tell me why this CLP is still not under special measures @UKLabour.

As we left we were booed and asked to f*** off by several people? Who were they?

  1. Someone who compares Gay people to paedophiles!

D GgeEgXYAIMMQH

 

  1. Then there was another who tweets about traditional marriage and retweets Mufti Menk (a homophobic hate preacher).

  2. And of course, there was the one from today who shared videos about disrupting inclusive SRE in the borough & claimed his phone was stolen & other people shared it. @UKLabour, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t want to name & shame them until you deal with the complaints

D GgfDOW4AEXqNM

Finally the person who stood against me who doesn’t for once say how he self identifies in his statement or in his speech. This is what we are dealing with. How is he going to ensure a strong voice for LGBT people when every LGBT person left the room after his election in disgust.

D GgfdpX4AUVAdA

This was my 1 min speech. I am now on an overnight train to Scotland for a conference.

If someone told me five years ago we would be seeing a roll back of LGBT rights I would have laughed but with the rise of the far right that is exactly what is happening.

I grew up in India where being gay was criminalised until very recently- threats of arrest, threats of death and threats of physical violence is what has shaped my queer politics & I won’t cower.

I joined Labour ten years ago because we are the party of equality & social justice. During this time I have been a parliamentary candidates, a Euro candidate and elected a councillor.

Last year we became the first local authority to celebrate LGBT history month and fly the inclusive rainbow flag.

There are two big issues LGBT people currently face in this borough – racism & homophobia. For me they go hand in hand. As Audre Lorde said there are no single issue politics as we don’t lead single issue lives.

Being queer is more than an identity for me, it is my life. From fighting oppression to challenging injustice I will continue to not just be a political officer in this role but a street campaigner.

Please support me.

Come what may LGBT rights will need a voice in this borough & I alongside my fab 🏳️‍🌈 councillors & friends will continue that.

No threats can stop us. Starts next week✊🏾

 

Originally posted as a Twitter thread on Thursday 27 June 2019. Reproduced by permission

West Ham CLP chair resigns

28 Jun

Josephine Grahl, chair of West Ham constituency Labour Party has resigned, less than 24 hours after the AGM where she was re-elected unopposed.

With a huge sense of relief I have just resigned as Chair of West Ham CLP.

The exhausting experience of chairing a set of increasingly hostile meetings has taken a personal toll. Last night’s AGM gave me no sense that there is a majority on the general committee who are interested in a collective effort to achieve our shared aims.

If there is a time when the left ought to be generous, confident and open it is surely now in Britain, despite the dark times we live in. I’ve never been interested in factional politics; I’ve never thought that individual political positions should take precedence over any other qualities, such as kindness, honesty, or diligence; and I’ve never understood why political disagreement should be a cause for personal hostility.

The arid insularity of some political activism pre-Corbyn always struck me as a symptom of the weakness of the left, not a viable way to organise for a better future. This is no longer a ‘pre Corbyn’ political era, and that excites me and motivates me. It includes an inevitable conflict, but I don’t believe that this has to be played out in the local party as it currently is in West Ham – a situation which looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In any case you can’t chair this kind of war; you can only fight it, or refuse to fight. I have no intention of continuing to preside over a battleground in which defeating one’s internal opponents takes precedence over advancing the cause of socialism. There are more productive outlets for my political energy.

I’m saddened that people who have worked tirelessly to achieve what I saw as our shared aims – a better party, a better Labour Council, a Labour government – were rejected last night in favour of those who have no such record.

Furthermore, there are publicly and privately expressed concerns that one of the new self-identifying officers has not been sincere about their identification. If this is the case, it’s also a deeply concerning situation. Seema Chandwani, the Vice-Chair of London Labour, has already picked this up; at a time when the rights of LGBT+ people are under threat globally the left must be in the forefront of the struggle to defend these.

Some of the best people I know are in the local party and I hope they know who they are. In particular I wouldn’t have been able to endure the low points of the last year without the kindness, integrity, and wisdom of John Saunders.

The struggle continues. But not this struggle.

Disclosure: I attended the AGM last night as delegate from Newham Co-operative Party

West Ham Labour cancels meeting

1 Apr

Wenborne and Hedley

The CWU Postal Engineering Branch delegate to West Ham CLP (left, obvs.) in his other job.

West Ham Labour party cancelled its monthly general committee (GC) meeting last week, after rival motions were proposed on the matter of antisemitism in the party. One affirms “our solidarity with the Jewish community and the Jewish Labour Movement as antisemitism in the UK continues to rise and is found within our own party.” Another confirms the CLP’s “implacable hostility to all forms of racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia, and its determination to fight them in all their manifestations.”

But a third, proposed by the Postal Engineering Branch of the Communications Workers Union, “refutes the allegation that Labour is antisemitic” and

rejects the current atmosphere of hysteria, denunciation and rush-to-judgement over antisemitism that is now being stoked by certain existing and ex-Labour MPs and amplified by the mainstream media…

…too often, accusations of anti-semitism are blown out of all proportion; use distorted comments or quotations taken out of context; or are levelled against those who are making justified criticism of the unjust treatment of Palestinians by the current Israeli government.

The motion continues: “This relentless focus on antisemitism is diverting the public’s attention… and side-lining other forms of racism such as Islamophobia and other prejudices against immigrants.” It alleges that allegations of bullying in the party are “a cynical tactic by those Labour MPs who have become unpopular with their local members because they are unwilling to democratically represent them.”

This all follows an ill-tempered episode during the February GC meeting when the guest speaker Dr Bob Gill, who had been invited to speak on the NHS, made a comment in which he suggested that allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party were ‘fake’ and ‘a distraction.’ Formal complaints have been made about the conduct of certain delegates following those remarks. Arguments continued at the Executive Committee two weeks later.

Local party officers took advice from London region before deciding to cancel the meeting, telling delegates “if we simply debate these we are in danger of repeating the events of February, rather than moving forward in a more positive manner.”

The CWU postal engineering branch delegate to West Ham GC is also the chair of Newham Momentum. Last September, the group hosted a meeting with Chris Williamson MP, as part of the latter’s Deselection (sorry, ‘Democracy’) Roadshow. Williamson was later suspended from the Labour Party over remarks he made about, er, antisemitism.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Labour Party in West Ham. I am not a member of the General Committee.

Hat-Tip to Jewish News for their original coverage of this story

East Ham United

3 Mar

East Ham CLP AGM

When I blogged a couple of weeks ago about East Ham CLP’s AGM I suggested rival factions, specifically Newham Momentum and those still loyal to the former mayor, would be “putting together slates and cooking up deals to ensure that the ‘wrong people’ don’t wind up in charge.”

This clearly hit a nerve and Newham Momentum responded on their own blog, claiming this was just “rumours and misinformation spread by local Blairites.” The secretary of Newham Momentum added

“Ours is a broad and democratic Party. Newham Momentum is always willing to work with those comrades who genuinely respect this proud democratic tradition and are willing to work with us to combat cuts in local services whilst campaigning for the election of a radical, socialist Labour Government under Jeremy.”

So what actually happened?

Pretty much exactly what I predicted. Very few of the main officer positions were contested. Once Tahir Mirza had secured the chair on behalf of Newham Momentum, other candidates started to drop out, leaving right-wingers Lakmini Shah and Mariam Dawood to pick up the posts of vice chair (campaigns) and treasurer, while Momentum’s Syed Taqi Shah became secretary.

The full slate of elected officers

Chair: Tahir Mirza
Secretary: Syed Taqi Shah
Treasurer: Cllr Mariam Dawood
Vice Chair Campaigns: Cllr Lakmini Shah
Vice Chair Membership: Cllr Moniba Khan
Women’s Officer: Sophia Naqvi
Youth: Azka Rasool
LGBT Officer: Victoria Mitchell
BAME Officer: Cllr Sugathan Thekkepura & Asad Shan (Job Share)
TULO: Cllr Pushpa Makwana
Political Education: Tariq Hussain

After the meeting the new chair tweeted

I am very thankful for East Ham CLP to elect me as a Chair and all of us very determined to take @jeremycorbyn vision forward, every single officer elected is true socialist

And West Ham CLP membership secretary Mehmood Mirza chipped in, saying

@jeremycorbyn supporters win landslide @easthamlabour CLP after almost 2 1/2 years of special measures, thanks to all the delegates who supported the left candidates, congratulations to @TahirMirza01 Chair CLP & @SyedTaqiShah1 to be secretary,@moniba27 Vice Chair Membership.

One view is that this is “a diverse officer team consisting of pro-Corbyn Left and other local activists.” A more realistic assessment is that it’s a stitch-up that is politically unsustainable. After years of mismanagement under Sir Robin and his crew, East Ham members deserve better.

The AGM also selected delegates for the London regional conference Tahir Mirza, Victoria Mitchell and Cllrs Ayesha Chowdhury and Sasha Das Gupta.

After the meeting formally closed there were three guest speakers. MP Stephen Timms and London Assembly member Unmesh Desai spoke unchallenged, but Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz was rudely interrupted twice by the chair in an attempt to cut her her short. She ploughed straight past him. Which may be a metaphor for the next couple of years in Newham Labour politics.

East Ham AGM announced

14 Feb

After a hiatus of more than two years, East Ham CLP is going to have a meeting. And it’s an annual general meeting to boot!

All 10 of the branch (ward) parties held their own AGMs late last year, under supervision of the London regional office. Local officers and general committee delegates were elected and now – at long last – the CLP is going to elect its own officers.

The agenda has been circulated

East Ham Labour Party – Annual General Meeting 2019

The Trinity Centre, East Avenue, London, E12 6SG

Monday 25 February 2019

Registration from 6:30pm. Meeting to start at 7pm.

  1. Introductions & apologies for absence
  2. Election of CLP Executive Officers for 2019/20 (at least half (7) must be women)
    • Chair
    • Vice Chair
    • Vice Chair Membership
    • Secretary
    • Treasurer
    • Women’s Officer
    • Policy Officer
    • BAME Officer
    • LGBT+ Officer
    • Youth Officer
    • Disability Officer
    • TU Liaison Officer
    • Political Education Officer
    • Social Media Officer
  3. Election of up to 4 Regional Conference delegates (at least half (2) must be women)
  4. Nominations for Regional Board
    • Chair
    • Vice Chair
    • Women’s Officer
    • Disabilities Officer
    • Ethnic Minorities Officer
    • LGBT Officer
    • 2 CLP Reps from Section 5 – City of London, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Barking &
      Dagenham, Havering & Redbridge (at least one must be a woman)
    • 2 NPF Reps (at least one must be a woman)

No doubt rival factions are busy putting together slates and cooking up deals to ensure that the ‘wrong people’ don’t wind up in charge.

There was evidence of this at a number of the branch AGMs. At the Manor Park ward AGM an alliance between Momentum and Sir Robin’s former allies, led by former deputy mayor Ken Clark, backed a mixed slate of Momentum and right wing candidates and effectively blocked supporters of the new mayor. 

This unholy alliance was born at the council Labour Group AGM back in May. Momentum-aligned councillors were elected as Group chair and chief whip, while the Walesite old guard held onto the chairs of Council and overview and scrutiny. Subsequently the same coalition has voted together to push for the referendum on the future of mayoralty to be held at the same time as the London elections in 2020, against the wishes of both Rokhsana Fiaz and Sadiq Khan. It is also jointly campaigning against plans to reform the Every Child a Musician programme.

It is worth keeping an eye on East Ham. While the two camps may be happy to ally for now to keep the mayor’s supporters out, there is a bigger prize in prospect and both factions want to grab it for themselves. At some point parliament will vote on new constituency boundaries, with the likelihood that one or both of our sitting local MPs will have to re-apply to be the candidate . One of the safest seats in the country will soon be up for grabs. It could all get very messy.

 

East Ham re-booting

4 Dec

Oddbodcharge

After close to two years of inactivity it looks like efforts to revive East Ham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) are finally underway.

Despite being one of the safest Labour seats in the country, the East Ham party has been in ‘special measures’ since early 2017, when the last general committee (GC) meeting broke down in ‘acrimonious circumstances.’

Since then there has been a General Election and elections for a new Mayor and councillors. Also huge disputes and lack of records over which organisations were affiliated and entitled to take part in a Mayoral candidate trigger ballot, as well as allegations of non-resident members.

Most of the ten branch parties (one per ward) don’t meet regularly and there were no East Ham delegates at party conference. Regular and necessary business, like the re-run trigger ballot meetings and candidate selection meetings for the local elections earlier this year were supervised by officials from Labour’s London regional office. As an aside, none of this happens in West Ham, where all CLP and branch meetings take place regularly and on time.

London regional officers are again involved. 

All of the ten ward branches have had an AGM scheduled and members have been notified. Little Ilford and East Ham South met last week; East Ham North meets tonight; East Ham Central and Boleyn tomorrow. Wall End and Manor Park will meet on Thursday.

Beckton and Royal Docks branches met last night and, according to its new Twitter account, it was the first time in five years Royal Docks Labour Party had met!

Word so far is of well-attended meetings, with over 35 members at Little Ilford. Also the word is of well-behaved meetings. Royal Docks branch elected completely new officers, including, for the first time ever, a woman! The ward is unique in Newham in being represented by three male councillors, despite party rules that normally forbid this. 

Once the new officers – chair, vice-chair secretary, treasurer – and GC delegates are elected it clears the way for the CLP to hold its own AGM and elect officers. Separately, officers are contacting affiliated organisations – trade union branches and socialist societies – to identify their delegates.

London region will continue to supervise, which will impact on efforts to select Parliamentary candidates and support Council by-elections elsewhere in the capital, but this is good news for local members who have been deprived of any way to participate in party affairs.

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.

The casual vacancy

17 Sep

Grayee 2018 Sep 14

On Friday Boleyn ward councillor Veronica Oakeshott tweeted:

After three years as a Councillor I am stepping down today to move house, closer to my family. It has been a huge privilege to serve in Boleyn. Thank you Boleyn for your friendship – I’ll miss you!

Cllr Oakeshott won her seat in a by-election in 2015 following the death of Cllr Charity Fiberesima. She held it easily at the local elections in May.

During her time in office Cllr Oakeshott successfully campaigned to keep the Champions Statue in her ward and, less successfully, to ensure the council lived up to its promise that 35% of homes on the old West Ham stadium site would be ‘affordable’.

There will be a by-election to fill the ‘casual vacancy’, most likely in late October. Labour will, of course, hold the seat easily. The real interest will be in who is selected as the candidate.No names have emerged yet, but Momentum is already organising to ensure that it is one of their people.

UPDATE:

The date for the by-election has been set for Thursday 1 November. Boleyn ward will be holding its selection meeting on Tuesday 2 October. 

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.