Newham Voices". I was interviewed as the elected Chair of Newham Councillors Labour Group, regarding local politics and the May 2022 council elections. However, my views on "first past the post" and electoral reform are clearly only mine. Click on picture to bring up details.
Monday, February 28, 2022
Sunday, February 27, 2022
Pathfinder Guide. We did this walk previously in 2014.
Today was a lovely tramp through largely quiet countryside but had no great challenges. There was however noise from planes passing over to land at Stanstead airport.
The weather was lovely, with blue skies and sunshine but a cold wind. We hardly saw anyone during the walk. There were a number of my favourite ancient enclosed green lanes. Some paths were a little muddy but if it had been wet, you would need to wear wellies or gaiters.
We saw wild deer, red kites birds of prey, squirrels, numerous other birds, lots of snow drops, daffodils and beautiful early tree blossom. Spring is definitely on its way.
In 2014 I posted here on this walk that a past priest of the amazing Thaxted church, was known as the "Red Vicar", who use to fly the Red Flag banner of the Soviet Union and Shin Fenn, inside the church and then had to be protected by dismissed Police strikers from outraged locals.
On the way back we stopped off at the 15th century timber framed Guild Hall and noticed a remembrance plaque to local men, who had died in the first and second world wars. Apart from noting that 55 killed during the first world war, compared with "only"10 in the second. You can see that liberty and freedom can some times come at a terrible price.
Gill noticed that the names of a "John Gray" and a "Walter Gray" were recorded on the plaque as being killed in action during the first world war. It would appear from my internet searches that both of them were local young men who were killed in 1917 and may have been related but were not siblings.
After a pleasant drink in the local "Swan Pub" we drove back to London, listening to the dreadful news updates on the vile and fascistic invasion of brave Ukraine by Russia and its foul dictator, Putin.
Check out more photos https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10158647568778434&id=732243433
Saturday, February 26, 2022
The surgery itself went well, residents were on the whole very pleased to see us. We had a number of interesting conversations with passionate and informed residents about local services, council policies and wider politics.
Including one resident who proudly said he had never voted in his life (in his 60s I guess) since "all politicians are the same and they are all corrupt". I begged to differ that we are not all the same and explained why. He was polite and listened but I am not sure it will change his mind, but it might.
I picked up case work about replacement block keys, a damp problem in a kitchen and a landlord who appears to be not keeping to his licence conditions. There was also a young tree which was blocking the footway and was either blow down by storm Eunice or perhaps hit by a car.
I rang one modern looking door bell and was asked by it to leave a voice message - which is a first.
We came across a fascinating local history boundary plaque on a wall (middle left of collage) which I have meant to research further for many years. It seems to date from 1884 and despite being worn my understanding is that this area was once "owned" by St Mary's Church in Rotherhithe. There is another movement nearby in Stratford. I will post in Newham History Facebook site to find out more.
Afterwards some of us were able to go to the Sawmill cafe in Stratford for coffee and a delicious shared cinnamon bun. The family run cafe is run by young Ukrainians and we went to show out solidarity and support (the Ukrainian flag was proudly placed on their window).
The staff were obviously very distressed and said they could not understand how these things could happen like this in Europe in 2022. Nor could I.
Friday, February 25, 2022
"As we witness shocking reports today of more suffering in Ukraine, we think of the public service workers - the first responders to devastating scenes, doing all they can to save lives.
We stand in solidarity with our sister trade unions and all workers across Ukraine - Christina McAnea, general secretary of UNISON, UK’s largest trade union for public service workers" UNISON Facebook
Thursday, February 24, 2022
Solidarity to the People of Ukraine by Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, against Putin's gross lies and murderous aggression
Putin is killing innocent Ukraine civilians and soldiers from both sides to satisfy his ego and protect his fascistic regime. He has shamed the reputation of Russia."Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, today gave a televised address in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said:
In this dark hour, our thoughts, our solidarity, and our resolve are with the Ukrainian people.
They have been cast into a war, not through fault of their own. But because Putin knows that no people will choose to live under his bandit rule unless forced to at the barrel of a gun.
The consequences of Putin’s war will be horrendous and tragic for the Ukrainian people but also for the Russian people, who have been plunged into chaos by a violent elite who have stolen their wealth, stolen their chance of democracy, and stolen their future.
And we must prepare ourselves for difficulties here. We will see economic pain, as we free Europe from dependence on Russian gas, and clean our institutions from money stolen from the Russian people.
But the British public have always been willing to make sacrifice to defend democracy on our continent. And we will again.
Russia’s democratic neighbours and every other democracy that lives in the shadow of autocratic power are watching their worst nightmare unfold.
All those who believe in democracy over dictatorship, the rule of law over the reign of terror, in freedom over the jackboot of tyranny, must unite and take a stand and ensure Putin fails.
We must make a clean break with the failed approach to handling Putin, which after Georgia, Crimea and Donbas fed his belief that the benefits of aggression outweigh the cost. We must finally show him he is wrong.
That means doing all we can to help Ukraine defend herself -urgently reinforcing and reassuring our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and the hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated. Its finances frozen. It’s ability to function crippled.
And there are changes we must make here in the UK. For too long our country has been a safe-haven for the money that Putin and his fellow bandits stole from the Russian people. It must end now.
And this must be a turning point in our history, we must look back and say what this terrible day was actually when Putin doomed himself to defeat.
He seeks division, so we must stay united. He hopes for inaction, so we must take a stand. He believes that we are too corrupted to do the right thing, so we must prove him wrong.
I believe we can. But only if we stand together.
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Ballot papers have been sent out to all London UNISON Labour Link branch officers or Branch Secretaries if the Labour link post is vacant. Please return ballot paper to Cally Thompson by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than 12 noon on Thursday 3 March 2022. If you will have problems submitting your ballots by scanned email, please contact Cally as soon as possible.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
For the first time since the formation of UNISON in 1993 power last year transferred to a group known as Time for Real Change. This group is made up various hard left groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, and some on the extreme of the Labour Party, including some recently expelled from Labour.
The Socialist Workers Party, one of the central groupings of Time for Real Change describe themselves as seeking ‘revolutionary change’ in Britain and admit they organise through strikes. In the last UK Parliamentary General Election they stood in, across the country they attracted a total share of the vote of 0.1%.
In the forthcoming Service Group elections, held in April and May, UNISON members need to make a choice.
There are less than three months until UNISON members start to receive ballot papers in the post or by email.
UNISON members have shown they make people’s lives better. It is now for those who believe they are the representative voice of those public service workers to step up to the plate and make the case why those workers should vote for them.
Monday, February 21, 2022
Sunday, February 20, 2022
Avebury rings, Silbury Hill, White Horse Walk & Whatever happened to Custom House wartime evacuee Sheila?
Despite the storms, we are back from a lovely weekend in Marlborough, Wiltshire. On Saturday Gill and I visited nearby Avebury World Heritage Site. An amazing experience to see all these simply huge standing stones, some weighing many tons, built thousands of years ago and a massive deep circular ditch nearly a mile in length. Dug out of the local chalk with animal bones and anklers.
Afterward we visited Silbury Hill (bottom right of collage) which is yet another breathtaking ancient Neolithic Britain site which, 30m man made hill which must have taken huge effort and resources to build but no one nowadays really knows why our ancestors did this?
Despite the aftermath of storm Eunice wind and rain, we were able to go for a short walk along Calstone and Cherhill Downs. It was a hard, slippy climb up and super windy on top but fantastic ridge views and we walked around the "Cherhill White Horse" site.
The central picture in the collage is of Avebury Manor (National Trust) which is well worth a visit but I noticed a mention there in information panels that in September 1939, a number of children from Custom House, East London (my part of the world) were evacuated there because of the fear of German bombing including "Sheila" (see painting by Doris Kellier). Shella was not well and stayed there longer than her siblings. I wonder what happened to Sheila and will ask Newham History Facebook if they know.
Friday, February 18, 2022
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
We know that the Government has long had an interest in the £337bn invested by pension fund members in Council schemes.
Some 6.1 million Brits currently have savings in the UK Council Pensions. I declare an interest. I have in it 28 years worth of savings.
Now I do not have a problem with council pension funds deciding to invest in infrastructure projects if they think they are good investments for the funds.
If the Government thinks that pension schemes should be investing 5% of its assets regarding of its finances then surely they should be prepared to compensate the funds if this proves to be a disastrous decision. Such infrastructure projects can be high risk.
Now, so far this is being peddled as being purely voluntary but we know that the Government has form on this. In the past Council pensions funds were forced to merge into large investment pools whether they liked it or not, in order to support infrastructure investment.
Also, I understand that they are going to re-introduce plans to force council pension funds to only invest in line with "British Government Foreign Policy" (whatever that means).
What makes me most fearful is Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his record as a supporter of "vanity" infrastructure projects as London Mayor (he wanted a floating airport in the sea and the £46 million of public money he wasted on the "Garden Bridge") and more recently his £20 billion plan on a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland and a £200 billion project link England and France.
Worrying times. We need to crank up our opposition to these plans to protect our pensions and make sure that import investment decisions are made on merit and not government personal edict.
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Trust you are well
I'm writing to express my concern and dismay about the President Paul Holmes addressing Women's Conference next week.
It is my understanding that he has now been dismissed by the Employer following allegations of Bullying and harassment of women he managed.
I also understand that the two Vice Presidents offer him their unconditional support. This is unfortunate and they should at least have the courtesy to be impartial given the complainants are themselves women and members.
All Trade Unionists as I do embrace positive change. Sadly the faction group now in control of our NEC, Time for Real Change, seem to have forgotten some of the fundamentals that is democracy and accountability.
I regret I have have had to write to you but believe that this can only reflect badly on UNISON in the long-term and we cannot allow women members over 75% to lose trust in our great union.
With Kind Regards",
Monday, February 14, 2022
This week is "Love Unions" week. So check out why Labour's new deal for workers is so important Sectorial bargaining alone in my sector will be a game changer for the lives of millions of low paid, insecure and vulnerable workers.
- strengthen rights at work for all workers, from day one on the job;
- end fire and rehire;
- make work more family-friendly, and make it easier to balance work with home, community and family life;
- ban zero-hours contracts and ensure everyone has the right to regular hours they can rely on;
- strengthen trade union rights, raising pay and conditions;
- bring in fair pay agreements to drive up pay and conditions for all workers, using sectoral collective bargaining".
Sunday, February 13, 2022
Picture The Road of Sorrow by Marchenko Nina
Saturday, February 12, 2022
At the first door I knocked at this morning, the resident opened his front door with his hand raised upwards, clearly expecting a parcel. Despite this he was pleased to see a local Councillor, had no issues with Newham Council and confirmed that he was a strong supporter of the Labour Party.
The next home that I had a response was marked on our Labour doorstep app as all "Against" (Labour). However, the young man who answered said "we all vote Labour here". Result.
I knocked on the door of a former Tower Hamlets Council Housing colleague, June (and UNISON member) who is now a black cab driver, it was good to chat, catch up and reminisce.
Next, I reported a footway paving stone trip hazard via https://lovecleanstreets.info/ app.
After this, I had a long conversation with a resident about Newham Council traffic tickets. I didn't think it would go very well, when he started by pointing out he has had £500 of tickets recently for contravening moving traffic restrictions. However, he totally got that the Council needs to stop "rat runs" and protect his grandchildren from traffic fumes as well as reduce carbon emissions.
What he wanted was greater consultation, publicity and a "grace period" when new restrictions are imposed. He will send me details of what he believes to be unreasonable impositions which I will investigate. He did say at the end of his conversation that he will always supports Labour.My next serious conversation was with a resident who wanted me to see a serious damp issue in her bathroom. She was Turkish and could not speak English that well, so she introduced me to Google Translate. Which worked really well and I will download for use as a Councillor and for work (and foreign holidays).
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Wednesday, February 09, 2022
Kwame Nkrumah, who lived here NW5 while studying. Ghana was the first British colony in Africa to gain independence.
Tuesday, February 08, 2022
Monday, February 07, 2022
Sunday, February 06, 2022
A great post by UNISON NEC member Stephen Smellie. We still have pragmatic and committed NEC members such as Stephen, a great General Secretary, branches, staff and activists. But what a complete and utter mess our union is in due to these "incompetent" bullies and harassers...
"I should quickly answer- I don’t know!