Mixed Emotions

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So the campaign and the election is over and its time to share a few reflections.

The two overwhelming feelings are, firstly, great pride in my amazing Green Team who produced the 18th best Green Party result in the country.  Nearly 1 in 10 people in Bethnal Green and Bow who voted, voted Green.  That is a fantastic result, saving our deposit by miles, multiplying our vote many times etc etc.  So a big thank you to all those who voted for a Party they believe in.  We will work hard to advance your views, opinions and interests in the coming months and years.

I congratulate Rushanara Ali who worked very hard and increased her majority.  I have said before that I am very proud that a woman of Bangladeshi origin is representing our constituency.  I will support her wherever I  can, and hold her to account where I think that is necessary.

But second, obviously the overall result is a dark night for our country.  Its not for me to offer advice to other parties.  All I will say is this.  Tactical voting has failed again.  To all those people who would have liked to vote Green but believed that doing so would allow the Conservatives into power, you have wasted your vote again.  You have not voted for a party you believe in and it has failed to stop the election of a Conservative government.  Tactical voting is a failed strategy again.  I understand fully the temptation, but please see that it suits both Labour and Conservatives to characterise these elections as a choice between Conservatives and Labour.  I wish more of you would join those of us who see our votes as far too important to waste on a party which does not reflect our views.  I promise you will better for doing so.

Plainly our voting system is now not fit for purpose (if it ever was).  PR is back on the agenda.  The campaign for PR is not wrong just because some unpleasant parties, like UKIP,  support it.  It is right despite that.  Politics should be about standing up for what is right and fair, whether or not the result might bring help to those you disagree with or despise.  It is simply wrong that the Conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) should have a majority of seats with only 36% of the vote.  It is wrong that in Scotland the SNP (this is not an anti SNP message) should win almost all seats with just over 50% of the vote.  The clamour for fair votes will only get louder, but I am doubtful it will be achieved because it is simply not in the interests of the Conservative Party, which is a ruthless political operation, nor Labour.

Of course here in Tower Hamlets we have an election for a new Mayor and a by election to fight, with voting on June 11.  We have great candidates for both positions.  We will be out putting our message about a united Borough fighting together against Tory austerity.  Thousands have joined the Green Party since the election.  Perhaps you should too.

SO MANY REASONS TO VOTE

I know that for lots of people they don’t see the point in voting.

But leafleting around Bow this morning, I stumble across a great reason.

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There are people all over the world either still struggling for the right to vote, or who themselves remember the struggle to achieve it.

I can’t guarantee you a clock.  Whoever you choose to support you will feel better if you do it, because you will have done the right thing.

Tower Hamlets Green Party Statement on the Electoral Court Judgement

RECLAIM TOWER HAMLETS

Just when the people of Tower Hamlets need committed, dedicated representatives, the internal battles of the local Labour Party has left our Borough without any leadership once again.

The victims are, as ever, the people who trusted and voted for Mr Rahman and the long suffering residents. Beset by the failing austerity policies of the coalition government, we need a new start for our Borough.

Tower Hamlets Green Party has always opposed having an Executive Mayor.

In any upcoming election, we will continue to argue for the abolition of the post of Executive Mayor and for the return of power to the people of this Borough where it belongs.

We will work with everyone to unite our Borough once again. To put power back in the hands of residents, and restore the reputation of our community.

HOUSING

Housing has become the latest election hot potato.  Each party is seeking to outdo each other in how many homes they build: Labour say 200,000 a year, Lib Dems 300,000.  Astonishingly, the Conservatives propose dealing with a huge shortfall in housing by selling off social housing and giving huge subsidies for that purpose.  Billions are to be spent subsidising the sale of housing association homes, which they will force through.  And in another move, which is absolutely typical of the Conservative Party’s systematic destruction of local democracy, they will force council’s so sell their best homes.  Is this just another transparent election bribe?

The message is clear: all the parties still cling to the belief that the market can solve the housing crisis.  I believe that this is proved to be false.  The market, which the Conservatives in Westminster and in the form of Boris Johnson in City Hall, have now proved that left to itself, the market will never provide the homes we need.  Boris Johnson’s administration has permitted their friends in the construction business to water down the requirements for even the so called ‘affordable’ housing.

This has led to ever spiralling rents and house prices.

The new Conservative policy of forcing the sale of housing association homes will destroy aspiration: every person hoping to set up home, to leave a parental home and establish a family home, to move to an area to take up employment, to stay living in the area where you were brought up, where your family, friends and support networks exist, all gone.  If you have the misfortune to be born in London then the chance of you being able to establish your own home will be extinguished for all but the very rich.

And we are already observing the social cleansing of whole areas of London by so called ‘social landlords’ like Poplar HARCA. Balfron Tower  has been cleared.  The Brune Street estate in Spitalfields might be knocked down.  And why?  So that flats can be built or renovated for sale to rich incomers.

As we have seen with properties which have already been purchased under ‘right to buy’, so many of them end up in the hands  of property speculators who let them out pushing rents far out of reach of local people.

I notice tonight that Freedom of Information Requests have revealed that 10 Labour Councillors in LB of Newham own numerous properties in their Borough.  In one case 10 properties.  The stench of corruption hangs over the whole business.

These are just some of the major issues which have to be acknowledged before a comprehensive solution can be found to this situation which creates a sense of hopelessness for so many people in our Borough.

The Green Party propose doing what no one has the guts to promise apart from us: build houses with public money, affordable by people on modest income: social housing.  And lots of them.  125,000 in London alone.  We would mainly pay for these homes by ending the absurd tax break which landlords can claim on buy to let mortgages.  This subsidy amounts to £5.4 billion a year.  We have found that there is plenty land for these homes and we don’t need to build on the Green Belt.  The homes would be high quality and very well insulated making them cheap to run.  We would end the right to buy.

We also have policies to tackle the scandal of unaffordable private rents (five year leases, rent control, a register of landlords).

I don’t say this will the whole solution.  But this is a crisis and big policies are necessary.  The coalition government have done nothing, far from it.  The crisis has got worse and worse.  Our policies make a good start at addressing these problems.

ON THE CANVASSING FRONT

To start with, knocking on someone’s door and announcing you are from the Green Party is a daunting prospect.  However for most of us it becomes the most rewarding part of the campaign.  It teaches you never to judge a person from their front door.  Or where they live.  It teaches you to listen very hard to what people are saying.  They are telling you something very important.  It also teaches you that not everyone will be convinced by you, and that diversity is a good thing too.

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But everyone is really friendly and we have learnt so much about the Borough and its people.  And we have identified many important local issues which we will pursue after the election.

For now a few lessons.

People are mightily fed up with the main political parties  As in, truly fed up.  For many the Greens are a welcome antidote, but for many we are tarred with the same brush.  We have to demonstrate by what we do, as well as what we say, that we are different.

Housing is a massive issue, and London is truly heading for housing meltdown unless real radical action is taken soon.

The NHS is the one thing people are happy for their taxes to be spent on.

Drugs are a big issue.  If anyone suggests that the war on drugs is working, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

We are really confident that the Green Party offers a positive message of hope, and so many people we have met and talked to are going to vote Green at the next election.  You should too.

I SUPPORT THE HEALTH STAFF

We have been campaigning strongly against the way our local health Trust, Barts Health, has been managing our local health services.

We will continue to criticise where we think things are going wrong for the people of Tower Hamlets.

But I want here to spare a thought for those who work for the Trust.

Reading the reports of those who use the Trust’s services a clear message shines through.  People often report real problems getting access to medical services.  However, when they do get access, they report great service, from dedicated, skilled professionals.

These health professionals are supported by hard working, and often low paid, staff: cleaners, cooks, technicians and administrative staff.

The staff of course have been in the front line of the problems.  They have faced forced downgrading in their pay grades.  Why should these staff pay the price of cuts, mismanagement and disastrous PFI arrangements?  What can be more demoralising than being told that you are no longer worth the grade you have already achieved?

They have faced threats and intimidation, and in at least one case the sack for doing no more than speaking out about their concerns at the Trust.

One of the most worrying findings in the recent CQC report is the existence of a bullying culture.  Lets be clear about what this means.  It means that where employees were so concerned about things happening in the trust that they wished to complain about it, that the managers would bully them into withdrawing their complaints.  The effect of this was to make it plain that complaints would not be tolerated.  This is an outrage.  The services provided often relate to matters of life and death.  If there are failures or concerns, it is absolutely appalling that these managers had the nerve to try to suppress them.  This suggests that some managers would prefer to allow dangerous or unsatisfactory practices to continue than to have any failings in their organisation exposed.

Against this background it is heroic that the staff have continued to struggle and have provided first class medical care. We know they were able to do this more often than not.

I for one want to pay tribute to the staff who continue to get on, every day, with providing these vital medical services.  We need to free these people to get on with the job to which they have dedicated themselves.  It is as a result of the commitment which they continue to demonstrate that I know that the future can work, if the proper funding and support is provided.

AND WE ARE OFF!!

Campaign Launch

What a great turn out today to officially launch our election campaign.

It was great to have Sharar Ali, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, in attendance.

The theme was the crisis in the health service, which is threatening local GP surgeries, and our hospitals facing unprecedented deficits.

The Green Party stands for a publicly funded and publicly provided health service.  Thats why Caroline Lucas presented the NHS Reinstatement Bill this week to Parliament.

Great response from everyone out in Whitechapel Market this morning too!

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SAVE THE NHS

Just when you think things cannot get any worse at our local NHS (see my previous blogs), we get this, from The Standard on Friday 9 March.

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The creeping privatisation of our health services may be about to speed up dramatically unless people vote to keep our NHS public.

Every vote for a party which will fight for a publicly funded and publicly provided health service will make the difference.

Is the party you are going to vote for going to do that?

The Tax Dodging Bill Campaign

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A big thank you to Caroline and Ruth, local activists who briefed me on the Tax Dodging Bill.  And thanks also to the the many of you who have contacted me about this, showing how strongly people in Tower Hamlets feel about this crucial issue.

I am happy to say that I fully support this great campaign and I hope that when you consider where to place your vote you think about it too.

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http://taxdodgingbill.org.uk

#maketaxfair

Save our Surgeries

You cannot have failed to notice the SOS banners adorning all of our local GP surgeries.

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How on earth, when we spend so much on our health services, which in Tower Hamlets are facing greater and greater demands, can we be facing surgery closures?

It is a scandal.

I have found out from those who know about these things how fiendishly complicated GP funding is.  But the long and the short of it is cuts.  Real cuts.  And deep cuts.  Our GP surgeries really are under threat, some are very likely to close unless we all rally round and fight for them.

Several surgeries have been saved for now by concerted campaigns by managers, doctors and patients standing together.  But the threat is real and immediate.

Please find out if your local GP surgery is under imminent threat, and if so take whatever action they are asking for to help.

There is so much waste in the so called ‘internal market’ of the health service that to be cutting back GP services is utter madness.  This is where everyone agrees the future lies, not in expensive hospitals.  We all prefer to be treated by good quality, easily accessible local services.  That these just happen to the cheapest form of treatment is a happy coincidence.  To be threatening them with closure is to threaten the whole service.

The Green Party stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave Doctors and staff who have been fighting these disastrous cuts, and we will continue to do so.