Tag Archives: newhamrecorder

Et tu, Kevin?

21 May

Defenestrated Labour councillor Kevin Jenkins provides some acid-tongued advice to residents unsure of who to vote for tomorrow. He suggests asking four questions about each of the candidates:

  1. Do they make specific pledges for your area alongside the general borough-wide pledges?
  2. How are they proposing to keep in touch with their electorate in the ward over the next four years or do you anticipate seeing them again in four years’ time when they want your vote again?
  3. Are they promising to have a regular surgery in the ward each week?
  4. Are they old political hacks or do they have a genuine conviction for your ward and the wider borough? Will they toe the mayor’s or a party line, or vote for what’s best for your area?

That doesn’t read to me like a clarion call to vote for his former colleagues.

Open democracy

19 Jul

Copyright: Image by jsawkins on Flickr. Some rights reserved

On July 15th Newham council voted to amend its constitution to allow the public to film and record proceedings at future meetings. The decision was inspired by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for local government, basically telling councils that if they didn’t let this happen he’d change the law to force them.

The Newham Recorder invited our mayor and Lutfur Rahman, his Tower Hamlets counterpart, to ‘debate’ the matter. Mike Law has blogged about this and I’d recommend reading his post and the comments on it, as well as the Recorder piece.

What follows is the comment I added to Mike’s blog, which points at what I think is Sir Robin’s staggering hypocrisy on this issue:

Sir Robin, with Eric Pickles’ gun pressed to his head, says

what does it do to build public trust in politics more widely when a clique seeks to shut the public out from decisions made on their behalf?… In the 21st century it is not enough for democracy to simply happen. It has to be seen to happen.

Despite appearances, the age of satire is not yet dead.

As Birdman [one of the commenters on Mike’s blog] correctly observes,

decisions are largely taken in Labour Group meetings, after the Labour Councillors have been told which way to vote, and no genuine debate is ever seen or heard by the public attending meetings… what is there to film?

Monday’s council meeting, at which this “historic decision” was taken, lasted just 14 minutes. And that included a set-piece speech by councillor Ellie Robinson on ‘Newham’s Wonderful Women’.

May’s annual general meeting took a massive 39 minutes; February’s was 31 minutes. The ‘extraordinary’ meeting in January occupied councillors for a mere 10 minutes. I could go on, but you get the drift.

If Sir Robin were truly serious about open and transparent decision-making Labour group meetings would be the ones that took 10 minutes and the real debates would happen in council, where the public could see and hear them.

We all know that won’t happen though.

Not a Communist

26 Sep

Earlier today the Newham Recorder tweeted the headline of a story running on its website, “Communists call for resignations over Silvertown’s London Pleasure Gardens flop”.

This caught my attention. Clicking through to the story, I read:

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales has declined to respond to a threat from the Communist United Party in relation to the London Pleasure Gardens fiasco.

Leader Kamran Malik has written to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles asking that the Mayor is removed from his role over the council’s involvement in the botched Silvertown venture.

It went on to say that Mr Malik had come third in the 2010 mayoral election, polling 6,600 votes.

I remember the 2010 mayoral election and there wasn’t a communist candidate, but there was a Communities Welfare Party candidate. Using the mighty power of Google I discovered that Kamran Malik was in fact the leader of the Communities United Party. My immediate conclusion was that the Recorder was guilty of a howling error; they’d made a silly typo and then repeated it in an over-dramatic headline.

I tweeted them about it, including a link to the Communities United Party website. Time passed. Nothing happened. I tweeted them again. This time I got a reply from Luke Jacobs, the author of the story who has recenty left the left paper to work for london24.com:

@mwarne Hello. The letter we have (from the party itself) describes itself as the ‘Communist United Party’.

— Luke Jacobs (@lukemjacobs)

Wow. That was odd. They definitely weren’t called that in 2010; nothing on their website suggests such a dramatic shift in policy, or any change in name. I seriously doubt they’d have got 6,600 votes in Newham as communists.

Then another tweet from Luke Jacobs:

It appears the party is registered as the KM Communities Welfare Party. maybe a typo on their letter?

Well, it wouldn’t say much for the competence of the party – or its leader – if it was, would it?

Just checked, and it was a mistake on their letter. Thanks (on behalf on my former paper) for alerting them!

Ha ha! So I owe the Recorder an apology for assuming this was their sloppy journalism. They have now corrected the story.

There’s a lesson here for political parties – read your press statements carefully before sending them out.

And a lesson for the people of Newham – don’t vote for people who are so incompetent that they get the name of their own party wrong.