Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fabians Relaunch in Newham (better late than ...)

"We are pleased to announce two meetings of Newham Fabian Society.  All Fabian members welcome.

December Social
Tuesday 6 December at 7PM
With Guest Speaker Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham. 
Trinity Community Centre, East Avenue London E12 6SG.

Annual General Meeeting
Wednesday 11 January 2017 at 7PM
Guest speaker:  Andrew Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian Society
Trinity Community Centre, East Avenue London E12 6SG.

Further details from Tahmina Rahman,
Secretary, Newham Fabians

I think this is the first meeting of the Newham Fabians for several years.

You can join the National Fabians here http://www.fabians.org.uk/members/join/ but I am a member of the Newham Fabians for £7 per year.

Not sure what I have signed up to with my £7 and what it entitles?

Anyone know?

(Picture of a #MayorWhitworth look-a-likey at the last Newham Fabian event)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

West Ham Labour Branch votes 20-8 for change at Newham Town Hall

Great result tonight from West Ham Labour Party Ward meeting. 

20-8 vote in favour of change

I now think that the popular vote of members is for change but we will see.

Members voted for an open selection process for the next candidate to stand in the elections in 2018.


The current Mayor would be automatically shortlisted to be a candidate in any road.

I think it is about time we had an alternative choice and open process. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

West Ham Labour Party Christmas Quiz & Social - Friday 9 December 2016

It’s our festive fixture –  the Xmas Social and Quiz with our Quiz Masters Dianne and Conor. 7.30pm (for 8pm start), Friday 9 December, Vicarage Lane Centre, E15 4HW.
Come along and meet fellow West Ham members. No need to come as a team but do bring some food to share.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Newham trigger ballot results tighten but Sir Robin Wales maintains race lead"

See the latest report from the Newham Recorder on the trigger ballot. 

I do think that it is a genuine shame that Cllr Clive Furness when expressing his views about the Mayor does not declare that he is a full time paid employee of the current Mayor. 

Thinking about it all the 22 paid Councillor "advisors" to the Mayor are employees on zero hour contracts? 

"Attempts to unseat Sir Robin Wales as Labour’s automatic candidate for the borough’s 2018 mayoral elections have edged closer.

Two Labour branches and affiliated organisation Newham Co-op voted “no” in the latest round of the trigger ballot process this week, bringing the total number of wards pushing for an “open selection” election process to six.

However the Recorder understands a complaint has been formally lodged with the London chair and national chair of the Co-op party about “process and conduct plus missing ballot papers” at its vote on Monday.
But Chair of Newham Co-op Gill Hayes said the the person in question was being written to tomorrow to clarify that the process was in fact valid.
She said: “After investigation, it shows 73 ballots were issued and 73 ballots papers were returned.”
Stratford and Newtown ward voted Yes: 36 to No: 37 while Little Ilford ward voted Yes: 23 to No: 36.
Despite the wins, the “yes” votes still lead with nine wards in favour of keeping Sir Robin as the selected Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham.
Cllr Clive Furness, who represents Canning Town North, said he was supporting Sir Robin Wales for automatic re-selection.
“He has an excellent record and the drive to achieve more, we should focus on defending local people from the vicious attacks of the Tories and because when Labour spends time talking to itself we lose touch with our people,” he said.
A further six Labour wards are yet to vote and the majority of these are expected to take place next week.
West Ham, which votes on Tuesday, is expected to vote “no” but the other wards could go either way, the Recorder has been told.
Cllr John Whitworth, who has declared that he is “prepared to challenge” Sir Robin Wales as the 2018 Newham mayoral candidate should an open selection election process be triggered said next week’s votes would be “key - and really exciting”.
“As predicted, the argument for an open selection process did better this week with three straight wins, with two by massive majorities,” he said.
“It is becoming clear that it is the popular will of ordinary Newham party members that they want an open selection.
“It appears that other contenders are considering whether or not to declare.”
A further 11 affiliated organisations are also in the process of voting and have yet to declare.
A spokesperson for Trigger Democracy said: “From Stratford to Little Ilford, Labour members from all across Newham have been voting for democracy and choice.
“Trigger Democracy will carry on making its case as more wards meet next week.”

#CarefortheNHS - West Ham Labour campaign day for the NHS


Picture collage from yesterday. Members of West Ham Labour Party with our MP, Lyn Brown, in Stratford handing out leaflets and talking to the public about the funding crisis facing the NHS.

See photo of Newham Labour Mayoral Candidate (and stanch campaigner for the NHS) Cllr John Whitworth.

Some of the key facts about the crisis.

• Worst NHS deficits on record at £2.45 billion

• Around 3.9 million people are now on the English waiting list to start treatment

• 1.8 million people waited four or more hours in A&E last year - up over 400 per cent since 2010

• One in four patients have to wait a week or more to see or speak to a GP or nurse, or do not get an appointment at all

Hat tip some pictures to @WestHamLabour

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Housing Associations and Charities that refuse to recognise Trade Unions are Human Rights Violators

This motion has been sent to the UNISON Community Conference next year by UNISON Housing Association branch. 

"This Community conference notes:-

That a number of UK Housing Associations and Charities do not recognise trade unions for collective bargaining.

Some of these employers are Union busters and have de-recognised trade unions, attacked union representatives and blacklisted union and safety activists.

The UN Charter of Human Rights, as well as International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, makes it clear that it is an absolute human right of all employees not only to join a trade union but also to be protected by collective bargaining agreements over jobs, pay, terms and conditions.

Any employer that refuses to recognise trade unions and is hostile to union activists and organisers is committing human rights violations and must be treated as such.

Major UK Housing Associations and Charities have and continue to receive huge amounts of public money either in direct support, grants, benefits, subsidies, donations or taxable relief.

UNISON wants to work in partnership with employers to improve employee relations which we genuinely believe will benefit our clients, customers and workers. However we will not tolerate human rights abuses.

This Conference resolves

To call upon our SGE and UNISON Labour Link to support a campaign for all UK Housing Associations and Charities to recognise trade unions for collective bargaining. This campaign may involve taking legal industrial action if necessary in accordance with UNISON rules.

If any UK Housing Association or Charity refuses to recognise trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining and victimises or blacklists activists and organisers then we call upon the SGE and UNISON Labour link to support campaigns within our rules in favour of recognition and against such victimisation and blacklisting.

If any Housing Association or Charity refuses to respect the human rights of our members to collective bargaining and victimised or blacklists union activists then we should as a last resort call upon the general public, local authorities and the Government to make it clear to these organisations that due to their failure to observe basic international human rights, they will review whether they are fit and proper organisations that they should work with and have procurement, partnership and other commercial arrangements with".

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Labour dissenters take on the local party establishment"

Check out the Newstatesman take on the Newham Mayoral Trigger Ballot.

I think the author didn't really understand that all the Newham Councillor Mayoral advisors are effectively paid employees of the Mayor and the full timers quoted such Cllr Ken Clarke & Cllr Clive Furness (bless them) are absolutely conflicted.

I thought that this article was flawed but was on the whole somewhat balanced and worth reading. 

Especially if you are thinking about Directly Elected Executive Mayors in your locality (please don't)

"How a mayoral selection in Newham is turning into an attempted coup

Newham, an east London borough, seems an unlikely place for royalty to lurk. But here, disaffected Labour members like to joke, lies the kingdom of “Sir Robin” and his “Tudor court”.

The Sir Robin in question is Sir Robin Wales (pictured below, left). Born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, he joined the Labour party at 15, but it was after his move to London in the late 1970s that his political career flourished. He was elected a councillor in Newham in 1982. From there, he climbed the rungs of local politics to become the leader of the council by 1995, and its first directly-elected mayor in 2002.

Short-tempered at times, and unafraid of controversy, Wales has nevertheless built up a loyal power base in a longstanding Labour stronghold. His courtiers are drawn from the 60 Labour councillors, and as an executive he has the power to hire, fire and promote them. He has a seven-strong cabinet, and 13 mayoral advisers, who receive an extra allowance accordingly.

To Sir Robin’s defenders, this is an effective team which has pioneered the kind of left-wing policies other authorities can only dream of – universal free school meals, crackdowns on rogue landlords, and free music lessons for all. In 2012, the optimistic flames of the regenerated Olympic grounds flickered on its western edge.

But dissenters mutter darkly that Newham, which has a budget of more than £225m a year, is a “fiefdom” and a structure that hands so much power to one man is in need of reform. They point to the example of neighbouring Tower Hamlets, where a directly-elected mayor, Luftur Rahman, appeared to rule with impunity until he was brought down by a court ruling.

As the cogs start turning for the 2018 electoral machine, that debate has come to a head. And, while the issues are distinctly local, the forces driving it may be a foretaste for the party at large of what is to come.

The trigger ballots The attempt to unseat Sir Robin is taking place in draughty halls, through letter boxes and on the corners of the internet occupied by local blogs. At the heart of the contest are the trigger ballots, the firing gun of the process to select Labour’s candidate for the 2018 mayoral elections.

The trigger ballot – as decided at some long-forgotten Labour conference – is an affirmative ballot. The incumbent, in this case Sir Robin, is the candidate unless a majority of wards and affiliates vote against him and trigger an open selection process.

The voting eligibility rules, too, are dusty. In order to vote, members must turn up in person at the said draughty hall, on time (latecomers will not be admitted), study the CV of the candidate, listen to a debate and then cast their vote. “Yes” is a green light for the incumbent. “No” is how you stir up trouble.

This year, some campaigners calling themselves Trigger Democracymean to stir up trouble. They have called for a co-ordinated No vote to force an open selection process. One councillor, John Whitworth, has said he is ready to challenge Sir Robin Wales.

“People don’t understand how powerful a directly-elected mayor is in a unity authority,” another councillor and supporter of open selections, John Gray, told me. “The London mayor Sadiq Khan is in a powerful position, but the local London boroughs stand up to him. They are fully paid-up members of the awkward squad.”

Wales has “done some good things”, he said, but it is time for a change: “He has been there for so long.”

So why haven’t members exercised their rights before, and voted No? Gray argues the rules requiring members to spend an evening shivering in a hall discourage all but the hardiest from turning up. 

Although the number of members vary from branch to branch, some ward polls indeed seem pitifully small, with one recording a turnout of just 12.

Rohit Dasgupta, the chair of Labour’s Canning Town South ward, says the mayor’s supporters have launched an aggressive campaign to keep members on board. The short time frame for the polls has also been controversial. He told me: “I found the date for my trigger ballot was set without proper consultation.”

If members are unhappy about the way procedures are carried out, they are free to complain to the procedural secretary. But in the claustrophobic world of Newham Labour, the procedural secretary is also an adviser to the mayor. And however responsibly this officer acts, it has not helped the atmosphere of mistrust. 

A changing party 

If critics of Sir Robin feel passionately about this selection process, so too do his supporters. Because of the non-political nature of the council, it was hard to speak directly to the mayor, but Clive Furness, another Newham councillor and mayoral adviser, listed what Wales has achieved in office. He told me: “The trigger ballot process we are using is long established, agreed and enshrined in the party rulebook.”

He questioned why Trigger Democracy’s founders had chosen to stay anonymous (the website is indeed devoid of names) and claimed that activists from outside the Labour party were involved.

“Once again, our members’ private details appear to have been leaked to activists outside the Labour family, to our opponents and to members who should not have had them,” he told me. (Councillor Gray also alleges his wife was cold called by supporters of the mayor).

Indeed, Labour’s internal campaigns are plagued by accusations of data leaking. During the summer’s national leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith’s campaigns lobbed allegations of data breaches at each other. In a divided party, every cold call seems to fuel suspicions of enemies within.

Ken Clark, a cabinet member of Newham, is also a former director of the London Labour party. He traces the data breaches back to a decision several years ago to share membership lists with candidates.

“In the past, the party would send out material to members and keep lists confidential, but in recent times they have given them to the candidates themselves,” he said. “Once you do that you are losing control of the membership lists.”

Another change is the swelling of the membership ranks since Corbyn became leader. In July, the national membership stood at more than half a million – the highest ever in modern times. In Newham, according to Clark, the party has ballooned from 900 members to more than 3,000.

“It is a massive change in membership, with different groups of people,” he said. He attributes this change to some of the suspicion around the election process.

“Never before have we had this sort of division about trigger ballots. Last time people were elected on one no one said a word. But now there are also many new members, and they wonder why is that so.”

In one light, at a time when Labour’s national poll rating is dire, Newham can be seen as an outlier, a throwback to the Scotland of the 1990s, or a forecast of London in the 2020s – a left-wing establishment in an unfriendly blue sea. For Labour parties elsewhere in the country, there are more important things to worry about than a powerful, left-wing mayor.

But in another light, as grassroots members demand more say over re-selecting their MPs, it captures the essence of the party’s dilemma. Should politicians be more accountable to their local branches? Who gets to determine how they are chosen? And with a new set of members, should there be a new set of rules? Should representatives of diverse constituencies look more like them, and less like white men?

As for Newham, despite the mutual accusations, the ward polls have so far returned results for both sides. Even if Sir Robin triumphs, it will be a close run.

“Here in Newham we have people participating in a democratic process to see if the incumbent should be their candidate,” Clark said. “That is a healthy process to me.”

Remembering Eric (President of UNISON)

Yesterday evening and this morning I had the sad duty to ring London UNISON activists and inform them that Eric had died. He was a friend and a comrade.

This is from our General Secretary, Dave Prentis. You can leave tributes on this page. If you didn't know him Eric is the person with the biggest smile in the photo:)

"Eric Roberts was our President, but more importantly he was a loyal and true friend to so many of us

Eric Roberts, a lifelong servant of our union, and of those in greatest need, has died after a brief struggle with cancer.
He was the President of UNISON, but more importantly he was a loyal and true friend to so many of us.
Born in Litherland, a proud Scouser and Liverpool fan, Eric was a man who lived enough – and had stories to tell – for more than one lifetime. From fixing drums for the Beatles, to wine waiter, baker and pots and pans seller – Eric eventually found his way to London. And one day, seeing an ambulance shooting down Oxford Street, he decided that’s what he’d like to do.
He had found his calling. For 42 years he served the London Ambulance Service with the passion and dedication for which he became well-known, and his union as branch secretary, NEC member and – this year – our President. He was the first ambulance person to be elected as UNISON President – something that I know was a source of immense pride to Eric, his branch, his family and everyone who knew him.
Eric wasn’t someone who sought out high office. Ambition wasn’t what drove him. Instead, it was an unstoppable desire – a need – to serve people and help people. To represent them and to do his best for them.
To Eric, everyone in the union and the ambulance service had a part to play – and every day he did his job to the best of his ability, and brought out the best in others at the same time. His loyalty to this union was as unquestionable and unswerving as his love for its members.
I will miss his honesty. I will miss his infectious personality. But most of all I will miss his friendship. Eric Roberts was a good man who gave so much to so many people. Eric said upon his election as President that UNISON was the “best union in the country”, but the truth is that Eric was the best of us.
Today, our thoughts are with his children Jack and Rhian, family, friends and colleagues, as our union mourns one of our biggest personalities, most loved friends and most powerful advocates for the values that sustain our union.
Eric Roberts – I will miss you".

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stratford Votes for open selection 34-11 & Little Ilford 36-23

Well done to Newham Labour Party Branch members in Stratford (the site of the 2014 Olympics and the biggest ward in Newham) and Little Ilford for voting NO and wanting an open and fair selection process for Newham Labour Mayor in 2018.

It is now 6/10 NO to affirming the current Newham Executive Mayor as a candidate in 2018 with another 16 votes to go by 4 December.

If the current mayor is selected then he would have been in power for 27 years while other Council leaders are tested & re elected every 4 years.

I don't think this is right and want an open & fair selection for the next Labour Mayor candidate.

Their seems likely that more contenders will show their hand soon and join Councillor Whitworth as being possible candidates to be the Newham Labour Mayor.

Love it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump and the Clinton Campaign (24 November): NHS Campaign Day (26 November): West Ham Xmas Quiz (9 December)

Dear West Ham Labour Member

NHS Campaign day - this Saturday
Labour is holding a National NHS Campaign Day this Saturday (26th). Here in West Ham we'll be talking to voters at a steet staill and by knocking on doors in Stratford. We hope you'll join us.
When: 11.30am to 1pm
Where: near McDonalds/Starbucks entrance to Stratford shopping centre

General Council - this Thursday (24th)
(all members welcome from 7.45pm, Harold Rd Centre, 170 Harold Road, E13 0SE)

We've got a busy agenda with two guest speakers coming straight from the Clinton campaign.

Christmas Quiz 9 December - it's a festive fixture in West Ham! Fab food (brought and shared by members), great company (Labour members!) and a fun quiz (with an infamous guess the crisp round). 7.30pm, Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, E15 4HW. RSVP here.

Affirmative nomination/trigger ballot
Dates remaining for trigger ballot meetings to decide whether to re-select the sitting Mayor are here.

Phone canvassing
For those of you who don't like the cold we'll also be doing some telephone canvassing - let us know if you're interested.
Hope to see you Saturday or Thursday or at the Xmas Quiz or ...

Julianne

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP


e: westhamlabour@gmail.com
t: @westhamlabour
w: westhamlabour.org

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Newham Co-op Party Votes NO to an affirminative ballot and YES to Open, Fair and Democratic Selection Process

37 NO and 36 YES. Well done to Newham Co-op  Chair Gill Hay for chairing such a very difficult meeting so well. She did a brilliant job. 

This result is amazing when you consider the recent history of the Newham Coop Party. 

Times are changing. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nine reasons why you need to go to your trigger ballot meeting and vote ‘NO’:


(I like these arguments. Hat tip Trigger Democracy) 

If you believe in democracy, fairness and choice read on…
  1. No is NOT a vote against Robin Wales and his record. Voting No is actually voting YES to choice, YES to fairness and YES to democracy 
  2. If members don’t vote this November for an open selection, the current Mayor will have run Newham for 27 years (1995-2002 as Newham Labour Leader and 2002 -2022 as mayor)
  3. Party Members will have only been given a choice of candidate once in those 27 years  in 2002. An estimated 95% plus of current members have ever had this choice. 
  4. The current Mayor will automatically become a candidate in a selection, but why prevent debate and other candidates from putting themselves forward? Why after all this time doesn't he want to face a challenge? 
  5. Every Councillor in Newham goes through a full selection every four years as do 17 other Labour Council Leaders In London.  Why doesn't the Newham Labour Mayor face the same challenge? 
  6. The Mayor has executive powers as Mayor) him/her more powerful than any other elected role, including MPs, MEPs, Councillors and Assembly Members.
  7. When Labour created elected Mayors it initially set a two term limit (since removed)
  8. Robin Wales is the only elected Mayor in the country to be seeking a fifth term
  9. Newham is the most diverse place in the UK – isn’t it time it had a diverse selection too. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Speech to London Labour Conference on Housing Composite

"John Gray, Unison delegate and speaking in favour of this composite. An unison motion on housing is part of the composite and I want to concentrate in this contribution on the Housing and Planning Act and the major threat that it poses to Londoners and the future of London.

Conference, I think we all here today understand that we are living through a housing crisis and the lack of affordable homes of all tenures is blighting the lives of workers and their families across our city.

More and more people, particularly the young, are at risk of rent arrears, evictions and homelessness, causing financial hardship and misery to all those affected.

Yet the Tories has failed to tackle the crisis. In fact just when you think things cannot get any worse - they come out with the Housing and Planning Act. Conference I work in housing in London.

Let us be clear what this act will mean for Londoners in particular.

The extension of Right to Buy to housing associations will delete housing stock for all and under the Pay to Stay tax many workers that UNISON represents will face massive rents increases.

Those most affected are not the well paid - but caretakers, school cooks, nurses and street cleaners.

For example if you and your partner earn more than £40,000 in London, that is say £20,000 each, your rent will go up. The LGA nationally reckon that 70,000 tenants will have to pay over a £1000 more per year.

Conference, you can be pretty darn sure that due to our high rents the majority of tenants hit by this rise will be Londoners. It was worked out by Labour housing spokesperson, John Healey, that the "pay to stay tax" will be the equivalent of a staggering 83% income tax on those cleaners, cooks and nurses who earn a total combined household income of over £40,000

It will also result in the means testing of all council and housing associations tenants even those who have never claimed benefits.

Councils in London are going to be forced to sell their homes to pay for the Tory right to buy bribe. That cannot be right.

But Conference the Act is not yet a done deal. There is still time to campaign against this Act. The government has to come back to parliament to table regulations. In the housing press this week it is clear that the government is running into trouble over implementing the act

While Right to Buy and Pay to Stay tax is compulsory for local authorities, it is voluntary on Housing Associations. They do not have to do this. I repeat they do not have to take part.

Conference, in London we must use our power and influence to tell housing associations not to sell homes and not to tax their residents.

We must tell residents that the Tories are coming for their homes, they are also getting rid of security of tenure, they are going to drive ordinary Londoners out of their homes by massive rent rises

But not only should be telling them and warning them, we should be organising them, we should be working with residents, working with the trade unions, working with Cllrs, MPs, the mayor, assembly members and CLPs. All working together as a Labour movement - for all Londoners

Conference please support this composite please join the fight back and play your bit in "Axing the Housing Act". Thank you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Councillor says Newham mayoral trigger ballot process is ‘neck and neck’

Check out reporter Kat Hopps latest from the Newham Recorder

"Campaigners from opposing sides of the Labour candidate Mayor of Newham 2018 election process say they are confident of winning.

Sir Robin Wales has so far won nine trigger ballots and lost three in votes which took place in wards across the borough this
week.

However, Cllr John Gray, who is campaigning for Labour members to vote “no” in the ballots – in order to give other candidates the chance to run rather than Sir Robin being automatically selected – said the “close” results had already caused an “earthquake”.

He said: “It is neck and neck because the wards that were always more likely to vote yes were held this week.

“The wards that are more likely to vote no are more likely to vote next week.

He added: “There is already an earthquake in Newham politics and there has never been a challenge like this in Newham wards.”

The wards that have voted “yes” to keeping Sir Robin as the party’s candidate are Beckton, Custom House, East Ham South, Forest Gate South, Green Street West, Plaistow North, Royal Docks, Wall End and Manor Park after a initial tie led to the vote being re-run.

Wards that have voted no are Canning Town, East Ham North and Forest Gate North. A further 12 affiliated organisations are also in the process of voting and have yet to declare.

So far there have often been just a few votes difference in the results.

The Recorder has been told by a spokesman speaking on behalf of the Labour Party that Sir Robin Wales and his supporters “are feeling confident that they are in a position to win”.

A spokesperson for Trigger Democracy disagreed. She said: “Compared to 2013, lots of wards have been voting “No” or have been really close.

“We’ve achieved a lot in a short time with lots of members visiting our web, Facebook and Twitter and we’ve had members coming along to meetings talking about and voting for an open selection.”

Although the Recorder has yet to receive official confirmation, it understands that only two wards voted against Sir Robin being automatically reelected as the Labour Mayoral candidate for Newham in 2013.

A decision to set the six-month “freeze date” on new Labour members being able to vote four months earlier than in 2013 is also proving controversial with an official complaint being raised with the Labour Party.

Cllr John Gray has said “hundreds of new members in Newham will be disenfranchised” from the vote who may be more likely to opt for a multiple candidate option.

East Ham Labour Party vice chairman, Tahir Mirza, even raised the issue with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Saturday’s London Labour Conference.

A representative for the Newham Local Campaign Forum (LCF) said the timetable and freeze date for Newham’s mayoral trigger ballot “were set according to the proper rules and procedures of the Labour party”.

The breakdown of the results are as follow

Beckton: Yes 16, No 3; Canning Town South: Yes 6, No 8; Custom House: Yes 7, No 6; East Ham North: Yes 20, No 23; East Ham South: Yes 26, No 8; Forest Gate North: Yes 13, No 30; Forest Gate South: Yes 34, No 21 ; Green Street West: Yes 36, No 32; Plaistow North: Yes 27, No 17; Royal Docks Yes 11, No 1; Wall End Yes 20, No 18.

In Manor Park a first vote declaring a tie of Yes 30, No 30 was re-run with the second vote resulting in Yes 29, No 28.

(Photo not from the Newham Recorder but "Je Suis Whitworth for Mayor Campaign". Play "Spot the Mayoral Advisor" game. Also note the "Labour Party" will not have made any statement about Sir Robin "feeling confident". His paid appointees may have done)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Mayor facing a challenge for leadership"

Front page news (and page 5) in this week's Newham Recorder about the challenge by Cllr Dr John Whitworth to Robin Wales about who should be the next Labour candidate for Newham Mayor.

If there was a NO vote and therefore an open selection then I have no doubt that other younger, black, asian and females candidates would also put themselves forward.

Tonight East Ham North ward voted NO in the trigger for an open and democratic selection process.

Check out the independent Newham website https://triggerdemocracy.com/ for more information and read below the full challenge by John to Robin.

An Open Letter to Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

Dear Robin,

I think it is time for an open selection of the next Labour candidate for Newham Mayor and I therefore challenge you to a contest and declare myself a candidate.

If you were re-nominated again by a trigger ballot, then by the end of your term you would have been in power for 27 years.

This, in my view, would not be good for local democracy, the Labour Party or the people of Newham.

My mode of governance would include the following key elements:

a. Shaping Council policies based on authentic Labour Party principles to reduce inequalities and ensure all people can thrive

Current Council policies will be initially maintained, but subjected to review by the Mayor, Cabinet members, Council officers and councillors as part of a process which will also seek the views of our residents.

I will shape policies based on the principles of democratic socialism as represented by our current Labour Party leadership which will aim to reduce inequalities, combat discrimination and promote fellowship and solidarity among all sections of our community.

 Enhancing the lives of the people of Newham in these ways will also necessarily entail managing resources in such a way that the quality of provision of essential services, public amenities and infrastructure are maintained and indeed improved.

I believe that promoting the interests of residents can, and should, go hand in hand with ensuring the wellbeing and adequate payment of the staff that that serve them at all levels.

b. Maintaining trust of Newham residents through transparent and open local government

In place of your presidential style of leadership I will introduce Cabinet governance, whereby Cabinet members will be delegated powers and major decisions will be made collectively by the Mayor and Cabinet. The Mayor will therefore function as a chair of a board.

Policy proposals will then be presented to Labour Group for informed discussion which will contribute to the shaping of these policies.

Councillors will be encouraged to discuss the Council’s policies and conduct with their ward residents and party members in their branches, who will give feedback to Labour Group.

This input will feed through both the constituency parties and the Local Campaign Forum, which will become an active partner of the Council. At the same time, the Scrutiny system will be revived with the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the subordinate commissions receiving adequate resourcing so they can function as a real critical friend of the Executive.

c. Reviewing the Directly-Elected Mayoral Model

During my term of office I will organise a wide consultation among Councillors, Labour Party members and residents on their wish to either continue with the Directly-Elected Mayoral model or replace it with an alternative system.

When the consultation is complete the question may be submitted for a referendum in time for the change, if decided, to be implemented for the 2022-2026 Council term.

A Directly-Elected Mayor occupies a very powerful position. I believe that power of this kind should be shared, subjected to scrutiny, and not remain in the hands of a single person for too long. This is why I am challenging you to a contest to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham.

Kind regards,

Cllr Dr John Whitworth

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Newham Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday 2016 :Remembering West Ham Pals

Picture collage incorporating last Friday's moving 11/11 Armistice Day service at the Central Park Cenotaph and the following Sunday Remembrance Day service at the historic West Ham All Saints Church.  West Ham MP Lyn Brown laid a wreath on behalf of Newham (top right).

Top left of collage is a picture of Cllr Winston Vaughan, who I think is now the only elected Newham Councillor to have been on active service in the UK Armed Forces. He is seen wearing his campaign medal resulting from the Aden Emergency in 1967.  Cllr Ann Easter is pictured with her husband Christopher Owens who is a Chaplain to the Newham Sea Cadets.

The Remembrance Service at All Saints on Sunday 13 November was also particularly moving since I was aware that it was the 100th anniversary to the day of a very bloody "Battle of the Somme" First World War attack at Quadrilateral, France by the locally recruited "West Ham Pals" Battalion.

During the service a young,  newly commissioned Lieutenant from the local Army Reserve Battalion "7 Rifles" gave a reading and also then talked about his experiences of comradeship and team building as a soldier. Like me he had first joined the (then) Territorial Army at University.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Labour councillor ‘prepared to challenge’ Sir Robin Wales as 2018 Newham mayoral candidate

Check out report in Newham Recorder online

"A councillor has said he wants to “challenge” Sir Robin Wales as the Labour Newham mayoral candidate for 2018, the Recorder can reveal.

West Ham ward Cllr John Whitworth informed the existing Newham mayor of his intentions in an open letter this morning.

He is now “appealing” to Labour members and affiliated organisations (trade unions and socialist societies) to vote “no” in “trigger ballots” starting today across the borough in order to force the mayor into an open selection election process.
In his letter to Sir Robin, Cllr Whitworth wrote: “If you were re-nominated again by a trigger ballot 2016, then by the end of your term you would have been in power for 27 years.
“This, in my view, would not be good for local democracy, the Labour Party or the people of Newham.”
He went on to say that should he formerly challenge Sir Robin to a leadership contest and win then he would review Newham’s directly elected mayoral model and replace it with an “alternative system”.
In the letter he wrote: “A directly elected mayor occupies a very powerful position. I believe that power of this kind should be shared, subjected to scrutiny, and not remain in the hands of a single person for too long.
“This is why I am challenging you to a contest to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham”
Speaking to the Recorder, Cllr Whitworth said: “I think the fact that someone is prepared to challenge [Sir Robin Wales as Labour candidate for Newham Mayor 2018] will encourage people who have decided not to vote for an open selection.”
He added: “He has got an executive position with very strong powers. The concern is really that leaders in executive positions should not hold it for too long.”
Voting in the affirmative nomination process, also known as “trigger ballots”, begins today.
Labour members wishing to participate are requested to attend branch meetings and make a decision on whether to accept ‘affirmative nomination’ giving the Labour incumbent another four years or to “trigger” an open selection.
Website campaign Trigger Democracy has argued that not all Labour members have received their letter notifying them of where they have to go to vote as of yet.
A representative for the campaign, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Labour members were being urged to “Vote NO for Choice” at the meetings.
They said: “Trigger Democracy wants all Labour members to have a choice of who they want for Mayor of Newham.
“Members haven’t had a choice of candidates since 2002. We think it’s time Labour members had the chance to hear from women, young people and people from ethnic minority groups, people who reflect today’s Newham, about what they would do as Mayor of Newham.”
Sir Robin Wales has served as Newham Council leader for 21 years. He was elected leader of Newham Council from 1995 to 2002 before becoming the first Labour directly elected mayor in England in 2002.
He was re-elected in 2006 and 2010 and won his fourth term in office in May 2014 via an affirmative nomination process.
Sir Robin has been contacted for comment.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn says he will bring up Newham Labour Mayoral Trigger Ballot at NEC

At the London Labour Conference yesterday (which I will post more on later) the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, gave a stirring and passionate speech on offering hope and inspiration, which resulted in a standing ovation.

Jeremy also stayed for an open Q&A and East Ham Labour Party Vice Chair, Tahir Mirza asked him whether he was aware that in Newham a trigger ballot had been started to select a new Labour candidate for the Newham Mayor in the May 2018 election.

This is being held 5 months early compared to the last Newham Mayoral trigger ballot in 2013 which means due to an early trigger date that around 800 members will be unfairly excluded from taking part in this selection.

Jeremy replied that he was not aware that any trigger ballots were going on at the moment and he would bring this up at the Labour Party NEC next week.  

Lewisham Mayoral Selection put on hold!

I understand that the Labour Party Mayoral selection process for the London Borough of Lewisham has been postponed until sometime in the new year. I believe that there was understandable concern that the only candidates were white men and there were no Black, Asian  or females candidates. So the process which was due to start now has been stopped.

This brings into question why the Mayoral selection process in Newham is being rushed though 5 months earlier than the last time in 2013 which due to an early "freeze" date also disenfranchises hundreds of members.

There is no good reason for rushing through this process early and if Lewisham can be put back then so can the Newham Mayoral selection. The actual election is not until May 2018.

If there is quite rightly concern about the lack of diversity in Lewisham selection then why not equal concern about ensuring a diverse contest in Newham, which is the most diverse borough in the country.

The Labour Party NEC has the power to order an open selection process to allow black, asian and female candidates and push the "freeze" date back to allow members the right to fully participate.


"Newham Labour members push for an open Mayoral selection process"

Check out this article published in the Left Futures website on Monday.

"Many people have reservations about the new Regional Directly Elected Mayors but such Mayors in single (unitary) authorities’ raises different concerns. The Mayor for Greater London, Sadiq Khan, has a very powerful position but he has significant checks and balances from an elected assembly whose only real job is to scrutinise him and from 33 independent minded London Boroughs who have professional legal and media teams to fight their corner.

With an Executive Mayor in a single local authority such as Newham, the dynamics are very different. That is why a broad coalition of Labour Party members from all wings of the Party have come together in in Newham, East London (West Ham and East Ham CLP) to argue for a NO vote in the forthcoming Trigger Ballot (also known as an “affirmative ballot”) and for the current Mayor, Robin Wales, to be shortlisted but also allow other Party members to put themselves forward as a possible candidate.

To be clear, the current Labour Mayor will be automatically shortlisted if local Newham Labour branches and affiliates vote NO. There would then be an open selection process of all Party members based on “one member, one vote” on who should be our candidate in 2018.

The reason why this is so imperative in Newham is that the incumbent Mayor has been in power since 1995 and if he is “reaffirmed” again until 2022 then this will mean he has been in power for some 27 years. Only once in all this time has be faced an open selection process in 2002 when he only narrowly won. All the other London Directly Elected Mayors will be relatively new and have had open selection processes. All other Labour Council leaders and Councillors face open selection processes every 4 years. Why not the Newham Labour Mayor?

Current controversial Newham Labour policies such as the privatisation of Council services into small businesses, closure of Sure Start centres and youth club provision, the selling off Council voids to well-paid people earning up to £90,000 per year while we send homeless families to Birmingham have never been put to local Party members.

This is completely unlike MPs who do not enjoy “Presidential” powers and are overwhelmingly part of the legislative and not the executive. 27 out of the 60 Labour Councillors in Newham have a paid SRA (Special Responsibility Arrangements) nearly all of which are the gift of the Mayor. (approx £1,615,260 wage bill over four year term) Eight councillors are paid over £33k (plus 10k allowance). All of them are men.

The Newham Executive Mayor is a hugely powerful and influential position. All “Executive power” has been kept for the Mayor in Newham, meaning that the Cabinet is purely advisory and as all other Mayoral advisors they can be sacked without appeal if they disagree or fall out of favour with the Mayor.

Since the Labour Group is conflicted and party members have no real role in holding the Mayor to account then one of the few ways to check and balance the powers of the Mayor is to hold an open selection process. I personally would argue that this should take place after every 4 years. Other may think sooner or longer but I have never met anyone who thinks 27 years is a good idea. Maybe also the Party should reintroduce a maximum two term limit which was the original intention.

I think that the Labour Party NEC should have (and can still) use their powers under rule to order an open selection in Newham. If not I hope that Newham will vote NO to reaffirm the current mayor and therefore YES for an open selection.

There are also a mass of really serious complaints and motions by CLP officers, branches and local Party members about the questionable timetable and process regarding the ballot. Not least that a paid Mayoral advisor has been appointed as the procedures secretary to overview the selection of the Mayor.

The trigger ballot meetings start Monday 14 November and have to finish by 4 December. If you are a Labour Party member or affiliate please participate and vote NO. Check out the website “TriggerDemocracy.com” for further details”.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Emergency Motion to tomorrow's Labour London Regional Conference*

The motion below was passed by overwhelmingly on Wednesday by the Executive Committee of West Ham Labour Party. The London Labour Regional conference takes place at Congress House tomorrow.

"This Regional Conference notes:

1. The Labour Party Rule Book states that all Local Campaign Forums (LCF) must hold annual AGMs after May each year at which an executive has to be elected. Where a LCF fails to elect an executive, the Rule Book implies that the entire LCF makes executive decisions.

2. That the Newham LCF did not hold its 2015 AGM until March 2016, and failed to elect an Executive at that delayed AGM.

3. Since the last meeting of the Newham LCF on the 31 May 2016, new delegates to the LCF have been elected by West Ham and East Ham CLPs.

4. That a trigger ballot timetable on re-selecting the current directly elected Mayor of Newham to be the Labour Party candidate at the May 2018 local elections was approved at meeting with the London Region Director on the 25th October 2016 and some members of the Newham LCF.

5.That the whole of the current Newham LCF members weren't notified about this meeting taking place.

6.That London Regional Board members were not notified by the London Region Director of the planned meeting with the Newham LCF or the proposed trigger ballot process.

7. At the meeting on the 25th October 2016, a procedural secretary was also appointed who is a is paid mayoral advisor to the current Labour Mayor of Newham seeking re-selection. This potentially creates an unacceptable conflict of interest.

8. Based on the Trigger Ballot timetable agreed by the London Region Director and some members of the Newham LCF, only members of the Labour Parties in Newham who joined on or prior to the 25th April 2016 will be eligible to participate in Trigger Ballot meetings held by eligible branches and affiliates. This freeze date will mean that hundreds of new members in Newham will be disenfranchised.

9. Branches and affiliates in Newham will have to meet and vote on a 'affirmative nomination' to re-select the current directly elected Mayor Sir Robin Wales between the 14th November 2016 - 4th December 2016 and there is emerging evidence of procedural abuse happening where NEC guidelines are being ignored. For instance, officers in one branch in West Ham CLP had the date of the branch's Trigger Ballot meeting determined by the Procedural Secretary without their knowledge.

This Regional Conference resolves:

1. That the current Trigger Ballot timetable in Newham be suspended and withdrawn;

2. The London Region Board oversee an investigation of alleged procedural abuses in conjunction with the NEC Organisation Committee;

3. That the Newham LCF calls an emergency meeting where all new LCF delegates elected at the respective East Ham and West Ham CLP AGMs to elect its new Executive. Where possible this should be constituted as the Newham LCF's 2016 AGM which hasn’t taken place;

4. That resolves 3 should be followed by a new Trigger Ballot timetable, set and circulated before 31 December 2016.

*Emine Ibrahim, CLPs representative on the Regional Board and member of the Conference Arrangements Committee, has confirmed there is no deadline for emergency resolutions.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Venezuela fights back

Check out international painting to left of picture. Draft minutes of UNISON London regional Europe and International Committee 3 October 2016.

Guest speaker, Dr Francisco Dominguez, Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, spoke on the situation in that country, in Brazil, and in Latin American in general, and Marcos Garcia from the Venezuelan Embassy also spoke to the committee.

Francisco outlined the background of Latin American economies and their nature as raw material-exporting countries.

 As the Committee had never previously considered the situation in Brazil, this was of particular interest. Francisco pointed out that the Workers Party candidate Djima Rousseff was elected as recently as 2014 by 54 million ‎votes, yet deposed by 61 senators.

 Whilst corruption is endemic in Brazil, among the senators who removed her, many of them have corruption investigations continuing against them, one with as many as 47 separate investigations. The incentive for them to impeach Rousseff was to protect their own skins. One of the first acts of the post-Rousseff government was to end the contracts of the 10,000 Cuban doctors working in the country.

 A further reason for the removal of Rousseff was the prospect of the hugely popular Workers Party candidate Lula, being re-elected President following Rousseff, which would have meant that reactionary parties would have been out of power for at least 24 years.

In Venezuela, Chavez when elected in 1999 was surrounded by every country in Latin America save Cuba being close to the US, and operating neo-liberal economies. The steps he took to deal with the massive levels of poverty, up to 80% of the population being impoverished, were tremendous. Being Chilean, Francisco is well aware of the ways in which hoarding and withholding of foodstuffs and other necessities can be used as economic and political weapons, which is precisely what is now happening in Venezuela.

Venezeula's great blessing and curse is the availability of oil, so abundant that it is cheaper than water, whereas in neighbouring Columbia it is the most expensive in the world, leading to a contraband market which further destabilises the Venezuelan economy. This situation was exacerbated by Obama's decision to categorise the country as a potential enemy by executive order. It is not accurate to describe the economy as in chaos, despite the collapse of the price of oil.

Venezuela's international role has been recognised by its election to the UN's Human Rights Committee, as well as it central role in ALBA, CELAC and many other international organisations, as well as playing an important role in the Columbia peace process.

In discussion, Dave Cosgrave, who is now Chair of the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (congratulations!), raised the question of the negative propaganda prevalent in the British media about all progressive movements in Latin America, including against the FSLN in Nicaragua. Maggie Griffin raised the question of the situation of Trinidad in this wider context. In particular the question was raised about what can British Unions do to counter this propaganda.

Francisco explained VSC's media action programme, of which BIRO's are regularly appraised, which is designed to rebut the most flagrant examples of media bias.

He also explained a future visit of the Bolivarian Trade Union Centre to Britain.

Francisco explained something of Argentina's experience of neo-liberal economics, which created 1.4 million poor people in a very short period of time. Neo-liberalism in (Latin) America is a far harsher model than that experienced in Europe.

It is felt that either outcome of the US Presidential election will be negative for Latin America, as foreign policy is not entirely governed by the President (and US Presidents are mindful of the example of John Kennedy). The US is responsible for 47% of world military expenditure (down from 52% five years ago, due to the slow collapse of the US economy).

Marcos expounded further on the role of Trade Unions in Venezuela, and on the forthcoming visit‎ to Britain of the Venezuelan equivalent of the TUC.

Francisco outlined plans to establish a support organisation for Brazilian solidarity. The President of the ITUC is currently Brazilian.

Neo-liberalism is possible in many countries only with the presence of an Allende.

The Committee was appreciative of the knowledgeable and extremely informative presentations given".

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

West Ham Labour offers group therapy to get over Trump - also trigger ballot, street stall, door knocking & crimbo social

"Dear West Ham Labour Party Member

Canvassing, street stalls, Christmas quiz and 'affirmative nomination' meetings

I have no idea what to say about President-elect Trump. So I won't...

1. If you've been a member for over six months you should have received a letter notifying you of an 'affirmative nomination' meeting for re-selection of the Mayor of Newham. A list of meeting dates agreed so far is here (will be updated). Get in touch with your secretary if you've not received anything.

2. This Saturday, 12 Nov, we'll be out with our Lyn Brown MP door knocking in Plaistow South and at a street stall in Green St.

Door knocking: 11am, meet Barking Rd Community Centre, Barking Rd, E13 9EZ (on buses 5 and 115, and a few mins from Greengate 473, 262, 330 - contact Julianne)
Street stall: 11am to 12.30pm, St Stephens Parade, Green St, E7 8LQ, (near tube and 238 and 376 - contact Hanif)

Please do come and join one of these sessions - it could be kind of group therapy. Don't worry if you've not been out talking to voters before a fellow Labour member will be there to help you.

Christmas Quiz - it's a festive fixture in West Ham! Great food (brought and shared by members), great company (Labour members!) and a great quiz (with an infamous guess the crisp round).

Put it in your diary: Friday 9 Dec at Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, E15 4HW

Phone canvassing
For those of you who don't like the cold we'll also be doing some telephone canvassing - let us know if you're interested.

Hope to see you Saturday.

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP

t: @westhamlabour
e: westhamlabour@gmail.com
w: westhamlabour.org

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

When Voting NO means YES to fairness,choice and democracy: Newham Labour Mayor Selection - First Reason

I have blogged about the process and how important the position of a Directly Elected Mayor or so called Executive Mayor is here and also about a website triggerdemocracy.com that argues that there should be an open selection process for the next Labour Candidate to be the Mayor in Newham.

I now want to discuss in more detail why I think Labour Party members and affiliates ought to vote NO at the trigger ballot (or so called "affirmative ballot") meetings during the next few weeks and therefore saying YES to fairness, choice and democracy.

First Reason. 

The position of Directly Elected Mayor is immensely powerful and influential. The Newham Mayor has decided to retain near 100% of Executive power in the Council. This is in his gift according to law. Money is of course key and the Mayor is completely in charge of making appointments and patronage.

Councillors are pretty powerless, since the only way they can block the Mayor is if two thirds of them vote against the Mayor's Budget. They still have an important role in advocating and representing constituents but essentially they have little or no individual or collective power compared to the Mayor.

The Council "Cabinet" is also powerless, at best a talking shop and purely advisory. The Mayor can ignore cabinet or scrutiny decisions and appoint or fire cabinet members and advisers at will. All paid advisers and Cabinet members to the Mayor are bound by a Council protocol to support the Mayor or face being sacked with no right to appeal.

Recently 10 out of the 60 Newham Councillors were given full time paid positions receiving each up to £44,000 including the basic allowance per year and (legally suspect) pensions purely to be advisers to the Mayor - appointed solely by the Mayor.  Other payments are made for sitting on non Council bodies.

Some 27 out of the 60 Newham Councillors have been given paid positions (with pensions). While 6 of them are nominally independent of the Mayor (and I think that "nominally" is the best description given his position and influence) the rest are purely there according to the grace and favour of the Mayor. Many are dependent on the Mayor to pay their bills and their mortgages.

This is why we need to have an open and democratic selection process for the next Mayor. Such a powerful position must have some basic checks and balances. Being openly selected from time to time must be one of them.

Is there any good reason why Directly Elected Mayors should not face an open selection process every 4 years as do all Labour Councillors everywhere and and all other Labour Council Leaders?

If there is (and I doubt it) then there is certainly no good reason for not having an open selection for 19 years (2002 the last one and if not this time then 2021 the next - which may even be another trigger ballot).



Monday, November 07, 2016

Rising inequality helps explain Trump and Brexit

While I hope that the United States will not elect Trump to be their President tomorrow, I was
fascinated to read the statement below at a recent Newham Council Investment and Accounts committee.

"Even if Trump loses, the anti-Establishment, anti-trade and anti-immigration sentiment will not go away until rising inequality with rich countries is addressed and reversed". 

This was in a report by our economic advisers to our billion pound staff pension fund, Fatham Consulting. Who are not known to be any sort of lefty think tank.

At the end of the meeting I asked their consultant if I could quote them (he agreed) and also what other Marxist analysis did the firm believe in? (to which he just grinned).

I think they are 100% right and that people need to understand that the rise of Trump and the vote for Brexit was driven by a backlash against rising income inequality.

Not every supporter of Trump is motivated by this and there was plenty of principled support for Brexit but if you have a rubbish, poorly paid insecure job with no future, no access to decent housing or public services then you are going to be angry and want to protest and thump the establishment.

Ordinary working people either side of the pond feel betrayed by years of declining wages while the very rich just get more and more wealthy.

I heard a Tory minister yesterday on the BBC describe Brexit as a "punch" to the establishment similar to the 1945 General election result. I think he is right about this but I think that the Tories are simply incapable of any meaningful reform.  We need to deliver another "punch" to the system as we did in 1945 at the next General election and elect a radical alternative government which will genuinely tackle and reverse inequality.