Monday, September 26, 2016

#Lab16 "Axe the Housing Act" Fringe - 6pm Monday Holiday Inn

I will be at this fringe this evening. The Government will have to return to Parliament to pass regulations regarding the Act so it will be interesting to see what can still be done to oppose it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn wins: Now what.

I drove to Liverpool yesterday with two Labour Party colleagues. We were never going to get to the conference in time for the announcement of the leadership result but with smart phones we heard the result in real time. I think we talked politics for nearly the whole 5 hour journey (traffic was awful).  Not only about the immediate future of the Party but this of course dominated the conversation. Later at the London Labour Party reception and over a late meal with other activists, this was also the number one topic and I came across a wide range of different views about "what next" for the Party.

For what it is worth, this is my view. 

The Party, the PLP and the wider Labour movement have got to accept that Jeremy has won fair and square the right to stand as Prime minister at the next general election.  Some still think that the Party has made the wrong decision. That is fine, that is their democratic right. But what they have got to do now is unite around Jeremy and respect the choice of the Party.

That does not mean that that he cannot be challenged in a constructive fashion and that he does not need to raise his game as leader and widen the choice of his advisors.

But we do need to unite around him and stop fighting amongst ourselves. It will be difficult for anyone to win against the Tories at the next General election but the public hate a divided Party. Probably the only chance we have is if Jeremy can broaden his astonishing appeal from activists to voters.  I have been a long time in politics and I have never seen anything like the past 18 months. 

This is important not only because it is by winning elections that we can change society for the better but I think if the infighting and disunity continues then Labour does indeed face a threat to its continual existence. This threat is not in my view from a possible split by the "right" or the "left". One of my colleagues locked up with me yesterday in my little Skoda is Scottish (and a former PPC) and described to us the destruction of the Party north of the border. Brexit has shown us the power of poplar English nationalism.

I firmly believe that if we don't shape up and unite then Labour in our English heartlands faces a similar fate as in Scotland. To be frank, if we remain as we are, then we will deserve it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Brexit and the New Age of Uncertainty" - Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz speech to Newham Full Council 19th September 2016

"Brexit and the New Age of Uncertainty:  Implications, challenges and opportunities for Newham, London and our country"

"Thank you Chair for allowing me the opportunity to address colleagues at today’s Full Council.

 I’ll be talking about the implications of Brexit as I see it; and a new age of uncertainty that we have entered. Sketching out my thoughts about what kind of response we should offer as Councillors and leaders in our communities. 

It’s been a tumultuous three months since that morning when we woke up to the reality of Brexit.  

A rude interruption to the business of how we do politics in this country, which exposed deep-rooted anxieties about who we are as a nation. 

Some here may have been lukewarm about our membership of the European Union. The results in Newham certainly reflect a deep-rooted hostility to the European project in some quarters. 

The obvious point of contention for them has been the issue of the free movement of people. 

No doubt many here have overheard conversations about immigration tinged with casual or explicit racism. Though others have participated in valuable conversations about the impact free movement is having on our populations and services with sensitivity. 

Since Brexit, we’ve also observed a worrying rise in racism and xenophobia against immigrants. Only a few weeks ago, some mere 23 miles away from this chamber, a polish man was murdered in Harlow in what police believe to be a suspected hate crime in this post-Brexit period. 

In my neck of the woods, Custom House, membership of the European Union and immigration has been a motif for all sorts of ills in the minds of some of my residents: from fly-tipping, to housing shortages, lack of jobs and diminishing prosperity as they experience it. 

At a national level, the doom and gloom scenario proffered in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote has been averted. But we should not get too complacent. There remain serious risks of a recession, despite the assurances the government is giving. 

So while we’ve been watching Teresa May’s government wrangle about what form of Brexit Britain will opt for - maintaining the best possible links to European markets or going full hog with a ‘clean break option’ so that we can trade freely around the world – this all depends on whether the Europeans and the World Trade Organisation will allow either option.   

In Newham, in London and across the country we are still absorbing grave assessments of the future. In workplaces and on the streets there is a new mood of unease. 

Uncertainty is everywhere. 

Much of our current mood of uncertainty has specific causes, which Brexit has simply amplified. Some of it is due to the consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown and its effects such as zero hour contracts and the politics of austerity. 

So while we know that the future is always to some extent uncertain, following the EU referendum it feels as though our uncertainty has risen sharply. 

How then can we overcome the inertia and anxiety that results from living in uncertain times? 

Well we know that we can’t exactly anticipate the risks we face now or in the future: but we must act if as if we do in our role as civic leaders in our communities. 

In an era when the politics of uncertainty dominate – publics of varying kinds demand the right to hold decision makers to account and their judgments made publicly transparent. 

This has led to a situation where decision-makers are becoming more preoccupied with managing their own risks to their reputations as a consequence. 

And it is leading to a dangerous culture of defensiveness in politics and in government: causing a rupture in our relationships with those we serve - our constituents.  

Instead, we need new forms of leadership capable of developing a language of risk that explicitly admits the possibility of failure without this being understood as an excuse or blame-avoiding strategy. 

The new politics of uncertainty must generate legitimacy for the possibility of failure - as this opens up many opportunities to recast our relationship with our citizens. 

So my biggest hope for Newham in this post-Brexit era is that we manage to take care of each other, that we build this community further on trust, solidarity, and generosity. And we remain honest about the risks associated in a world dominated by uncertainty".

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Newham Triathlon 18 September 2016

Picture from Sunday, when fellow Newham Councillor, Terry Paul, and myself completed a self organised Triathlon (using google maps) starting and ending in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London.

This was not a race and there was no mad scramble and frantic quick change transitions unlike the 2014 London Excel Triathlon which we both previously took part in. It was long and tough but pretty relaxed and not competitive. The weather was perfect too.

We started off at the magnificent London Aquatics Centre in the centre of the Olympic Park. We swam there for 1.5k (30 x 50m), I did it in about 48 minutes, Terry was a bit faster. We then went on our bikes for a 40k cycle via Victoria Park, Regents Canal (too busy), the City, Embankment to Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament (which is always glorious) and then back along the CS3 route towards Barking (fast but noisy). The final stretch along the Newham Greenway was lovely. It took 2:14 and we actually did in total 41.7k.

The final part was the 10k run. We ran (slowly) up the River Lea Navigation and back along the original River Lea. We stopped to read the historical and nature signs and finished in 1:16. We started and finished together.

We were overall pretty slow but I enjoyed it far more than in 2014. We did seriously even think of stopping off for a coffee at Big Ben (and perhaps we should have). I have done two marathons in the past and felt destroyed and unwell at the end of both of them. I have felt exhausted at the end of both triathlons I have done but not destroyed and was able to cycle home.

I am raising funds for the UNISON welfare charity "there for you" and the "Greece Solidarity Campaign".  If you wish to sponsor me for "there for you" click here and/or the GSC then click here

Terry and I are thinking of this being an annual event each September. We will change the routes but if you want to take part, let us know or watch this space. 

Many thanks to my wife,  Gill for being the anchor woman and looking after all our stuff

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Victory for decency at work - Sports Direct will hold an independant review into its employment practices.

In what is also a victory for effective pension stewardship, "workhouse employer" Sports Direct agreed to hold an independent review into its awful working practices and governance.

See TUC press release below

"Trade Union Share Owners welcome Sports Direct announcement on independent review

20 September 2016

Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO) have welcomed the announcement today (Tuesday) by Sports Direct that there will be an independent review of the company’s working practices and corporate governance.

The announcement follows a resolution calling for an independent review that was tabled at the company’s AGM earlier this month by TUSO, and supported by a majority of independent shareholders.

TUSO Chair Janet Williamson said: “This is good news for Sports Direct workers, especially young workers who make up a large part of their staff but too often get a poor deal at work.

“The board should now consult both shareholders and trade unions in finalising the plans for the independent review. Trade unions representing workers at Sports Direct stand ready to work with the company to ensure a successful future that is fair for its staff.”

- The Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO) is a group of investors representing the financial assets of the labour movement, including the TUC staff pension fund, the Unite staff pension fund, the UNISON staff pension fund, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
- All TUC press releases can be found at"

Hat tip cartoon Kipper Williams, the Guardian

Monday, September 19, 2016

#HousingDay 2016 (A view)

Today is "#HousingDay 2016" a day that "celebrates positive impact of social housing on thousands of people across the UK. Stories by landlords, staff & ".

While I think this is a really good idea to challenge negative stereotypes about social housing and drew attention to its positive impact, there is a national housing crisis across all tenures - with unaffordable, poor quality and insecure tenancies in the private and social sector. Sky high property prices in many parts of the country also means that buying a home for many people is just never going to happen.

This is not actually a "housing" problem - it is a political problem. We need a political will to build more homes of all tenures.  If you increase supply you will bring down house prices and rents.

We need to move away from paying the mortgages of buy to let landlords with housing benefit and instead using this money to subsidise the rent of new build rented and shared ownership property.

There needs to be a democratising of housing for all. Most leasehold arrangements are feudal and allow freeholders to rip off leaseholders.

There is no real voice for tenants and residents associations any more in many parts of the country.

Many housing associations and councils are "mates clubs" and "union busters", run for the benefit of their executive and senior management with no accountability or respect for their residents or their staff.

Things can change. It doesn't have to be the way it is now. Maybe lets turn next years "Housing Day" into a national campaigning day, demanding access to truly affordable, well run, secure and good quality housing for everyone.

Things are so dire for so many people that we need a revolt rather than a celebration.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Prep for tomorrow's Newham Triathlon OMG

Just getting things sorted for tomorrows self organised Olympic distance triathlon. Currently I am wondering why do I volunteer for such things!

I am meeting fellow Newham Councillor, Terry Paul, at the London Aquatic centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at 9.15am for 1.5k swim,. We then cycle 40k to Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster via the Olympic Veldrome, Victoria Park and Regent canal. Next along the Super cycle highway CS3 to Barking and then back to the Aquatic Centre via the Greenway.

Finally, we go on a 10k run up and down the Lea rivers.

See routes in collage above and picture of Terry, myself (and his brother-in-law who is not taking part tomorrow) after we had completed the 2014 London Excel Triathlon.

I will be raising funds for the UNISON charity "there for you" and the "Greece Solidarity Campaign".

If you wish to sponsor me for "there for you" click here and/or the GSC then click here


Friday, September 16, 2016

Axe the Housing Act Summit: 22 October 2016

The Battle is not yet over. The Government needs to bring back to Parliament exactly how they intend to Act to operate so there is still lots of campaigning opportunities.

UNISON is also sponsoring this meeting. So many of our members and their families will have their lives wreaked by this Act. We must oppose it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hackney Mayor Election 2016

Tonight I helped out in Lea Bridge ward, Hackney for the election campaign to select a new Executive Mayor for the Borough. The Labour Candiate is Philip Glanville.

At the campaign headquarters, ward activists were really hospitable and appreciative to us for turning up and very pleased to get help from outside Hackney.  It was a shame that more activists from Newham did not turn up to support our sister Borough. I must try and find out why?

Personally, while I do not think that the Executive Mayor model is best for Unitary Council authorities (and have my doubts about regional mayors) I still want a Labour Party candidate to win (and then reform the system).

See picture of Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz and myself (bottom left) at the Ward campaign headquarters before we were sent out to deliver "Time is running out" reminder cards to local residents.

By complete and utter coincidence the first door that Rokhsana knocked on was answered by someone we both know from Newham as an expert advisor on LOBOs!

I will update the post when I find out the result of the election.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TUC Congress 2016: Day 2 Monday

My second collage of Twitter photos of the UNISON delegation (mostly) at this year's TUC Congress getting stuck in and telling it as it is.

We started off with Gordon McKay, berating our mean employers for not knowing how to add up and stop being crooks, so they should pay the National minimum wage in full.
Sinead Libby tells Congress of the various disgraceful way the Tories cheat young workers out of fair pay
A well argued, passionate address by Trade Union Congress General Secretary, Frances O'Grady, warning bad employers that unless they change - the unions are coming for them.
All of Congress held up support posters proclaiming that "We will be the movement for young workers".  (While Becky from Eastern Region qualifies I am not really sure that Darren and I are the best poster boys for that particular statement? We will do our best)
Paddy Lillis, the Chair of the Labour Party NEC gave Congress the fraternal address. He said he had been hoping for a bit of a quiet year when he was elected. Little did he know...
Caryl Nobbs points out that there is no objective evidence to justify the breaking up and privatisation of the Probation Service but the Government still went ahead with it.
Nicky Ramanandi supports fair and equitable welfare benefits and looks forward to the end of the subsidy for poverty pay employers and making sure they pay a real fair wage.
Maggie Griffin argues that the Tories Work Capability Assessment is not "fit for purpose" and linked to a staggering 700 suicides by disabled benefit claimants.
Lilian Macer describes her experiences meeting victims and their families during a UNISON delegation visit to Columbia. The most dangerous place in the world to be a trade union activist. Thousands have been murdered and tortured.
Stephen Smellie spoke on The Early Years Education motion and asked Congress to support the motion for the sake of his grandchildren.
My long standing comrade, Barbara White, (Musicians Union and a Redbridge Councillor) moved the "Music Co-operatives" motion 39.
I went to an interesting CLASS fringe "A Year of Tory Rule: Taking Stock of Public Services" during lunch time. It is all pretty depressing but good news about the huge support that the public have for Public v. Private Services. We need to turn this into votes.