Sunday, May 31, 2015

Getting the postal vote out for John Biggs as Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets.

On Wednesday evening I went to help the Labour Party candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs and was given a bundle of letters addressed to postal voters to deliver in and around Leman Street, Whitechapel. I didn't really know this part of Tower Hamlets very well. There was a number of modern blocks and "gated communities", which are traditionally very hard to gain access. But the concierges (if the block had them) were actually pretty helpful. People are also generally (not always) happy to answer the intercom and let you into a block if you explain yourself properly.

This is also really interesting and historic part of East London.

I came across a restored 18th century German speaking Lutheran Chapel and school which I had never heard of before and it reminded me that Tower Hamlets has always been a multicultural part of London. Apparently at its height, some 16000 Germans use to live in Whitechapel and the area was known as "Little Germany".

A number of traditional East End warehouses and factories had been converted into flats. Some luxury modern blocks that I managed to get into had marvellous hidden lakes, gardens and water fountains.

Yet this is not quite a yuppie paradise. While wandering around rather lost, trying to find some obscure blocks on the map, I stumbled across a very unpleasant attempt to "shakedown" a young French couple for money by an aggressive druggie, who fortunately decided to make off on my arrival.

On Saturday West Ham Labour Party members turned up at the Bethnal Green Labour HQ at the same time as comrades from Waltham Forest (see in collage, UNISON London political officer, Steve Terry and Council Leader, Chris Robbins).

In our group we went off with Tower Hamlets Labour activist, Dan McCurry, to finish the postal vote letters in Whitechapel. Later that afternoon West and East Hammers joined John Biggs and Sadiq Khan MP for a #labourdoorkock in Stepney Green.

Remembering V1 "Doodlebug" attack on Forest Gate

Hat tip to local history site "E7 Now and Then" for an excellent post on the carnage that was caused by a V1 Rocket hitting Dames Road, Forest Gate on 27 July 1944.

A trolley bus and homes were destroyed and this was the horrific account by Cyril Demarne who was a fireman of the time, and later became Chief Fire Officer of West Ham

"A particularly nasty, gory, situation confronted us, following a V1 explosion in Dames Road, Forest Gate. A trolley bus, crammed with home going workers had caught the full blast and the whole area was a sickening sight.

Dismembered bodies littered the roadway; others were splattered over the brickwork of the houses across the way and the wreckage of the trolley bus was simply too ghastly to describe.

 The roof and upper deck, together with the passengers, were blasted away. Standing passengers on the lower deck were also flung against the fronts of houses on the other side of the road. The lower deck seated passengers were all dead. Although many of the victims had been decapitated, they were still sitting down, as if waiting to have their fares collected".

How horrible. This description reminds me that there is no glory in war. I had heard of an attack on a bus in Forest Gate during the war but thought this took place elsewhere. This happened less than 5 minutes walk from where I live. With hindsight it is a pity that we didn't organise something locally last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the attack.

I posted here an account of a V2 attack in West Ham ward in 1945. My paternal grandfather (another John Gray) served in an anti-aircraft regiment during World War Two. I know he served in London during the Blitz and may have been stationed in Wanstead flats, which is also across the road from my home. I must do some research into his wartime service.

(picture of an actual V1 falling to the ground in London. Date and exact location unknown)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Partisan Song | Canción de los Partisanos

Least we forget.

Filipino Nurses Protest outside the "racist" Daily Mail

Over 250 Filipino NHS nurses protested today outside the Headquarters of the right wing tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mail. They were demanding an apology from the Mail for racially stereotyping all Filipino nurses as potential "murderers", following the conviction of Philippine born Victorino Chua.

It is pretty clear that Victorino Chua is a duplicitous psychopath. However, so was the serial child killer nurse, Beverley Allitt and the mass murderer, Doctor Harold Shipman. I don't recall any calls at the time they were convicted to ban all english born medical professionals. If there is fraud in any medical recruitment this needs to be dealt with but don't tar everyone with the same brush.

Filipino nurses due to their caring and medical skills are in great demand all over the world. In the UK we are short of 20,000 nurses. UNISON estimates by directly employing Filipino nurses saves the NHS £300 million per year in agency nursing fees.

I suspect that nearly all of us have been treated (gratefully) at a hospital by a Filipino nurse at one time or another. I know I have. To slur all of them with the actions of one is simply a disgrace and if the Daily Mail had any real journalistic values - it should apologise.

This is the statement handed in to the Daily Mail yesterday by protesters.

"Solidarity gathering supporting UK Filipino Health Workers

Following the recent conviction and sentencing of Nurse Victoriano Chua for murdering 2 patients and poisoning 18 others, the Daily Mail published several references to him being Filipino.

We believed that the nationality of the perpetrator of these wicked crimes should be irrelevant. We would accept a reference to Chua being of Filipino ethnicity within the body of the story, however the Daily Mail refereed to Chua as a ' Filipino serial killer' in the title of the news article is uncalled for.

The other headline story which is causing offence and indeed difficulties for Filipino nurses is 'Why are the NHS still hiring Filipino nurses?'

We believe that one person’s mistake doesn’t reflect everyone.

We consider the article by Daily Mail questioning the credibility of Filipino Nurses, including all working Filipinos in the UK, malicious and degrading. Filipino nurses have undergone four years of tedious study, community and clinical based experiences and need to pass a gruelling board examination before they can be called Registered Nurse.

What happened was a tragedy and safety measures have to be implemented to stop it from happening again however, scaremongering and targeting a specific group of people is not helping.

The Daily Mail should be shamed of its biased, partial reporting that is inciting racial hatred which we believe is a crime in the United Kingdom.

These are the reasons for our protest, we demand an apology and for the Daily Mail to highlight the outstanding contribution Filipino health care workers make to the United Kingdom.

Finally, on behalf of the organising committee, in one with the overwhelming majority of Filipinos throughout the United Kingdom and indeed the world, we would like to say how truly sorry we are about the shocking crimes committed by Chua and we send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of the victims.

Malcolm Conlan
Araial Ilustre
Ric Patriarca
Tara Tiyagarajan
Vannz Bio
Glenda Salazar Taylor
Phoebe Dimacali
Rommel C. Abellar


Saturday 30th May 2015"

Friday, May 29, 2015

West Ham Labour nominates Sadiq Khan and Tessa Jowell as their London Mayoral Candidates

Over 80 members of West Ham Labour Party attended yesterdays nomination meeting at Vicarage Lane Community centre, E15. At the beginning, our CLP Chair, Charlene McLean, called out the names of the 8 declared candidates and asked for proposers and seconders. Members present selected Diane Abbot, Tessa Jowell, David Lammy, Gareth Thomas, Sadiq Khan and Neeraj Patil.

We could nominate up to two candidates, at least one of which had to be a women. The women candidate was decided first. A number of members spoke in favour of nominating Diane or Tessa. All contributions that evening were heard out and treated with respect.

Tessa Jowell was elected as a women's candidate by 49 votes to Diane Abbot 32.

Next we debated the open selection and voted for Sadiq Khan as our candidate, who got 52 votes to 16 for Gareth Thomas and 15 this time for Diane.

There was some fantastic contributions from a wide range of new and experienced activists. I was really pleased with the arguments, the passion and energy shown. Despite our national defeat on May 7, the Labour Party in its historic homeland, West Ham, is still very much alive and kicking.

Our MP, Lyn Brown then gave us an impassioned speech, thanking us for all our hard work during the General election and in particular, for Wes Streeting's victory in marginal Ilford North. She promised to lead a "fightback" in West Ham against  the consequences of Tory rule.

After which, of course, was the inevitable Labour Party raffle, followed by a little bit of a social followed by some late night discussion by some in the nearby Bay Tree public bar.

Check out the report in West Ham Labour blog. We hope as a CLP to host a hustings for the Labour Leadership nominations.

Hat tip picture Julianne Marriott. Many thanks to top Community Centre volunteer Kim for helping to set up and clean up. 

Join us at Tower Hamlets tomorrow at 12 - Bethnal Green Station

Tower Hamlets Mayoral by-election - Sat 30 May 12pm
Please come and join us to help John Biggs become the Labour Mayoral of Tower Hamlets. 
We are meeting inside Bethnal Green station (just after the ticket barriers) at 12pm on Saturday. Don't worry if you haven't been out knocking on doors before someone will help you (or you could deliver leaflets). Ring John Gray.

If you can't make that time please just turn up at Tower Hamlets Labour Party office (349 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA, nr Bethnal Green station) anytime between 10-4pm this Saturday or Sunday. You can also see when they have sessions during the week here. They'll be grateful for any time you can spare.

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair
West Ham Labour party

AMNT Summer Conference: London 24 June 2015

"The AMNT summer conference is set to take a historic step in the advancement of the rights of pension schemes to protect their investments by actively directing fund managers' engagement and voting at company meetings.

This is an extremely important matter: insufficiently robust governance of companies has led to corporate errors and misjudgments that have cost them - and in turn the investors - billions in fines, compensation, slashed dividends and drop in shareprice. Our pensions schemes are among those that have lost out.

Until now, the ability to set an engagement and voting policy for your fund manager has generally been confined to the largest pension schemes. Small schemes and those that invest in pooled funds have faced the reluctance of fund managers to allow you to set a policy. Some have been told that your scheme is too small to have anything to do with responsible investment.

However, for the last two years AMNT has been developing a new initiative called red line voting that would enable trustee boards to play an active role in directing policy on corporate governance, social and environmental issues. And not before time: current reports indicate that legal action is being threatened against some pension schemes that are failing to address environmental risks associated with the companies in which they invest.

Those of you who have attended our meetings over the last year have received our regular reports on our development of Red Line Voting. You may also have read the very favourable reporting of it in the industry's press. We have consulted widely across the fund management industry and have worked very closely with the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association ( so we are confident that the Red Lines we are developing are workable. We have received the public support of the previous Secretary of State for Business, Dr Vince Cable has urged the fund management industry to work with AMNT to make it happen.

On 24th June we will put our Red Lines before you for discussion and invite you to vote them into existence. So if you, like the AMNT committee, would like all pension schemes to have the option of playing an active role in responsible investment, for the long term benefit of their schemes, then please come along to your summer conference and vote them into existence.

Joining us at our summer conference will be Saker Nusseibeh, Chief Executive Officer of Hermes and Faith Ward of The Environment Agency.

Pension freedoms
We will be sharing experiences of how the pension freedoms have panned out since April and will be hearing a rather concerning analysis of the largely unnoticed crash in the bond market last October. We will be finding out what alternatives there might be.

Please register now to secure your place at the AMNT's summer conference, which takes place at BNY Mellon.

Click here to join the AMNT for free and to register also for free at the conference"

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lyn Brown MP - All-members meeting this Thursday evening - hope to see you there

This has been sent to all West Ham Labour Party members by Lyn.

"Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you for all your hard work and dedication during the General Election campaign. I am truly grateful for the support you have shown me and our party. It was a fantastic result in West Ham, Ilford North, Bermondsey and Old Southwark and in London as a whole; it was however, a gut-wrenching result across the country.

As you know, we were twinned with Ilford North, and many of you went over to campaign to get Wes Streeting elected - we were so right to do so. Wes only won by 589 votes. The fact is Wes wouldn’t have won without your help. It goes to show that in many places hard work can get us the results we need. London’s fabulous result is testament to our superb ground operation and our hard-working membership. It is in London where the fightback for Labour will start.

The first thing we can positively achieve for the people of West Ham is to elect a Labour Mayor for our great city. Tomorrow (Thursday 28 May)) at 8pm, at Vicarage Lane Community Centre, E15 4HW, we will be holding our all-member nomination meeting. At that meeting we will nominate our candidate for the London Mayoral election. You have a vote – please don’t waste it.

I've been thinking about the future of our party, I know it is important to have a Mayoral candidate who will fight for ordinary Londoners. I believe that person is Sadiq Khan, who grew up in a council house in London, became a lawyer, before he sat in Gordon Brown’s cabinet. For the past year I've heard Sadiq speak on issues concerning London, as the Shadow London Minister, and I know he and I share priorities for West Ham and our capital.

In short Sadiq’s manifesto is:

* To build more affordable housing and to protect private renters, with more
social housing and a London-wide not-for-profit lettings agency. 

* He will prioritise skills, apprenticeships and fair pay for Londoners. Sadiq
will work with businesses to ensure we have the skills that businesses of the
future will need, but he will be asking more businesses to pay the London Living
wage and he’ll fight for a higher minimum wage in London. 

* He pledges to keep fares down, whilst ensuring we plan for the transport
infrastructure of the future. 

* Sadiq intends to bring back neighbourhood policing and put prevention first –
he knows that preventative neighbourhood policing is by far the most effective
way to reduce crime and make our communities safer. 

* In our schools, he will facilitate cross-London planning to fix the school
places shortage and he will use the Mayor’s power to ensure Free Schools and
Academy Chains work with the boroughs in which they are situated.
* And Sadiq will fight for more powers for London so that we can get a better
deal for the majority.

I believe Sadiq is the Mayoral candidate who will make London work for all
Londoners and not just the very privileged few at the very top.

You will know that there are a number of candidates standing for nomination
including: Diane Abbott, Gareth Thomas, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell. All of
these comrades have their strengths and supporters. I will fight hard for
whichever candidate we choose.

I hope that you will come along and nominate the candidate of your choice, I
know there will be a real divergence of views and the vote is likely to be

Obviously, I hope that our candidate will be Sadiq. Hope to see you there

With best wishes and in comradeship,


MP for West Ham

(picture is my favourite of campaign JG)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Coke, VISA, McDonalds, Adidas, Kia & Hyundai are nothing more than human rights abusers

I have just sent this email below to the CEO's of human rights abusers - Coke, VISA, McDonalds, Adidas, Kia & Hyundai.

The TV news tonight begins with the arrest and charges of FIFA officials with corruption. This is serious but the needless deaths of hundreds of construction workers Qatar is an unforgivable disgrace. International law is clear. You cannot pick and choose which human rights your company's support.

"The Hypocrisy World Cup? FIFA sponsors must tell Qatar to play fair on workers' human rights

62 workers may lose their lives for each game played during Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, a tournament likely to be sponsored by FIFA partner companies Coke, VISA, McDonald’s, Adidas, Kia and Hyundai. Without sponsorship, this multi-billion dollar tournament couldn’t take place.

Due to poor health & safety, shocking living conditions and almost total absence of rights, more than 4,000 of Qatar’s workers will die before the first ball is kicked. Hundreds have already died through a combination of accidents, heart attacks and suicide. Because of Qatar’s laws, migrant workers are trapped with a single employer, barred from changing jobs or even leaving the country without permission. Wages are paid sometimes months late, leaving trapped workers starving. Labour courts are costly and complicated, with little language assistance, and workers are banned from forming or joining trade unions to negotiate better conditions.

There has been almost no pressure from FIFA to fix this, nor have sponsors taken a stand, despite their professed commitment to human rights and workers’ welfare.

Most sponsors commit themselves to respecting the UN Declaration of Human Rights – which guarantees the right to join a union - and have specific policies banning forced labour and slavery in their supply chains. However, none of them seem to have considered that paying FIFA to host a tournament built on slave labour goes against everything they claim to believe in.

As a customer or potential customer of these multinational companies, can you help us pressure them to live up to their own ethical standards in how they spend their sponsorship funding?

We know money talks in FIFA. If one of these sponsors were to speak up it would be hugely influential in guiding FIFA and Qatar into ensuring that labour standards for people preparing the country to host the World Cup meet international standards of safety, decency and human rights".

If you agree then click on link to send the same email ( to these highly paid human rights abusers. 

The Common People (Remember this is what tories do)

There is huge anger tonight inside and outside Parliament about Cameron's first full Tory Queen Speech. There are also bad tempered (but tiny) protests outside Downing Street and of course lots of noise on social media. People seem genuinely shocked.

I forgot about this 2010 YouTube video during this General election campaign. Watching it tonight I wonder why anyone is at all surprised about what is happening. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sadiq Khan proposes a London Living Rent

Hat tip Labour List. I will look at all the London Mayoral UNISON candidates Housing policies. A living rent policy would be fantastic. What is the point of a Living wage if you did not have a Living Rent policy? 

"Sadiq Khan, who’s in the running to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayoral, has made his first big policy announcement today.

Khan, who is also the MP for Tooting, said he would introduce a London Living Rent to bring down the price of renting. This would be below-market rent that would be offered in new build properties and it would be a third of average renters’ income. He explained that this Living Rent would also make it easier for people renting privately in London to save up for their first deposit to buy a home.

The London mayoral hopeful also said he would create an not-for-profit letting agency while naming and shaming landlords who treat tenants badly and campaigning to give tenants more powers over getting repairs done to their property.

Alongside these plans Khan, who is a former Shadow Minister for London and Shadow Justice Minister, said he would campaign for the Mayor to have the power to freeze rent rises.

In terms of building new homes, Khan would ensure there is more public land available to build on, enforce fair and clear rules for developers, and use the housing investment budget to start a new social home-building programme.

Khan has explained the thinking behind his proposals:

“The two million Londoners who rent have been badly let down by the Mayor and Government, with many Londoners now spending over half their income on rents. The Tories didn’t even mention private renters in their manifesto.

“As Mayor, I’ll offer a London Living Rent, create a London-wide social letting agency, and fight for new powers to freeze rents. Together we can make housing more affordable for thousands of Londoners – helping them save for a deposit.

“We’ll work with the good landlords who treat their tenants well, and I’ll take on bad ones, with stronger rights for tenants to get repairs done. As the Tories shrug their shoulders, I’m determined to show that we can do more to help Londoners who rent.”

A spokesperson for Generation Rent, which campaigns for affordable privately rented homes, has welcomed Khan’s announcement, saying:

“It’s heartening to see a mayoral candidate focus their sights on the private rented sector, recognising that the chronic affordability crisis in London cannot go on. However, if we want our capital to continue to be a vibrant and diverse city, we would like to see the ‘London Living Rent’ extended beyond new builds and into the whole of London’s private rented sector, benefiting millions of tenants in the process.”

Housing is a big issue ahead of the mayoral election next year, Diane Abbott, Tessa Jowell, David Lammy, Gareth Thomas and Christian Wolmar have also all outlined proposals to address the housing crisis in London".

UNISON Greater London Labour Link Survey on Mayoral Candidates

This survey was sent out today to 60,000 UNISON members in Greater London Region who choose to affiliate to the Labour Party. I have deleted the link to the survey from this post for obvious reasons. If you are a APF member then please take part in the survey!

All APF payers

UNISON Membership No:  **********
Date: 26 May 2015

To UNISON Members in GLR Paying APF

Dear UNISON Member,

Selection of Labour's Mayoral Candidate - UNISON Members Canvassing Survey

Following the recent General Election the focus will now turn to the 2016 Mayoral and GLA elections. The first stage in this process is for Labour to select a candidate to stand for election as London Mayor.  UNISON is eligible to make a nomination and is seeking your views as an Affiliated Political Fund payer. 

We would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to answer a very quick survey (there are only 5 questions and it should take just a few minutes). Just click here to start: (deleted)

Those completing the survey before 12noon on Friday 5 June will be entered into a prize draw to win a Kindle Fire HXD.

In accordance with the agreed process UNISON will prioritise nominating and supporting candidates who are UNISON members.  A brief statement from each of the candidates who are members can be found within the survey.  Full statements can be found at

The Regional Labour Link Committee will then consider the responses of the survey before making a recommendation to the National Labour Link Committee who will make the nomination. 

Yours sincerely,

Linda Perks
Regional Secretary - UNISON Greater London Region

On Behalf of UNISON

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weald Country Park Walk (avoiding "Plonkers Lane")

Off message but this was a lovely 5.5 mile,  Essex pathfinder walk only 30 minutes by car from Forest Gate, London. I have been silently suffering for the last week with the "dreaded lurgy" (aka as "Man flu") so did not feel up to a full London Loop walk

The Park itself was busy being a Bank Holiday. There is a cafe and you could hand feed young deer in an enclosure for only 50p. There was also a fresh organic bread, pie and cake stall.

Outside the County park boundaries, the walk was quiet and all very lush and green apart from the commonplace white spring blossom on trees and hedges. The fields were dominated by bright yellow buttercups. It would also have been a marvellous place to visit a few weeks ago when the bluebells were in season and full bloom.

This is a very much a walk of ancient paths and lanes. We walked along what was once a medieval pilgrim's route to Canterbury and went near Day's Lane, which believe it or not used to be called "Plonkers Lane" (no comment Rodney).

A famous former resident of the local village, South Weald, was ruthless naval hero, John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent. If like me, you are a fan of the historical novelist, Patrick O'Brien, you will know all about this real life former Sea Lord.

You end up back in the forest of the Country park.  We stopped for lunch at two benches overlooking a gorgeous country vista. A couple were sitting at the bench next to us with two dogs. The women asked if I minded taking their picture, sitting on the bench, since they had commissioned it in honour of her husband's late parents.

I said with pleasure and took the pictures. I remarked that my family had also sponsored a bench in the countryside to remember my own Dad.

While flowers and gravestones are very important to people, I think that commissioning a bench somewhere beautiful and special in memory of your loved ones is far more meaningful. It is obviously though a matter of personal choice. 

Choose the next Labour Leader and London Mayor - Sign up to be a Labour Supporter

It is not the most enticing advert but I assume people are working on it and something better will come out soon.

If you agree with this :-

"I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it."

Then for only £3 you can become a "Labour Supporter" which will give you right to help choose a New Leader and deputy Leader of the Labour Party. 

If you are a member of a trade union that affiliates to the Labour Party you can become a registered Labour Supporter for free.

If you live in London as a Labour Supporter you can also help vote for a London Mayoral candidate.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

West Ham "on the knocker" for John Biggs

Picture collage from yesterday of West Hammers (and a East Ham comrade) "on the knocker" for John Biggs as Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets.

West Ham Labour Chair, Charlene McLean, led our team "assisted" by her campaign hardened 9 month old baby daughter, Esme (definite future Young Pioneer and Woodcraft folk member).

A positive canvass for John and Labour, although many people were away since this was a Bank holiday weekend. I came across some very negative comments about the Executive Mayoral system but was able to reassure people that in the hands of a honest, decent and principled candidate such as John Biggs, they have nothing to worry about.

Rain eventually stopped play. I had some interesting but confusing interactions on twitter trying to direct West Ham activists to join our team. Twitter is all well and good but a mobile telephone call is probably still best in these circumstances.

So we have to be "Left" economically and "Right" socially to win in 2020?

Some more thoughts on May 7th and the aftermath. 

First check out this post in TouchStone by Newham's finest, Nigel Stanley, on the post election day TUC survey.

Nigel argues that this evidence (of voters who considered Labour but ended up voting for someone else) suggests that Labour is not seen as being hostile to aspiration but lost out on economic trust and fear of SNP.

Nor were we seen as too left wing or too tough on business. In fact we were seen as too soft and should even have increased taxes more on the rich?

However, it is clear that Labour was punished for not being "tough" enough on welfare and immigration.

Finally, I retweeted yesterday Tony McNulty's comment "History is written by those who turn up. Turnout 18-24 43%  65+ 78%  Home Owners 77%  Private Renters 51%  AB 75% DE 57%" (IpsosMori)

As you can see from the chart that older and more wealthy voters supported the Tories by a wide mark. The young and the poorest, who don't vote as much supported Labour.

I actually think it is too early to decide the future of the Party until we fully understand why we lost. This will take time. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Freedom fighter Denis Goldberg at Community H.E.A.R.T event at South Africa House

The picture collage is from last night's fundraiser at the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square for Community HEART and the "Children of a Rainbow Nation".  The development charity Community HEART  was founded by former ANC political prisoner,  82 year old Denis Goldberg, who was the guest speaker. He also spoke at the Greater London UNISON Regional Council on Wednesday, which I missed due to a NJC clash but know that people who heard him at the meeting were near to tears by his speech.

UNISON had a really good presence at the fundraiser including our former Deputy General Secretary, Keith Sonnet .

Denis gave a fantastic "matter of fact" speech about the struggle for freedom in South Africa, its very difficult present and future - and being tried for his life with Nelson Mandela and other comrades during the Rivonia Trial.

Denis spent 22 years in jail for his beliefs. It is inspiring and amazing that he is not angry and bitter about his treatment but still remains positive and optimistic.

I particularly liked the contribution of the speaker who reminded everyone that at the infamous prison Robben Island a collected works of Shakespeare was smuggled in disguised as a Bible. The political prisoners all read this book and highlighted their favourite passages. This was Nelson Mandela's favourite "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once".

Many thanks to my former UNISON NEC colleague, Isobel McVicar, for all her hard work organising such events. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

A year on...

Facebook sent a reminder this morning of this picture. I cannot believe it is a year since the Newham Council elections 2014.

I have been a Councillor now for just over 5 years.

It will be good to reflect on what I have done, what I haven't done and what I hope to do. I have some plans.

3 more years to go before next elections in 2018.

Standing outside Manor School polling station in West Ham ward.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

List of London Labour Mayoral applicants

Dear colleague,

Further to my earlier email, the list of applicants for the London Mayoral selection is:
  • Diane Abbott
  • Tessa Jowell
  • Keran Kerai
  • Sadiq Khan
  • David Lammy
  • Neeraj Patil
  • Gareth Thomas
  • Christian Wolmar
Constituency Labour Parties and affiliates now have until 10 June to nominate from amongst these people.  CLP Secretaries will be organising all-member nomination meetings and advising members.

You can find more about the process here:

Best wishes


West Ham CLP London Mayor Nomination meeting - 28 May

Labour’s London Mayor Nomination - 28 May 2015

I would like to invite you to West Ham Labour party’s all-member meeting on 28 May where we will decide whether to nominate candidates to stand for London Mayor.

After we’ve finished making nominations we hope you will stay and join us for a social event. We'll be weloming new members, thanking everyone for all their work over the election campaign and celebrating Lyn Brown's re-election and our win in Ilford North. Please do bring food or drink to share with other members.

Where and when?

When: 8pm on Thursday 28 May
Where: Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, London E15 4HW

What will happen at the meeting?

A list of people that have applied to become Labour’s candidate for the Mayor should be available shortly. If you want to ensure the meeting considers a particular candidate, please come ready to propose or second that candidate at the beginning of the meeting. All West Ham members will have a chance to discuss the merits of each candidate before we all vote on whether to nominate anyone at all or whether to nominate one or two people (we have to nominate at least one woman). The Labour Party will then shortlist candidates that West Ham and other London Constituency Labour Parties have nominated. Those shortlisted candidates will then speak at hustings across London that party members and supporters can attend. Voting on this (and the Leader of the Labour party) will open in mid-August and will be announced 12 September.

GC - delegates will meet at 7.30 as usual but at Vicarage Lane on Thursday 28 May before nomination meeting.

Tower Hamlets by election - Sat 23 May

We'll be meeting at Stratford station (at the ticket barrier/sign) at 10.30am on Saturday to head over to help Tower Hamlets (John Gray is lead).

If you can't make that time please just turn up at Tower Hamlets Labour Party office (349 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA, nr Bethnal Green station) anytime between 10-4pm this Saturday or Sunday. You can also see when they have sessions during the week here. They'll be grateful for any time you can spare.

I hope to see you at the nomination meeting. If you have any questions please email

Best wishes


Charlene McLean
Chair - West Ham CLP

Red Line Voting

"I’m writing to invite you to play a part in bringing into being, on 24th June,  a new asset-owner approach to engagement and voting. It will open the way to restoring asset owner control over engagement and voting policies relating to investments held in pooled funds.

The Association of Member Nominated Trustees will, at its summer conference in London, be asking its members to vote to bring Red Line Voting into existence. Red Line Voting is a new approach developed over the last two years to address the problem faced by pension schemes that invest in pooled funds – the reluctance of fund managers to allow pension schemes to direct how the votes associated with their investments should be cast.

I consider this to be an extremely important matter. According to the Investment Association, of the £5-trillion of assets under management in the UK nearly half is invested in pooled funds. It is right and proper that the trustees of pension schemes should be able to direct the responsible investment policy for these investments. Up to now fund managers have said that it would be too difficult to manage multiple voting instructions from many pension schemes.

So AMNT has developed a new approach. With expert technical support their working group of member nominated trustees, of which I am one,  has developed a series of tightly drawn Red Lines – voting instructions – covering the range of environmental, social and corporate governance policies and applicable to all the companies in which the fund invests.  Pension schemes that choose to adopt some or all of them instruct their fund manager to engage and vote accordingly. The fund manager is at liberty to vote contrary to a Red Line if in their judgement that is the appropriate action, but they have to explain to the client why they did so.

Red Line Voting makes it easy for the fund managers to manage: they may receive instructions from many pension schemes, but they are all the same instructions so votes can be allocated accordingly.
This new approach will be of great assistance to the pension schemes that do have a responsible investment policy as it will undoubtedly lead to greater support for their policies when votes are cast. 

Many pension schemes that do have a corporate governance policy do not have a social or environmental policy, so Red Line Voting is a way to close that gap. And above all it will enable, for the first time, many small and medium sized pension funds to respond to the growing calls for them to protect their assets through responsible investing.

To take part in the June 24th meeting you need to sign up to AMNT (it’s free) at and then register for the conference (also free). You can also find more details about Red Line Voting on the website, and once registered as a member you will be able to see and comment on the draft Red Lines.

The conference is from 10am to 5pm at 160 Queen Victoria St, London EC4V 4LA.
I urge you to join and accompany me to the AMNT conference: with your support we will see the launch of a new surge in asset owner engagement with responsible investment.

Thank you
Best wishes,

John Gray"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Collective Bargaining, What's It Good For?

If you really want to tackle low pay and inequality in this country then find out how by watching this video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do you want to help pick the next Labour Leader (and Mayor of London Candidate)? Sign up as an Affiliated Supporter

"To UNISON Members,

Make sure you have your say in selecting Labour's new leader and the Labour candidate for London Mayor.

Sign up now as an Affiliated Supporter of the Labour Party.

Any UNISON member who supports Labour's aims and values is entitled to register and vote.

London Labour will select their candidate for London Mayor in July. The timetable for selection of the Labour leader will be published soon.

UNISON is encouraging all members who are Labour supporters to register.

It's free, quick and easy to do - and you don't have to be a Labour Party member.

To register and find out more go to

UNISON London Labour Link"

(anyone who supports Labour's aims and values can sign up on the link above to be a supporter and vote for a new leader to replace Ed Miliband.  If you live in London you can also vote for the Labour Mayoral candidate. It is free for all UNISON & other affiliated union members and £3 if you are not)

Monday, May 18, 2015

On the Knocker for John Biggs in Mile End

After the Regional UNISON agm on Saturday and while cycling home, I stopped off at the Tower Hamlets Labour Party HQ in Bethnal Green to help campaign for Labour Mayor candidate, John Biggs.  I was asked if I minded going out with a canvass team led by former Tower Hamlets and now Barking and Dagenham Labour Cllr, Bill Turner. I responded that I had a very wicked previous life and would join my UNISON comrade, Mr Turner.

We were in his former ward in Mile End, which I had helped canvass for Bill in 2006 with a good friend and trade union comrade, George Woznicki, who is sadly no longer with us. During that election we had to contend with teams of fascist BNP activists.

I thought that the door knock for Labour and John Biggs went okay and I had some decent conversations with former supporters of "Tower Hamlets First" and even TUSC, who felt it was time to move on, vote for Labour and give some good governance and stability to the borough. However, this election will not be a walkover.

While in the light of events I like many others personally do not believe in the Executive Mayoral model for local Councils, I do think it is really important to elect capable, decent and honest Labour politicians such as John Biggs (and then hopefully reform the position). This election is really important to East London and I hope that everyone will turn out and do their bit to win it. 

View from the Coalface - The role of trade unionists as pension trustees

This picture is from the panel seminar last week at the "Workplace Pension 2015" conference in Birmingham.

I was with Bill Trythall, who is a fellow AMNT union appointed trustee on the massive USS Pension scheme. The chair was Louise Farrand from "Engaged Investor".

We took a number of questions from the chair and members of the audience on amongst other things - time limits for trustees on schemes; do trade unions help bring diversity and how can we tell if our pension board is any good?

My response (and since I was obviously not making notes I won't report on what Bill said) was "Yes", we should have time limits on trustees serving on a board. It is wrong that people like me have been on boards for 20 years. We need new blood and realistic succession plans. But so should all our professional advisors be similarly time limited to 5-10 years maximum. 

I think that trade unions do help drive the diversity agenda, since not only is equality and fairness a reason for our existence, we know that if a company does not recruit, for example, any women to its board, then it is is ignoring the potential talent pool from half the population. That is a bad business decision and ignorant companies who do so will suffer in the long term. 

This has nothing to do with political correctness but a well founded belief that companies who don't discriminate, do not  cause harm to its workers, destroy the environment, employ child labour or bribe public officials will in the long run be far more successful businesses to invest in than does that do.

My response to how we can tell if we are doing a good job or not as pension trustees will be to see firstly how we perform according to our benchmark, when compared to our peers and at our triennial valuations. But also we should see how open and transparent we are with our members and other stakeholders, do we seriously challenge our advisors, how realistic are our assumptions about future performance and liabilities, do we really drill down on all our fees and transaction costs and do we take our responsibilities as owners of capital seriously?

We ran out of time at the end but I think that Bill and I enjoyed the seminar and hopefully those who watched and participated did so likewise.

UNISON Greater London Community Executive AGM 2015 with Sadiq Khan MP

Collage is from the Regional AGM on Saturday for delegates from branches with Community Service Group members (Housing Associations and the Voluntary sector).

The meeting started on a somber note, as we stood up to pay our respects to Colin Joseph, who recently passed away suddenly. Colin was a long standing case worker for the Voluntary Organisation branch and will be sadly missed.

First speaker was our newly elected lay regional conveyor, Yvonne Green, who described herself as "the new Gloria".  She thanked all members who got involved in the election. She had done her bit in Croydon North and while devastated at the prospect of 5 years of Tory rule, encouraged all members to stand up to them, join Labour link and get involved in your branches and the Party.

UNISON Regional Secretary (and vice chair of Labour Board), Linda Perks, spoke about the last 5 years and how we had actually defended our members better than expected. We have had some terrible struggles in Community, especially in care and support but are now having some decent pay settlements in housing management organisations.

She thought a major reason for the defeat was that a third of the electorate did not vote. She wants us to now go on the offensive with the Tories and their attacks on working people. Expose their obscene employment practices such as unfair zero hour contracts. Linda also called for UNISON members to help build our Labour Link organisation and get involved in local Labour Parties and explain our case. How else will the Party understand us?

Our keynote speaker was UNISON member, Sadiq Khan MP (and Labour London Mayoral candidate), who did his best to cheer us up after the General Election result.

Sadiq thanked us for all the work that the unions did and said that he thought that one reason why Labour did better in London than other parts of the country was its good links with the trade unions.

He then reminded us of what Tony Benn said about politics and defeat "There is no final battle, there is no final defeat. There is the same battle over and over again. So toughen up - bloody toughen up". Sadiq believes that we can and will win in 2020 and we need to start by winning the mayoral campaign in Tower Hamlets.

Sadiq had to leave for another meeting. In the Q&A I pointed out that we must never accept the argument that Labour lost the election because it was "too left". With hindsight we should have realised that we were never likely to win because it is a historical fact that voters in this country will give any government a second chance. Especially if the economy is seen to be improving (aka "its the economy stupid").

In the collage is a great photo of retiring Chair, Charlie Hore, thanking our UNISON Regional Organiser, Colin Inniss, who obviously thinks things are not tough enough in our sector since he soon going off on an unpaid 6 month career break to go hang gliding and mountain climbing! Colin will be a difficult act to (temporarily) follow but the union is interviewing soon for his replacement.

Next on agenda was Dave Johnson, national secretary, on "meeting the organising challenge in the Community Sector". The future of the union depends on us keeping our current density and organisation in sectors that will be outsourced under the Tories. To me it is clear that we have to organise or die.

Final speakers were bectu union lay activists, Christopher Hutchings and Kerri Sandell, who told us about their successful campaign to win a living wage for all workers in the Curzon cinema chain. This is a pretty inspiring campaign which all of us can learn from. However, it was not all about publicity stunts and embarrassing the employer (but that was important) but also about a lot of hard work, organisation and graft by local activists supported by their national officers (and most importantly making sure that there was also some fun and laughs).

Despite the depressing backdrop, this was a really positive and forward thinking AGM. Congratulations also to new Chair, Mitsy Harmon and vice Chair, Tony Power.

Afterwards I went off to fight the good fight for Tower Hamlets Labour Mayoral candidate, John Biggs.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

West Ham Municipal Elections 1897: Now and then.

On General election day May 7, a London UNISON colleauge was representing Labour outside a polling station in Ilford North, when an elderly man bought photocopies of an election leaflet, featuring his Grandfather and gave her a copy. She knew that I was a West Ham Labour Councillor and would be interested in this, so she sent me a scan.

It is a remarkable document. Plasitow ward in 1897 also incorporated my ward, West Ham.  At the time West Ham Country borough was the first Council to be controlled by Labour. In 1892 Keir Hardie had been elected in West Ham South as the first Labour Member of Parliament. Even though the Labour Party itself was not formed until 1906.

I could only find out more information on the internet about J. J Terrett and nothing on G. Bissell or G. Coe.

Joseph Terrett was elected as a Councillor at some point and wrote a pamphlet called "Municipal Socialism” in West Ham: A Reply to ‘The Times,’ and Others (London: Twentieth Century Press, 1902). Which was in response to an attack on Labour Councils for spending too much by the London Times newspaper. Terrett argued that any extra expenditure was necessary due to poverty and disease. This argument is still live today.

He also wrote a book "The Right Hon. H.H. Asquith, M.P., and the Featherstone massacre" 1906. Which was about the shooting dead by troops of 2 striking coal miners in Burnley in 1893.

In early 1893, Terrett, was a 20 year gas worker and Social Democratic Federation League activist in Burnley. He also called himself "A. G. Wolfe" for some reason. He was however attacked by Keir Hardie for being too aggressive and sectarian.

The last reference I could find on Terrett was standing in a Parliamentary by election in South London 1916 as "Independent Labour". "London Trades Union Protest Committee selected Joe Terrett to stand on a platform of opposition to the recently introduced drink orders introduced on liquor traffic by the Central Control Board.[5] Terrett promptly began his campaign with literature carrying slogans such as "Smash the control board. No more government by secretly-appointed non-representative bodies".

It is surprising how many of the issues mentioned in the pamphlet are still relevant now. Much of which (not all) I would agree with. Click on pictures to bring up details.

If you look at their "Programme" (Page 3) you will see calls for a minimum wage, paid holidays, pensions and sick pay for Council workers. They also call for the council to build homes at low rents.

They want strict enforcement of what we would call nowadays "environmental health" and municipalisation of utilities and other monopolies. As well as making sure Landlords pay their taxes.

The municipalisation of pubs and off licences is not a particularly live issue anymore.

Page 4 of the manifesto calls for free further education and the provision of sufficient toilets for both sexes. I would still agree with the call for evening meetings of all Council committees.

There is "green agenda" (planting of trees) and a cultural call for a municipal theatre.

Finally, I am not that keen on the municipal control of Police but would fully support the final demand that the Council puts pressure to bear on the railway companies to prevent "the scandalous overcrowding that occurs daily".

Some things never change.

Many thanks for sending me the pamphlet. If anyone has any further information on it, please let me know.

UPDATE: Check this post about the grave of George Coe (G.Coe) 
and comments by his family

Co-op Votes to Keep Political Link with Labour Movement

As a Co-op shopper and Party member this is great news. I was out canvassing in Tower Hamlets yesterday afternoon for John Biggs as Labour mayor.

When I got a text from one of the "Keep It Co-op" organisers that the Co-operative Group had just voted to keep its link with the Co-operative Party.

In the face of the General Election defeat is was even more important than ever that the Labour movement family (The Labour Party, the Co-operative Party, the affiliated trade unions and socialist societies) - keeps together.

I think that this has been a bit of a "wake up" call for the Co-operative Party to better assert its voice and distinctive cooperative message in the wider Labour Party. While the financial disaster that the Co-operative Banking arm got itself into reminds us that we also need effective as well as democratic governance in co-operatives and mutuals.

Picture of West Ham Labour activists outside the Co-op in Forest Gate, Newham. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Newham Council AGM 2015

Picture collage from the Annual General Meeting of Newham Council (and 50th anniversary of the London Borough of Newham) at Stratford Town Hall.

The meeting started with music and song from local primary school pupils. At the meeting I was re-elected to Investment and Accounts Committee; Regeneration & Employment Scrutiny Commission and Housing Tenants' Scrutiny Commission.

The Newham Young Mayor's gave fantastic speeches and the Executive Mayor, Sir Robin Wales explained about his work programme for the year in the face of £91 million of cuts.

Afterwards, there was yet another picture of all Councillors on the Town Hall stairway followed by drinks and nibbles in the old Council Chamber.

(hat tip to Facebook friends who I have "borrowed" some of their pictures)

Friday, May 15, 2015

AMNT stall at Workplace Pensions Live 2015

On Thursday I went for a flying visit to Edgbaston, Birmingham to take part in a panel on the second day of Workplace Pensions conference.

The theme of the panel was "View from the coalfield - This session will explore the role of unions on trustee boards, and the conflicts union members may face in their interactions with employers and members".

I was speaking with Bill Trythall (see on right of picture), a trade union appointed director, of the massive university pension fund USS.

The session went okay I think and afterwards Bill and I joined our colleagues at the Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) stall.

I had to rush back to London for the Newham Council AGM. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Greater London UNISON international Committee and Greece Solidarity Campaign

Picture is from yesterday's AGM of Greater London UNISON International and Europe Committee. Kim Silver was re-elected Chair and I was  re-elected Vice Chair. 

Below is the draft report on this part of the meeting. I hope to also post later the presentation by the VSC.

"Paul Mackney and Isidoros Diakides from the Greece Solidarity Campaign‎ (GSC) spoke on the current situation in Greece following the election of the Syrzia government earlier this year. Greek workers are fighting back against EU-imposed austerity measures, with 32 general strikes having taken place. GSC encourages 'solidarity tourism'! The prominence of women both suffering the effects of EU austerity and in resistance to them was emphasised.

Isidoros explained that there is no debt; it is an instrument of the EU and the IMF to impose neo-liberal policies onto Greece, as previously they have done with 'developing' countries. The German-inspired stereotype of 'lazy Greeks' is belied by Greek workers working the longest hours in Europe. A key component of the EU's policies is to dismantle employment protection and the welfare state, both of which have been fought for by generations of Greek Unions. When British and other Unions ask what they can do to assist, the answer Greek Unions give is that they should fight the austerity policies in their own countries. Without social solidarity in Greece the country would have collapsed.

Although the German government wants to impose cuts, it doesn't want Greece to cut its’ (mainly arms) contracts with Siemens.

John Gray asked why the Greek government isn't planning to leave the eurozone? Ensuing disruption is the answer offered. Membership of the EU is associated with prosperity, not austerity. Developing events may lead the Greek people to the opposite conclusion, and conclude that the only future lies outside the EU, but that is not their current view".

Monday, May 11, 2015

London Loop Walk Section 3: "Petts Wood to West Wickham Common"

The General Election is finally over, for good or bad (and I think it is very bad). Yesterday I had my first free Sunday for ages and went off and walked section 3 of the London Loop Walk "Petts Wood to West Wickham".

The weather was warm and mostly sunny. It felt almost but not quiet like a summers day. The first part of the walk was rather built up and suburbia but the last part after Farnborough village was mostly in beautiful and stunning open countryside. Just what my soul needed.

There was great views from the historic site of Wilberforce Oak, where Prime minister William Pitt the Younger and his friend, William Wilberforce, are reputed to have discussed the abolition of the slave trade in 1788.

The walk was supposed to be 9 miles but we got a little lost just after Keston ponds and probably nearer 10 by the end. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why we lost and what are we going to do about it?

Labour have a mountain to climb (see very subtle picture left) but we should not in my view be totally beating ourselves up over our performance on Thursday.

Everyone has an opinion nowadays and these are my views for better or for worse. 

Firstly, I don't think we can condemn voters for exercising their democratic choice no matter how wrong we feel that choice was. 

Labour was well beaten nationally and we need to accept this and move on. 

In my view and with of course the benefit of hindsight, it was clear that we would never win this time. Only once in 100 years (Feb 1974) has the UK had a one term government voted out. Voters nearly always give our governments a second chance. There is also most importantly  "It's the economy stupid" factor. Wages are now eventually rising, prices are low, fuel and energy costs in particular have crashed, mortgage interest rates also at record lows and house prices are rising. So people thought "Why risk all this?"

I think we should stress that things are not all doom and gloom and that a Tory majority of 12 does not mean they will be able to do anything they want. We should celebrate our successes locally in Newham (thumping big majorities for both MP's) and in Ilford North.

We should all plan to argue, campaign and resist whenever possible and practical. We will win on some things and for those things we will lose, we must be able to lay the blame squarely on the Tories.

We must also point out that next year London must lead the way for an alternative set of economic and political values by electing a progressive Labour Mayor and Assembly. This must be our priority.

On a wider point I also think that Labour needs to win the battle of ideas with the public on centre left politics. It is no use saying we will make the NHS better or build more housing without asking those who can afford it for more money in taxes.  People know this and unless they know where the money is coming from then you run the risk of someone claiming this doesn't really add up.  

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The West Ham Count 2015 at the Olympic Velopark

I have mixed emotions looking at this collage. On the one hand we had a fantastic victory in West Ham that night with our Labour MP, Lyn Brown, being re-elected with a majority of 27,986 and 68.4% (increase of 5.8% from 2010) share of the vote.  Charlene McLean was also re-elected as a Stratford & New Town Labour Councillor with the highest ever vote in the history of Newham Council.

Yet we clearly lost the national General election.

This morning I had my Councillor surgery in my ward and a young mum with her son came to see me. She has an eviction notice since she cannot afford the rent on her privately rented 2 bedroom flat. She has always worked for the NHS but due to benefit caps, she now cannot afford to live in one of the least expensive parts of London. She has even been refused access to so called "intermediate Social Housing" since she does not earn £40k per year.

What on earth will happen to her and her son under a future Tory government committed to billions of pounds of further spending cuts? 

Ilford North snapshot - May 7th

There was loads of Labour Party and trade union supporters in Ilford North on Thursday, so this is only a limited snapshot of what went on that day.

Westhammers were there at 5am to deliver reminder leaflets (followed by a well deserved breakfast in the Fairlop Oak) and out "on the knocker" and tele-canvassing for the rest of the day until 9.30pm. I was in West Ham in the morning and later went out with a number of Ilford North teams during the day and early evening. I put a £10 bet on for Wes Streeting to win at Ilford North (and now look forward to the winnings).

At one house I called at an elderly man answered the door and told me that this was the first time he had ever voted Labour. I asked if he minded telling me why? He said that it was because the Tories had said that they would force housing charities to sell their homes. This was unforgivable since it would bankrupt them and further reduce the supply of affordable homes.

On Barkingside High Street, a young woman stopped us and told us she was homeless and would we build more Council homes if elected? I told her that Labour is committed to building a million new homes including Council, Housing association and Private if elected.

I was pleased that I was with fellow UNISON members in every team I went on.

There was even a  direct West Ham connection since at one polling station, an elderly man bought along a copy of his grandfather's manifesto, who had stood as a Labour & trade union candidate for Plaistow ward in the 1897 West Ham municipal election. I have been sent a scan of this manifesto by a UNISON organiser and will post on it soon.

Wes Streeting overturned a 5,000 Tory majority to be elected as the Labour MP for Ilford North. It was thrilling news when we heard it at the West Ham Count.

In the collage there is a great picture of Wes and his agent (aka indie rock star) Matt Goddin, who is a top organiser (whose much better half Simian was also an excellent if somewhat reluctant canvass team leader on the day)