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Statement on planned cement factories near Pudding Mill Lane, demolition of Vittoria Wharf and Monier Rd pedestrian and cycle bridges

Three planning applications have been submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation for the construction of three concrete factories next to Pudding Mill Lane DLR. The proposed site for the factories would be close to thousands of residents in Newham and Tower Hamlets, the London Stadium and new secondary and primary schools causing air and noise pollution as well as producing hazardous chemicals and dust; in fact the planning request even mentions that many residents in the area should keep their windows closed to avoid breathing it in! The factories would be running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it is estimated that up to 900 HGVs would be running to and from the site every day.

 

It seems to us wholly inappropriate and completely out of keeping with the Olympic legacy that these factories could be built on this site damaging the health and quality of life of Newham and Tower Hamlets residents. What parent would want to send a child to a school next to factories with HGVs going past disrupting their education with noise, not being able to open windows for ventilation and breathing in pollution and toxic dust when playing outside? That is if they will even be able to play outside in such dangerous conditions! There are a huge range of industries that the land could be used for that would be more appropriate to the Olympic legacy, create more jobs and less pollution and we urge the LLDC to consider a more modern and forward thinking approach to the use of this land.

 

Newham and B&D Liberal Democrats are firmly against these plans and we will be working closely with local campaigners and residents associations to ensure that these factories do not receive planning permission when they are considered by LLDC on 27th September and urge you to sign the petition which has almost 10,000 signatures already https://www.change.org/p/mayor-of-london-stop-the-plan-to-build-4-concrete-asphalt-factories-next-to-olympic-park

If you would like to be more actively involved in the campaign please contact us and  we will be happy to send you details of action we are planning. We are co-organising a family protest outside LLDC in Olympic Park on decision day 27th September 2016

 

In addition to the concrete factories, we are also disappointed to hear that the cycle and pedestrian bridge in Monier Rd will be demolished and replaced by a bridge that can be used by HGVs and a new pedestrian bridge will be built but at the expense of Vittoria Wharf which will be partially demolished meaning a number of artists who live and work in studios there are being evicted on 5th September. It is unacceptable that artists who have created such a vibrant and active community in Hackney Wick which has revived the area will now have their livelihoods put at risk for a bridge that has no clear justification when there are already many crossings across the canal that make the area very successful. Again, it seems out of keeping with the Olympic Legacy to destroy cycle and pedestrian facilities and the unique character of this creative hotspot to be replaced by a polluting and dangerous bridge which is not needed. Please support this campaign by Tweeting #savehackneywick and watching this video explaining the campaign further https://youtu.be/S69IPgKIoi4

Lib Dems: From the Grass Roots Up by John Anderson

Last night I joined a group of intrepid souls to stand on a pedestrian/cycle bridge on the far side of the Olympic Stadium in East London. We were protesting a stupid decision by the group overseeing the regeneration of the area to tear down the bridge and put up a vehicular one instead in order to service a construction plant going up next to a new school.

To read the rest of the article please visit https://medium.com/@JohnMAnderson/lib-dems-from-the-grass-roots-up-7b37998e5b35#.bpbxlx1uz

A reflection on the EU Referendum by John Underwood

Five weeks ago I was confused. A small majority of the voters said they wanted to leave the European Union, a slightly smaller number said they wanted to stay. If you put all those who voted into a very large fleet of the old Routemasters in proportion to the way they voted, there would be, on average, two or three more leave voters on each bus than remainers. A majority, certainly, but how significant, especially when there can be no return from Brexit, at least to where we were before the vote. It would be the duty of Parliament to find a way of achieving as much of the Leavers’ wishes as were possible without ignoring the needs of the Remainers. It might not be surprising if the MPs decided that it was next to impossible in view of the narrow gap between the sides and impossibility of a compromise between Yes and No.

The next confusion was how many people, apparently the Prime Minister among them, thought that Referendum was binding. He ought to have known better, the 2011 referendum on the Alternative Vote contained a clause binding Parliament to act on the result according to the majority choice, whichever way it went. Without such legislation, and the Brexit Referendum Bill did not have it, Parliament does not even have to look at the result. Politically it would be unwise but is it only politics that matters? What about the good of the United Kingdom as a whole (which might not be improved by some consequences of Brexit) and the rights of citizens which may be reduced if free movement throughout the EU is removed from them. They also have to pay attention to politics as ‘the art of the possible’. Leaving the EU will require a vast amount of legislation. Is there enough parliamentary time to complete that? If not, would it be safe to entrust the immediate and long-term future of our country to a guillotine? The consequences of incomplete or unworkable legislation will rebound for years and occupy even more parliamentary time while still trying to run the country. Indeed, would it be possible to reconcile the leave campaign promises to give us our borders back (i.e. no more free movement) and access to the single market without being bound by the EU standards?

All that now seems so simple when we saw the effects of the Referendum on the two larger parties. The Tories choreographed a beautiful dance macabre in which all but one played their parts perfectly. The wild card, the joker, had to be removed by a quick stab in the back, followed by the even quicker removal of the executioner. It came down to open claws at dawn, then one of them said the other was unsuitable for office since she had no children and then withdrew because she needed more time to be with her son. That seemed remarkably civilised compared with what was happening on the other side of the house.

After sacking his Number One for mutiny, Corbyn received sackfuls of resignation letters from the Shadow Cabinet, including West Ham’s Lyn Brown, jumping on the

bandwagon just a trifle late to be noticed. Any Corporate CEO seeing the wholesale departure of his board of directors and most of his heads of department you would expect would find it worrying and if not immediately, the share-holders would rapidly make their views felt. The Labour party membership, however, are not shareholders. They appear to subscribe to a view that once elected the leader deserves the total loyalty of all members, whether they voted for him or not. The Parliamentary Labour Party then voted no-confidence in the leader: 172 to 40, 75% or the total PLP. Democracy is shown by the start of deselection procedures on many of them. If 52% to 48% is an overwhelming majority how can this be dismissed as unconstitutional and therefore meaningless.

It would appear that there is no way to remove a Labour Leader. No requirement to stand for re-election, no vote of confidence. Even if members stand against the leader, he is automatically placed on the ballot paper without the approval of MPs as required for everyone else. (That is probably a correct interpretation of the party constitution, they had to find a QC to work it out for them.) Changing a constitution is a serious task, usually requiring a higher majority ad turnout for routing decisions. (At least it is in most democratic organisations from darts clubs to amateur orchestras, but apparently not the UK). I have serious misgivings about any organisation which does not allow the membership to question or remove the leaders. Even the Armed Forces have procedures for servicemen and women to report cases of misuse of authority. They aren’t very good and need a lot of improvement, but at least they exist. The entire purpose of the Leader of the Opposition and his team is to hold the Government to task, to question and to criticize. What would happen if Labour took power and Corbyn behaved to the opposition with the same contempt that he shows to his opponents within the party? It would be an even bigger attempt to wrest sovereignty from Parliament. Anyone trying that should pay attention to history, the last one who did had his head removed in Whitehall.

There is a gleam of hope. In 1981 four Labour members, two MPs, 2 ex-MPs) left the Labour Party for a variety of reasons including unilateral disarmament and election of the party leader by an electoral college in which the unions had 60% of the share. They formed the Social Democratic Party which later merged with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democratic Party. If this stubborn recalcitrance continues who knows how many rebels there will be and they will still be MPs, even if not Labour for a long time, deselection might be irrelevant then. In the meantime I hope someone is getting on with the important issue: finding a way of making Brexit work.

Sheree Miller: Lib Dem Candidate for Boleyn Ward, Newham Council

I have lived in Plaistow in the London Borough of Newham since 2005. Since 2010, Newham has been a single party state with exclusively Labour MPs and a Labour dominated council. There is no effective opposition to long-time Mayor Robin Wales’ agenda for the borough.

By representing the people of the Boleyn Ward, I have an opportunity to stand up for the opinions and needs of people in my locality, creating a much needed platform for accountability in the prevailing status quo.

Since I began campaigning door to door, I have been impressed with the friendliness of the local people of Boleyn and by their readiness to consider an alternative political solution to their various concerns. The main themes are anxiety about the final decision relating to the old West Ham football ground and lack of social and affordable housing; environmental issues such as poor street waste disposal, fly tipping and general lack of recycling bins; unfair parking affecting residents and businesses. Some residents feel uneasy by the increased numbers of youths wandering the area by day and night with no obvious facilities catering to their needs. Others are concerned about lack of investment in Queens Market.   In a nutshell, the area is neglected.  This community deserves much better.

I have long felt the same way as my neighbours in Boleyn about these issues.  That is why I have seized an opportunity to represent them and re-establish the cause of the Lib Dems in Newham, which is long overdue.  The wheel has begun to turn since the last election and the public is now ready to reconsider the Lib Dems in a new light.  I see my campaign as part of the Lib Dem fight back and look forward to your support.  It is a mere 5 weeks until the election on 3rd December so share your thoughts and any relevant information on Newham before then.

Sheree Miller

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Boleyn Ward by-election

Why Newham should help the Syrian refugees

(This is the first in a number of blog posts about the first Newham and Barking and Dagenham Lib Dems’ meeting, held at the brilliant View Tube on Thursday 3rd September)

I was five minutes away from arriving at the launch of ‘Newham and Barking and Dagenham Lib Dems’ (we’re working on a less unwieldy title!) when I received an email from Tim Farron. It was asking me to join with people from across the country, across political divides, in signing the government petition to accept more asylum seekers and refugees into the UK (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991). To date it has nearly 450,000 signatures; by far the most popular petition on the government website, with roughly 440,000 signatures more than all of the anti-refugee petitions combined. The refugee crisis is one that is reaching everyone – I’d be surprised if even people living in hobbit holes in the Outer Hebrides hadn’t heard about it. So it was fitting that, at the launch, our first speaker was broaching the topic of immigration, refugees and the UK’s position in the EU.

Jonathan Fryer is not only the former Chair of the London Lib Dems; he’s also an extraordinarily experienced journalist who’s travelled the world reporting the news and is well-versed in the real history, statistics and laws behind what is turning out to be one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our times. As he spoke, the true nature of what the refugees are fleeing from became clearer. When you pair the statistics with those heart-wrenching photos of Aylan Kurdi, the pain, grief and fear that the Syrian refugees must be experiencing is almost unbearable:

  • 6 million are still living in Syria, but have been forced out of their homes. That’s nearly equivalent to the entire population of London.
  • Over 220,000 have been killed during the civil war – half of those are civilians. The UK equivalent would wipe out Aberdeen.
  • Roughly 4 million Syrians have fled their country altogether and are living as refugees.

As Jonathan pointed out, these people are fleeing the worst conflict since the Balkan Wars. The Assad regime has, in the last four years, committed numerous atrocities, including genocide on the Sunni peoples, the torture and execution of men, women and children, and the use of mustard gas against civilians. All as a result of peaceful protests back in 2011 – just imagine if Tony Blair had ordered a similar military crackdown on those protesting peacefully against the Iraq War in 2003. It’s almost unimaginable, isn’t it, for any British government (no matter how flawed!) to take such an action against its own people, its own lifeblood?

Yet no matter how distant the Syrian troubles may seem to us, no matter how hard to imagine, we must do everything in our power to help them, because Britain is – both historically and in the present day – partly responsible for them. We were the ones who replaced Iraqi soldiers’ jobs, sending them home with their weapons, unemployed and disaffected. The problems associated with robbing youth of power, usefulness and outlets for their energies are well documented in the poorer areas of our own cities; so is it any wonder that these armed, unemployed young men looked to other military groups who could offer them meaning and purpose?

And as far back as 1920 we were meddling in the geography of the Middle East. Rather than breaking up the Ottoman Empire naturally, we drew straight lines across the map, creating artificial countries that lumped vastly different religions and cultures together, without any of the gradual osmosis of immigration and emigration over decades that has helped Western countries to assimilate different cultures, by and large, successfully. And no matter what some people say, I think that nowhere is the success of multiculturalism more evident than in Newham, where I can walk through one building and have the mouth watering smells of curry on one floor, Sunday roast on another and Caribbean spices on the next; where one of the city’s best Thai restaurants – The Pie Crust on Stratford High Street – operates as a British café by day, and where the local park sees people of every race and creed playing football, tennis and cricket together.

And let us not forget that the reason people see Britain as a haven is because of our Imperial history, and because of our human rights record – it’s ironic then that David Cameron is trying to wipe that out by removing us from the EU’s convention of Human Rights (and thereby from the EU as a whole). We are a country who oversaw some of the greatest human rights milestones in history, from the creation of the Magna Carta to playing an instrumental part in drafting the Human Rights Convention. So where other countries like Turkey are abolishing the death penalty and guaranteeing freedom of expression so that they can join the EU, it feels as though the Conservatives are trying to wind Britain’s clock back to the 1940s.

So what can we do to help? Well, in the Lib Dem meeting a two-pronged approach was discussed – to solve the crisis in Syria and to offer more immediate aid to the refugees. Should our long-term goal be to negotiate peace in the Middle East? This would inevitably involve negotiating with more unsavoury groups such as ISIS and Iran. Should we risk sending British troops into Syria, thereby creating more extremists in our own country?

Or should we put pressure on extremist regimes in a subtler way? Jonathan believes that ISIS and extremist governments take their mandate from countries such as Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also practices an extremely conservative and brutal form of Islam, and currently executes one person every two days. Yet David Cameron is happy to cozy up to King Salman bin Abdulaziz, thereby covertly approving of his government, who actually aren’t, when you look at them side by side, that much better than ISIS. Should we urge the British government – and indeed the Western world – to sacrifice our interest in Saudi oil to place sanctions on Saudi Arabia? Would this show a more concrete solidarity with those fighting for less brutal regimes?

However we approach it, this is a long-term aim, and shouldn’t come at the expense of offering immediate aid to the Syrian refugees entering Europe now. Under pressure from public outrage, Cameron has conceded to accepting a few thousand refugees, but not over 10,000. Compare this to Germany, who have offered to home 800,000 refugees (to those who will state that the UK is far smaller than Germany – we are actually 70% of Germany’s size). We can, and should, be doing far more – more, even, than Yvette Cooper’s sensible suggestion that each city houses 10 refugee families.

So if you want to know how we can both put pressure on the government to take action, and offer more immediate aid, here are some suggestions:

– Next Saturday (12th September) people from across the country will march on Westminster to urge Cameron and Theresa May to welcome more Syrian refugees. Meet at midday at Marble Arch to join the 80,000 people already signed up to go.

– The Newham Liberal Democrats are arranging a trip to Calais in late October, when the weather turns colder, to take donations of food, clothes, tents and other necessaries to the refugees camping there. If you have anything you’d like to donate please get in touch with us as we’ll be arranging collection points over the coming weeks.

– Elaine Bagshaw, a candidate for the Mayor of neighbouring Tower Hamlets, is running 5km to raise money for the British Red Cross, who are running a Syria Crisis Appeal. You can donate to her here – https://www.justgiving.com/Elaine-Bagshaw2/

If you have any other ideas on how we can help the refugees or which policies might help to solve the crisis in Syria and the Middle East, do post a comment below!

~ Holly B

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