Friday, May 22, 2015

A year on...

Facebook sent a reminder this morning of this picture. I cannot believe it is a year since the Newham Council elections 2014.

I have been a Councillor now for just over 5 years.

It will be good to reflect on what I have done, what I haven't done and what I hope to do. I have some plans.

3 more years to go before next elections in 2018.

Standing outside Manor School polling station in West Ham ward.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

List of London Labour Mayoral applicants

Dear colleague,

Further to my earlier email, the list of applicants for the London Mayoral selection is:
  • Diane Abbott
  • Tessa Jowell
  • Keran Kerai
  • Sadiq Khan
  • David Lammy
  • Neeraj Patil
  • Gareth Thomas
  • Christian Wolmar
Constituency Labour Parties and affiliates now have until 10 June to nominate from amongst these people.  CLP Secretaries will be organising all-member nomination meetings and advising members.

You can find more about the process here:

Best wishes


West Ham CLP London Mayor Nomination meeting - 28 May

Labour’s London Mayor Nomination - 28 May 2015

I would like to invite you to West Ham Labour party’s all-member meeting on 28 May where we will decide whether to nominate candidates to stand for London Mayor.

After we’ve finished making nominations we hope you will stay and join us for a social event. We'll be weloming new members, thanking everyone for all their work over the election campaign and celebrating Lyn Brown's re-election and our win in Ilford North. Please do bring food or drink to share with other members.

Where and when?

When: 8pm on Thursday 28 May
Where: Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, London E15 4HW

What will happen at the meeting?

A list of people that have applied to become Labour’s candidate for the Mayor should be available shortly. If you want to ensure the meeting considers a particular candidate, please come ready to propose or second that candidate at the beginning of the meeting. All West Ham members will have a chance to discuss the merits of each candidate before we all vote on whether to nominate anyone at all or whether to nominate one or two people (we have to nominate at least one woman). The Labour Party will then shortlist candidates that West Ham and other London Constituency Labour Parties have nominated. Those shortlisted candidates will then speak at hustings across London that party members and supporters can attend. Voting on this (and the Leader of the Labour party) will open in mid-August and will be announced 12 September.

GC - delegates will meet at 7.30 as usual but at Vicarage Lane on Thursday 28 May before nomination meeting.

Tower Hamlets by election - Sat 23 May

We'll be meeting at Stratford station (at the ticket barrier/sign) at 10.30am on Saturday to head over to help Tower Hamlets (John Gray is lead).

If you can't make that time please just turn up at Tower Hamlets Labour Party office (349 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA, nr Bethnal Green station) anytime between 10-4pm this Saturday or Sunday. You can also see when they have sessions during the week here. They'll be grateful for any time you can spare.

I hope to see you at the nomination meeting. If you have any questions please email

Best wishes


Charlene McLean
Chair - West Ham CLP

Red Line Voting

"I’m writing to invite you to play a part in bringing into being, on 24th June,  a new asset-owner approach to engagement and voting. It will open the way to restoring asset owner control over engagement and voting policies relating to investments held in pooled funds.

The Association of Member Nominated Trustees will, at its summer conference in London, be asking its members to vote to bring Red Line Voting into existence. Red Line Voting is a new approach developed over the last two years to address the problem faced by pension schemes that invest in pooled funds – the reluctance of fund managers to allow pension schemes to direct how the votes associated with their investments should be cast.

I consider this to be an extremely important matter. According to the Investment Association, of the £5-trillion of assets under management in the UK nearly half is invested in pooled funds. It is right and proper that the trustees of pension schemes should be able to direct the responsible investment policy for these investments. Up to now fund managers have said that it would be too difficult to manage multiple voting instructions from many pension schemes.

So AMNT has developed a new approach. With expert technical support their working group of member nominated trustees, of which I am one,  has developed a series of tightly drawn Red Lines – voting instructions – covering the range of environmental, social and corporate governance policies and applicable to all the companies in which the fund invests.  Pension schemes that choose to adopt some or all of them instruct their fund manager to engage and vote accordingly. The fund manager is at liberty to vote contrary to a Red Line if in their judgement that is the appropriate action, but they have to explain to the client why they did so.

Red Line Voting makes it easy for the fund managers to manage: they may receive instructions from many pension schemes, but they are all the same instructions so votes can be allocated accordingly.
This new approach will be of great assistance to the pension schemes that do have a responsible investment policy as it will undoubtedly lead to greater support for their policies when votes are cast. 

Many pension schemes that do have a corporate governance policy do not have a social or environmental policy, so Red Line Voting is a way to close that gap. And above all it will enable, for the first time, many small and medium sized pension funds to respond to the growing calls for them to protect their assets through responsible investing.

To take part in the June 24th meeting you need to sign up to AMNT (it’s free) at and then register for the conference (also free). You can also find more details about Red Line Voting on the website, and once registered as a member you will be able to see and comment on the draft Red Lines.

The conference is from 10am to 5pm at 160 Queen Victoria St, London EC4V 4LA.
I urge you to join and accompany me to the AMNT conference: with your support we will see the launch of a new surge in asset owner engagement with responsible investment.

Thank you
Best wishes,

John Gray"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Collective Bargaining, What's It Good For?

If you really want to tackle low pay and inequality in this country then find out how by watching this video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do you want to help pick the next Labour Leader (and Mayor of London Candidate)? Sign up as an Affiliated Supporter

"To UNISON Members,

Make sure you have your say in selecting Labour's new leader and the Labour candidate for London Mayor.

Sign up now as an Affiliated Supporter of the Labour Party.

Any UNISON member who supports Labour's aims and values is entitled to register and vote.

London Labour will select their candidate for London Mayor in July. The timetable for selection of the Labour leader will be published soon.

UNISON is encouraging all members who are Labour supporters to register.

It's free, quick and easy to do - and you don't have to be a Labour Party member.

To register and find out more go to

UNISON London Labour Link"

(anyone who supports Labour's aims and values can sign up on the link above to be a supporter and vote for a new leader to replace Ed Miliband.  If you live in London you can also vote for the Labour Mayoral candidate. It is free for all UNISON & other affiliated union members and £3 if you are not)

Monday, May 18, 2015

On the Knocker for John Biggs in Mile End

After the Regional UNISON agm on Saturday and while cycling home, I stopped off at the Tower Hamlets Labour Party HQ in Bethnal Green to help campaign for Labour Mayor candidate, John Biggs.  I was asked if I minded going out with a canvass team led by former Tower Hamlets and now Barking and Dagenham Labour Cllr, Bill Turner. I responded that I had a very wicked previous life and would join my UNISON comrade, Mr Turner.

We were in his former ward in Mile End, which I had helped canvass for Bill in 2006 with a good friend and trade union comrade, George Woznicki, who is sadly no longer with us. During that election we had to contend with teams of fascist BNP activists.

I thought that the door knock for Labour and John Biggs went okay and I had some decent conversations with former supporters of "Tower Hamlets First" and even TUSC, who felt it was time to move on, vote for Labour and give some good governance and stability to the borough. However, this election will not be a walkover.

While in the light of events I like many others personally do not believe in the Executive Mayoral model for local Councils, I do think it is really important to elect capable, decent and honest Labour politicians such as John Biggs (and then hopefully reform the position). This election is really important to East London and I hope that everyone will turn out and do their bit to win it. 

View from the Coalface - The role of trade unionists as pension trustees

This picture is from the panel seminar last week at the "Workplace Pension 2015" conference in Birmingham.

I was with Bill Trythall, who is a fellow AMNT union appointed trustee on the massive USS Pension scheme. The chair was Louise Farrand from "Engaged Investor".

We took a number of questions from the chair and members of the audience on amongst other things - time limits for trustees on schemes; do trade unions help bring diversity and how can we tell if our pension board is any good?

My response (and since I was obviously not making notes I won't report on what Bill said) was "Yes", we should have time limits on trustees serving on a board. It is wrong that people like me have been on boards for 20 years. We need new blood and realistic succession plans. But so should all our professional advisors be similarly time limited to 5-10 years maximum. 

I think that trade unions do help drive the diversity agenda, since not only is equality and fairness a reason for our existence, we know that if a company does not recruit, for example, any women to its board, then it is is ignoring the potential talent pool from half the population. That is a bad business decision and ignorant companies who do so will suffer in the long term. 

This has nothing to do with political correctness but a well founded belief that companies who don't discriminate, do not  cause harm to its workers, destroy the environment, employ child labour or bribe public officials will in the long run be far more successful businesses to invest in than does that do.

My response to how we can tell if we are doing a good job or not as pension trustees will be to see firstly how we perform according to our benchmark, when compared to our peers and at our triennial valuations. But also we should see how open and transparent we are with our members and other stakeholders, do we seriously challenge our advisors, how realistic are our assumptions about future performance and liabilities, do we really drill down on all our fees and transaction costs and do we take our responsibilities as owners of capital seriously?

We ran out of time at the end but I think that Bill and I enjoyed the seminar and hopefully those who watched and participated did so likewise.

UNISON Greater London Community Executive AGM 2015 with Sadiq Khan MP

Collage is from the Regional AGM on Saturday for delegates from branches with Community Service Group members (Housing Associations and the Voluntary sector).

The meeting started on a somber note, as we stood up to pay our respects to Colin Joseph, who recently passed away suddenly. Colin was a long standing case worker for the Voluntary Organisation branch and will be sadly missed.

First speaker was our newly elected lay regional conveyor, Yvonne Green, who described herself as "the new Gloria".  She thanked all members who got involved in the election. She had done her bit in Croydon North and while devastated at the prospect of 5 years of Tory rule, encouraged all members to stand up to them, join Labour link and get involved in your branches and the Party.

UNISON Regional Secretary (and vice chair of Labour Board), Linda Perks, spoke about the last 5 years and how we had actually defended our members better than expected. We have had some terrible struggles in Community, especially in care and support but are now having some decent pay settlements in housing management organisations.

She thought a major reason for the defeat was that a third of the electorate did not vote. She wants us to now go on the offensive with the Tories and their attacks on working people. Expose their obscene employment practices such as unfair zero hour contracts. Linda also called for UNISON members to help build our Labour Link organisation and get involved in local Labour Parties and explain our case. How else will the Party understand us?

Our keynote speaker was UNISON member, Sadiq Khan MP (and Labour London Mayoral candidate), who did his best to cheer us up after the General Election result.

Sadiq thanked us for all the work that the unions did and said that he thought that one reason why Labour did better in London than other parts of the country was its good links with the trade unions.

He then reminded us of what Tony Benn said about politics and defeat "There is no final battle, there is no final defeat. There is the same battle over and over again. So toughen up - bloody toughen up". Sadiq believes that we can and will win in 2020 and we need to start by winning the mayoral campaign in Tower Hamlets.

Sadiq had to leave for another meeting. In the Q&A I pointed out that we must never accept the argument that Labour lost the election because it was "too left". With hindsight we should have realised that we were never likely to win because it is a historical fact that voters in this country will give any government a second chance. Especially if the economy is seen to be improving (aka "its the economy stupid").

In the collage is a great photo of retiring Chair, Charlie Hore, thanking our UNISON Regional Organiser, Colin Inniss, who obviously thinks things are not tough enough in our sector since he soon going off on an unpaid 6 month career break to go hang gliding and mountain climbing! Colin will be a difficult act to (temporarily) follow but the union is interviewing soon for his replacement.

Next on agenda was Dave Johnson, national secretary, on "meeting the organising challenge in the Community Sector". The future of the union depends on us keeping our current density and organisation in sectors that will be outsourced under the Tories. To me it is clear that we have to organise or die.

Final speakers were bectu union lay activists, Christopher Hutchings and Kerri Sandell, who told us about their successful campaign to win a living wage for all workers in the Curzon cinema chain. This is a pretty inspiring campaign which all of us can learn from. However, it was not all about publicity stunts and embarrassing the employer (but that was important) but also about a lot of hard work, organisation and graft by local activists supported by their national officers (and most importantly making sure that there was also some fun and laughs).

Despite the depressing backdrop, this was a really positive and forward thinking AGM. Congratulations also to new Chair, Mitsy Harmon and vice Chair, Tony Power.

Afterwards I went off to fight the good fight for Tower Hamlets Labour Mayoral candidate, John Biggs.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

West Ham Municipal Elections 1897: Now and then.

On General election day May 7, a London UNISON colleauge was representing Labour outside a polling station in Ilford North, when an elderly man bought photocopies of an election leaflet, featuring his Grandfather and gave her a copy. She knew that I was a West Ham Labour Councillor and would be interested in this, so she sent me a scan.

It is a remarkable document. Plasitow ward in 1897 also incorporated my ward, West Ham.  At the time West Ham Country borough was the first Council to be controlled by Labour. In 1892 Keir Hardie had been elected in West Ham South as the first Labour Member of Parliament. Even though the Labour Party itself was not formed until 1906.

I could only find out more information on the internet about J. J Terrett and nothing on G. Bissell or G. Coe.

Joseph Terrett was elected as a Councillor at some point and wrote a pamphlet called "Municipal Socialism” in West Ham: A Reply to ‘The Times,’ and Others (London: Twentieth Century Press, 1902). Which was in response to an attack on Labour Councils for spending too much by the London Times newspaper. Terrett argued that any extra expenditure was necessary due to poverty and disease. This argument is still live today.

He also wrote a book "The Right Hon. H.H. Asquith, M.P., and the Featherstone massacre" 1906. Which was about the shooting dead by troops of 2 striking coal miners in Burnley in 1893.

In early 1893, Terrett, was a 20 year gas worker and Social Democratic Federation League activist in Burnley. He also called himself "A. G. Wolfe" for some reason. He was however attacked by Keir Hardie for being too aggressive and sectarian.

The last reference I could find on Terrett was standing in a Parliamentary by election in South London 1916 as "Independent Labour". "London Trades Union Protest Committee selected Joe Terrett to stand on a platform of opposition to the recently introduced drink orders introduced on liquor traffic by the Central Control Board.[5] Terrett promptly began his campaign with literature carrying slogans such as "Smash the control board. No more government by secretly-appointed non-representative bodies".

It is surprising how many of the issues mentioned in the pamphlet are still relevant now. Much of which (not all) I would agree with. Click on pictures to bring up details.

If you look at their "Programme" (Page 3) you will see calls for a minimum wage, paid holidays, pensions and sick pay for Council workers. They also call for the council to build homes at low rents.

They want strict enforcement of what we would call nowadays "environmental health" and municipalisation of utilities and other monopolies. As well as making sure Landlords pay their taxes.

The municipalisation of pubs and off licences is not a particularly live issue anymore.

Page 4 of the manifesto calls for free further education and the provision of sufficient toilets for both sexes. I would still agree with the call for evening meetings of all Council committees.

There is "green agenda" (planting of trees) and a cultural call for a municipal theatre.

Finally, I am not that keen on the municipal control of Police but would fully support the final demand that the Council puts pressure to bear on the railway companies to prevent "the scandalous overcrowding that occurs daily".

Some things never change.

Many thanks for sending me the pamphlet. If anyone has any further information on it, please let me know.