Want somebody to blame?

Rachel Collinson (prospective parliamentary candidate for West Ham) reflects on the 2015 General Election results.

I’ll give you somebody to blame.

As Labour begin the inevitable scapegoat search after a shock election defeat, I can’t help but join in.

I did, after all, once donate regularly to Labour. And, although I dislike the authoritarian, militaristic side to their more recent incarnations, they still have policies that I agree with. Getting rid of the bedroom tax, for one.

So I want to offer a perspective to my friends in Labour, as a friendly outsider, that may help in the licking of wounds and regrouping.

No beating about the (George) bush

OK; I’m going to dive straight in. Do you want somebody to blame?


Blame Ed Balls.

I can almost sense you eyeing me skeptically here. He may be unable to recall the names of any business leaders who support Labour, and he needs to avoid Twitter when tired, but really? He’s human, isn’t he?

Yes, of course. But the problem is that Balls should not have been in charge of Labour’s economic strategy.

It’s the economy, cupid

So, the British people are in love with the idea that only the Conservatives can be trusted on the economy. The press play this tune, and the electorate dance along to it.

The worst of it is, Labour dance too.

Weirdly, it was left to Caroline Lucas (and other Greens, myself included) to defend their track record on the economy from 1997 to 2010.

You may disagree with their spending priorities (as I did) but the fact is, Labour had more years with a budget surplus than the previous Tory administration. One of the first things they did in power was to prevent Government from raising interest rates to bribe the voters before an election, causing damage to the economy. And they did exactly what a Conservative administration would have done during the financial crisis of 2008 – spend hundreds of billions of pounds to prop up our financial system.

I’m not saying that this is what we should have done, but it is certainly what George Osborne would have done.

Where it all went wrong

Labour decided not to turn the tables back on Osborne, by asking the obvious questions: –

“Would you have bailed out the banks, George?”

“And where would you have got the money from for that, George?”

Instead, they appeared meekly to accept the Tory criticisms that they mismanaged the economy. Why?

Ed Balls.

Balls is a monetarist. This means he believes – along with the Conservative Party – that the best way to grow the economy is to cut public spending. It’s called expansionary fiscal contraction, and just like it sounds, it is a contradiction in terms.

This mistake allowed Cameron and Co to pitch the battle on their own, familiar turf, and – gasp – they won.

What should Labour have done?

Labour should have done exactly what the SNP did. They should have shown that cutting public spending during a recession is like quitting your job so you can pay off your student loan.

They should have pointed to Germany and the US, economic powerhouses both, who did not adopt the deep cut strategy.

They should never have chosen Ed Balls.

What to do now?

The people of the UK – and even UK politicians – are garishly naïve about economics. Yes, even rank-and-file Tories.

Take, for example, a prospective parliamentary candidate speaking at a hustings, to whom I had to explain the difference between deficit and debt. Of course, for Conservatives, it’s convenient to be economically illiterate, because they will pursue an agenda of small government regardless.

But for the left, we need to be smart. We need to find simple frames to explain how the economy works, and what drives it.

For me, that will be a direct appeal to small business owners, farmers and freelancers. A recognition that they create most of our jobs. A recognition that they are the real wealth creators. A recognition that they are suffering terribly because of subsidies, tax reductions and a liberal approach to the rule-breaking of large corporations.

Small will be beautiful

Here’s one of the many things I love about the Green Party. Our pledges for small business:rachel

  • Abolishing employers’ National Insurance contributions, because they are, essentially, a tax on jobs
  • One rate of corporation tax for small businesses, a higher rate for large ones, as they benefit from economies of scale
  • An abolition of VAT on tourism businesses such as hotels and restaurants
  • Support for farmers through subsidies for healthy, fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables
  • To fight hard in the EU for reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies that have affected our smaller farming and fishing businesses so unfairly
  • Stronger penalties for late invoice payment
  • A commitment to net neutrality
  • An end to the unfair and discriminatory policy of chasing small businesses for unpaid tax while turning a blind eye to large corporations’ failure to pay
  • Mandating BT to bring super-fast broadband to everybody
  • An end to workfare schemes that essentially provide free labour to large corporations
  • An increase in small business rate relief.

To see how these policies work in practice, just take a look at Brighton. A booming economy, superfast broadband for Brighton businesses, thousands more visitors every year, and Caroline Lucas gaining the title of the FSB’s Small Business Champion.

We need to start shouting loud and clear about these smart policies. For these are what will drive Britain’s recovery.

Newham Greens surge on Election Day 2015

The Newham Green Party dream team!

We’ve come such a long way in Newham.

Although many have woken up today being dismayed about the prospect of another 5 years of the Conservatives – the progressive SNP gains in Scotland, the re-election of Caroline Lucas and an approximate 400% increase in Green votes across the country (think of all that Short Money!) indicates the progressive left are growing force to to reckoned with!

To quote Rachel Collinson; “today is the start of the REAL campaign for a better Newham”

To quote Tamsin Omond; “this is the beginning of our fight. Progressive politics will win”

Firstly, thank you all.

To our Green Party members who have grown five-fold in the past year. To our supporters who have helped us through being active volunteering, words of encouragement, hugs and copious cups of tea along the way. And to everyone who voted Green yesterday – our gains echo the Green Surge across the voting electoral – and we are so very grateful for each and every one of them.

Stratford and New Town By-Election (14%)

result1Isabelle Anderson secured 1,170 votes: 14% of the voting electorate. Coming in 3rd, in a ward where Newham Greens had not previously been active in prior to 2015 is incredible. Congratulations Isabelle! You did us proud.

West Ham (5%)

Rachel Collinson secured 2,651 votes: 5% of the voting electorate. Coming in 4th, and ensuring we retain our deposit for the first time in Newham. In 2010 we got 1.4%, so this result is a whopping 5 fold increase in votes. Congratulations Rachel! This was her inspiring speech last night:


East Ham (2.5%)

Tamsin Omond secured 1,299 votes: coming in 4th with 2.5% of the voting electorate in East Ham. In 2010 we secured 1.2% of the vote, so we have doubled our votes. Watch Tamsin’s passionate speech after the declaration:

tamsin results

Election leaflet for West Ham

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 20.03.25 Rachel Collinson is standing as the Green Party candidate for West Ham. To find out more information, read an interview with Rachel here.

Rachel is always happy to talk with residents, either face to face, on Facebook or Twitter. Do get in touch if you have any questions!

Press here to download full PDF

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”

Isabelle Anderson, Green Party candidate for Stratford and New Town ward, explains how the Green policies on crime would tackle the true causes of crime in Newham. For a safer Newham, vote Green on May 7th

Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer
Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer

Anyone remember this mantra, beloved of Tony Blair and his New Labour government which swept to power in 1997? Since that time, under both New Labour and a Con-Dem coalition, we have seen the introduction of a raft of new criminal justice measures. The UK is about to get its first supersize ‘Titan prison’ in Wrexham with space for more than 2000 inmates. Our civil liberties have been threatened by legislation under a series of ‘Terrorism Acts’, which introduced detention without charge and Control Orders that enable the government to hold individuals under effective ‘house arrest’ for indeterminate periods of time. And austerity too has had an impact; with cuts made to legal aid and the probation service privatised.

Then came 2010 and the introduction of a record number of new laws – 3,506 in total [1]. So shouldn’t we all feel much safer? Despite a year on year fall in crime since 1995, polls show that the majority of people still believe that the crime rate is rising [2]. This is borne out by my experience on the doorsteps, talking to residents around Stratford and New Town. Many cite crime as an important issue and express feelings of fear and isolation. Yesterday, the Newham Recorder reported that our borough has been ranked as one of the worst in London for 13 separate crimes, including violent crimes such as rape and grievous bodily harm [3]. While the rates of many crimes including burglary and theft have fallen in Newham, violent crimes have increased.

If previous governments have been so ‘tough’ on crime and its causes, why does this issue remain high on the agenda? The prison population in the UK is higher than ever before, with more people imprisoned than in any other European country. And yet, despite the tough punitive approach taken, crime remains a problem.

The Green Party takes a radically different approach to crime and justice. We believe that the principle causes of crime are poverty, lack of opportunity and poor community cohesion. Take the following statistics [4]:

  •  60% of offenders have no qualifications;
  • 48% have literacy skills below those expected of an 11 year old;
  • 67% were unemployed at the time of imprisonment;
  • 71% suffer from two or more mental disorders;
  • There is more crime in unequal societies.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 09.24.59
Nationally, Green policies on crime are more popular than other parties (source: vote for policies website)

By addressing inequality, redistributing wealth and improving quality of life, we can reduce crime and create a society in which we all feel safe. Green Party policy on crime places emphasis first and foremost on education, employment and security for all. We would shift the focus of the justice system away from punishment and make rehabilitation and reparation a priority. Reoffending rates are at a record high and more than half of criminals handed prison sentences of less than 12 months will reoffend [5]. This proves that prison and retributive sentencing does not work. Effective justice must involve community participation rather than being imposed from above. Restorative justice, that is community-based justice, can empower victims and improve social cohesion. Prison sentences would be reserved for the most serious crimes. In addition, the Green Party would:

  • Focus on crime prevention measures, including more community police, more local police stations, and increase resources for caretakers, attendants and railway station staff.
  • Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners, and return control of the police to local government.
  • Treat drug addiction as a health issue.
  • Restrict police use of random stop and search powers and end the disproportionate targeting of of BME communities.
  • Oppose the privatisation of policing and of the probation service.

To tackle the true causes of crime, for a safer Newham, vote Green on 7th May 2015.


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13569604
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2013/aug/01/crime-falling-people-dont-feel-safer
[3] http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/newham_is_in_bottom_five_boroughs_for_13_crimes_1_4051947
[4] https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf
[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-reoffending-and-improving-rehabilitation/supporting-pages/transforming-rehabilitation

Unfair consultation on Upton Centre future

uptonThe Newham Green Party have been actively supporting the campaign to save the Upton Centre.

The Upton Centre was closed unexpectedly and “for the foreseeable future” on Friday 19th December by Newham Council. Cabinet members agreed to launch a consultation with residents about the future of the centre. You can access and respond to the consultation questionnaire online here (closes Tuesday 26th May).

Caroline Tomes, Newham Green Party member, filled in the consultation questionnaire yesterday and was shocked and dismayed at the questions being asked. In response Caroline has emailed her councillors noting her concerns. She’s said:

Having attended a number of public meetings concerning the closure of the centre and heard about the poor communication from the council in this regard, I am very concerned for the future of the community groups who depend upon the Upton Centre and the wider community who also benefit from this community asset.
Yesterday I completed the consultation questionnaire. As a public health professional who has experience in questionnaire design and delivery, and lectured on this topic at various Universities, I was dismayed. The consultation is nothing short of appalling. It has many leading questions, is not explicit in its assumptions or costings, and most disappointing of all, it appears to suggest that LBN council is already favouring the option to demolish the site.


Newham Council appear to prefer tokenistic research rather than carefully planned engagement to find out what people actually want or think, and this supposed consultation further evidences this. For Caroline’s critique in full, read her storify here.

Newham residents campaigning to save the Upton Centre (source: Newham Recorder)

As with many community campaigns in Newham there appears to be a common underlying theme. The complacent Labour one-party state of elected officials, led by Mayor Robin Wales. Whatever the outcome of May 7th, Newham Green Party are committed to supporting and raising the profile of community campaigns for a better Newham.

When walking around Newham, we’ve heard people ask ‘what difference can one Green voice have?’

The answer is one heck of a difference!

A Green MP or Green Councillor for Newham would mean a strong voice of opposition, challenge and change.

That is worth voting for.

Please mind the gap between the rich and the poor

Tackling the gap between rich and poor has become a major political issue in Newham as almost 1 in 2 households in the borough are now poor, new research shows.

Rachel Collinson for West Ham
Rachel Collinson for West Ham

Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham, says:

“We can no longer ignore the inequalities in Newham; they are shocking, unfair and unacceptable. It is a reflection the impact of the recession but also ineffective Labour policies which are not tackling the root causes of poverty. We believe everyone in Newham should have decent housing and fair working conditions and the Greens are the only party who you can be confident will tackle poverty in Newham”

Ahead of the General Election, a group of leading academics completed an audit of the political parties’ manifestos to assess the impact of their policies on UK and global poverty. The Green Party came out on top. We in the Green Party pride ourselves on our record of consistently proposing innovative policies to address long-standing public policy challenges.

povertyThe audit highlights that the Green Party policies are likely to make a lasting difference, as they are far-sighted and seek to address the structural causes of problems, like housing. Such policies are expected to make a big difference to people’s lives, especially to deprived boroughs like Newham.

In sharp contrast, Labour and Conservative parties fail to outline a robust strategy to address poverty, and promote flourishing, at home and abroad. However its not just their plans, its also their actions. Earlier this month we saw the House of Lords reject a ”Good Samaritan’ food donation plan for Britain. With an estimated 13 million people in poverty in the UK, we can’t ignore it.

Isabelle Anderson for Stratford and New TOwn
Isabelle Anderson for Stratford and New Town

Isabelle Anderson, Green Party candidate for the Stratford and New Town by-election says:

“As a young family with a modest income we struggle with the spiralling cost of housing. I believe that Newham Council should be working harder to provide decent affordable homes for all. Newham Council’s failure to provide sufficient social housing pushes vulnerable people out of London and breaks up families and communities. By electing me as your councillor for Stratford and New Town you will ensure that Labour’s unwillingness to stand up for the vulnerable and the marginalised will not go unchallenged.”

“The Green Party offers a real alternative – a party that fights inequality and prioritises the needs of the many above the profit of the few. If I am elected I will campaign for social housing; for measures to improve the toxic air quality that kills 4000 Londoners a year; and for community initiatives that will address social issues such as crime, inequality, unemployment and poverty, and improve wellbeing.”

Research from the University of Oxford reveals the number of households in poverty has jumped by 60% since 1980, meaning that now almost three in 10 are poor. London has always been a city of extremes but the extent to which it has become polarised between rich and poor is laid bare in research released yesterday. Analysis of Census data reveals a 60% increase in poor households and a 33% increase in wealthy households. This has come at a time – 1980 to 2010 – when the number of middle-income households went down by 27%.

For further information:

Four legs good, two legs better… The tragedy of unopposed “revolutionaries”

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 07.23.06This afternoon I got a call from Isabelle, our candidate for Stratford and New Town. It’s unusual for her to call in the middle of the day. I put down my work and answered immediately, fearing the worst.

“Rachel we need some help urgently. The police have arrived and they are breaking in.”

My heart sank.

Isabelle was just a short walk away from where we both live, helping the Focus E15 mums protect the home of one of their friends, Jane, and her 14-year-old daughter. The council had evicted her last month because she had fallen behind on her rent payments. She had lived there for 20 years, but only recently had been sanctioned on her benefits and had her housing benefit cut. She chose to eat rather than pay the rent. So the Labour-run council decided to evict her. Even when her family offered to pay the full amount owing, they refused to let her back in.

Green Party members helping FocusE15 mums to renovate Jane’s home

Focus E15 stepped in and let her back into the flat, gave it a much-needed redecoration and had a welcome home party. Two of our members went down to help over the weekend and pitched in with stripping the wallpaper and buying a heater.

The council had invited Jane to a meeting today at 3.30pm. That sounds great, you might think, until the cynic in you wonders what the council might do while she’s out. And behold, as soon as she left, the council were straight in to board everything up. Fortunately Focus E15 were wise to this plan and had decided to house-sit. Jasmin, their courageous leader, was there.

“They have told her that if she won’t give them her name, they will take her children into care.”

Isabelle’s next words were a bombshell. Lost for words, I fumbled a bit.

“Oh, um, OK,” I said, though, ashamedly, I was scared. “I’m coming over.”

I called others in the area, left my husband ill in bed and got there as fast as I could.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 07.24.51
Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham witnessed the illegal eviction of Jane and arrest of FocusE15 mum Jasmin

Inside, the police were blocking access to the building. We peered in through the window, tapped on the door and politely asked what was going on. They pretended that we weren’t there. There was no warrant for arrest, no court order.

When I announced that I was the parliamentary candidate for West Ham (not a card I really like to play) suddenly the police started talking. They promised me that they would bring down a ‘representative from the council’ to answer my questions. Eventually they came out and bundled Jasmin into their van ‘for questioning’. They refused to say under what grounds she was being detained (I’m not sure they themselves knew, apart from it being something to do with squatting) and drove off.

Al Thomas, the council’s enforcement manager, said that I should contact Newham’s communications team rather than talk to him. Why, I wonder? Could it be that he might get himself in trouble again?

It’s sad to see George Orwell’s tale Animal Farm played out once again in the theatrics of Newham’s Labour Council. The reds have learned how to walk on their hind legs, and us quadrupeds are being left out in the cold.

You have a chance to bring them back down to earth, if you vote Green this May.

Update: Jasmin Stone has been released without charge. However the fight for Jane’s home and the struggle for social housing for Newham residents continues.

Help save Newham by getting Greens elected!

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 20.19.42
Tamsin and Rachel need your help!

Newham, where we all live, is in crisis. The council is evicting single mums from their homes for no good reason. They are locking thousands of people out of their community centres without warning. Hundreds of people are dying too soon because they live in the most polluted part of London.

Despite all this, our councillors and our MPs refuse to stand up to the mayor who is the mastermind of this social cleansing.

Something different is happening this election. It hasn’t been this close in a lifetime. This is a rare opportunity to stop our leaders in their tracks. We can’t do that without you.

The truth is that if everybody in Newham votes for what they believe in, the Green Party can win. But we have no big corporate backers, no billionaire donors, no giant unions behind us. All we have is people like you who want politics to change for good. For the good of all of us.

There are less than 34 days left before the election. We urgently need the funds to pay for our deposits to stand here. Only you can help us do this.

Time is very short, so please give today and help us to make Newham great again.

Click here to visit our crowdfunder page today – don’t delay!

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