Friday, December 01, 2023

Wellingborough PPC: ‘I cut short my honeymoon to win this by-election’


Hat tip Labour List for this article by former Newham Councillor Gen Kitchen. 

"I was on day four of my honeymoon in Suffolk when I got the call to say Peter Bone had been suspended from the Commons and a recall petition had been triggered.

I would have said wild horses couldn’t drag me from my honeymoon early, but I travelled home immediately to get ready to begin my campaign with the local community in mind.

Wellingborough deserves better than Tory neglect

I grew up in Northamptonshire and I know just how special the local area is, but I’m also acutely aware of the issues that concern local people. From crime to cost of living – Wellingborough deserves a better future.

My husband Joe and I are moving back to Northants, and we can’t wait to get settled back in the County where we grew up and where our families live.

Wellingborough deserves a candidate with bold ideas, energy and determination. Local people can and should have an MP with integrity who works tirelessly for them.
I’m confident that my experience means I can represent Wellingborough

I have dedicated my career to improving the lives of others. I am proud of my decade of experience in the charity sector, supporting homeless people into employment, helping vulnerable women to improve their lives, creating new clinical nurse specialists, and raising over £1 million for cancer research.

I want Labour’s campaign here to be positive, full of energy and hope for the future. That’s because I am hopeful for the future. I believe we should be proud of where we live and that we can fix the things that we know are wrong.

We don’t have to sit back and give criminals free reign to escape punishment. We should be able to get an appointment with a GP when we need one. We can provide our children with a worldclass education.
The Tories are out of ideas and in a cycle of failure

Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party are bereft of ambition and new ideas. They are in a cycle of failure and we are paying the price. Peter Bone’s refusal to do the decent thing and resign immediately is costing the taxpayer over a hundred thousand in a costly and cumbersome recall petition. It’s time for them to get out of the way for a party that is offering the country hope for a brighter future.

People are eager to hear from Labour here, and genuinely want to know how we can get towns like Wellingborough and Rushden back on a positive track. They want to feel proud of their high streets, safe in the town centres and are keen to know how the Labour Party can help with that.
Early conversations are important – every conversation matters

That’s why these early conversations are so important, to find out what people want, because nobody knows that better than the local shopkeeper, the small business owner, the parents looking for activities for their children.

Labour members and volunteers are very welcome to join us on the doors for these vital conversations. Wellingborough is less than an hour on the train from London, and we’ve got a fantastic team on the ground up and running and ready to welcome you. I hope to see you soon!"

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Newham Annual Rough Sleeping Count November 23


On Tuesday evening I took part with fellow councillors, outreach workers, council officers and other volunteers in the annual count of people sleeping "rough" in Newham. Across the country similar counts are taking place. Newham also does extra counts every alternative month. 

We had to arrive at Newham Dockside building for 11pm to be briefed (and eat the provided crisps, biscuits, chocolates and mince pies) then go out to be on site from midnight up to 3am. 

I was a driver and "counter" paired with an outreach officer from the homelessness Charity "Change, Grow, Live" who are contracted by Newham. I am also one of the two UNISON NEC members (and employed in the sector) for the UNISON Housing Associations and Voluntary organisations Community Service Group, so it is always interesting to speak with other workers who I represent nationally (wearing of course different hat). It was pretty cold that night and I had 4 layers of clothing, gloves and a UNISON LAS hat. 

We were asked to visit tower blocks in Newham where there had been past reports of rough sleeping. We had to visit 8 such blocks - take the lift up to the top floor then walk down the fire escape communal stairs. 

On our first tower block we found 2 rough sleepers settling down to sleep on the stairs and a third bed unoccupied. We engaged with them and they were polite and apologetic for sleeping on the stairs and explained that they believed that they will be getting more suitable accommodation very soon. We made arrangements for the follow up team in the morning to visit them and offer advice and support. This team started at 5am. 

You can see from the stats in the picture college that the number of rough sleepers in Newham has gone down dramatically in recent years. But it is still a huge issue and while they must be treated with respect and humanity, it is simply not a safe place to sleep on our streets (or communal stairways'). 

I do not know the overall Newham figures yet but will post again when I do. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Launch of Labour Rights Investor Network


Launch of Labour Rights Investor Network coincides with event at US Department of Labor

The Labour Rights Investor Network (LRIN) is a global initiative that brings together asset managers, asset owners and investment service providers committed to integrating labour rights into their stewardship practices. LRIN signatories include the New York City Employees’ Retirement System and Teachers’ Retirement System, Sweden’s Folksam and the UK-based Local Authority Pension Fund Forum.

The launch of the Network coincides with an event at the US Department of Labor aimed at highlighting how businesses and investors can become more resilient and competitive by harnessing the growing global movement for worker voice. The event, “New Frontiers for Empowering Workers and Business,” will feature Acting Secretary Julie Su alongside New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, representatives from Microsoft and others from the labour and business communities.

The Network’s guiding Investor Statement notes that labour rights are “fundamental pillars of human freedom,” as recognized by the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Beyond the fundamental nature of the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, members of the Network also recognize the investor case for empowering workers. “Companies that respect labour rights reap many benefits, such as greater productivity, safer workplaces, and improved employee engagement,” according to the LRIN Investor Statement. The LRIN is housed at the Global Unions’ Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC), a committee of the International Trade Union Confederation, the Global Union Federations and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD that advocates for the responsible investment of workers’ capital.

“With this Network, we will bring the voices of workers whose fundamental labour rights are violated to the attention of investors committed to ensuring those rights are upheld in their portfolios. This will enable those investors to improve their human rights due diligence, mitigate risks and uphold responsibilities under international norms and frameworks,” said CWC Chair Christoffer Jönsson.

Signatories to the Investor Statement request that the boards and senior management at investee companies take responsibility for labour rights oversight, ensure respect for workers’rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and provide disclosures on labour-related metrics.

The Labour Rights Investor Network will then provide the necessary information and tools for investor members to integrate this into their stewardship practices. 

Investor Quotes

“As financial stewards responsible for the retirement savings of thousands of unionized workers, we want to ensure that the companies in which we invest our capital are in turn investing in their workforces. Ignoring fundamental workers’ rights risks eroding long-term shareholder value. The historic movement to ensure labour rights are respected has led to measurable gains for hundreds of thousands of workers. We are proud to stand boldly with the Committee on Workers’ Capital to announce this important initiative, which centres respecting labour rights as a business imperative key to mitigating systemic risks.”

“We are delighted to be an early signatory to Labour Rights Investor Network, as we see the real value it will bring to strengthening our stewardship. We expect investee companies to respect freedom of association and collective bargaining, but know far too often this fails to happen in reality. Through gaining resources and hearing insights directly from unions, we believe that the Labour Rights Investor Network will help us address the problem.”

“LAPFF is very pleased to support the launch of the Labour Rights Investor Network as a signatory. Over the years, the Forum has engaged with numerous companies and unions over management of workforce issues, and these topics are being raised more frequently. We have also found on issues like climate change that collaborative networking initiatives can increase the effectiveness of investors’ stewardship activity. So, the creation of a network focused on rights at work could not come at a better time.”

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Newham Heritage Month 2024


Hat tip Newham History Facebook. Post by Newham Heritage. 

"We'd love to see you at Stratford Library for an Inspiration Day on Saturday 2 December, where some of the photos, objects, maps and more of Newham over the centuries will be on display!

😍Love the idea of being part of next year's Newham Heritage Month festival, but not sure where to start? We'd love to see you at two friendly FREE events to support your project ideas:
📆Inspiration Day at Stratford Library 2 Dec
📆 Online Grant Surgery 7 Dec

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Capital Ring Walk 1: Woolwich to Falconwood


A few years ago Gill and I went on a series of linear walks around our city called the London Loop. This was in 24 sections and just under 150 miles. It was really great fun and we went to beautiful and historic parts of London that we had never been to before. It took us a couple of years to complete but was well worth it.

Today we began the Capital Ring. This is "only" 78 miles around London and there are 15 linear sections. 

We started off outside the Woolwich foot tunnel and walked along the Thames past the ferry. The weather was cold but there was blue skies and sunshine. This riverwalk is so impressive.

Then we left the river and walked through a series of parks, woods and common land. It is amazing how many green "lungs" London has and that they were so quiet, peaceful and surprisingly hilly. 

We stopped off for brunch in the Old cottage coffee house outside the historic Charlton House (I have been to UNISON away days here) . I had the best sausage and bacon baguette in my living memory. Recommended. 

We walked up along Woolwich Common which our guidebook said was used by British Army units to gather and camp before they would march down to Woolwich Arsenal to collect their weapons then go to the Thames to embark on their ships for overseas service. By coincidence as we walked across the common we could hear a (we assume) military band practicing playing music from the modern day Woolwich barracks. 

When we came across "Severndroog Castle" at the highest point of the walk, I was absolutely astonished that I have lived in London for 35 years and had never heard of or visited this place. I will definitely come back on a Sunday and go up to the top to view the 7 English Counties you can see from its viewing platform.  

We dropped down through more parks and woods walking along a bed of autumn leaves. One path was blocked by a massive tree blown down (snapped near its base) and we had to work our way through brambles. Thankfully, we were not wearing shorts. 

We finished off in Falconwood and took the train back home. 

I will post further pictures on Facebook.

I cannot wait until the next Capital Ring walk. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Plaistow North By Election Polling Day (& speaking at Pension conference)

I took yesterday off work for the by election but got tied up in morning with urgent UNISON "fire and rehire" case work. I was able at lunch time to go "knocking up" (knocking on doors of identified Labour Supporters , reminding them of the election and encouraging them to vote) with party colleagues Sofia and Larry. We had a good response but I felt that some residents were being somewhat evasive about their voting intentions. They had changed from previously saying they were Labour supporters to now saying they were "undecided". Not a good sign.

After we had finished that round I had to go back home, change into a suit and rush off to the Bloomsbury Hotel (ironically right next to Congress House) and speak in a Professional Pensions Conference panel debate on the merits of  trustees being "Professional Vs Lay: The Great Pension Scheme Debate". Anyone who knows me would be able to predict which side of the argument I was on and I will post on this another time.

Afterwards back home to Newham, change of clothes into comfy shoes, outdoor clothes, torch and drop key. I took the 58 bus to the committee room and was soon allocated a round with my Councillor colleague Larisa and a Hammersmith & Fulham Labour colleague (also a local Councillor and Chair of Planning) Omid.  It is always difficult to canvass in the dark but we worked very well together as a team. Larisa's russian language skills were particularly helpful. I did not realise how many residents from eastern europe also spoke russian as well as their native language. 

I only had 2 "difficult" conversations with residents about Gaza and the Labour Party response but they were respectful and considered. However, again, I was concerned at the number of residents who were now saying they were "undecided" or not voting.

I bumped into some of the the independent landlord party activists outside polling stations and had no problems but they were clearly breaking electoral law by gathering so close and in large numbers. It must have been intimidating for voters.

At the end of our round we joined up with another team and were still out "knocking up" after 9.30pm. Many thanks to activists from Tower Hamlets and Hackney for their support. 

After the close of campaigning some of us went to the nearby historic "Black Lion" pub for a drink and a gossip. While we were hopeful of a good result, we thought it was going to be tough night. 

Alas, our wonderful Labour Candidate, Akhtharul Alam, did not win on this occasion. It was not his fault in the slightest. The community did punish us over Gazi but there were other issues regarding parking, fly tipping and Anti-social behaviour which we need to address better. While this is clearly a defeat I am confident that Labour can restore trust and win back support in the future. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Eve of Poll Canvass: Plaistow North By election

Picture of activists meeting up before evening canvass. By election takes place tomorrow. If you can help at all please register

Plaistow North is normally a secure Labour seat but there has been a tremendous effort by the Conservatives and the so called "Independent Landlords Party" (who have been bullying and threatening Labour members). 

The canvass went well and we were joined by the Labour Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz. I led our group via the Labour doorstep app. Some complicated low rise block numbering system caused a little bit of confusion but nothing serious.  Many thanks to our Tower Hamlets comrades who are now in the new Stratford and Bow Parliamentary seat for joining us. 

Afterwards, many of us met up for coffee and Pizza at Caloroso. Carb loading for tomorrow. Polls open 7am-10pm. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023



I have just signed the petition here supported by the Labour Womens network for a portrait of her to be displayed at Parliament. Yesterday, there was an informal social held at the UNISON centre for members of the National Labour Link Committee. We had Claire Reynolds as a guest speaker from the network ,who gave an excellent speech on the importance of recognising the achievements of Margaret Bondfield (see below).  

By coincidence I used to the Housing officer of Margaret Bondfield House (and Susan Lawrence House) in Bow. Once, the niece (or great niece?) of Margaret Bondfield phoned our housing officer and asked me for directions to the Housing block named after her which she planned to visit. 




Margaret Bondfield was elected to Parliament for Northampton in the December 1923 General Election, one of the first three Labour women MPs ever, alongside Susan Lawrence (East Ham) and Dorothy Jewson (Norwich).

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of their election, and offers an opportunity to recognise Margaret Bondfield's life and legacy. This remarkable woman rose to the most senior levels of government, broke glass ceilings wherever she went, knew all the key political players of the age, and remained true both to her deep religious faith and her profound belief in her politics and in parliamentary democracy

You can find out more about Margaret's life and her considerable achievements here.

Margaret Bondfield’s legacy has been obscured by a number of factors. The history of trade unionism is seen and written as overwhelmingly male, as is the history of the Labour Party. Her absence from – indeed, hostility to – what she perceived as a middle-class female franchise movement meant that she is excluded from suffrage history and was often viewed by its memorialists with active dislike. Although she remained loyal to the Labour Party throughout the 1931 crisis, her subsequent absence from Parliament deprived her of a public platform. Had she been a man she might have ended her career in the House of Lords, but women were not able to sit as peers until 1958. Since women usually stood as candidates in the more marginal seats, her parliamentary career was much briefer than those of many male colleagues. Late in life she destroyed many of her papers so that there is no substantial archive in the UK.

Please support LWN's efforts to give Margaret Bondfield the recognition she is due, beginning with a portrait in the House".

Monday, November 20, 2023

"Stratford sphere proposals rejected by London mayor"

 Hat tip BBC News. Good news for local residents!

The exterior of the "Sphere" would show adverts and visual displays, which locals say will stop them sleeping

Plans for a Las Vegas-style "Sphere" entertainment venue on the edge of the Olympic park in east London have been rejected by the mayor.

Sadiq Khan decided on Monday to block the giant eyeball-shaped dome proposed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Company (MSG) on three key grounds, including light pollution.

The company said it was "disappointed in London's decision".

The final decision will go to Communities Secretary, Michael Gove.

Mr Khan rejected the development, citing the amount of light pollution that it would cause for Stratford residents, its huge electricity bill and associated lack of "green" credentials, and the impact it would have on heritage sites in the area.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: "London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city.

"But as part of looking at the planning application for the MSG Sphere, the mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents."

City Hall officers said the dome at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would be a "detriment" to health

The Sphere, designed by architect Populous, would be a copy of the Madison Square Garden Sphere in Las Vegas, a $2bn (£1.6bn) arena which played host to U2 last month.

The London Sphere would be covered in LED panels and would stand almost 100m (300ft) high and 120m (360ft) wide. It would be built immediately to the east of the Olympic park.

The Sphere's main auditorium would have a 21,500 capacity.

'Detriment to health'

The detailed decision from City Hall showed Mr Khan, who is able to intervene in large planning applications, accepted officers' concerns about "significant light intrusion resulting in significant harm" to neighbouring properties.

There had been reports of residents having to fit blackout blinds to avoid the glare.

The City Hall documents also revealed the Sphere was considered a "detriment to human health" and causing "significant harm" to "hundreds" of Stratford residents in their own homes.

Greater London Authority officers had commissioned an independent expert review of the applicant's environmental statement in order to assess the concerns about light pollution.

The experts, WSP, "identified significant errors and omissions" in the applicant's assessment, according to City Hall.

This included not undertaking the measurements correctly and in line with UK guidance.

The London Legacy Development Committee (LLDC) previously backed the plans as a popular tourist attraction

City Hall said: "WSP concluded that the Illuminated Sphere, in conjunction with other artificial lighting within the proposed development… would be likely to have significant adverse effects on occupiers of nearby residential premises."

This included at least 33 homes in the New Garden Quarter residential development; 28 homes in the Legacy Tower/Stratford Central; and 177 student rooms in the Unite student accommodation building.

The size of the Sphere would make it a "bulky, unduly dominant and incongruous form of development" and cause harm to the setting of 16 heritage buildings, including the Grade II* listed Stratford Theatre Royal and three conservation areas.

The London Legacy Development Corporation, which first determines planning applications in the Olympic park, gave its approval in March last year.

Mr Gove had already issued an "Article 31 direction", informing the LLDC that he was considering whether to call in the plans - effectively giving him the final say on whether it is granted planning permission.

A Sphere Entertainment spokesperson said: "While we are disappointed in London's decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on those."