Monday, August 18, 2014

Messing in Croydon

On 1st August, a steaming hot day during the heatwave, I received a knock on the front door. It was my neighbour.

"You're in the Green Party aren't you?"

After confirming my political colour of choice, she continued, "There's people dumping rubbish in the park."

I quickly didn't change into my Green Knight outfit and investigated.

I took a photo of the offending items in the park. I had a view to use the My Croydon smartphone App to report it.

I then walked upto to a house which was seemingly emptying the contents of a garden into the park. The group of people before me were as follows:

Three men who were doing all the labouring.
At least two children between 8-10 years old.
A mother with a baby.

The three men looked like they were suffering from the hot conditions. They were using a hacksaw to cut branches into carryable pieces.

I explained to the group that they could contact the council to take this stuff. The main labourer asserted that the council had advised them to leave the vegetation and additional rubbish in the park, just by the entrance. I responded politely by questioning whether the council would do such a thing. I then offered to contact the council to collect it from outside the house and proceeded to look for the phone number on my smartphone. The main labourer responded by stating that I had made the children feel uncomfortable. A few poor excuses were being offered in my direction, and then one of the children started saying, "If I don't like someone I am going to say Boo!" She then repeatedly said Boo! The main labourer asked on more than one occasion if I was the owner of the park. Soon after the poor excuses turned into unpleasantries being fired in my direction.

Then in flash the mood completely turned when the main labourer threatened to cut me with his hacksaw if I didn't go away. Number 2 labourer chimed in with a volley of expletives. Number 3 labourer decided to play peacemaker and told me to walk away. Stunned by the mood change and unsure how to react, I pointed out that we all owned the park. 

Next, the main labourer rushed over to me with hacksaw in hand, which he was occasionally using even during our exchange, and grabbed my arm tightly and demanded to know where I lived.

"Show me which house is yours?" He prompted his question by waving the hacksaw in full view of my eyeballs.

His calculations proved correct because I was not in the mood to share my address with him, retreating was clearly now the sensible course of action. My heart was racing I was really unsure how this powderkeg of a man was going to turn next. His eyes were full of anger. 

He let go of my arm at which point number 3 labourer pulled me away. Before I turned around to walk home I shouted out, "You make me want to move away from this area." Main labourer responded in his broken accent in an unexpected way, "You should move to heaven" and pointed and looked up at the sky knowing my eyes were only fixed on him as he returned to using the hacksaw for its actual purpose.

Number 2 labourer then said in reference to me, "He's not even white."

When I arrived home, I was shaking, partly with anger and partly with fear. I felt that if the main labourer would behave in such an agressive manner then he must perceive to have very little at stake in society. 

I definitely was not going to call the police. Instead I decided to call Croydon North MP, Steve Reed's constituency office. I explained to Louise his assistant what had just happened. She sounded shocked and genuinely sympathetic. I asked her what I should do next. She understood that I didn't want to call the police. She then suggested I speak to Cllr Stuart Collins, Mr Clean Green cabinet member - the champion of the new council slogan against flytippers, 'Don't Mess With Croydon'. She said she was going to send him an email immediately. I had his number so I called him after putting the phone down. I got through to his voicemail. He called back straight away. Cllr Collins said that he wanted to call one of his enforcement officers. I emphatically replied, no. I did not want to risk continued intimidation.

The conversation concluded with the only thing left possible which was to get the offending vegetation and ancillaries to be collected on the morning of the next working day. Cllr Collins said he would see to it.

Yesterday (17th August). I took a photo of the flytipped vegetation. Some people who are not 'taking pride' are now dumping stuff on to it because it now looks like dumping point. 

Evidently, it is possible to mess with Croydon if you think you don't have anything to be proud about. 

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Letter on Emily Benn

From Croydon Guardian 30th July

Dear Editor,

A friend of mine who lives in East London has just text me, “24? What does a 24 year old know about anything?” He is referring to Emily Benn, granddaughter, to the late great Tony Benn. Ms Benn, aged 24, is to stand as Labour candidate in Croydon South at the May 2015 General Election. Tactically, it is good for Croydon Labour that she is standing because, on the surface, voters will assume her position on the political compass is similar to her grandfather. Scratch the surface and voters will find that she is a neoliberal investment banker, belonging to the fraternity that has caused this age of austerity.

However, Labour does need to somehow portray a progressive sheen to their persona because those who believe in social justice are deserting Labour and finding solace in the Greens. Croydon Labour from the outset has maintained it will continue the cuts programme started by the previous administration.

Labour in Croydon is now associated with a name that traditional Labour voters will warm to. This undoubtedly will help manage the obvious disappointment when the cuts programme takes effect.

Incidentally, I replied to my friend’s text with, “A 24yr old will be in tune with issues facing young people today, but having read her biog (grammar school followed by Oxford Uni & now graduate trainee at UBS) I could be wrong!”

Yours sincerely
Shasha Khan
Croydon Green Party

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

2014 election results: Time for naval gazing

                                      2004               2014
Barking and Dagenham 4.6 1.4
Barnet 7.4 8.3
Bexley 4.5 1.3
Brent 7.4 4.5
Bromley 5.9 5.3
Camden 14.8 15.7
Croydon 6.3 8.9
Ealing 8.6 3.8
Enfield 6.5 6.1
Greenwich 8.9 6.9
Hackney 16.7 20.5
Hammersmith and Fulham 10.3 2.5
Haringey 13.5 15.4
Harrow 5.8 1.2
Havering 4.8 1.7
Hillingdon 5.6 3.7
Hounslow 7.4 4.4
Islington 17.1 19.2
Kensington and Chelsea 8.8 1.4
Kingston upon Thames 7.5 6.9
Lambeth 13.9 15.5
Lewisham 12.8 16.3
Merton 8.7 1.8
Newham 5.8 0.6
Redbridge 6.0 2.0
Richmond upon Thames 10.2 6.0
Southwark 10.7 11.9
Sutton 5.2 3.0
Tower Hamlets 8.8 6.5
Waltham Forest 9.3 5.6
Wandsworth 10.7 6.1
Westminster 9.1 5.6

Table shows percentage vote share comparison

In 2004 I fought my first ever elections. I say elections because on the same day of the Mayor and London Assembly elections there was also a by-election in Bensham Manor ward. As constituency candidate for Croydon & Sutton, I polled just under 5 per cent.* It meant the deposit was not saved. I remember at the time my fellow candidate for Havering and Redbridge, Ashley Gunstock, who was later to run for leader, and I were the only candidates in London to lose our deposits. It was a big blow. Nothing can prepare for that feeling.

Fast forward to 2014, ten years later, take out the Green boroughs with a natural green demographic that have elected Green party councillors in the past and present: Lewisham, Hackney, Camden, Southwark and Lambeth and Islington; add in Haringey (which always comes close due to its demographic), and you are left with 24 boroughs. Incredibly, from languishing at the foot of the 'other boroughs', our percentage according to calculations on the London Green Party web site, puts us at the top of the remaining 24 boroughs. WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT!! In fact, under pure PR, the London Green Party article calculates we would have returned 6 councillors.

Picture taken during the 2004 GLA campaign
This change hasn't just happened organically. Croydon's overall demographic hasn't suddenly altered favourably. This has happened through hard work, and those of us that have put in the countless hours, should feel very proud. I am sure this direction of travelhas not gone unnoticed by Croydon Labour:

Exhibit One: Creating a new cabinet post called CLEAN GREEN Croydon!

*For convenience, the percentages are easier to copy and paste, I have taken the ASSEMBLY LIST results from 2004 instead of the constituency results when creating the table.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bensham Manor Community Association AGM

AGM outdoors

As trustee and secretary, I went along to the AGM for the Bensham Manor Community Association on Saturday. Whilst clouds had not busted we managed to run the AGM outdoors. The Queens Community Hall, our raison d'etre, is going really well. The empty shell was part of a section 106 agreement with the developer at the Queens Road estate. See its web site:

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thank you letter

Interesting choice of headline!

Dear Editor,
From Croydon Guardian 10.06.14
May I take this opportunity to thank all those who voted Green party on May 22nd.  Our 70 candidates polled 23,926 across the borough, resulting in an increase in our vote share.  Under a proportional representation electoral system this polling would have returned our first councillors, but under the aged first past the post system, Croydon remains a two party borough.
We should actually be grateful that we have at least two parties on the council.Residents in Barking & Dagenham and Newham woke up on the 23rd May with no official opposition. Every councillor elected was Labour. This is terrible for democracy. For example, only opposition members can table a motion. This cannot be done now. Where will the scrutiny come from? Each side of the chamber backs the same party to win. I would even vote Conservative or Labour to avoid a similar outcome.
Similarly, Islington and Lewisham could have ended up a one-party council. Thankfully each elected one councillor other than Labour....a Green.
Yours sincerely
Shasha Khan
Croydon Green Party Coordinator 

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

Open meeting on Citizen's Income

Money for everyone: Citizen’s Income
Open meeting organised by Croydon Green Party
Speaker: Malcolm Torry, Director of the Citizen’s Income Trust

Monday July 7th 2014
7.45pm for 8pm
Ruskin House, Mandela Room
Coombe Road, Croydon

Come and find out about Citizen’s Income:
·        WHY it’s a radical ‘Big Idea’ whose time has come
·        WHY we must replace the complexity and misery of means testing
·        WHY a CI is unconditional, for every citizen
·        HOW it enhances opportunities and reduces inequality
·        HOW it’s affordable
All welcome – time for questions – bar opens 7pm
From East Croydon, buses 119, 312, 466, 197 - 3 stops to Coombe Road

Open meeting organised by the Croydon Green Party

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

2014 election stats in Croydon

Council elections 2014
Overall votes cast (and vote share)
Lab 36,303 (36.0%)
Con 33,640 (33.4%)
UKIP 15,477 (15.4%)
Green 8,052 (8.0%)
LibDem 5,503 (5.5%)
Others 1,773 (1.7%)
European elections in Croydon 2014
Overall votes cast (and vote share)
Lab 32,439 (32.9%)
Con 26,687 (27.1%)
UKIP 19,560 (19.8%)
Green 6,829 (6.9%)
LibDem 3,768 (3.8%)

Council results - electoral ward 2014 (2010)
Addiscombe 8.4 (5.1)
Norbury 7.5 (7.0)
Ashburton 5.4 (6.7)
Purley 9.3 (6.3)
Bensham Manor 9.1 (12.8)
Sanderstead 7.8 (6.4)
Broad Green 7.4 (5.7)
Selhurst 7.9 (8.3)
Coulsdon East 7.8 (3.8)
Coulsdon West 7.8 (4.8)
Shirley 8.6 (6.7)
Croham 10.5 (6.5)
South Norwood 10.3 (7.5)
Fairfield 9.6 (6.0)
Thornton Heath 8.5 (11.2)
Fieldway 4.9 (2.8)
Upper Norwood 10.5 (8.2)
Heathfield 7.0 (6.2)
Waddon 5.4 (7.4)
Kenley 7.1 (6.5)
West Thornton 6.3 (6.8)
New Addington 4.0 (6.0)
Woodside 11.3 (6.2)

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Reflections on the local election in the style of a chess game

When two tribes goto handshake
The resignation

At sometime between 7:30am and 8:30am on 23rd May, halfway along one side of one of the sports halls [near Heathfield counting station] in Trinity School, Tory leader, Councillor Mike Fisher, conceded defeat to Labour leader Tony Newman and knocked over his king. It happened all of a sudden and I just happened to be facing in the direction where the handshake took place with hardly anyone else watching. Addiscombe Green Party candidate, Esther Sutton, who was also facing the same direction, was a little taken aback by the civility and mutual appreciation that was quietly being displayed.

Publicly these Grandmasters in Croydon are always at each others throats in the council chamber. Privately, they know each is leader of their pawns and territory, and both know that control of the council comes in cycles. Speaking to Tories at the Count, the postal votes, opened before the election day, seemed to be pointing to the present incumbents hanging on for another term, but that didn't materialise.

Raj Mehta and I appear in view at the count in Croydon in this BBC video - from election night

Full results here on Croydon council web site.

Our 70 candidates polled a fantastic 23,926 votes in total. Based on popular votes (using average vote) in Croydon:
  • LABOUR                   37%
  • CONSERVATIVE     34.3%
  • UKIP                         19.5%
  • GREEN                       8.2% - up from 6.5%
  • LIB DEMS                 5.6%
  • OTHERS                    1.9%

Board position at the end of the game.

The board

Apart from the estates in New Addington and Fieldway, the battlegrounds are the squares (wards) at the centre of the board. Ashburton and  Waddon changed hands and the game was won. Labour also held onto Addiscombe.

Green party attempt to introduce a new colour on to the chessboard.

Once again we competed for all 70 seats in the 24 wards. Four years ago we targeted Bensham Manor ward in an attempt to make the breakthrough. This time around we had a look at Croham. On election night I was interviewed by Bieneosa for Croydon Radio.  We talked about 'the opening' that could have got us our first councillors.  - my piece is at 2mins 8 secs.

Other colours receive more playing time

Circulating on twitter at the moment is this mock revision of the BBC logo. It's in the colours of UKIP. UKIP received unprecedented coverage during this election, even on the BBC. On talk radio stations, such as LBC, the moment UKIP are mentioned, presenters such as Nick Abbot say, "Oh look the switchboard has lit up again". 

I am sure voters would have elected Greens up and down the country, and in Croham, if we had similar coverage to UKIP. A petition has started regarding the "media blackout of the Green Party on BBC" - our public service broadcaster.

We ran a doorstep survey in Croham in the summer of 2012, and the results indicated that 2/3 of voters in the polling district we assessed said they would consider voting Green. With similar coverage on TV, could we not have converted those 'considers'??

Television is such a powerful medium, the volume of media hits is bound to trigger a change. Cognitive dissonance theory can only go so far, especially if the voter feels powerless to be able to change what his happening around them. Many that voted UKIP have always been expressing bigoted views in the comfort of their living room. Prior to the onset of "political correctness" [an easy catch-all term], these views were acceptable in the workplace and well......everywhere. It is not surprising that the archetypal UKIP voter is an English 50+ male who may recall those apparent halcyon days when one could speak ones mind*. An Able-Bodied, White English, 50+ male sits at the top of the tree in terms of not being categorised as a minority by any social index. However, immigration and political correctness has eroded his status. UKIP has given him a voice again.

The other thing that Farage has apparently the ability to do, is speak his mind*. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are skilled at not saying anything.

Green Party pieces that developed into big players

One of the UKIP personalities that was getting a lot of attention was my dear old adversary Winston McKenzie. His UKIP carnival in Croydon hit the headlines. 

Screen photo from BBC web site entitled, 'McKenzie finishes behind Green'
The BBC posted on their live updates that despite Winston's coverage in the media, he was beaten by two of our three Greens (Graham Jones and Andy Ellis) in South Norwood ward.

Unlike four years ago, this time Greens were continually being asked to attend hustings and radio programmes. This was a little unexpected, and I am so proud of all our candidates who represented Croydon Green Party. Many of them came to the Count. The photo below was taken at 7am. We all look surprisingly good, despite being up all night. Indeed, a little earlier when most of us were sitting in the canteen waiting for the results to be announced, Tom Black @ The Croydon Citizen tweeted:

"Ranking of how cool all the groups look sat at their tables: 1. Greens 2. Lib Dems 3. Labour 4. Tories (narrowly behind Lab) 5. UKIP 6. BNP"

"Cool Greens" at the Count

Here are some pictures taken at hustings - the Green is always identifiable because nearly always they are on the left (!) or with a Green rosette.

Les Kenny-Green at South Norwood hustings
Jay Ginn at Coulsdon East hustings

Pravina Ellis at Broad Green ward hustings
Tracey Hague at Croydon Decides (pic of Croydon Advertiser spread)
Raj Metha at Norbury ward hustings

Tracey performed excellently at Croydon Decides organised by the Croydon Advertiser as well as two hustings in Coulsdon, and I enjoyed myself at the NUT Hustings. In fact, all those that took part in hustings did our local party proud.

Additionally, Grace Onions, Tim Eveleigh and I took part in debates on Croydon Radio.

Martyn Post and Gordon Ross manoeuvred the pieces during the middle game with regards to the leafleting - and big thanks to all that helped. Once again I give kingsize thanks to Election Agent Bernice Golberg for ensuring the notation was all correct and that we didn't fall into time trouble or contravene the rules of play.

I must also thank Elaine Garrod, for her wonderful design work. Her 'cheque flyer artwork' ensured our idea had great impact. The content caused a real stir on twitter.

Along with others, local Tory activist Anne Giles at first attempted to defend the £348,000 remuneration for the three Croham councillors but then resorted to celebrate it!
At the Count, a senior Labour councillor advised me who the hard-working Tories on the council were: Dudley and Margaret Mead. According to him, Croham Councillor Jason Perry works/worked half a day week for his £43,000 a year. If we assume this is a Labour exaggeration, whatever the hours per week Councillor Perry spends on council business, HE IS VERY WELL REMUNERATED, especially when most voters presume councillors receive expenses only.

Finally, residents in Barking & Dagenham and Newham councils woke up on Friday morning with no official opposition. Every councillor elected was Labour. This is terrible for democracy. For example, only opposition members can table a motion. This can't be done now. Where will the scrutiny come from? Each side of the chamber backs the same colour to win. Those residents have elected totalitarian or walkover councils. I'd even vote Conservative or Labour if it meant that at least there were some opposition councillors on Croydon council.

Islington and Lewisham, similarly could have ended up totalitarian. Thankfully each elected one councillor other than Labour....a Green.