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Saturday, 29 February 2020

Keir Starmer Now Leading in Survation Poll

Keir Starmer is now leading in a Survation Poll published by Labourlist.  I am not as confident in their methodology as I am in Yougov's but both appear to be good indicators of a Starmer win

Labour Party Distractions

One thing that those who call for mandatory reselection of MPs might reflect on is that during the period of the Leadership election, Labour has been doing virtually nothing to scrutinise the government.  This has allowed it build a big poll lead despite wilful errors such as the Prime Minister refusing to visit flood hit parts of the UK.

Naval contemplation has its price.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Morland Gardens Redevelopment

There is a proposal on the table to redevelop 1 Morland Gardens on the edge of Stonebridge and Harlesden.  The planning application summary is:

"Demolition of existing buildings and erection of a new mixed use building ranging in height from two to nine storeys, to provide 65 dwellings (Use Class C3), affordable workspace (Use Class B1), new further education college (Use Class D1), with associated amenity areas, public realm improvements, car and cycle parking and refuse/recycling store."

All the properties in the building are proposed as "affordable".  There is also 750 square metres of affordable workspace and space for a college (which is the current use).

The housing is proposed as 40% one bedroom, 18% two bedroom, 10% three bedroom, 7% four bedroom and 4% five bedroom.  This adds up to just under 80% of the space.  All the units will be "social renting". 

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Keep Talking

Hope Not Hate and the Community Security Trust (CST) have issued an important report on conspiracy theories and the increasing dialogue between the Far Right and the Far Left (including in the Labour Party).  The number of people involved in these may be small, but they have a disproportionate; the more so when they hide in "moderate" clothing.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Reasons People Did Not Vote Labour in 2019

Some one has rather usefully actually asked the voters what they think about reasons not to vote Labour, rather than making assumptions.  It should be minded by every Labour Party member voting in our Leadership election. 

UPDATE 25/02/20

I see Angela Rayner's has acknowledged that part of the reasons for the defeat were to do with the Leadership.  I wish others were as frank.  

Monday, 24 February 2020

Passport to Where?

I can't say that this image really consoles me for losing freedom of movement across the European Union, but why does it show Boris Johnson a plane when he is officially in Chevening?

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Police Action Going Too Far?

Weird to see the below photograph circulating on the Internet, so much so that I suspect is is "fake news".  If it is not I imagine the government will be going ballistic since it seems like the Police going way too far for their remit.

Brent Council Poverty Commission

I see Brent council is sponsoring a poverty commission.  This is a good idea, but it does seem to replicate the Social Mobility Commission chaired by Lord Knight that was set up round about 2012.  That did not see any of its conclusions pursued because of a lack of political support.  I hope it works out differently this time.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Barnhill Election Petition

Remarkably the Barnhill election has been subjected to an election petition.  This is an extremely unusual proceeding.  The last time it happened in Brent was in 2006 in following a result in Dudden Hill where an employee of the Council was elected as a councillor (representing the Liberal Democrats).  

The Barnhill case is brought by the losing Conservative candidates.  It alleges a miscounting of the votes, but does not say whether they mentioned this to the Returning Officer or examined the ballot papers, as they had a right to do.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Misguided Reforms in the Labour Party

A plea here for more realism on local government governance will hopefully be heard by the winners for the Labour Leadership battle.  Separating the appointment of the Leader from the councillors s/he is supposed to work with is indeed disastrous for reasons I have described.  The new Leader will have the perfect opportunity to look again. 

Thursday, 20 February 2020

One Sided Endorsements

More on Graham Durham, the now apparently suspended candidate for the Labour Party NEC.  He appears to be endorsing Jo Bird, but it is not clear whether she is endorsing him. 

I first came across this tactic with Ken Livingstone's runs for London Mayor.  A number of anti-Labour candidates would endorse him even though he was asking people to vote Labour in the Assembly. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Brent Council Budget 2020

What with the Labour leadership and all, I have not had the opportunity to fully review the Brent Council budget which will be going forward at the full Council today, but I have noticed:

  • A property review to maximise income, which I take it calls into question any promises of peppercorn rents.
  • A general commitment to large savings from future budgets without a clear pathway to achieving them, which strikes me as a worrying sign of a Council kicking potential problems down the line.  For example there is a commitment to as extra £245k in environmental services through unidentified "efficiencies".
  • A general commitment to "robust challenge" in terms of the cost of Council services i.e. gatekeeping on people accessing services combined with with refusing to pay beyond a certain level.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Labour's NEC Nominations

Those who follow the internal workings of the Labour Party, a select breed I imagine, may be interested in progress on the two by elections to Labour's National Executive.  Labour's official list of nominations is available.

The only Brent resident I am aware of going for this is a person called Graham Durham who recently achieved notoriety over his opposition to Rebecca Long-Bailey at one of her own rallies.  Sienna Rogers, the editor of Labourlist has commented:

Andrew Sabisky and Boris Johnson

I have argued before that Boris Johnson may through either ineptitude or sheer hubris start chipping away at his own authority, but I am surprised at how quickly this is happening.

According to the Huffington Post, he is refused to distance himself from Andrew Sabisky's offensive comments on race, eugenics and so on.  Given his own record of comments on black people, this amazes me.  He is wide open to the accusation that he agrees with his aide.  Mashing up vaccination programmes with compulsory sterilisation is the kind of thing that delayed the eradication of polio.  It is profoundly dangerous coming from some one in Downing Street.  Mr Sabisky' views also mean that he has such a skewed view of the world that his advice on policy will be useless.

Any sensible Prime Minister would have got rid of him immediately. Instead Johnson waited until the press had cottoned on, and only did it last night, making himself look both weak and stupid.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Passover in the Kiln Theatre

I saw Passover at the Kiln theatre recently.  Billed as a mash up of the Moses story and Waiting for Godet, it is as powerful a piece of drama as I have seen for a long time.  It seems to be one of a number of such plays taking long established classics and giving them a different modern twist (as in Wife and When the Crows Visit earlier in the season).  It is also the first production to be put on in the round.  Thus it takes advantage of the enhanced flexibility which was one of the points of the refurbishment

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Spread of Coronavirus

The spread of the coronavirus, which now appears to be inevitable, reminds me of Amartya Sen's work on famine.  He pointed out that famine had only occurred in non-democratic countries, and that a key reason was the absence of a free press.  This meant the authrities themselves don't realise how widespread the problems are until it is late in the cycle, and I suspect something like this may have happened in China.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Council Carbon Footprint

Many English Councils don't know the extent of their carbon footprint, according to the Guardian.  That is truly worrying.  Without knowing that how can they say they are seriously committed to reducing it?  I am glad to say that Brent Council is a lot more advanced, thanks to the Civic Centre and other projects.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Johnson's Buses Oversold

It should come as no surprise that the £5 billion for local transport in the regions of England is overblown.  Firstly, it is over years i.e. £1 billion capital spend year split between England's eight non-London regions.  That is £125 million per region for five years.

It sounds as if it is mostly capital spend, and I am not sure if it is even new money or a recycled announcement.  Given repaving one kilometre of pavement costs about £150,000 and resurfacing one kilometre of carriageway about £100,000; that kind of sum will not go far with say, the whole of East Anglia.

It certainly does not begin to make up for the last decade of cuts.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Cabinet Shuffle

The Cabinet shuffle appears to be much more consequential than expected.  It is currently reported that Javid is going as he will not accept all his advisers being sacked.  This kind of thing, so early in his tenure, suggests that Johnson's Prime Ministership could be a lot shorter than expected despite his huge majority.

Passover at the Kiln Theatre

Tonight will be the first performance at the Kiln Theatre of Passover, which is billed as a mash up of Waiting for Godet and the Moses story and looking at the Black American experience.  Goodness knows what it will be like.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Momentum, Burgon and Angela Rayner

I don't often comment on internal Labour Party matters here, but it is striking that Momentum appears to be backing two different candidates for Deputy Leader. 

Officially, they had a ballot, but it was a yes/no ballot for or against a pre-picked Rebecca Long-Bailey and a pre-picked Angela Rayner.  In my view that is a travesty, but as Momentum is a privately owned company similar to Farage's Brexit Party rather than a democratic movement, the only person's opinion who really counts is its owner's, Jon Lansmann.

There is also apparently a break away faction, backed by John McDonnell MP, is supporting the controversial Richard Burgon MP.  Dawn Butler MP appears to be reaching out for similar territory. 

A similar level of disorganisation is reported for the NEC by elections.  

If this is the level of disunity they manage among themselves, how are they going to unite the Labour Party?

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Mayoral Candidate in the West Midlands

As the Labour Party continues being distracted by its internal elections, it has finally selected its metro mayor candidate in the West Midlands, Liam Byrne MP.  This is a tough fight coming up for May, and will be one of the first electoral tests of the new Leader.  It really is a pity that a candidate is in place there so late and that the Party is still focused on internal stuff. 

Monday, 10 February 2020

Alan Simpson on the General Election Campaign

Alan Simpson has spoken out explosively about Labour mismanagement of the General Election campaign.  Perhaps the most significant thing here is that he is very much associated with Jermey Corbyn's own wing of the Labour Party. 

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Community Organising and Brent Local History

The people who controlled the Labour Party during the tenure of the now outgoing Leader set up what they called a "community organising unit".  I think the unit was actually duplicating the work already done by good local Labour Parties and Labour Councils up and down the land and in an area where Brent Council was a pioneer.

The story starts more than twenty years ago when the Blair government was first elected.  Back then the new Labour government wanted to change both the Party and the Councils by making them more outward facing and in touch with the public.  There are some shocking instances of Councils that were completely divorced from their communities.  For example, I recall meeting a councillor (Not a Brent one) who told me that he literally never knocked on a door during his more than twnety years as a councillor.  Whereas he was an extreme case, he was not the only one.

The Labour Party first set about reforming itself to discourage this.  It was hoped that the large new membership in 1997/1998, which back was over 400,000 would become more active in this regard, and to support that the Party started to streamlining its activities to reduce the number of dull and routine meetings by having more all member meetings, fewer acronyms and confusing committees and so on.  It is fair to see that this was not always successful, but the effort was a genuine one.

In parallel, the Blair government put forward the crucial 2000 Local Government Act which abolished the old committee system which tied councillors up in seemingly endless town hall meetings, and sought to get councillors more involved in "frontline" activities, engaging their communities.  There were a lot of successes in this.  I listed some of the ones I was involved in on my Kensal Green page, and there are many more recent examples.  Councillors were also encouraged to meet local people in events such as Local Democracy Week and in community groups.  Naturally this can also involve a certain amount of protesting against unresponsive public authorities, although this should be just a subsidiary part of the whole. 

An active local councillor, such Cllr Janice Long in Dudden Hill can clock up a lot of this provided she/he doggedly pursues it over time.

Brent became a pioneer on this setting up training and structures such as the ward working scheme to make it happen.  Unfortunately ward working was abolished and replaced with councillors merely arguing for grants of CIL money to particular groups without really understanding what they are spent on or why.  This replicates the potential dangers of things like ward working, of making it a vehicle for favouritism and patronage without getting the advantage in promoting the community aspect.

The Community Organising Unit was essentially replicating all this, presumably because its proponents didn't really understand how local government or good local Labour Parties worked.

A second aspect coming out of the recent General Election is that the Community Organisers got diverted from this into old fashioned transactional campaigning of the kind that community organising was supposed to replace.  This is an understandable situation where political parties are struggling for funding, but destroys the whole idea of community organising which is more about longer term relationships.  Of course, the Labour Party's internal review has also suggested that the organisers were sent to the wrong places either because the senior figures in the Party had a seriously misjudged optimism about the result or in some case a personal dislike for certain candidates.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Islington North Leadership Nomination

I don't know if it is true, but I have just read a tweet by a reputable journalist (Gabriel Pogrund) that Islington North CLP has nominated Keir Starmer for the Labour leadership.

Stepless Access at Willesden Green

A long term project worth keeping an eye for is stepless access at Willesden Green Tube.  This has already been considered for some time, and a feasibility study is promised in the next few months.  However, the big obstacle will be paying for it as the re-elected Tory government is choosing to reapply austerity measures that prior to the General Election they said were gone. 

Friday, 7 February 2020

New Wards Have Passed the Final Legal Hurdle

The new ward arrangements are now in force, meaning that organisations can be reconfigured around them.  This may be important for the Police, as the Safer Neighbourhood Teams were designed to work on the ward boundaries.  It will also be important for the political parties, certainly for the Labour Party, and possibly Brent Council. 

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Poets at Willesden Junction

There will be shortly a poets in residence group formed around Willesden Junction as part of Brent's Borough of Culture. This follows other Artists in residence schemes at Wembley Library and elsewhere.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Continuing Confusion Over Street Trees

Judging by social media, there is continuing confusion over street trees in Brent with people make perverse demands.

Firstly, there is a confusion of scale.  Each year, Brent loses 400 or so trees to causes such as storm damage, disease, old age, building works and road accidents.  This sounds like a lot until you realise that Brent has about 27,000 trees, so the loss is about one or two per cent a year.

The second is an idea that appears to have arisen that the Council should only use CIL money to replace them.  This makes no sense to me.  The Council has a regular budgets for repairing and maintaining pavements and carriageways, so why not other standard elements of the street infrastructure such as trees?

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Greens Endorsing Labour Candidates

I see that Martin Frnacis of the Green Party is advocating a candidate in the Labour Party's internal selection for a candidate for the GLA seat in Brent and Harrow.  It is interesting that he is doing so despite not being a Labour Party member and indeed standing against us as recently as the Barnhill Council by election

Labour members should take the hint that he does not wish the Labour Party well.  Indeed he is eager to wreck it, despite Labour providing the only alternative to a hard right Tory government. 

That might also cause Labour members who are still denying the reasons behind the recent 2019 election defeat to reflect further. 

Monday, 3 February 2020

Dawn Butler MP on Deputy Leadership Ballot

Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, now reportedly has enough support from constituency parties (CLPs) to make it on to the Deputy Leadership ballot paper.

Denial in the Labour Party

Reports such as this show that the Labour Party is still riddled by people in straightforward denial over what led to the General Election defeat and how to rebuild.  The blaming of staff, the cherry picking of data and so on.  Frankly, too many people in the outgoing Leader's office are obsessed by Labour's internal politics at the expense of talking with the voters.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

UK Break Up

Labour leadership contenders seem to be keen on more constitutional upheaval, although I would have thought the Brexit process has completely exhausted public tolerance for that.

The contenders also seem a bit confused as to what it means.  Rebecca Long Bailey has spoken of a need to bring Holyrood and Cardiff on a level" with the UK Parliament, which makes no sense.  The Parliament in London is not English; it is a UK Parliament, which is why Scots and Welsh MPs are elected to go there.  To bring the Welsh and Scots Assemblies "parity" would mean giving them full national sovereignty, but the Scots rejected this in 2014, and the Welsh have never asked for it.

It also begs the question of what you would do with Northern Ireland.  Given the peculiar and dysfunctional state of that polity and the history of how it used to exercise such powers 1920-1972, I hardly think it would be a good idea.

Talk of a codified constitution, aside from leading to all sorts of further wrangles about what would be in it, would actually lead to greater judicial activism and a decline in legitimacy as more examples of popular support would come into conflict with whatever special majority you needed to change your written constitution.

It worries me that these days senior political figures don't seem to understand the implications of what they are saying.  That is quite before you get to the kind of wilful obfuscation being employed by the SNP and the Tories over visas and what is a reserved power and what is not. 

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Investigation into The Labour Party

I have noticed that there is still a lot of speculation about what the EHRC investigation into the Labour Party will do.  It is worth referring back to what the EHRC said about this itself.  This was:


We have launched an investigation into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

About the investigation

We contacted the Labour Party after receiving a number of complaints about allegations of antisemitism in the party.

We have carefully considered the response we have received from the Party and have opened a formal investigation.

We are using our powers under the Equality Act to open an investigation, which will look at:

    whether unlawful acts have been committed by the Party or its employees or agents

    the steps taken by the Party to implement the recommendations made in the reports on antisemitism by Baroness Royall, the Home Affairs Select Committee and in the Chakrabarti Report

    whether the Rule Book and the Party’s investigatory and disciplinary processes have enabled or could enable it to deal efficiently and effectively with complaints of race or religion or belief discrimination and racial harassment or victimisation, including whether appropriate sanctions have been or could be applied

    whether the Party has responded to complaints of unlawful acts in a lawful, efficient and effective manner

Any communications about the investigation may be sent to

Information or evidence received from individuals will be considered as part of the investigation. We cannot confirm that we will act on every email received.

The deadline for submitting information or evidence was 31 July 2019. Any information or evidence submitted after this date will not automatically be considered as part of the investigation; however, we may consider it if we think it necessary and appropriate.

Please redirect any media queries to