Category Archives: News

Westminster North carve up need new names

The Boundary Commission 2023 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies in London, may have given the London Region two more seats but it has well and truly curved up the Westminster North parliamentary seat by breaking it up into three by adding the relevant wards into adjoining seats of the North Central and North West London sub-region.  

They propose putting Church Street, Little Venice, Maida Vale, Regents Park and Abbey Rd wards into the new parliamentary seat of St John’s Wood & Camden Town While Westbourne, Harrow Rd, Queens Park Wards  into a new parliamentary seat called Kensington & Westbourne. And finally they propose putting Bayswater & Lancaster Gate Wards into the new constituency of Westminster & Chelsea East. Leaving nothing that remotely looks like the present Westminster North parliamentary seat. 

On first observation, some of the proposed carve up gives us some intriguing bedfellows. The Paddington Wards certainly have many things in common with Kensington North on the other side of the Westway but l am not sure the residents of Church St Ward in Marylebone have much in common with the good of Hampstead! While Marylebone and old Camden Town clearly on different sides of Regents Park have had a connection over the years particularly based on the catchment of old schools.  

Consultation is currently open until Monday 2nd August 2021 on these boundaries. I for one will make representations on the matter, if only on the names of the seats being proposed as l always felt the name Westminster North does not help its case to survive as a political entity. As it is not clear whether it is North of Oxford St or North of the Marylebone Rd! It is of course really Paddington & Marylebone and should have been called that in the first instance. As a result l will suggest the new Kensington & Westbourne seat be called Kensington & Paddington instead – who knows Westbourne as such but they will certainly know Paddington! While St John’s Wood and Camden Town should really be called Marylebone and Camden Town. With these name changes you will at least get the old neighbourhoods of Paddington & Marylebone back on the political map. 

More importantly the numbers are based on those registered to vote while l think it would be better in the long run to have them based on Census figures. And since we had one only this past March, these would have the latest figures for population size and given most of it was done on-line the figures should be available a lot sooner than with previous Censuses for the decade.

Even with these proposed changes though in the parliamentary seats, they will of course be a fight in the wards of Westminster North for next year’s Local Elections 2022. So bring on Spring 2022 for the locals. 

St John’s Wood & Camden Town new proposed parliamentary seat

Kensington & Westbourne new Parliamentary seat


A copy of this blog was published in Westminster Extra edition for the 2nd of July 2021

Foreign Policy making in UK’s multi-ethnic society

Bagehot last week ( 22nd May 2021 edition of the Economist ) suggests that a multi-ethnic society makes for more complicated when it should make for better foreign policy making; linguistically, historically and by experience, particularly when we have a pivot to Asia. 

Many things can be lost in translation. So having ethnic communities maintaining their linguistic knowledge is something to value in a society where other languages are not valued in the way they should be and thereby assist our adaptation to the Easternisation of the world economy.  
The same applies to history. Would the world not be better for an understanding of how Chinese see themselves during the second world war where they lost up to 14 million with their battle against the Japanese starting earlier than in the European field of the second world war by a few years. A forgotten ally and unsung role indeed. 
And finally there is the experience of many ethnic minority communities in the development field, many of whom maintain those links for the betterment of the places they left behind usually via direct investment involving money transfers which are usually in total annually greater than any bilateral aid flows. Something the NGOS ignore completely while pretending to represent the South! 
So a multi-ethnic society should make for better foreign policy making and not just more complicated ones

Diplomats,Londoners & outstanding congestion charge


One of the major vehicle issues in Central London neighbourhoods like Marylebone is the parking of diplomat cars and many of them not paying the congestion charge after the US embassy decided not to pay it. The amount due in total is substantial to the tune of £129 million at the end of the 2020 calendar year. This could for example pay for all the concessionary fares we have for Londoners annually! 

One thing is for sure that if residents of London did not pay their congestion charge for their car, TfL would certainly pursue them to end of the world! So whilst l was still an AM this winter l asked what is the latest on TfL pursuing legal action against embassies not paying their outstanding congestion charge 

Now proceedings in the International Court of Justice or another international tribunal can only be brought by Her Majesty’s Government, not by Transport for London (TfL).

The Mayor responded to my written question by telling me his Deputy Mayor for Transport wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign,Commonwealth and Development Affairs asking him to pursue this matter but has yet to receive a reply. The Commissioner has also previously written to the Secretary of State for Foreign,Commonwealth and Development Affairs on TfL’s behalf but has not yet received a formal response either. In the meantime, Foreign,Commonwealth & Development Affairs officials write to diplomatic missions and international organisations with large Congestion Charge debts annually, to encourage payment.

The US embassy has racked up by far the biggest bill for the congestion charge, at £13.3 million due last December 2020, due largely to their refusal to pay it.  And as there is a new President in the USA, will we ask him to pay what is owed?

With President Joe Biden, maybe we can make some headway on the issue. Sure enough he is due to be in the UK next month for G7 Conference in Cornwall via London, an ideal opportunity to raise this issue again. Clearly if the US pays up so will all the other diplomats who owe Londoners these monies. 

Reserved empty parking spaces for diplomats in Marylebone where locals may have parked

Committee “carve up” not good news for Grenfell & Cladding scandal

After looking at last week’s “carve up” of Committee positions at the London Assembly more closely, the one that causes most alarm for me is what happen to the Fire,Resilience & Emergency Planning. It is the Committee that has been scrutinizing #Grenfell and the #Claddingscandal for Londoners under Andrew Dismore’s able chairmanship not only at the London level but nationally as well. We can not expect this from the Committee now under complete Tory control, given it would have to be critical of a Tory run local council and also how a Tory government has handled the cladding scandal nationally from a London perspective.  

So l don’t want to see any crocodile tears from the LibDems or Greens at City Hall over Grenfell & the Cladding scandal for handing this Committee and critical role on London issue over on a plate to the Tories.

Petrol stations going Green?

Converted new petrol station along Edgware Rd for electrical charging instead.

In the whole of Greater London we have 531 petrol stations in 2020 when we had 551 in 2017 a breakdown of which by borough can be found below. Now l am sure we had many more of them certainly in Central London before 2017 as many petrol stations sites were converted into residential and other uses since but it appears we don’t have figures going further back then that at all!  Nonetheless there does appear to be a dramatic change happening, which would probably reflects on less car usage and a switch to electrical cars certainly in Central London at least! 

That appears to be the case with one of my local petrol station sites which was converted to a electrical charging points station instead during the construction of the site to the credit of Aldi supermarkets with some assistance from locals, businesses and the cab trade. .Its a very useful way of redirecting the infrastructure we have already in London to a greener future. So let the numbers of petrol stations go down and some even adopted for electrical charging of vehicles. 


Breakdown of petrol stations amongst London Councils

Westminster cladding victims have just one choice

M&M Buildings where leaseholders face bills of up to £40,000 for cladding works to make their homes safe.

As the scaffolding goes up on the cladded blocks in the City of Westminster for those caught in the cladding scandal, their face a plain choice in the forthcoming London Elections.

Now the cladding blocks where scaffolding has been put up in the borough of Westminster including the following below; 

  • Montgomery House, 135 Harrow Road, W2 1H 
  • Marshall Building, 3 Hermitage Street, W2 1P 
  • Munkenbeck Building, 5 Hermitage Street, W2 1P 
  • Balmoral Apartments, 2 Praed Street, W2 1J 
  • Cornwall House, 7 Allsop Place, NW1 5B 
  • 60-62 St. Martins Lane, WC2N 4LN 
  • Westminster Green, 8 Dean Ryle Street, SW1P 4DA 
  • Eagle Wharf, 138 Grosvenor Road, SW1V 3J 
  • 5 Praed Street, W2 1NJ 

After last week in the Palace of Westminster and the Commons in particular, it should be clear to residents that the Tory government has done next to nothing to help. They expect you to foot the bill to fix a problem that wasn’t your fault, leaving you facing unaffordable leaseholder charges. 

In this respect their is no choice between Cllr Rita Begum, the Labour Party candidate for West Central and the present incumbent Tory AM. He has remained silent and instead of standing up for you, he was looked the other way. Cllr Rita Begum supports all unsafe cladding should be replaced by 2022; insists that leaseholders shouldn’t have to pay for the repairs and that their homes should receive government support to replace the cladding and finally end the exorbitant charges for waking watches.

I of course also have echoed the same views in supporting a London Assembly motion supporting the 10 steps promoted by the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, including robust targets and urgent government action to address the remediation of buildings found to be dangerous and the Mayors call for levy on private developers to fund the costs of cladding away from the leaseholders.

So Westminster cladding scandal victims quite honestly have just one response this coming Thursday the 6th of May, and thats voting LABOUR,LABOUR & LABOUR to make their message to government loud and clear. 



From Brick lane to Shadwell

After campaigning yesterday for the London Elections on 6th of May, it was quite clear to me that the centre of the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets has moved from Brick lane to Shadwell.

As the gentrification goes apace along the streets of Brick lane with Truman Brewery Shopping Mall proposal the latest attempt for major changes in the neighbourhood, there is no doubt Bengali businesses and housing are being priced out. Not surprising its facing resistance by the Save Brick Lane campaign as it progresses through planning locally at the borough. And there appears a good case to “call it in” by the Mayor of London anyway. 

But the shift to Shadwell a nearby centre for commerce and business is already happening for Bengalis with much cheaper residential accommodation and employment space to rent. Thankfully the infrastructural transport support has already been provided with the Overground and DLR stations there for others from outside the borough and within to be able to come along to make the most of facilities. 

Finally l suspect my observations will be confirmed when the results of the Census 2021 are available and the breakdown for Tower Hamlets confirm that this has certainly happened over the last decade. 


Fatal stabbings in Paddington – where are we going?

I regularly went past the flowers & candles that lie at the place Ahmed Meker was fatally stabbed in Paddington Green. May he rest in peace, his family get justice & let’s see no more of these horrific events in the neighbourhood. 

So in this respect it is worth looking at what is happening in the City of Westminster, the home borough of Ahmed Meker, his cousin and others like Abdul Samad stabbed fatally in recent years. 

In Westminster there have been 23 homicides since January 2016 and 4 in 2020. This number is far too high and there is a lot of work to be done to reduce the number of murders each year both in Westminster and across London. Each one of these is a tragedy and is devastating for the family and loved ones of those who have been killed 

We can, however, reassure residents that the met do solve the vast majority of homicides that take place. The proportion of these horrific crime the Met “solves” is much higher than other forms of crime, at an average of around 90%. This is confirmed with the successful convictions of Abdul Samad and Ahmed’s cousin attackers. 

Londonwide, during Covid, crime has fallen generally by 36%, with homicides remaining high – 149 in 2019 and 126 in 2020. There has also been a 20% reduction in knife crime with injury offences from 2017-2020 (from 4,855 in the year to January 18, to 3,888 in the year to February 2020) so some progress is being made through targeted work by the Mayor and the Met. 

Mayoral action to tackle crime

Unfortunately, violent crime is still not being treated as a priority by this Government. We need more resources allocated to the Met Police and this has not been forthcoming from the Home Office. The Mayor has introduced 1,300 extra officers for the Met through Mayoral funding to help plug this gap, but the Government must play it’s part in funding 6,000 additional police officers that London needs. 

This isn’t just about police numbers, however. Cuts to education services, cuts to youth services and local authorities and a lack of mental health services have all played a part. Given the scale of these Tory cuts to policing, and also to preventive services, it’s hardly surprising that crime has risen not just in London but nationally over the past few years.  

Despite this, the Mayor has made some progress due to sustained record levels of investment in our Police force from City Hall as well as targeted preventative programmes. Gun crime offences are down, as are moped-enabled crimes, burglary, lethal barrelled gun charges, and, as mentioned, knife crime with injuries involving people under 25 years of age.  

In spite of the impact of Tory cuts to the police, I believe we are beginning to move in the right direction under the Mayors guidance, but we are far from complacent and will not waver from efforts to make our city safer. 

Mayors projects for young people in Westminster

In the face of significant reductions to activities for children and young people due to Tory cuts over the last 10 years, the Mayor has stepped in with a £70million pound “Young Londoners Fund” to provide positive recreational activities for young people and a diversion away from crime. This is a key part of the Mayors strategy to reduce the violence. 

Within Westminster itself, there are a number of “young Londoners” projects funded by the Mayor. Details of some of the activities funded by the Mayor are below, if you would like full details on what’s available in the local area, don’t hesitate to get in touch:

Harrow club W10 – There is Another Way  – will engage with young people, aged 14-21, who are at a high risk of, or currently are, involved in criminality and high-risk behaviour. Using a detached youth-work model whereby youth-workers and trained community volunteers will engage with young people on the streets late at night and bring them back to W10 Youth Centre for free food and fun and interesting/developmental activities. From these sessions the young people will be paired with mentors who will support them into a variety of services and activities offering support such as therapy and work focused training.

Cardinal Hume Centre Westminster – “Future pathways” project An integrated advice, family support and activity programmes to households in Westminster with children aged 10-14 who are at risk of criminal activity due to adverse childhood incidents, multiple disadvantage and other risk factors. The project will offer comprehensive single-site support to families to promote intergenerational communication through shared experiences, address critical housing and income risks, and provide whole-family learning in areas of science and technology to improve relationships and increase resilience for 10-14 year olds.

The Avenues Youth Project Westminster – The Avenues recruit young people, age 15-18, who are at high risk of involvement in criminality, but who otherwise show potential for community leadership roles. Our in-house 39-week youth work programme will provide them with rigorous training, work-based practice and new skills, and accredited qualifications. After 19 weeks of training, they will progress into paid roles as Junior Support Workers where, for five hours a week, their learning will continue. The course will culminate in them conceiving and delivering a social action project. After ‘graduating’, Avenues will support them into education, training or employment pathways. 


Americanisation of football just won’t do

Some of us stopped Murdoch getting his hands on United over 20 years ago but this americanisation of European football is one step too far. 

With the raging over European Super League from amongst fans and players in particular, it should be remembered that this idea is not new and has been around since the 1950’s when the European Cup has first launched and has periodically come up over the past decades. What is new is the American form of it all. 

The owners of franchises of the top American leagues work in a closed shop, where no matter a team’s sporting success, a steady stream of profit is effectively guaranteed by shared television deals and other mechanisms, including salary caps and penalties on overspending. Some indeed may call this “socialism for the rich”

For example, in the National Football League and National Basketball Association, the top draft picks typically go to the worst-performing squads from the previous year. Revenue sharing redistributes wealth among the rich and poor teams. Overall, success is punished by design, misfortune is rewarded by design, and the power of wealth is circumscribed with spending caps.

Whilst in Europe the opposite is the case. The continent’s many national football leagues have long fitted into a Darwinian survival of the fittest. Success builds on success, often yielding greater revenue and the opportunity for top teams in each country to participate in Europe’s Champions League — the most lucrative annual tournament that runs parallel to the national competitions. The richest clubs corner greater commercial deals and can outspend the rest as the bottom feeders get relegated to lower divisions, making the target of climbing back to respectability all the more difficult.

So it will be interesting to see how a referral to a Competition & Monopolies Commission would work out on this front, though l think it would have to be the European Union rather than just the UK.  As for the public response, its already dead in the water.

Myanmar crisis not another Syria

Help  the peoples of Myanmar banner in Paddington

I have got to disagree with Simon Tisdall suggestion in the Observer that Myanmar is the new Syria as the rising violence threatens a repeat tragedy. A much better parallel is the Bangladesh liberation War of 1971, which happened next door 50 years ago, with potentially history repeating itself.

The Pakistani military then did not accept the General Election results of a free and fair election of December 1970, exactly like the Tatmadaw of the November 2020 General Elections in Myanmar. Then unleasing ruthless attacks against the majority population of Bengalis protesting against the coup under its Operation Searchlight, which began a nine month struggle for liberation. Again similar to what is happening right now against the Burmese and now other ethnic groups in Myanmar, in their mass uprising against the military.

The Bangladesh’s independence struggle took place of course in the broader context of the Cold War. During the Cold War, India allied with the Soviet Union, while the US allied with Pakistan to counter Soviet influence in South Asia and protect its geostrategic interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan and China. The emerging cold war will undoubtedly focus on Indo-Pacific conflicts with different alliances in places like Myanmar.  

Yet the geo-politics may have been different then but is the world really prepared to tolerate another “Bangladesh liberation” without a similar intervention like the Indians at the end of nine months of genocidial killings and millions fleeing their country by yet another Asian military force is what should be asked.  

So as the world becomes more Indo-Pacific centric, lets get our historic parallels right please.