Introducing our new candidate for East Ham #GE2017

Ex-investment banker Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives

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I’m proud to announce that our candidate for East Ham is now Beckton-based Chidi Oti-Obihara!

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Michael (on phone) and Chidi having just finished registering on the ballot
Chidi Oti-Obihara lives in Beckton and became a member of the Green Party while working with us on our investigations into Newham Council’s mis-sold Lender Option, Borrower Option (‘LOBO’) loans.

Previously an Investment Banker, Chidi turned whistle-blower in 2007 and testified to Parliament about the practices he’d witnessed and been bullied for not colluding with. He now works as an independent financial consultant. 

Chidi said “It’s a bittersweet moment for me as I became involved in the party largely because of Rachel, so it’s a shame to have this opportunity due to her standing down. However, it’s a huge honour to have been selected by the membership to represent the party, and especially my own neighbourhood!” 

Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives:

“My part of the borough – Beckton and the Royal Docks, nearby – has been rather neglected by local government. There isnt enough sustainable planning. Whenever investment does appear, it’s privately funded or uses opaque private-partnerships that rarely meets the needs of local people. The air pollution, which is disgraceful across London, is particularly bad in parts of the borough due to the sewage works, the airport and the endless building works. The air is constantly full of dust particles and unpleasant smells. We deserve better, and that’s a large part of why I want to stand in East Ham.”

Chidi is also keen to discuss the problems with some of the privatisation in local government – such as the use of LOBOs by many local authorities. “Having worked in finance for over 15 years, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I know some of the more questionable practices used in selling products. We know that Newham Council is by no means alone in having been mis-sold these loans, and I hope we can push this topic into the national agenda.”

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Chidi with local members as part of the #StandUpForCleanAir campaign

Today, Chidi launched his campaign with some leafletting on East Ham High Street, talking to residents, shoppers and business owners.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be holding events and stalls around East Ham, Beckton and the Docks – find out more on Chidi’s Facebook page.

Siân Berry launches the Greens’ East London manifesto

Friday saw the official launch of the Green Party manifesto for East London (pdf), ahead of the Mayoral and London Assembly elections on Thursday 5th May. Support for Green policies is at an all-time high, with a particularly strong presence in East London, and we are aiming to increase the numbers of Greens on the London Assembly from the current two.

Green Party Mayoral candidate, Siân Berry, and local candidate, Rachel Collinson, were joined by local Green Party members outside of the proposed Bishopsgate Goodsyard site.

EL Manifesto Group

Rachel Collinson, who is also the Newham Green Party Chair, said: “The Bishopsgate Goodsyard development controversy perfectly illustrates what is wrong with London’s urban planning system. Boris Johnson has repeatedly ignored the wishes of local residents and Councils. The Green Party’s Jenny Jones AM challenged the Mayor on the decision, and it has now been deferred until after the Mayoral election!

R&S“The Green Party have a strong record of supporting communities, and holding those in power to account. If elected to the assembly I will work with residents to ensure local concerns continue to be heard.”

The Green Party have already highlighted their flagship policies on housing, transport, policing, the living wage and air pollution during this campaign. The manifesto provides more detail on each of these areas and gives examples of what Siân a Green Mayor and Green London Assembly Members would do for East London. Such as…

200,000 new homes across London, for ALL Londoners – with 50% to be built by smaller developers, communities and housing associations to provide truly affordable housing across the city. In East London the party will take a stand against the proliferation of luxury developments for the super-wealthy, such as Bishopsgate Goodsyard and the Newham Council Masterplan to replace the social Carpenter’s Estate with private developer blocks, and fight for the development of genuinely affordable housing for Londoners.

Celebrating and supporting London’s diversity – including rethinking the flawed and discriminatory Prevent strategy, creating a new City Hall position for monitoring policy impacts on London’s older residents, and making sure London remains a leader in LGBT+ rights and culture.

Ending the air pollution crisis – bringing pollution below legal limits by 2020 at the latest. In East London, we will continue to resist the proposed Enderby Wharf Cruise Terminal in Greenwich and the Silvertown Tunnel at Blackwall which would increase pollution across several boroughs that are already dangerously polluted. Also, we’d close London City Airport and use the land for homes and up to 16,000 more jobs.

The London Living Wage for all – currently one in five working Londoners are still paid less, many of whom live in Newham and surrounding boroughs. Siân also pledges to create 150,000 high­ quality apprenticeships, and improving conditions and opportunities for part-time workers.

This comes just a week after Siân and Rachel were joined by fellow Green Party candidates Shahrar Ali and Benali Hamdache to launch the Manifesto for Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (pdf) in Newham’s Queens Market.

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Corbyn’s “not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!

Angela Eagle MP looks up at Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsThe election of Jeremy Corbyn is another happy milestone in the journey of British politics out of the right wing hinterland and into the sunny dales of People-over-Profit. The news that he got over 50% of the vote in a 4-way contest was glorious. A poke in the eye for the establishment.

Not only that, it means the Overton Window (if you don’t know about that, it’s worth reading up on) is shifting rapidly back to centre ground. This bodes well for us as a nation.

But, I have a warning for you, my lovely leftie friends. Don’t think that the Labour leopard is about to change its spots, just because one turned out to be a benign mole.

“OUCH! That’s a bit harsh,” I hear you say. “Bitter, much?”

Alright, I know what it looks like. But hear me out, like the open-minded sage I know you are.

Just like you, at one point I was prepared to bet the farm on Labour. I even signed up to volunteer for them at a high level. But what I saw was an organisation unwilling to listen to its members, preferring to trust in its old (failed) guard. An organisation unprepared for a society with a culture and technology that have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.

Fast-forward 2 years and alas, that’s still the reality. Like the decades-long moribund Battersea Power Station, the only hope for Labour is that Momentum is able to transform the old structures.

I’m sorry, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. Why? There are too many hints that the foundations are sandy. Here’s a few:

A reluctance to collaborate

As the resurgent Left grapples with our new political landscape, Labour have shown a disappointing lack of interest in collaborative politics. I applaud Caroline Lucas’ stance, offering an open hand to other parties who share the will to implement policies where they overlap.

I also applaud the stance of councillors here in East London who are open to working together on problems that affect us all. However, there are precious few hints that Labour MPs are open to joint projects, whether that’s an alliance, a pact or sharing of resources. There’s no understanding that this kind of politics can benefit all parties.

In the meantime, Caroline Lucas continues to do Corbyn’s job (for example, relaunching the Railways Bill) while Labour continues its public squabble over Old vs New.

All mouth and no green trousers
Support for polluting industries that benefit the rich more than the poor – such as air travel – is still a Labour priority over sustainable development. East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms supports expansion of City Airport, despite the fact that 1 in 3 children who live around the airport are sick from the pollution.
Poll showing twice as many yes as no votes to the question "London City Airport. Do you agree with the Green Party’s proposal?"
Never mind the dire signs of global warming all around us.
Not only is this environmental folly, it doesn’t make economic sense.
The Green Party’s proposal for replacing City Airport, is partly based on a 2014 report from the New Economics Foundation, which found that using the land for housing, small businesses, schools and hospitals, it would create 15,000 more jobs and serve everybody.
A poll in the Newham Recorder shows that residents agree with us.

Forgetting how to win elections

Since 1997, Labour have bought into the Tory idea that winning elections is all about winning over the media. Ed Miliband’s over-coached speech-making, the stone of doom, and romancing Russell Brand were all cringey symptoms of this problem.

Corbyn’s ability to listen and rally the ranks of ordinary people is masterful. But his ground troops haven’t yet caught up. Labour’s canvassing strategy is, frankly, broken. Those doing it well were told by HQ that they were misbehaving and should follow orders from on high.

Having seen the Green Party’s plans to re-engage people in politics from the ground up, I can tell you that they surpass anything Labour has yet devised. The astonishing swing to the Green Party in Bristol West – one of the biggest in English election history – is testament to this.

A lack of commitment to democratic reform

Labour let us down badly in 1997, when they had the chance to reform the House of Lords and change our voting system. However, no lessons have been learned from this. The Old Labour souls seem to pine for the old times (in reality, all ten minutes of them) when First Past the Post served this country well.

If Labour were the party this country really deserved, they’d be all over the opportunity to reform our voting system and end the hereditary principle once and for all. We’d be seeing murmurs of land reform and an end to Royal interference in politics. Sadly, no dice. Not even loaded ones!

There are many more policies and qualities I could list where the Green Party has a huge edge over Labour in solving the UK’s (and the world’s) deepest problems. Such as Land Value Tax, devolution of power as far as possible, Community Land Trusts, Citizens’ income, net neutrality, investment of 1% of GDP in research, restorative justice, Positive Money, Piketty’s wealth tax… the list is extensive.

Yes, I love Corbyn. I especially love the hope that he’s inspired in hundreds of thousands of people. But as far as I can see, he’s more the establishment’s no-tie naughty boy. Not the Messiah.

Will the red shoots of growth around him become fruitful plants?

I hope I am wrong about this. But if I’m judging by the ground these seedlings are growing in, we’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen.

And that, in summary, is why I’m sticking with the Green Party. I am prouder of my membership now than I’ve ever been.
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Rachel Collinson is Newham Green Party’s Chair, and is currently running as a candidate for City and East London in the London Assembly elections in May.

#FairFares for London transport

Rachel Collinson outside Pontoon Dock station Today Rachel Collinson, our local representative for the upcoming GLA election, joined Newham Greens members out around the borough to leaflet and talk to commuters about TfL’s latest fare changes, and how we hope to make a difference with our own #FairFares policy if we can secure a bigger presence on the Greater London Assembly, and perhaps even our first Green Mayor of London!
(The GLA and Mayoral election is run on PR vote, we usually get a much better result than at more traditional FPTP elections for MPs and local councillors. We came third in 2010, so we think Sian is really in with a shot!)

Rachel Collinson leafletting in Stratford
We had a lovely (if a bit chilly!) morning with volunteers around Newham, watching the sun rise on a beautiful day.

Sun rising over Thames Barrier Park

In fact, it was so nice that Rachel and a few more volunteers headed back out to meet people on their homeward journeys in the Royal Docks and at London City Airport station this evening.

We heard stories and feedback about all sorts of transport concerns, as well as about a lot of other local issues. Interesting and helpful conversations were had around the borough, whether it was 7 AM or PM, and we’d like to thank everyone who came to volunteer or stopped for a chat – the time was truly appreciated!

Rachel Collinson with volunteer Ed at London City Airport

In case you missed our volunteers today, what could #FairFares mean for you? Well, you can find the full lowdown at Sian Berry’s website, but here are the parts we’re most excited by:

  1. Simplify the zone pricing structure, leading to fairer charges London-wide.
  2. Single zone with a fairer flat-rate fare for all of London by 2025. Prices would start to get cheaper from 2016, with 2 of the current zones removed in 2017.
  3. Our “ONE Ticket” policy means that you pay 1 charge for your complete journey, not each time you change bus/train/tube as part of it.
  4. Lower rates for the daily pay-as-you-go caps, so part-time workers can gain from the savings too.
  5. Integrating TfL’s cycle hire scheme, taxis and riverboats into the Oyster system for easier payments on the go.

FairFares policy transition timeline

Meet the candidates: Tamsin Omond

Tamsin Omond is standing as our Parliamentary Candidate for East Ham. Always smiling and ready for action, I caught up with her to find out about her love of Newham and why residents should vote for her.

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All about Tamsin…

What is your name and where do you come from?

My name is Tamsin Omond and I grew up in Kilburn – in North West London.

Why did you decide to join the Green Party?

I joined the day after the 2010 General Election, the best moment of which was watching Caroline Lucas win Brighton Pavilion and become the UK’s first Green MP. Before I joined the Greens I had spent my life campaigning against the symptoms of the system we live within – against inequality, against climate changing infrastructure, against government policy.  I joined the Green Party because we say yes – because we have a long term vision that we are working towards that is a true alternative to the way the world works today – that shows us a road map to a society where the rights of all people and the planet that we share are balanced and respected.

What is the best thing about living in East Ham?

The people! From the campaign to replace London City Airport (a community initiative that I work with – and that brought me to the Borough) to a campaign that is just beginning that demands 100% social housing to replace West Ham stadium – the people in Newham want to organise and fight against elites to protect their communities. It is inspiring especially when you remember that the all-Labour council will court international developers rather than support East Ham communities: the electorate. Examples like the Focus E15 mums who were evicted but fought against their eviction and won, and continue to fight for others at risk of losing a home – we’re a borough full of people who support each other and fight and win and continue to fight against all odds.

What 3 facts might people not know about you?

  1. I speak fluent Italian (not very useful).
  2. I am a fair weather and a foul weather cyclist.
  3. When I left university I spent a year working in a church because I thought I wanted to become a priest!

 Voting Green in East Ham

Why should East Ham residents vote for you?

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 07.54.22Because we need MPs who work hard for the communities they serve rather than yes men who dish out Tory-lite cuts that will hurt so many people living in Newham – one of the youngest and poorest (and most polluted) of London’s borough. Because we need an NHS that is a public service, we need air that is safe for our children to breathe and we need to fight against (not court) the 1% who – with London City Airport’s expansion and West Ham’s 96% private housing development – are looting Newham. We also need an MP who believes that all people are equal and should have equal rights – which sadly, with Stephen Timms’s voting record on LGBT equality policy – is not currently the case.

What do you think are the important issues for East Ham?

Housing and 1% developments – in particular, London City airport and West Ham stadium. I would not allow LCA to expand and would invite proposers from investors who desire to replace the airport with housing and other much needed developments. I would require Galliards to build 100% social housing at West Ham stadium.

Air quality – I would campaign for investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and for the introduction of more hybrid buses in East Ham. I would campaign against the Silvertown tunnel and for greater public transport provision for the Royal Docks.

 For people who are reluctant to vote, for whatever reason, why should they take part in the General Election?

The only people who benefit from you not voting are the elite. The 1% pay lobbyists millions of pounds to make sure their interests are heard in Parliament. This General Election is your opportunity to make sure your voice is heard too.

Just for fun

Summer or winter?

Summer

Early bird or night owl?

Both, but not during the same 24 hours.

Tea or coffee?

Tea.

Dogs or cats?

Cats.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Chocolate.

Tamsin is pumped and ready to spread the word about the alternative vote that is Green in Newham. We wish her the best of luck in the coming weeks! Do leave any additional questions for Tamsin in the comment box and she will get back to you shortly.

Tamsin campaigning alongside Baroness Jenny Jones AM for cleaner air in London
Tamsin campaigning alongside Baroness Jenny Jones AM for cleaner air in London