Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘tower hamlets mayor’

This is a guest post, by Cllr Rabina Khan, formerly of Tower Hamlets First and now an independent candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor.

Rabina kahn, tower hamletsThe first thing I will do if elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets is sit down with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Commissioners. While this council continues to be recognised nationally as a high performing authority leading in many key policy areas, last year’s report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers identified governance failures in certain areas and addressing these must be our first priority – along with restoring confidence in our institutions and processes – so that we can move beyond recent challenges to best protect local people facing a wide range of adversities in difficult times.

I want to be a mayor for women, a mayor for housing and a mayor who stands up against austerity. Women need more role models in public life. Of the seventeen directly elected mayors in Britain, only four are women. I hope that I can be part of breaking that evident glass ceiling, following the recent influx of record numbers of women to Parliament and an election which for the first time saw female party leaders – Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood – take the stage and arguably totally transform the debate.

Every study has shown that austerity, and before it the recession, have hit women harder than men. Women’s unemployment, and particularly BME women’s unemployment, is a serious concern. That’s why I’m pledging to establish a brand new Women’s Employment Hub to ensure local women are presented with job opportunities and are equipped with the skills needed for the workplace.

Under my leadership as cabinet member for housing for the last five years, Tower Hamlets has seen more than 4000 social and affordable homes built – more than any other council in Britain as recognised by central government repeatedly awarding us the highest ‘New Homes Bonus’. We’ve established the landmark Preventing Homelessness Fund, refused to pass on cuts in council tax benefit and said no to Bedroom Tax evictions. But the housing waiting list continues to grow, so I’ve drawn up detailed plans to build 5,500 affordable homes by 2018.

Tenants know I’m someone who has always been on their side – and I’ll hold social landlords to account to make sure they promote real tenant leadership and decision-making. I’m also promising a better deal for Leaseholders – capping punitive charges and making our system fairer.

Over the last four years Tower Hamlets has blazed a trail on behalf of local people, fighting austerity and latent child poverty that continues to blight the East End. We’ve restored education maintenance allowances scrapped by central government, introduced universal free school meals in primary schools and introduced university grants to ensure that poverty cannot be a barrier to achievement.

We were the first council to pay workers the London Living Wage. Now I’m campaigning for a Living Rent. My brand new Mayor’s Employment Board and enterprise strategy will deliver 20,000 sustainable jobs and training opportunities, along with 8,000 new apprenticeships. As a working mum I understand what a juggling exercise life can be, so we’ll provide more nursery places to help parents into work. I’ll also abolish charges for bulk-waste collection.

Some have tried to make this election about the recent court judgment. Former mayor, Lutfur Rahman has made clear his intention to appeal. But that is his battle and this is mine. This election cannot be about the past, when the future presents such stark challenges to the poor and the vulnerable. We need to start a fresh chapter in our politics, opening up local democracy and leaving no-one outside. My People’s Question Time events across the borough will enable local people directly to hold me to account, along with key officials from the council and – I hope – partner organisations such as the police and the health service.

I’ll extend filming to all council committees, answer questions in full council, cabinet and the scrutiny committee. I’ll hold a regular press briefings. There will be no mayoral car. Grants will be determined in an open and transparent manner. I’ll review the council’s relationship with Rich Mix, and launch a brand new culture strategy to engage with all the rich spectrum of culture and talent throughout the East End. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’m my own woman.

The general election has returned a reactionary Conservative government hellbent on rolling back the state no matter the human consequences. At the same time we have a Labour Party bashing immigrants and backing the lowering of the benefit cap as its leadership candidates compete to see who can lurch most to the right. Even locally John Biggs has refused to guarantee lifeline policies such as the EMA. This area needs a mayor who can be relied upon to be on local people’s side. I hope you will put your trust in me to be that mayor.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This is a guest post by Andy Erlam, who initiated the election petition that brought down Lutfur Rahman. He is a former Labour ministerial adviser who lives in Bow and who is now standing on behalf of the Red Flag Anti-Corruption Party for the Tower Hamlets mayor election on June 11.

andy erlam

By Andy Erlam, ‘the man who makes it happen’

My Resolutions

Tower Hamlets has been through a very difficult period, when its local government machine has been in absolute crisis. A local council should simply be a source of help to individuals and the local communities, not a source of irritation, controversy, injustice and sheer dysfunctionality. The problems are not new.

“Divide and rule” is the oldest form of repression. The Election Petition High Court judgement, especially the order for new mayoral election, provide a unique opportunity for Tower Hamlets: to build a new high-quality local government machine worthy of the people and controlled by the people. This is an opportunity in our lifetimes to create outstanding local government here in Tower Hamlets.

It’s not rocket science but it is very important and it will take many people working together to achieve a transformation of the Council, under a new form of leadership – leadership from the front, co-operative and collaborative leadership and leadership with a clear vision and determination to achieve major results.

I am standing for election as not only the mayor of Tower Hamlets but as a new kind of mayor. The people of Tower Hamlets must get back in control of their local council and stay in control.

I am making these resolutions now as a benchmark of what will be achieved. I will:

  1. Ensure that team-working is adopted universally in council business, in the same way as my cross-party team brought about the defeat of the previous mayor in the High Court in April. When people work together co-operatively so much can be achieved. I will ensure that factional in-fighting is minimised.
  2. Ensure that my considerable experience of working in national and international government and in grass-roots community work over many years is applied in the most useful way to our local government, working, of course, as a full-time mayor, with no big political party interfering with my actions.
  3. Ensure that the new permanent Chief Executive is encouraged to act under political direction but without political interference, so making the town hall a happy place to work.
  4. Ensure that the views of all citizens are recognised, making the maximum possible use of direct democracy and respecting the traditions of the British constitution.
  5. Ensure continuous interaction with all councillors, guaranteeing their position as the first point of contact for their supporters. All councillors should be brought into the decision-making processes.
  6. Ensure that new forums for the widest range of interest groups and communities must be formed to keep the Council in touch between elections.
  7. Ensure that the Cabinet is cross-party made up of councillors from all the political parties and that Cabinet and Council decisions comply with the highest standards of transparency and integrity. Power will be delegated.
  8. Ensure that new checks and balances introduced to ensure that the elected mayor is accountable to the Cabinet, the Council and the public. These are needed to ensure good decision-making in the interests of the whole community. Power should be shared with the Cabinet, the whole Council and the whole community. Some believe that the elected mayoral system places too much power in one pair of hands. The arrangements can be modified and Tower Hamlets can return to a more shared system of leadership. All these things need careful review and reform.
  9. Ensure, in particular, that the Oversight and Scrutiny Committee of the Council is treated with respect and that the mayor attends regularly and provides as much information and asssitance as possible. With the right relationships, everyone benefits.
  10. Ensure that the Council recruits staff from the widest range of people, so as to reflect the communities in a balanced way, including the recruitment of disabled people.
  11. Ensure that subsidised public housing is not used as a source of private income or otherwise abused. New systems of accountability to tenants and leaseholders are needed. The role of local social housing providers must be reviewed. Problems and shortcomings must be exposed and dealt with.
  12. Ensure a continuing improvement in education by strengthening systems of support and recognising the central role of school governors. Education is about helping children and young people finding their niche in life.
  13. Ensure a fresh tradition of trust between the council, the police and the community. The Metropolitan Police have given priority to improving policing in the Borough. The police service should be equally good for all local people.   The new local senior police officers are open to reform and improvement.
  14. Ensure social cohesion by the strict adoption of a one language policy in all official business, with no sector of society taking preference over any other.
  15. Ensure religious independence by removing all political involvement.
  16. Ensure that the Borough’s reputation as having on the one hand the second highest average income in the country and on the other, pockets of severe poverty, is reflected by reinvestment in the community, such as supporting more children’s nurseries.
  17. Ensure that sensible, focused and appropriate business policies are introduced to foster dialogue with local big employers (e.g. at Canary Wharf) and small and medium-sized companies which have a key role of play in generating wealth and wellbeing. If we are serious about reviving ‘the high street’, then we must put a stop to victimising the customers of local shops through excessively punitive Tower Hamets council parking policies.
  18. Ensure the provision of impartial and useful information on council business to all Council taxpayers and stakeholders.
  19. Ensure that the government Commissioners, (paid by us), are encouraged to make the most useful contribution to a brand new system of government, especially in the management of grants.
  20. Ensure that a confidential “hotline” is established direct through to the mayor for anyone to raise concerns.
  21. Ensure that Tower Hamlets Council is transformed with the aim of it becoming known as the most effective and admired local authority in the country.

Read Full Post »

This is a guest post by Professor Michael Keith, the former Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council

Michael Keith(This post has been amended following later election results: see * and update at bottom)

Following a conversation at the vote counting, Ted Jeory asked for a personal reaction to the outcome of last week’s local elections. It followed what I think was a sense shared that regardless of party affiliation the divisive politics of Tower Hamlets had reached a particularly worrying moment.

Occasionally boisterous, too frequently threatening, the scenes at the Tower Hamlets mayoral count prompted a storm. Shut inside the Troxy venue when supporters of the independent mayor Lutfur Rahman and his party Tower Hamlets First began pre-emptively celebrating his re-election, the mass surge to access the vote count prompted anger amongst council officers and campaigners alike.

Some with a longer memory may cast their minds back to similar scenes outside York Hall that greeted the success of Peter Shore in 1987 and 1992 and fairly protest that mainstream parties commented on this less at the time.

But in 2014 it followed a day, a night and a campaign in which the sense of polarisation between camps was particularly disturbing, confrontations and intimidation of voters on the polling stations and a level of abuse that was particularly fractious.

It was hard to avoid a sense that tensions that border on worrying divisions were on show.

As with much in Tower Hamlets, geographical proximity and cultural distance may be inversely related.

The ability of Lutfur and his candidates to appeal to 30-40,000 voters across the borough is impressive. But it might be more worrying if the demographic of his support is as monochrome as that of his successful candidates.

The East End has seen the outcome of a polarised politics before and it is not pretty. The claim that Lutfur’s regime speaks to an agenda of the left is confounded by the policy agenda that he has followed.

His popularity instead speaks more to the strengths of community networks, Sylheti ties and the mobilising forces of his political machine.

The strengths of these solidarities represent much of what is both best and worst about East End politics.

The ability of strong family ties and community links to generate both a sense of a communal collective identity and an overbearing sense of peer pressure is long recognised.

And it would be foolish to ignore the numbers of non (British) Bangladeshi voters that supported an incumbent mayor with an established publicity machine.

But the results are stark. It is doubtless possible for the Tower Hamlets First group of 20 councillors (as as May 28) and one mayor–all but one men, all of Bangladeshi heritage–to represent the rich diversity of the borough. But it will be challenging to do so.*

The 2011 Census counted that 17 ‘minority ethnic’ identities had populations over 1,000 and 33 per cent of households have more than one ethnicity represented at home.

And just as it was widely considered unrepresentative to have diverse parts of London represented by old white men over the age of 50 in the 1980s and 1990s, the same logic might be thought to challenge the newly elected members of Mayor Rahman’s party.

Trotsky allegedly suggested that if people voted the wrong way it might be necessary to abolish the electorate, an option open to few democratic parties. And so the challenges for the Labour Party are also enormous.

As well as losing the mayoral vote by a narrow margin there are fewer elected Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets than at any time since the borough was founded in 1964.

Quite simply, this is the worst election result for the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets in 24 years.*

More women will be elected by Labour, but proportionately significantly more of the successful Labour councillors are white than was the case after the election four years ago.

The collapse of the Liberal party nationally and locally has left easy pickings in parts of Bow where candidates were barely opposed but across the rest of the borough the outlook was bleaker.

In the longer term things will probably balance out as people mix, things move on, old people move out and new people move in. Indeed it is at times alleged that some of the councillors move to the suburbs before they let on about it to the returning officer.

Party politics is a minority sport and council life just one aspect of East End life. But in the shorter term it cannot bode well for the borough to have social divisions paraded in this way.

For the new mayor a challenge that sits along with the result is whether his party and his rule can reach beyond his core electoral base.

For the Labour party there is a question of whether it can learn again to understand and connect with the dynamics of community life that underwrite Lutfur’s appeal.  It has to do more than tell the voters they made the wrong choice.

But for all of the borough’s residents, the hope has to be that all concerned identify the danger of the present moment.

People need to recognise that diverse roots that bring people to the borough must be respected whilst building a future that is shared.

To do so it will be imperative to develop a politics that transcends racial, religious or ethnic division or else the consequences for the East End could be serious.

UPDATE, Weds May 28

Following the late count result of the Bromley South ward last night, Labour now have 20 seats, an increase of two councillors from the 18 stated in the original piece. Accordingly, Prof Keith says this is the worst result for the local Labour party since 1990, ie 24 years, not the 50 as originally stated.

Read Full Post »

The ballot boxes at The Troxy in Limehouse have now been opened. Council officials will now start sifting through the ballot papers, rejecting any that are spoilt or invalid for other reasons.

They will announce the final turnout (with the number of postal votes added) soon after 11am.

Shortly after that, the count for the mayor begins. Council officials expect the result at about 3pm.

They’ll then have the task of counting for the councillor elections.

On turnout, Labour sources believe it’s much higher than the 25 per cent in October 2010. On that basis, they were hopeful last night. They don’t see how Lutfur Rahman can vastly increase the 23,300 votes he polled last time (which was 51 per cent of the turnout and meant he won on the first round).

If Lutfur fails to win on the first round today, then it’s difficult to see where he would pick up second preferences. His tally would then remain stable, and if he were in the lead, he would be relying on Tory and Ukip voters not giving John Biggs their second preferences.

Only a few hours until the speculation ends. I’ll update this thread as and when I can, but I may be doing more reporting on Twitter, so follow me there @tedjeory.

1245pm—still verifying ballot papers. Turnout seems high. Labour think in mid-40 per cent territory. Apparently in white middle class areas of Spitalfields, turnout at 60 per cent. That’s very encouraging for Biggs.

Seems count will now start after 2pm, result about 6pm.

A couple of pics of John Biggs at count and Lutfur’s favourite curry king Shiraj Haque.

20140523-124416.jpg

20140523-124439.jpg

UPDATE 1.24pm

Change in mood in Labour camp. More despondent. They think Lutfur could win on first preferences, that his votes piling up in traditional Labour heartlands.

Read Full Post »

I’ve never tried this before so it is a bit of an experiment, but following the example of The Wharf, here’s your chance to ‘vote’ for the next Tower Hamlets Mayor.

I’ve listed the answers in the order they will appear on the May 22 ballot paper.

Read Full Post »

I’ll update this blog post as and when I get more information but here’s the official list of candidates for Tower Hamlets mayor.

It was announced today and it includes 10 names, all of them male.

Sigh.

Here’s the list:

Nominations for LBTH Mayor

The Lib Dem candidate , Reetendra Banerji, is an unknown in Tower Hamlets but a man of his name did he did stand in Hounslow in 2006, when his biog stated this:

Reeten Banerji, 32, is a maths teacher and Territorial Army member, serving in a Hayes based logistics regiment. He was born and has lived most of his life in the London Borough of Hounslow.

Reeten’s professional career, before teaching, had been with a major US telecommunications corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. He then moved into IT consultancy in Silicon Valley, California during the ‘dotcom’ years. He worked with a number of IT startup companies launching wireless Data Network products and services.

Reeten holds a Bachelors degree in Mathematics from London and an MBA from the University of North Carolina. He is a keen cyclist and is involved with the London Cycling Campaign helping to bring about the best possible services for people who cycle or who want to cycle in London.

He sounds far too sensible for Tower Hamlets but I hope he does well. Good luck to him.

The other name to strike out is Reza Shoaib Choudhury, who is standing as an independent. He is not so unknown in Tower Hamlets. In fact, he’s very well known, and popular. He is married to the lovely and lively Dr Anwara Ali, who was formerly a Labour councillor in Bow West before she defected to the Tories in 2010.

Shoaib is the boss of the Bengali satellite TV station, Channel i, so that’s one channel Lutfur will struggle to bring round to his ways. In fact, there’s an expectation that Shoaib could split the Bengali vote from Lutfur. Well, let’s see.

Here’s Shoaib’s leaflet:

img017

The nominations for council candidates have also been published but I’ll leave that for another post.

Read Full Post »

UPDATED AT 5PM, APRIL 25 WITH MICHAEL KEITH’S COMMENTS AT BOTTOM

Mayor Lutfur Rahman issued this press release yesterday:

Labour Mayoral hopeful John Biggs was facing mounting criticism today on his questionable record on race issues as a leaked internal memo from the Labour Party revealed that concerns had been raised regarding Mr Biggs’s apparent prejudice as early as 1995.

Professor Michael Keith, now Director of the Centre for Migration Policy and Society at Oxford University and a former Labour council leader in the borough, wrote to Labour Councillors and MPs saying:

“In short, I would accuse John Biggs of racism” after Biggs was apparently involved in the production of an inflammatory election leaflet.

This is not the first time Biggs has been mired in a race row. In 1998 he campaigned against the creation of Banglatown to be added to Spitalfields Ward, and in 2013 his Labour Group made false claims that housing allocations were being targeted to Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s supporters – claims that were gleefully used as propaganda by the EDL.

Recently, Biggs caused controversy with irresponsible remarks on the Sunday Politics show claiming Mayor Rahman was only serving the Bangladeshi community, at a time when the EDL were planning to march through Tower Hamlets.

Cllr. Alibor Choudhury of Tower Hamlets First, who reported Biggs to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission for the remarks said:

“John Biggs’ 20 year record of dubious racially-charged remarks is there for anyone to see. This latest revelation shows that he doesn’t have the cultural sensitivity to run a diverse borough like Tower Hamlets.”

I’ve asked Lutfur’s camp to produce the leaflet that was at the centre of the row between Michael and John, but they say they don’t have it.

Context is everything, so let me try and give some. If you thought politics in Tower Hamlets was poisonous now, it was a different matter in the Nineties. The characters now act like dim kids in a playground; back then it was proper adult hooliganism.

Race and racism was genuinely the major issue then. Derek Beackon had been elected as BNP councillor in Millwall in 1993 and was kicked out a year later. The Lib Dems were at the centre of an inquiry by their own party leader, Paddy Ashdown, who was deeply concerned that activists had been engaged in racist campaigning.

Pretty much everything was evaluated in terms of race. As now, back then it was also used as a political stick.

We don’t have the leaflet, so we can’t evaluate it, but my understanding is that Michael Keith is appalled that something taken completely out of context 20 years ago is being used now as a smear. I’m sure we could all look back at things we’ve said 20 years ago and wish we’d phrased differently. I’m also sure Alibor will look back at his own behaviour now in 20 years and feel disgust with himself.

I understand Michael Keith might be issuing a statement on this today. My understanding is there was no way he thought John racist, either then or now. In fact, he is one of the people who has signed John’s nomination papers.

As for Alibor’s complaint to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission…well, what he doesn’t disclose is that they’ve told him it’s not one for them. The EHCR has in fact written to him twice to warn him against using misconstruing any of their replies to him on the matter.

If he feels so strongly about John’s words on the BBC Politics programme (when he pointed out that Lutfur’s cabinet was exclusively Bengali and appeared to be focusing too much on one section of the community – a statement of fact and fair comment, actually), then he has the option of going to the police. But he won’t because even he would know that’d be wasting police time.

After all, the police have drug dealers and gang members to catch on Alibor’s Ocean estate, don’t they.

However, back to Lutfur’s press release. I asked John for his thoughts. There are two camps on how to react to these attacks. One wants him to ignore them, the other wants him to punch back.

His statement to me below is measured and dignified in my view and straddles both camps.

This endless mud slinging and negative messaging demeans the mayor and shows both a desperation and that he has given up trying to reach across the borough and is working a ‘core vote ‘ strategy in which he clearly hopes that most people will stay at home and that his supporters, galvanised by repeated spurious  allegations against me will get them back into the town hall.

There is of course a danger it will work but it shows that their cupboard is pretty bare. 

The repeated use of the racism smear both insults real victims and diminishes them. I am proud of my record attacking  intolerance. Ironically they are defining themselves as the next obstacle to the sort of tolerant community we need. It helps me to understand quite how important it is to defeat them. 

I hear they are announcing their manifesto today. It will be interesting to see how many of our policies they will steal!

UPDATE:

Tower Hamlets Labour have issued the following statement from Michael Keith:

To dredge up out of context comments that were made almost twenty years ago to smear someone’s character scrapes the gutter. I’ve known John Biggs for decades and, while we have had our differences at times, there is no doubt in my mind that he works for the benefit of the whole community in Tower Hamlets. To try to paint him as a racist is a cynical act of electoral dirty politics.

He is the best candidate to represent all the communities of the borough in these difficult times and I am happy to support him.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: