London

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Labour email reveals panic as London mayoral ‘closer than we thought’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/05/2024 - 10:56pm in

Plea for doorknockers betrays fears about outcome

‘Red Tory’ Labour appears to be worried about the outcome of today’s London mayoral election. The party has sent out an email to members in London asking them to come out and knock on doors to get voters out, because ‘it’s closer than we thought’ – close enough that ‘the number of people who volunteer could decide who wins’:

The emails have even been sent to non-members who left the party years ago.

The email doesn’t say which party Labour thinks is running it close. With the election now run on a first-past-the-post basis, unless there has been a huge surge for another party, Londoners have been left with an choice between a racist, pro-genocide, pro-austerity party and another racist, pro-genocide, pro-austerity party – and many who might usually have held their nose to vote Labour may simply be staying home to follow Keir Starmer’s example by abstaining.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Susan Hall Campaigns with Tommy Robinson Supporting Anti-ULEZ Activist Who ‘Applauds’ Vandals and Believes Islamists are in Charge of Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/04/2024 - 4:58pm in

The Conservative candidate for London mayor, Susan Hall has repeatedly attended protests and posed at campaign events with a prominent anti-ULEZ activist who has said that he "applauds" the criminal destruction of TfL property, and who has suggested that "Islamists" are in charge of the country and trying to "rig" the general election, Byline Times can reveal.

Hall traveled on her campaign bus on Monday to meet and pose for photos with Nick Arlett, who runs the 'Action against ULEZ' group and has been campaigning for his supporters to back the Conservative candidate in Thursday’s election against Sadiq Khan.

Hall was photographed by journalists posing with Arlett alongside vehicles covered with banners backing Hall and urging voters to oust Khan. Arlett has previously shared photos on social media of himself arm in arm with Hall at another event, as well as a video of her attending one of their protests and thanking the campaigners for "everything that you do".

Hall's decision to campaign alongside Arlett comes despite him openly sharing his extreme views online.  

On his Facebook page, he has shared posts backing Tommy Robinson, suggested the UK will "fall" to Islam and falsely claimed that Khan has said he will prioritise Muslims for "housing, free school meals, free training for better jobs". In February he posted an image from GB News with the headline 'Islamists in Charge of Britain', which he accompanied with the text "could not agree more." Other posts shared by Arlett include memes suggesting white people are being replaced by Muslims and a photo of two signs reading "we cater to white trade only" and "we serve colored carry out only". 

Arlett, who is a leading figure in the anti-ULEZ campaign movement, has also shared posts promoting the actions of ‘blade runners’ who destroy ULEZ cameras. 

"Anybody that is silly enough to think blade runners will go away are kidding themselves”, he told Bloomberg last year. “I don’t condone it, but I understand it and I applaud it.”

Hall has previously claimed that tackling crime in London would be her "top priority"

However, Arlett's activities brought him to the attention of the police at one recent protest, after which supporters shared video of him being arrested by officers. Arlett was contacted for comment but had not responded by time of publication.

Hall's repeated association with extreme anti-ULEZ protestors is part of a deliberate strategy by her party's campaign to exploit opposition to Khan's clean air policies. A report by Greenpeace revealed this week that Conservative campaigners have set up a network of anti-ULEZ  Facebook groups, which are filled with Islamophobic and racist comments and conspiracy theories about Khan. Some of the groups have been joined by Hall and other senior Conservative politicians including the policing minister Chris Philp.

Hall's association with Arlett comes after it was revealed that she had also shared multiple offensive posts on her own Twitter account, including liking a post using the Islamophobic term Londonistan.  Hall has also previously suggested that Jewish Londoners should be “frightened” of London’s Muslim mayor and claimed that black people have a “problem with crime.”

Susan Hall's campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Conservative London Mayoral Candidate Susan Hall Suggests Sadiq Khan Will Win in ‘Desperate’ Leaflet Accused of Voter Suppression

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/04/2024 - 9:25pm in

In an election replete with questionable campaign tactics – from data harvesting to campaign leaflets posing as local newspapers – a new tactic by Conservative London mayoral candidate Susan Hall has come to light.

A leaflet circulated to some Londoners suggests to voters that Labour's Sadiq Khan is inevitably going to win – in a move some election observers suspect is designed to split or de-motivate his voter base.

A letter written by Steve Tuckwell, Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip aimed at postal voters, claims that “the Mayor thinks he is going to win this election easily. This means we have the chance to make a difference because if Sadiq wins by a smaller margin than he is expecting, he will be forced to sit up and listen”.

The campaign leaflet only mentions Susan Hall and the Conservative Party in the legally-required small print at the bottom of the leaflet. Tuckwell signs off the letter as simply 'MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’, without mentioning which party he represents.

Tom Brake, a former Liberal Democrat MP and the director of campaigning group Unlock Democracy, said: “Candidates should always be upfront in their letters and leaflets about who the literature they are circulating is actually from, with their name and party prominent.  As well as the content being factually correct, this is the least voters should expect from those seeking to represent them.”

The leaflet attacks Khan over building tower blocks “instead of building the family homes that Londoners need”, police station closures, and the ULEZ tax – opposition to which has been a key plank of Hall’s campaign for mayor.

Rather than encouraging postal voters to vote for the Conservative Party, the leaflet tells people to vote for “someone else”.

Only the URL mentions the name of the Conservative Party

Part two of the offending leaflet, first shared by Local Democracy Reporter Noah Vickers

Campaigners for democratic reform told Byline Times that this kind of campaign tactic was encouraged by the changes to the voting system for London mayor.

Alberto Smith, of electoral reform campaign group Make Votes Matter, said: "This sort of tactic is a direct consequence of the change to the voting system for mayoral elections
Steve Tuckwell's party introduced. Deliberately or not, it acknowledges the reality that, under First Past the Post, a majority of Londoners' votes will potentially count for nothing.

"If you don't want politicians to take votes for granted, don't introduce a system that denies voters real choice."

London mayoral elections previously used a supplementary vote system, which allowed voters to pick a second-preference candidate in case their first choice did not make it into the top two.

In 2022, the Government changed the voting system to the 'winner takes all’ First Past the Post system, after Khan beat Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey in 2021 comfortably with second-choice votes, but only narrowly on first choice votes.

Neal Lawson, director of Compass, a think tank which promotes electoral reform, told Byline Times: “This is a last-ditch desperate tactic from the Tories to push progressives apart and win power by the back door. Conservatives know they can win on a minority share of the vote not on their own merits, but by sowing division amongst their opponents. When we divide, they conquer.

“This is partly because of the switch from SV to FPTP for mayoral elections, which represents a real backwards step for our democracy and only serves to deny voters choice.”

For political marketing expert Bendict Pringle, the leaflet was "an interesting example of voter suppression by Susan Hall".

"Distributed in Lambeth, a Labour stronghold, it asks voters to help prevent Sadiq from winning by a big margin," he said. "[There's] no suggestion of voting Conservative or of the Conservative Party.

"The Susan Hall campaign know the chances of getting someone in Lambeth to vote Tory is low, so instead focuses on getting them to vote for anyone but Sadiq. If it’s successful it will help her close the gap."

Ashok Viswanathan, co-founder and former director of Operation Black Vote and CEO of
PeoplePower, said “the Electoral Commission too must watch this campaign like hawks for the development of these seemingly benign underhand tactics, for they are anything but benign".

He argued that Hall’s campaign was reminiscent of American electioneering and was “a sign of the slow creep into UK politics of the toxicity of American SuperPACS – those faceless wonders of US electioneering".

"These tactics only increase division, spread misinformation, and cause confusion – and are a threat to modern democracy," he added. "We must ensure balance and transparency are at the heart of democratic elections and all election campaign funding.”

During last year's local elections in Norwich, a Conservative Party leaflet was reportedly delivered to a "strongly Labour voting area", telling people "you don't need to take any ID in order to vote" – which was factually incorrect and risked disenfranchising voters.

Conservative London Assembly Member Susan Hall and Conservative MP Steve Tuckwell did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear where and how widely the leaflets were distributed.

Additional reporting by Josiah Mortimer

This is part of our VoteWatch election investigation series. Got a story tip? Contact votewatch24@bylinetimes.com

Susan Hall Voted to Raise Council Tax Despite Condemning Sadiq Khan for Doing the Same

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/04/2024 - 11:18pm in

Susan Hall, the Conservative Party candidate for London mayor, voted for a 2023 hike in council tax as a councillor in Harrow despite condemning Sadiq Khan over his capital-wide tax rises.

Harrow has the third highest average rate of council tax of any London borough at over £2000 from April 2024, according to analysis by the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service. Hall was previously highly critical of Harrow’s high rates of council tax when Labour controlled the council, telling the Harrow Times in 2017 that, “Labour’s mismanagement of Harrow’s finances are punishing our residents with yearly tax rises”.

In February, Hall’s council increased council tax by the maximum legal amount, 5%, boosting the local authority’s coffers by £7.69 million. 

Hall defended herself over the the increase when questioned by Byline Times, saying she had been absent for the vote, and added: “I’m not going to comment on [council] tax…It’s the first meeting I’ve missed in 18 years. I can be forgiven for missing one.” 

Hall is in line to receive a 35% increase in her councillor allowance this year after the licensing committee that she chairs approved an increase from £2500 a year to £4,382. On this matter she told Byline Times: “I’ve got thoughts on that, of course I do, it’s just who I share them with.”

In 2023, Hall was present to vote on the rise of Council Tax, and voted in favour of an increase of 5.9%.

That motion also included an increase in the Councillor’s allowance from a base rate of £8,561 to £9,063, a rise of 5.9%. 

Hall did is yet to respond to requests to comment from Byline Times.

Hall attacked Khan on X, formerly Twitter, over London-wide council tax hikes (for the so-called Mayor’s precept) on 23 January 2023 - one month before she voted to increase council tax in Harrow. 

Giving context to the tax increase in their budget document, council bosses wrote: “The Council’s revenue support grant has reduced from £50.5m to £1.825m (after accounting for the Council Tax Subsidy Admin Grant of £256k which is now subsumed into RSG).

The Council does receive other grant funding to support services, in 2022/23 this totalled £366m. However, these grants are all ring-fenced to areas of activity and cannot be used to support the core budget, for example the Dedicated Schools Grant of £143m. 

It went on: “… is increasing exponentially creating unfunded budget pressures […]. The impact of this is that the Council is heavily reliant on Council Tax to fund its core services. In 2022/23 80% of the Council’s net revenue budget of £183.3m is funded from Council Tax”. 

A January 2024 analysis by the Guardian of the effect of 13 years of austerity on local Government across the UK found that per person spending had been slashed across a wide range of council services including a reduction of 43% in real terms on net spending per person on cultural services, a 40% reduction in roads and transport spending, a 35% reduction on housing spending and 1/3 reduction on planning and development. 

Sky deletes its video of Falter claiming he was only trying to cross the road

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/04/2024 - 5:55am in

Page now gives 404 result after overwhelming evidence challenging claims emerged

As Skwawkbox reported earlier today, ‘Campaign against Antisemitism’ (CAA) chief executive Gideon Falter’s claim that he had been prevented by police from crossing a road after just happening to ‘come across’ a pro-Palestine march looks to have fallen apart after a huge volume of eyewitness, photographic and video evidence emerged challenging the veracity of the claim.

Falter, whose CAA group has been shown to have taken large amounts of funding from a ‘quasi-governmental’ Israeli organisation and featured prominently in the campaign to take down then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has also been shown to have made false claims of antisemitic speech – leading to the prosecution, conviction and unanimous acquittal on appeal of a Foreign Office official. His claim about Saturday’s events fuelled calls for the banning of pro-Palestinian marches and the removal of Met Police Commissioner Mark Rowley – who just happens to have previously refused the demands of right-wing, pro-Israel campaigners and politicians for the marches to be banned.

And now Sky News, which had run hard with the false claims and the ensuing narrative, has deleted its video of Falter’s staged stunt. Footage and photographs shot by bystanders strongly suggest that Falter was at the site of the march for some time before the incident – and that he was there with bodyguards and had already tried to disrupt it, a stark contrast with his narrative that he had just bumped into the march on his way home from synagogue.

While emails containing the link will still show a preview of the original content, clicking through to the link leads to a ‘404’ ‘page not found result, as the combined screenshots below show:

It will be interesting to see whether the rest of the so-called ‘mainstream’ media follow suit, or leave up the misleading video and claims despite the flood of contrary evidence.

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Evidence, eyewitnesses challenge Falter’s claims he was stopped for just crossing road

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 11:18pm in

Apparent campaign to discredit pro-Palestine marchers – and remove police commissioner who won’t ban marches – undermined by evidence and eyewitness accounts, including one from before Falter complained

Gideon Falter, pro-Israel chief executive of the so-called ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ (CAA), made headlines last week when he posted a video claiming that he had been stopped by the Met Police for simply trying to cross a road, on his way back from synagogue, during a pro-Palestine protest on the grounds that he was visibly Jewish.

Falter and his supporters have used the claim to demonise peace protesters as a threat to Jews – and to demand the resignation of Met Police Commissioner Mark Rowley. Coincidentally, Rowley has refused calls by right-wingers to ban pro-Palestine marches.

But eyewitnesses – including Jewish bystanders – and photographic evidence appear to contradict Falter’s claim. Importantly, one account of the actions of Falter and an entourage with him was posted before the ‘scandal’ became a thing – and describes Falter with a security detail clearly creating an incident:

Other bystanders saw the same – and added that the group had been around for a while, trying to disrupt the protest:

The bodyguard can be seen in video footage of the incident shot by photographer Tom Bowles:

A group consisting of a Holocaust survivor and descendants of Holocaust survivors, who were on Aldwych Road only a few metres away from Falter’s stunt, contacted Skwawkbox with their account of events and their significance:

It has been widely reported that Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, was threatened with arrest when he approached a pro-Palestine demonstration on 13 April in the Aldwych area of London.

Mr. Falter is reported to have said that his interactions with police officers “show that the Met believes that being openly Jewish will antagonise the anti-Israel marchers and that Jews need protection, which the police cannot guarantee. Instead of addressing that threat of antisemitic violence, the Met’s policy instead seems to be that law-abiding Jewish Londoners should not be in the parts of London where these marches are taking place. In other words, that they are no-go zones for Jews.

We are writing to disagree strongly with these claims. This is because throughout his interactions with the police we were standing only a few yards away from him, yet we experienced nothing but warmth and solidarity from the pro-Palestine demonstrators and not a hint of antisemitism.

Our group was “openly Jewish” in that we all wore placards saying that, as descendants of Holocaust survivors, we oppose the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Indeed, one of us, Stephen Kapos, is a child survivor of the Holocaust who was interviewed by Sky News at the time.

Every major pro-Palestine demonstration in London has included a large Jewish bloc which has received nothing but support and warmth from their fellow demonstrators. Claims that these protests are no-go zones for Jews are completely untrue.

Yours Sincerely,

Haim Bresheeth (son of two survivors of Auschwitz)
Mark Etkind (son of a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and Buchenwald)
Stephen Kapos (survivor of the Holocaust in Budapest)
Peter Kapos (son of a Holocaust survivor)
Yosefa Loshitzky (daughter of survivors of the Holocaust in Poland)

A Holocaust survivor and descendants of Holocaust survivors, photographed during Falter’s altercation with police

An image of the entrance to Bush House on Aldwych Road shows how close the group (red) were to Falter (blue) during the incident

A set of photos posted by another bystander shows the Holocaust group and Falter, confirming how close the ‘openly Jewish’ peace demonstrators were to Falter’s supposed ‘no-go zone’:

Falter had told the Times that he simply ‘came across’ the Palestine protest and tried to cross the road ‘as the front of the march got to us’:

At Aldwych, we came across the pro-Palestine protest and we started to cross the road as the front of the march got to us. Suddenly I felt hands on me. I looked around to see a police officer who was shoving me onto the pavement.

This was contradicted by the photos taken of him and his group before the march got there – and by subsequent responses and video clips from others who were there, including a Jewish police officer:

Few if any UK ‘mainstream’ media outlets have covered the contradictory evidence, of which the above is only a small selection.

Gideon Falter has been found at least once to have made untrue accusations of antisemitic conduct. In 2009 he accused Rowan Laxton, a Foreign Office official of shouting ‘F***ing Jews’ in response to incidents in Palestine, leading to Laxton being convicted of ‘racially aggravated public disorder’. The appeal court judges, however, unanimously agreed that Laxton had not said any such thing:

Last year, he was also filmed driving a van ‘very close’ to pro-Palestine protesters and tried to get police to force them to move because ‘they are obstructing the highway’ – as the footage showed other vehicles moving freely past:

According to Electronic Intifada last year, the CAA – which has taken ‘credit’ for forcing the Unite union to ban book talks and film showings exposing the weaponisation of antisemitism to attack the pro-Palestine left – is or has been funded by an Israeli ‘quasi-governmental’ group:

the CAA has been given almost half a million dollars by the UK partner of the Jewish National Fund, Israel’s quasi-governmental settler-colonial agency.

The donations were hidden in obscure Charity Commission documents uncovered by our research. In an email to The Electronic Intifada, the CAA confirmed it had been in “past receipt of donations from JNF UK” but denied current JNF funding.

“JNF UK has never exercised or sought to exercise any influence over our activities,” the CAA claimed…

…In 2018, the CAA declared in its accounts disclosed to the Charity Commission that a donation of almost $220,000 had come from a “related party.”

This amounted to nearly half of its income for that year.

Funding a “crisis”

The following year, the CAA declared that $230,000 had come from a similarly undisclosed “related party.”

The 2019 figure amounted to 20 percent of its income but 60 percent of its expenditure.

In 2019, JNF UK declared expenditure of the exact same amount as the donation declared by the CAA that same year.

JNF UK paid $230,000 “for grants provided to a UK charity, which has a trustee who is also a trustee of JNF Charitable Trust.”

According to its website, “JNF Charitable Trust” is simply the official name of the JNF UK charity and they “are the same” group.

The 2019 JNF UK accounts also stated that in 2018 it had made a donation of almost $220,000 to the same unnamed “UK charity.”

Skwawkbox approached the CAA for comment, providing examples of the above counter-evidence and details of the Rowan Laxton incident. The group had not responded by the time of writing.

Update: Sky News has now published a 13-minute video of the entire interaction between Falter and the police – and, unlike Falter’s edited version, it shows the officer telling Falter that he had already observed him trying to provoke the pro-Palestine protesters and was not falling for Falter’s ‘disingenuousness’:

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TSSA members in Network Rail London South vote no-confidence in Eslamdoust, Heywood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 8:15pm in

Motion and letter reveal deep dissatisfaction among members as branch says it will support union staff when they strike and accuses management of inflaming the problems and indulging in delusion

TSSA rail union members in south London have passed a motion of no confidence in the union’s general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust and its president Melissa Heywood over their conduct toward union staff and the GMB union that represents them at work.

The TSSA and Eslamdoust and her team have been in crisis since the Kennedy Report exposed widespread bullying and sexual harassment by senior union figures, leading to the sacking of former general secretary Manuel Cortes and Eslamdoust, who was supposedly going to clean up the union after the scandal. was rocked by fresh allegations of abuse and deep resentment against the new general secretary for the treatment of staff, particularly women.

Eslamdoust, who was recommended to members by the union’s executive despite what appears to be a complete lack of relevant experience, wrote a bizarre article for the Guardian in which she accused the GMB union of attempting to bully her so it could take over the TSSA and distract from its own renewed sexual harassment scandal, and tried to blame others for her failure to take meaningful action to implement the Kennedy Report’s recommendations.

Former TSSA Assistant General Secretary’s take on Eslamdoust’s actions

She then followed up her attack on the GMB by emailing all TSSA member branches with an astonishing assault branding the union’s workers as greedy and lazy, and treating the GMB union as if it, and not the unhappiness of TSSA staff, was the driver of the impending strike action for which more than 93% of staff voted last week.

Such is the anger among members at the situation that earlier this month the TSSA’s branch for members working in Network Rail in South London passed the following resolution:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

The branch then sent a letter to the TSSA executive:

Network Rail London South Branch

Notice of vote of no confidence in TSSA Leadership of our General Secretary and President for circulation to TSSA Executive Committee

At our branch meeting on Thursday 11 April, we invited our General Secretary and President to respond to concerns that our branch has regarding the internal conflicts within our union.

Melissa Heywood did attend this meeting despite her partner being in hospital and joined via phone from her car in the hospital car park. Our branch very much appreciated her attendance, and it would have been entirely justifiable to give apologies, and not attend in these circumstances. Our branch meeting later agreed to specifically thank Melissa for attending this challenging meeting and will make that clear with a separate message to her. Maryam had indicated she would be attending but did not attend, although it was noted that there may have been family commitments for this non-attendance.

We presented an outline of our concerns which included the following:

TSSA had been through the massive challenge of removing the previous senior management team, including our General Secretary following an investigation and report by QC Helena Kennedy. There was a remarkable and positive consensus across the union to achieve these goals.

We have gone through the election process for a new General Secretary with Maryam being successful in that election, being endorsed by the Executive Committee. At that point Maryam had the overwhelming support of our union employees and members, with the hope that we had every prospect of a positive leadership that would have learnt from our previous conflicts.

Within weeks internal conflicts started to emerge, including one EC member leaving as he found the environment to be intolerable. The derecognition of Women in Focus was illegitimate and unnecessary.

Disputes between TSSA staff and the senior management team soon emerged, with complaints about non-compliance with agreements, accusations and counter accusations of bullying, with TSSA staff now moving to a ballot for industrial action, referencing “a culture of bullying, harassment and victimisation.”

The communications from our General Secretary to the employees appear to have inflamed rather than attempted to resolve this conflict. The article in the Guardian, in which the dispute is claimed by Maryam to be a takeover attempt by the GMB, can have done nothing but harm to our union and the GMB, and appears to have no basis in reality.

Subsequently there was evidence that our President liked a social media post that called for the derecognition of the GMB, which represents our employees in TSSA. There now appears to an extension of this conflict with the Executive Committee apparently agreeing this week to the suspension of three TSSA members who have been critical of the leadership.

Whilst it is not for our branch to consider the detail of the staff complaints, we should however be able to expect that our leadership acts in the best interest of our union and does not bring our union into disrepute. Currently, there appears to be no path to resolve this.

Our President responded to some of these challenges and to many others made in the meeting. There was however no indication that the leadership recognised that they have a responsibility to resolve the many conflicts which appear to have been caused by the action of the General Secretary and the President.

Our branch therefore proceeded to debate and vote for the following:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

Invited to comment, a TSSA spokesperson said:

“The TSSA is committed to working with our staff to ensure that we have a union that is fit for purpose and fully focused on delivering for members. We have arranged talks with Acas on 24th April. However, so far, the GMB is refusing to take part. We hope the GMB leadership will reconsider its approach and join the talks.”

GMB reps among TSSA staff have accused Eslamdoust and her team of not informing them that they had approached ACAS, and of bypassing them to try to negotiate the dispute with GMB general secretary Gary Smith instead of engaging with workers and their representatives.

Other branches are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. The workers’ first strikes will take place on 30 April and 4 June, including pickets of TSSA offices.

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Sadiq Khan Tones Down Calls for Rent Controls in Capital after Keir Starmer Appears to Reject Plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/04/2024 - 6:51pm in

The London mayor has told Byline Times he has “not been able to persuade” Labour leader Keir Starmer of the need for private sector rent controls, despite growing pressure from Londoners to take firmer action on the housing crisis.

Since 2019, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been calling on ministers to grant him powers to freeze private rents in the capital. He may have hoped for a warmer reception from Sir Keir Starmer should the politicians win the mayoral and General elections respectively this year. But Labour HQ appears to have poured cold water on the idea. 

In his successful 2021 manifesto, Mayor Khan pledged he would “stand up for London's renters by leading the campaign for rent controls for our city, to make renting more affordable and secure for the millions of Londoners who rent their home from a private landlord.” 

He later renewed those calls but in his recent announcement on a ‘new deal for renters’, there was no mention of rent controls – perhaps anticipating that Sir Keir Starmer would not allow it were they both elected this year. 

Sadiq Khan’s calls for private sector rent controls appears to have been replaced with a pledge to set up a London Rent Commission, which would explore the issue and involve landlords and renters, and a commitment to build his own rent-controlled homes.  

But previously unreleased polling for Byline Times, conducted by WeThink at the end of March, found that 70% of UK voters backed “a maximum rent on properties” – including 71% of Conservative voters and 75% of Labour voters. Similar polling for the Green Party found that nearly 70% of Londoners back private rent controls. 

A spokesperson for the London Renters Union criticised Mayor Khan’s apparent shift earlier this month, saying: “Sadiq Khan’s New Deal will fall flat if he does not continue to push for the power to cap rents in London. London renters are trapped in a cycle of instability and many will feel let down if Khan stops campaigning for city-wide rent controls under a Labour government.

“6,000 new rent controlled properties will not bring security to the capital’s 3 million private renters who are living in fear that they will be forced out of their homes by an unaffordable rent increase.”

In an interview with the Evening Standard last month, Sir Keir said rent controls were “not our national policy.” 

“I can assure you that Sadiq and I work very closely together. Sadiq feels strongly about this. But look, we will work together as we go forward,” he added. Last June, shadow housing minister Lisa Nandy also claimed rent controls would contribute to homelessness by causing landlords to withdraw their properties from the rental market.

These statements have perhaps contributed to Mayor Khan saying he would not "make promises that won’t materialise after the election" on rent controls. "It's really important we're realistic about what we can do,” the London leader told Byline Times. 

He has instead pledged to build “at least 6,000 rent control homes” in London if he’s re-elected for a record third term on May 2, noting: “I can do that with the powers I have.” London is home to approximately 2.7 million private renters, according to GLA figures, a number which has risen considerably since the 1990s, and which would be out of the limited rent capped homes Mayor Khan hopes to build.  

“When it comes to building 40,000 council homes, I can do it with the budget I have. With a Labour government, I can [build] far more council homes, far more rent control homes.”

Mayor Khan added that his call for a London-wide licensing scheme to rein in rogue landlords would “probably need a change of Government” to enable it through legislation. 

Speaking at an event launching his pledge to abolish rough sleeping by 2030 – if Labour are elected UK-wide too – he added: “So far I've not been able to persuade either of the main parties to devolve [rent control powers] to London. But it's still a long way between now and the general election. 

“Should I have the privilege of being reelected, I'm gonna carry on lobbying both the Tory party and the Labour Party to at the very least, devolve to cities and regions the choice about doing so. [And] at the very least allow us to set up this rent commission.”

The Labour Mayor also softened his tone on the policy, saying he “understand[s] the arguments on both sides – those landlords and developers who say if you did this, we'll just simply withdraw from the property market. And that's why we're going to have a commission that includes landlords, that includes developers as well as your tenants and renters as well.”

City Hall and the Labour leader’s office appear to have mended their public feuds after Keir Starmer refused to publicly back Mayor Khan’s expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London last year. And the issue of securing more powers for London is likely to be high up Khan’s agenda with a Labour Government in Westminster. 

More powers are perhaps more likely than more cash from the Treasury given Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’ commitment to strict ‘fiscal rules’ that could mirror Conservative spending plans. 

Asked by Byline Times if he was concerned that the austerity he has criticised under the Conservatives might continue under a Keir Starmer-led Labour government, Khan said: “I lived through only through the last Labour government, and Tony and Gordon stayed within the spending limits Ken Clark set out for two years back between 1997 and 1999.  

“Notwithstanding that, we saw a massive investment in public services but also massive growth in our economy at the same time. So I'm confident that Keir and Rachel are as good as Tony and Gordon, in understanding the importance of getting the economic policies right but also understanding the importance of addressing social injustice that demand investment.”

Like Keir Starmer he echoed the claim that higher economic growth will mean Labour could spend more without raising taxes. “Good growth will benefit the NHS, will benefit our schools, our public services. Without growth we don't get the money that we need,” Khan said.

“This is a moment of maximum opportunity. A Labour Mayor and a Labour Government can be transformative, notwithstanding the inheritance they're going to have, which will be the worst since the Second World War,” he added.

And the Labour Mayor added that it “wouldn't” concern him if Rachel Reeves signed up to Conservative party spending plans for several years after their likely election.

“No, it wouldn’t. Here's why: because that would be a temporary measure. Don't forget Keir has made it quite clear you need two terms, the Labour party needs two terms to fix the mess of the last 14 years. But also the country will know, those who want to invest in our country will know, chief executives will know – we need the stability and certainty we've not had…for the last 14 years,” the Labour candidate said. 

Khan has accused the Conservatives of being ‘in the pockets of the landlord lobby’. He has claimed the mayoral election on 2 May is a two-horse race between him and “the Conservative candidate for Mayor [Susan Hall AM] who has been virtually silent on renters’ issues and cheered Liz Truss’ mini-budget, which sent rents through the roof.”

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Sadiq Khan Accuses Conservatives of Manipulating Mayoral Election as he Pushes Starmer to Repeal Voting Changes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/04/2024 - 4:11am in

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has accused the Conservative Government of rigging Britain’s electoral system to benefit them, in an interview with Byline Times.

Mr Khan, who is running for a record third term on May 2, says he is pushing his own party to significantly alter or scrap the new mandatory voter ID rules, and believes Sir Keir Starmer would reverse Conservative changes to the mayoral voting system if elected.

The London Labour Mayor told this outlet: “The Conservative Party is the most successful political party in the democratic world. Why? Because they win elections and in between elections, they change the rules to make it more likely they win.” 

He pointed to two major changes the Conservatives have made recently, allegedly for “a simple reason: to maximise their chances of winning, and to minimise Labour's chances of winning.”

In 2022 under the Elections Act, ministers changed the voting system for the mayoral election to first past the post, whereas previously voters could put a second preference that would be counted if their first choice lacked majority support. 

The change is likely to suppress the vote of smaller parties like the Greens and Lib Dems, whose voters could previously “vote with your heart in relation to their first preference, and then give a second preference– an insurance policy– to one of the two bigger parties,” Mayor Khan said, speaking from a campaign event a London Waterloo church. 

The margin of victory for the former lawyer last time on first preferences was 5%, but he was boosted significantly by the second preferences of Green and Lib Dem voters.

Mr Khan also condemned mandatory photo ID rules, which will be used for the first time in this mayoral election round. 

City Hall has claimed that in London  around 15% of Londoners– roughly 900,000 people– haven't got an appropriate photo ID. The Government’s figures put the figure at closer to 5%, but either figure is dramatically more than the rate of impersonation fraud allegations, which photo ID is supposed to tackle. 

Voters will need to use a driver's licence, a passport, or other forms of ID such as an older person's travel card. However, young person’s Railcards are not accepted, leading to considerable condemnation from electoral watchdogs.  

For Labour, the changes have boosted the party's calls for Green and Lib Dem voters to opt for Khan in the mayoral election, now that they no longer have a chance to put a second preference. “I say in a respectful way, those parties cannot win on May 2,” the incumbent Mayor claimed. 

He also renewed his attacks on competitor Conservative Susan Hall, naming her in a rare move.

“The choice on May 2nd is building a fairer, safer, greener city with me, or Susan Hall who will take us backwards….Susan Hall is somebody who supported Donald Trump in the past, she’s liked Enoch Powell, and she cheered on Liz Truss’ budget– that’s the sort of Mayor we could have.” 

Asked if he had asked Sir Keir to repeal voter ID and the election rule change to First Past the Post, the Mayor told Byline Times: “Yeah. I think the Labour party has already committed in the mayoral election to go back to the previous system…And I'm lobbying the Labour Party, making the point: what is the [issue] you're trying to address with photo ID? To me, there's no evidence in relation to the concerns the Tories are saying about the need for photo ID.”

He believes that in urban seats like London, there may be a higher proportion of people who lack photo ID. However, election expert Rob Ford has argued: "Even if turned away voters leaned heavily Labour, the share of voters turned away and not returning would have to be massively above that observed anywhere else in the country for the impact to be on the scale claimed [by London Labour]." Around 14,000 voters were turned away and did not return due to photo ID problems in last May's local elections, though it amounts to a small percentage of voters overall.

London Labour has repeatedly poured cold water on polling showing Mr Khan around 20 points ahead of his Conservative opponent, with Khan noting that in 2008, “everyone said there's no chance for [Boris] Johnson, and it's in the bag for Ken Livingstone. We know how that movie ended.” 

Despite his headline poll lead, recent polling by QMUL/YouGov shows that Londoners are generally dissatisfied with Mayor Sadiq Khan. Khan's approval rating sits at -16, particularly among older voters and those in outer London. However, the Government's approval rating is dramatically lower, at -55. 

A separate recent ITV London/Survation poll found that the cost of living is the most pressing issue influencing London voters, with 41% putting it top, far ahead of crime (12%), health (11%), the economy (9%), housing (9%), and the ULEZ charge (6%).

A Centre for London/Savanta poll found that over half of Londoners think Mayor Khan has done a good job of making London more diverse, multicultural and tolerant, managing the transport network and protecting green spaces, the LDN newsletter reported. But his handling of homelessness, housing, and knife crime and gang issues is viewed less positively.

One of the biggest challenges facing all candidates– but perhaps particularly Labour given its support base– is a lack of awareness about the mayoral election, with only 40% of those under 35 knowing it was taking place, according to the same Savanta poll. 

Sadiq Khan was speaking at an event to launch his new pledge to end street homelessness in London by 2030, if Labour is elected nationally in this year’s General Election, and he is re-elected at City Hall. 

Susan Hall AM’s campaign was contacted for comment. 

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Vid: Mason’s deranged Corbyn smear – ‘He’s disarming Ukraine and tolerating antisemitism’

Corbyn apparently travelling the length and breadth of Europe to stop the neo-Nazi Ukrainians from ‘fighting fascism’…

Paul Mason was caught last month in a full-blown meltdown of deranged accusations, at a woman who dared to challenge Israel’s mass slaughter of innocent civilians and the unhealthy influence of pro-Israel lobby groups in British politics – and also caught misrepresenting what she had said, when a recording of her comments and his diatribe was revealed.

And he was caught on the same evening in another deranged rant, when he accused Jeremy Corbyn of ‘touring’ Europe ‘tolerating antisemitism’ and ‘disarming the Ukrainian people in their struggle against fascism’:

Audio capture by @UrbanDandyLDN, subtitles by Skwawkbox

As ‘Urban Dandy’, who recorded Mason’s ramblings, commented:

Mason’s suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn tolerates antisemitism is false, just as the widespread, mainstream claims that there was a serious antisemitism problem in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership were false, and have been debunked repeatedly. The MP for Islington North is taking legal action against Nigel Farage for similar defamatory statements, while another political commentator favoured in the mainstream media recently had to make a humiliating public apology for his baseless allegations against Corbyn.

Screengrab from X / johnmcternan

Disarming the Ukrainians

Paul Mason’s second allegation against Corbyn, that the MP has been on a European tour aimed at disarming the Ukrainian people, is also false. Corbyn has never called for the disarming of Ukraine. The anti-war veteran who fronts the Peace & Justice Project has spoken in many European cities since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, mainly at events organised by peace campaigners. Corbyn has called for diplomacy instead of escalation, and expressed skepticism about the relentless arms sales by western companies. 

Mason’s claim that the left wants to somehow stop Ukrainians ‘fighting fascism’ is also bizarre enough to verge on the delusional. Ukraine is well known, despite the best efforts of the UK media to rewrite history, to be rife with actual nazis, some of whom are in influential positions in the Zelenskiy regime. Zelenskiy himself has seized control of Ukraine’s media, stripped workers of their rights and shut down opposition groups, all key identifiers of fascism.

Mason’s reputation, already falling apart because of his support for Keir Starmer, was shredded in 2022 when The Grayzone revealed his emails plotting with security-state figures to take down left-wing news outlets, accompanied by a notorious, sprawling chart showing the links he imagined among left groups Russia and China – and boasting of ‘cauteris[ing] Corbyn and Stop the War’ so that ‘no MP will touch them:

Mason’s support for Starmer despite the so-called ‘Labour leader’s backing for Israel’s genocide in Gaza has left him a risible figure, yet he keeps spouting his nonsense despite the inevitable backfiring and mockery.

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