All quotes taken from e-democracy Newham Politcs site.
Someone asked a simple question. The responses were surprising and revealing:
A leaflet posted through my front door and from Sir Robin Wales at Newham
Labour Party 4 Garnet Walk E6 5LY invited me to join the
“”Labour is working hard to make Newham a great place to live. Why not join
Labour and help make a diference. Would you like to know more about joining the
Labour Party “”.
Can somebody tell me, would my joining make any difference to the way Newham is
heading. Would my lone voice be listened to by the Mayor, or would I be
I invite any present member of the Newham Labour Party to say why I should
accept the offer.
Finally, how many members are there in the Local Party.
The answers – many from long-standing local Labour insiders – are very worrying. Sir Robin Wales is accused of picking councillors for his own taste, forcing out those who dissent at any cost, back-dating Labour party subs so his candidates can get elected and ignoring local ward councillors in regard to ward level decisions amongst other things:
I can answer that question.
After joining the party, a couple of existing members will come round to check you out. Assuming you have only one head, and that you tick all the boxes, you will be invited to come along to our meetings and meet the rest of the crowd.Of course as a member you will be able to vote at meetings (after a short qualifying period) and put yourself forward as a candidate for elections and internal party posts.
Any decisions that have to be made of course, you will be able to discuss and with comrades reach a decision or agree a line that is universally accepted by everyone at your ward, branch, or constituency. Democratically by a show of hands or a secret ballot, depending on the nature of the decision or line to be taken.
Then of course what actually happens will be whether or not the Mayor agrees with your decision, or indeed bothers to find out what it is.
Oh yes, and dont forget that as a member if you really want to “get on” in the party, then you have to leaflet, canvass and campaign for the greater good of the party, even though the leaflets you are shoving through letterboxes may contain decisions you dont agree with, or had any say in, and of course invite people to come join the labour party to have a “say in how Newham is run”
And an almost lone positive voice:
What happens then is largely up to you. Some of the local branches are more active than others, but most meet regularily though the details of local politics are not necessarily of interest to everyone. Members do select the candidates that are put foward for various elections ie councillors, MLA, MPs, the Mayor (yes he was selected by members in the first place and subsequently reselected) & Euro MPs.
Whether an individual member will have an influence on the policies of Newham council or the Government is not an easy question to answer. Some members do ensure their voice is heard by organising campaigns etc and maybe by getting themselves selected as a council candidate etc. Debates do take place within the party and other associated groups like the Fabians & the Coop party about various issues and this does get fed back into the general policy mix. How much difference one individual can make is really down to that individual.
With regard to Newham, your post is pure fantasy.
I can speak with a fair deal of authority, having been (at various times) a Labour Party ward secretary, a constituency secretary, an MP’s election agent and an elected councillor.
As an individual Newham Labour Party member you can influence bugger all!!!
I recently bumped into a sitting Newham Labour councillor and he was bemoaning the fact that neither he, nor any of his comrades who are not part of Wales’ inner-circle are involved in any decisions even at ward level.
Over the last 10 years Wales has been very effective in gaining a vice like grip on Newham Labour; while I was a Labour member I approached the regional director and pointed out how Wales would often flout Labour rules. The response – I must take on-board the “big picture”…. whatever that means!!!!!
Another positive voice who does have some authority:
I too have held a wide variety of posts in the labour party over the past 20+ years agent, chair, treasurer, organiser, stood twice for the council (for unwinnable seats) though not in Newham, delivered more leaflets (including in Royal Docks), knocked on more doors and spent more hours on the phone than I care to remember.
I do understand your antipathy to Newham Labour party and in particular the current Mayor and there is nothing that I can say that will change your views. I do know that not only the current mayor but both the MPs for East & West Ham started off as ordinary party members in Newham and all of them seem to have established successful political careers (Stephen Timms a long time minister and sometime cabinet minister) by first gaining the support of members of the party and then the electorate. Yes one person’s views on their own wont necessarily have any great effect but as I said before what you get out of the party is in many ways a reflection of what you put in. Whether you agree with him or not Robin Wales only got where he is by hard work & persuading other party members and then the electorate to support him.
John’s points were are members really not interested in local politics & does the labour party actually interact with the general electorate.
John, your posting is so patronising.
First, you cannot possibly understand my “antipathy” towards Newham Labour and the Mayor, if you did you’d have questioned the Mayor in some public forum regarding the various issues I have raised here and in the Newham Recorder that relate to some of the more dubious policies the Mayor has developed – the parks constabulary for one springs to mind.
I had been involved in Newham Labour for a good few years and I know the Mayor and both Newham MPs. It may well be the case that you are as naive as you seem to be with regard to how one can move onwards and upwards in Newham Labour. “Every member starts off as an ordinary member”: rubbish, I know of one sitting Labour councillor who never attended a Labour meeting prior to becoming an elected member – his first Labour meeting being the first Labour Group meeting held by the new Labour Group after the 2002 local election – I chaired that meeting and the member in question approached me after the meeting asking why Alan Craig wasn’t there!!!!!
You want confirmation of this and other “odd” happenings in Newham Labour, go ask John Saunders or John Whitworth – they’re still members.
Why and how did he become a councillor? Because Wales wanted him on the council.
As I write this I feel myself getting more and more annoyed, so I’ll end here by stating that, apologise for Newham Labour all you want but don’t make the mistake of assuming that my criticisms of the current town hall regime is just sour grapes.
I never suggested that your views were just sour grapes. I am well aware of many of the goings on in the Newham Labour Party over the past 15 years and I dont believe that it is any better or worse than other parts of the labour party or indeed other political parties. I have personal experience of the Labour Party outside of Newham & the SPD in Germany and whilst the characters are different many of the interpersonal struggles are very similar. I am sure that you can make perfectly valid criticisms of Robin Wales but then that would be true of Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or whoever. The lack of a proper opposition in Newham can hardly be blamed on Robin Wales or anyone else in the labour party.
PS as far as I am aware the parks constabulary is being shut down, so perhaps the various comments and criticisms do have an effect?
apologies for going off on one.
However, the point here isn’t the lack of proper opposition (and you are right, that isn’t Wales’ fault). What is at issue is the failure of the local Labour Party to reign in its elected representatives and the fact that the current “Labour” administration is as far removed from a grass-roots party base as you can get. And that is Wales’ fault via his successful machinations to control the Newham Labour Party.
For example, it is a rare Labour ward that actually gets to choose its elected representative on the council.
Regarding the parks constabulary… lets wait and see on that one, but it is a good example: you stated “perhaps the various comments and criticisms do have an effect?”, not in the Newham Labour Party. When the issues around the deployment of the constabulary were first brought to my attention I made an appointment to meet with Mayor to discuss the issue and offer up fixes. He cancelled the appointment and refused to meet me on the issue.
Three years later the Council commissions a £49,900.00 report that gives exactly the same advice I was prepared to give the Mayor for free. I was a council member, a Labour Party member and the Mayor’s appointed lead member for Royal Docks… and he wouldn’t listen to me. Instead, I was threatened with legal action and the standards board. Welcome to democracy Newham style.
What interest me about the above comment is the £49,900 cost of the report. This would appear to be priced deliberately at just under £50,000. Is there an extra level of audit for contracts over £50,000? Who got this contract? How? Open tender? How was the winner chosen? On some well laid out principle or what?
And not only condemnation but accusations of what would appear to be electoral fraud from a councillor of thirteen years standing:
All of the people who have joined in this thread know exactly what Newham Labour Party is all about – Weast Ham CLP maybe a little more democratic than East Ham. But we have recently seen how when your face no longer fits you can be expunged – by Robin crowding out the meeting with his well paid cronies. And it may well be that the local party meetings have changed recently, but I doubt it. When I was an elected member, the wards I represented over the 13 years, with the exception of South (now Beckton) never met. South met purely because Alec Kellaway was an active member and saw the value of encouraging non councillors to meet – after all ward meetings don’t start and end with the Council!
Mike is absolutely right when he talks about the ordinary member – there was a time when it was deemed crucial that you had been an active Party member for a while. Now that appears not to matter – and not only is Mike’s example correct, can be added too – the person wasn’t even a member of the Party and his subs had to be quickly paid and backdated!
Just recently a colleage of mine has been encouraged to stand for the next Council elections – and not yet a party member. We all know that in the last few years it has never been about the Party more about your allegance to the Mayor. I accept that it is not Robins fault that there is no opposition – however even of there was one we have seen the gutter politics come in to
We all know that you cannot be a critic of the Labour Party in Newham because that is taken to be a critic of the Mayor and when anyone dares to challenge then they are got rid of – and never by fair means.
There is a serious problem in Newham and local people are not properly represented. They shouldn’t have to bother either MP with trivia or with stuff that should be able to be sorted at a local level – but I would question how many Councillors actually carry out a regular surgery. There are a couple of elelected members who take their community role seriously but they are few and far between.
We also know that by paying elected members, in some cases, over 50k a year means that people join the party to fast track their way to fat cat salaries with usually no compunction to represent the people who elected them – unless they always agree.
Democracy isn’y about always agreeing – in Newham there is no place for debate because if you disagree with the line being set down by the Mayor you find yourself being excluded and brutally got rid of – and telling the truth doesn’t enter into it. If I had a penny for every lie that has come out of the mouths of the so called Newham Labour party then I could retire.
I don’t mind people defending the Party – but do it honestly, especially when you are fully aware of the dirty tricks machinery that is used. I would still be in the Party if it wasn’t for Robins wish to control, control, control. That’s not about discipline its more about a dictator.
Things really don’t sound good down at the farm. From personal experience Newham is a mess and this top down Uber-control mentality is a great part of that. It kills ingenuity, creativity, trust and collaboration in organisations. Most Newham employees I am forced to interact with are somewhat robot like in their attitude. I sense an attitude of “if I can avoid making this decision I won’t be blamed” on one hand, coupled with a little bit of “every person outside of the council must be a cheat or liar”. Having said that there are of course many wonderful people employed by the council – it’s not their fault if the “machine” that is the Newham-Council-Sir-Robin-Labour-Party has turned them into this.
I met Sir Robin Wales a little more than a month ago. The Housing benefit department illegally cut my benefits off – a decision which they have apologised for in writing, reinstating every penny. They caused me great harm though as I was abroad seeking medical attention. I had to return to deal with the nominal £1500 debt Newham Council’s erroneous decision left me with – and the threat to repossess my flat and dispose of my personal belongings this instantly imposed. I am still not in receipt of the medical attention i need and Newham Council employees actions have been a key factor in this happening.
Despite sending the council a letter from Lynn Brown MP and from My GP supporting my actions and confirming I was seeking medical attention I needed desperately and was not being given in the UK they cut my benefit when they should have placed me under a 52 week medical rule as they have now admitted and apologised for.
Unfortunately Newham Council, in my experience, do not like to take responsibility. I advised them in early April of the situation, followed it up on the 17th with a phone call and copy email and was in telephone conversations with them for weeks. They replied to the original email sent on 11th April on the 7th of June. I was back in the UK dealing with their fuck up by then.
I asked for compensation of a “reasonable sum to help me make up for the harm they had caused me without delay by paying for private medical attention”.
In this case they have offered me £50 compensation for the injury they have caused me (and apologised for in writing). Even my housing officer who I first appraised of my situation in early April agrees this is a derogatory sum in the circumstances, but no, it seems Newham want to force a seriously disabled and ill man into court to get justice. I’m not well enough to fight but my lawyer is luckily if it comes to that.
Hence my visit to the Mayor at his surgery. He was rather curt after his initial show of friendliness had no interest in the details of my case. He said he would hand it on to the legal department. They have not replied in the nearly six weeks since I met Sir Robin. I felt as if i was an inconvenient obligation and left the surgery with the impression he was, at heart, quite a cold and uncaring man annoyed to be “at work” on a Saturday morning – despite the many obvious perks his position provides to make up for it.