Tag Archives: stratford

Take it to the limit

13 May

A small earthquake happened in Newham last night. Five local Labour party branches voted for a motion to impose term-limits on directly elected mayors.

Members in Forest Gate North, Forest Gate South, Stratford, Canning Town and Manor Park (Sir Robin’s own ward!) supported a proposition put forward by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy to amend the national rule book:

The Labour Party Rule Book 2016 Chapter 5 Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office.Clause I. General rules for selections for public office. Sub-Clause 1. G. i. Alternative Procedures, reads as follows:

‘For any mayoral selection the NEC may consider the use of primary elections, subject to the absolute power of the NEC to cancel or amend procedure, and subject to:

a. Procedural guidelines set by the NEC.’

Amendment

Add new sub-clause:

b. If a selected candidate is elected for two consecutive terms he/she cannot apply for selection as the Labour candidate for the same mayoral post for the following third term.

Directly-elected mayors were introduced in 2000 and, from the first mayoral elections in 2002 until 2008, the Labour Party rules stipulated that Directly-Elected Mayors who were Labour Party members could not stand for re-election after having served two terms. This time limit was removed on the recommendation of the NEC Local Government Committee in 2008 – in good time to allow the likes of Sir Robin and Hackney’s Jules Pipe to be re-selected for a third term.

As we know to our cost in Newham, directly-elected Mayors have presidential-type executive powers. These are not always balanced by adequate scrutiny from councillors – in Newham they are barely subject to any at all. 

Sir Robin has been in charge of our borough since 1995. First as leader of the council and since 2002 as mayor. In the interests of healthy democratic local governance, a single individual should not hold these powers for so long. 

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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? 

Your 2015 candidates

10 Apr

Nominations closed yesterday for the general election and the council by-election in Stratford and New Town ward. Here’s a list of the candidates standing:

By-election – Stratford & New Town

  • Isabelle Anderson, the Green Party
  • Matthew Gass, the Conservative Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Charlene McLean, Labour Party
  • Joe Mettle, Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Bob Severn, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition

General election – East Ham

  • Mohammed Aslam, Communities United Party
  • Lois Austin, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition
  • Samir Jassal, the Conservative Party
  • Tamsin Omond, the Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley, UKIP
  • David Thorpe, Liberal Democrats
  • Stephen Timms, Labour Party

General Election – West Ham

  • Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative Party
  • Cydatty Bogie, Communities United Party
  • Lyn Brown, Labour Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Rachel Collinson, the Green Party
  • Paul Reynolds, Liberal Democrats
  • Andy Uzoka, Christian Peoples Alliance 

At last May’s election Stratford voters had a three-way choice between Labour, the Tories and the Christians. This time there are three new options – Green, UKIP and TUSC – though it won’t make much difference to the outcome. And it says something about the enfeebled state of the Liberal Democrats in Newham that they couldn’t find a single person willing even to put their name on the ballot paper.

Voters have a similarly broad choice in the general election but the results are a foregone conclusion. The only thing worth noting is the presence of a Communities United candidate in each seat. The jailing of their leader last year is obviously no deterrent to throwing away £1000 on two lost deposits. Kamran Malik has removed himself from the scene of the crime. He is standing Brent Central.

Byelection update

7 Apr

The Stratford and New Town by-election, caused by a combination of malice and incompetence among Newham’s Labour leadership, will be held on Thursday 7th May – the same day as the general election.

If you’re interested in standing:

Nomination papers must be delivered to the Returning Officer, Town Hall, Barking Road, London, E6 2RP on any day after the date of this notice, on Monday to Friday 9.30 a.m. to 5 pm (excluding bank holidays) but no later than 4 pm on Thursday, 9th April 2015.

So far Labour have confirmed that Charlene McLean will be their candidate to recapture the seat they took off her last month and the Conservatives have selected Matthew Gass. He stood in the same ward last May and came fourth (behind the three Labour nominees) with 777 votes. 

The newly-resurgent Newham Green Party are due to announce their candidate this week. I’ve heard nothing from the other parties.

UPDATE (8 April): The Greens have announced their candidate:

Isabelle Anderson, 29, is Newham Green Party’s candidate for Stratford and New Town. 

Anderson’s family moved to Newham when she was 12 years old from South West London. She now lives in Stratford and New Town with her partner and their son.

“As a young family with a modest income we struggle with the spiralling cost of housing. I believe that Newham Council should be working harder to provide decent affordable homes for all. Newham Council’s failure to provide sufficient social housing pushes vulnerable people out of London and breaks up families and communities. By electing me as your councillor for Stratford and New Town you will ensure that Labour’s unwillingness to stand up for the vulnerable and the marginalised will not go unchallenged.

“The Green Party offers a real alternative – a party that fights inequality and prioritises the needs of the many above the profit of the few. If I am elected I will campaign for social housing; for measures to improve the toxic air quality that kills 4000 Londoners a year; and for community initiatives that will address social issues such as crime, inequality, unemployment and poverty, and improve wellbeing.”

Maternity blues

23 Mar

More embarrassment has been heaped on the mayor and his fellow councillors over the expulsion of Charlene McLean.

The Evening Standard covered the story under the headline Councillor ‘dumped’ from authority over time off after giving birth prematurely.

The story says local party members are outraged and quotes one ‘angry member’:

“This is a working class mother who had time off during a very difficult pregnancy and was then caring for an unwell, premature baby.

“Despite that, she was injudiciously dumped from the council. Charlene is a dedicated Labour member committed to her residents but not seen as a leadership loyalist. That’s valuable on a council with no opposition.”

The normally supine Newham Recorder also got in on the act, headlining their story New mum dropped as Stratford councillor in maternity leave dispute.

Both stories include the council’s claim that then-councillor McLean was misadvised by an unnamed officer and that neither senior officials nor the executive were aware of this.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Newham Council said: “In this case, an officer provided incorrect information to another member regarding statutory maternity leave and it appears this advice was passed on to Ms McLean.

“Neither the council’s executive or the council’s monitoring officer were aware that incorrect information had been provided to Ms McLean.

“Had the council officer or Ms McLean informed the monitoring officer or the council’s executive, steps would have been taken to agree an extended period of absence for Ms McLean.”

But documents released under the Freedom of Information Act throw this claim into dispute. Mike Law asked last year for details of the amount of individual casework allocated to councillors between June and September. The reply he got in October includes this:

McLean Maternity Leave 1 

He then asked a follow up about case work in October, November and December. That was answered last week:

McLean maternity leave 2

The information governance team knew she was on maternity leave, but we are supposed to believe Sir Robin and none of his executive did.

One of Charlene McLean’s fellow councillors in Stratford & New Town is Richard Crawford. Aside from being a long-standing friend and drinking buddy of Sir Robin’s he is also the full-time, 5-days-a-week mayoral advisor on ‘resident experience’. Odd that he either never noticed Cllr McLean’s absence nor thought to mention it.

Equally odd is that the other councillor who was on maternity leave at the same time had the fact announced on her profile page on the council website:

McLean maternity leave 3

Both of Farah Nazeer’s fellow ward councillors are members of Sir Robin’s inner circle of full-time advisors. They knew she was pregnant and was on maternity leave, but apparently failed to spot Charlene McLean was in the same condition.

The council’s executive are not the only ones who were selectively inattentive. I am told Labour chief whip Steve Brayshaw called two other councillors in – Sheila Thomas and Amajit Singh – to make sure they remained legal whilst ignoring Charlene McLean’s absence.

There is something deeply rotten in the state of Newham Labour. Claims of mayoral and executive ignorance are transparently an attempt to cover that up.

The Casual Vacancy

20 Mar

Charlene McLean

There is going to be a council by-election in Stratford & New Town ward.

Charlene McLean has been removed from office under section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972: 

if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of six consecutive months from the date of his last attendance to attend any meeting of the authority, he shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period, cease to be a member of the authority. [emphasis added]

The circumstances in which the by-election has been triggered and the timing – so close to the general election – reflect very badly on the leadership of Newham Labour party, which has done nothing to support a young mother in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

As (now ex) councillor McLean explained in a letter sent to all ward members last week, before her removal was confirmed:

Last August, I gave birth to my baby daughter Esme two months prematurely. Prior to that I had to go on sick leave due to serious pregnancy complications, which risked both my life and that of my baby. Following her birth, I spent over three months monitoring her care at the specialist neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal London Hospital, and then at Newham General. Once she was allowed home, I had to provide specialist care for her, which required my full and uninterrupted focus. 

That is why I believe that what has happened to me warrants a full and urgent discussion among Council Members concerning the Council’s maternity leave policy for expectant Members, and those who have become new parents. 

As you can imagine to now have to deal with this situation is agonising, but with the support of Ward Members, my fellow Councillor colleagues, Terry and Richard, and the wider Newham Labour Party; I am hoping that I can come through this. 

I am in the process of discussing next steps with the national Labour Party and London Region, as well as the Chief Whip of Group, if a by-election has to be called because of the mistakes made by the Council. As such, I do intend to seek selection as the Labour Party Candidate for Stratford and New Town ward if such a situation arises. 

Charlene McLean was led to believe she was on approved leave – as the Local Government Act allows – but she wasn’t. And no-one bothered to tell her.

Although she points the finger at poor advice from unelected officers, the real culprits are her own comrades. The mayor, the Labour group chair, the chief whip and other leading councillors knew what was going on and did nothing. 

I am old enough to remember a time when Labour whips in parliament carried dying MPs through the lobbies on stretchers to ensure the government survived. This lot couldn’t be bothered to organise a babysitter and a taxi.

Backbench councillors and ordinary members need to ask why not. If Labour chief whip Steve Brayshaw doesn’t offer his resignation, councillors should demand it. Others within the leadership group need to take a long hard look at themselves too.

A borough as diverse as Newham needs a council made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds and at different stages in their lives, not just middle-aged men. The council has a moral responsibility to ensure that people are not excluded from taking part just because they are starting a family.

But as it is led by a mayor who thinks it’s okay for his Equalities lead to do her work unpaid that is not a priority in Newham.

Members in Stratford ward passed a motion last week calling for Charlene McLean to be immediately reselected as their candidate.

Last night, on direct instruction from Labour’s London regional office, the Newham local campaign forum voted unanimously to do just that. It is overwhelmingly likely she will be back on the council before the end of April.

Nonetheless, local Labour party members are furious. Or as one person put it to me, they are “going fucking mental.” They’ll have to spend time and resources fighting a council by-election when they should be out campaigning for the general election. Nearby Ilford North is a key Tory-held marginal. If Ed Miliband wants to be prime minister it’s a seat Labour must win.

They also know how embarrassing this is. Residents are being asked to go to the polls two weeks before the general election to re-elect a councillor they only voted into office 10 months ago. All because the overwhelmingly white and exclusively male cabal at the top of Newham Labour party failed to support a young working class black woman facing immense personal difficulties.

It would be harsh on Charlene McLean but if voters decided to punish Newham Labour for this, who could blame them?

A place to live, work and stay?

6 Jul

Joe_alexander

The Carpenters Estate, on the fringes of the Olympic Park in Stratford, is going to be demolished to make way for a new east London campus for University College London. The residents are, understandably, not happy about this and I have a great deal of sympathy for their position.

It seems perverse at a time when there is a desperate need for affordable housing in London that an estate of perfectly serviceable homes is to be bulldozed and replaced by a university campus.

The borough’s motto is ‘a place to live, work and stay.’ How are people supposed to stay if you knock their homes down?

It is all very well Sir Robin banging on about building resilient communities, but how can communities develop resilience if they are scattered to the four corners of the borough – or indeed beyond – because their homes are demolished and they can’t afford anything else? How many of the flats in the shiny new blocks springing up in Stratford are truly ‘affordable’ to Newham people?

The mayor says, “you can’t do things for people, they’ve got to do it for themselves. All we can do is help. They have to build personal capacity, and that means being able to deal with the things that life throws at you. Grit, determination, aspiration, you have to build it in to communities.”

This language of ‘resilience’ is basically about blaming the poor for their own condition. Too poor to afford some where to rent or buy? Don’t know how to negotiate the bureaucracy to get yourself re-housed? Confused by complex forms and processes? The services you use and rely on no longer exist because of budget cuts? Tough. Not our problem. Go away. 

Sir Robin claims to be ambitious for Newham, but he seems not to have much empathy for the people who actually live here.

[a version of this was posted on the Newham Issues e-democracy forum]

Image from The Cheese Grater