Category Archives: News

Heathrow expansion unlawful

During my time at City Hall and and subsequently, l have been involved in the campaign against Heathrow expansion. Including going to the Royal Courts of Justice several times but last weeks visit beats them all, as the Court of Appeal stated the Heathrow expansion plans are unlawful on climate change grounds. Now normally l tend to concentrate on air and noise pollution impact on Londoners, as there is more than sufficient on these environmental impacts to oppose the expansion of flights at Heathrow.  Indeed that was what the London councils concentrated themselves on but those concerns were not the primary concern of the Appeal Court.  The Environmental Groups largely lead on climate change impact of Heathrow expansion and its CO2 emissions.  These were also regular items of concern we covered under my chairmanship of the Environment Committee, almost annually as a response to the numerous consultations we had had on Heathrow during my time at City Hall 2004-2016. 

At City Hall, not only did l have to restate the London Assembly opposition to extra runways at Heathrow but also called to end night flights and through The Plane Speaking report focus on the increasing road use impacts on Heathrow air quality. So glad to have made a small contribution in the defeat of Heathrow expansion. 

 

Heathrow will be appealing of course to the `Supreme Court but without the governments support it will be difficult tasks ahead for them but l am glad l have been involved in this campaign from the outset of my involvement in London affairs. The verdict also has major ramifications for any future development of transport infrastructure in the UK like the governments road programme which will almost certainly be the first of many challenges ahead based on the climate emergency concerns of climate change. 

Internationalism in London

 

One of the pleasures of being Chair of the Stop the War Coalition is being invited along to many of the diaspora communities events we have in Greater London. 

Since the beginning of the year, l have been out demonstrating with Indian’s in the UK against Modi’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act defending their multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Indian identity and the democratic secular constitution of India; celebrating the contribution of the Kurds in London at the AGM of DayMER and showing solidarity with their interests in the Middle East; and involved in an Afghanistan Peace Panel Discussion hosted by ACAA arguing for the withdrawal of foreign troops and popped into Portcullis House to hear a discussion on Human Rights in Kashmir hosted by Third World Solidarity. 

Going by the number approaches l have had, the action against the CAA and the registration of Indian citizens through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been one of the most divisive policies of the Indian government that has not only divided communities in India but has also been at the centre of a numerous protests and demonstrations in the UK and Europe. And its a new concern, while l dare say the other issues raised by other diaspora groups have been around for a long while. 

Very often as well the diasporas communities know more about what is happening then the UK media do, like for example the talk of Afghanistan Peace Deal in January was not premature given the US and Taliban this past weekend have just now signed a Peace deal though the Afghanistan government is not party to it. 

Sinophobia (anti-Chinese racism) raises its head again

My local newspaper the Westminster Extra highlights on its weekly front page this week the impact of the coronavirus scare on business in Chinatown, a more than 50 per cent reduction in trade on normally bustling trading days. On top of this we have an IPSOS survey tell us incredibly that 1 in 7 people would avoid people Chinese origin or appearance with on-set of #coronavirus  But as the health officers have shown quite clearly sinophobia – anti-Chinese racism – won’t save you from coronavirus particularly when you remember that a ordinary Brit had brought it on to our shores

Unfortunately sinophobia has a long history. Chinese people have faced perceptions of being “unhygienic” and “dirty” long before coronavirus came along. As early as the 19th century Opium Wars, the Chinese nation was referred to as the “sick man of Asia”. This slur took a literal turn as Chinese migrants across the world came to be associated with poor hygiene and proneness to disease.

We are quite clearly seeing sinophobia raising its head again and it needs to dealt with head on. 

 

London Labour 2020 – Some ideas for the manifesto

At the Sadiq for London 2020 London Policy Forum in Kings Cross, l put up some of my ideas for the Manifesto in the various sessions l attended during the day. 

The first session l attended was on Housing,Planning & Development. Here l suggested we needed to do more on slum housing through the Fit for Human Habitation Act 2018. Unfortunately their is more about then we acknowledge in London, like some of the old tenement blocks in Miles Buildings, Penfold Place, NW1 – just off the Edgware Rd near me. We need to be on the side of tenants up against landlords who are not providing habitable residential accommodation. This will not add to the stock of housing in London but will clearly improve the present stock to an acceptable level. 

The second session, l attended was on Transport, where l highlighted “work place charging levy” as a golden egg from parking which could earn TfL a new source of income, as a Hounslow council proposed levy shows clearly.  Here l told the session of the case of the parking underneath BNP Paribus HQ where you can see many sports cars going into the office development underground car park very early in the morning, who clearly are not paying for parking in Central London.  The leading authority on this front is Hounslow Council who have a proposal to develop a scheme along their golden mile and use the funds to invest in a commuter rail link between Brentford & Southall, putting them onto the Elizabeth line.  It struck me that if a suburban London borough could do it, surely Central London boroughs with the Mayor could do something similar and use the fund to invest in urgent transport and environmental infrastructure needed. 

And in the final session l attended on the Environment & Climate Change. Here l suggested that TfL could do a lot more to reduce London’s climate change footprint in response to the public #climateemergency demands as the largest consumer of energy in London. It could not only move decisively towards renewables but actually become a big buyer of renewables in London so as to encourage the growth of this sector in London’s economy while reducing our green house gases emissions. 

We will have too watch and see now if these ideas and many others from the Labour movement including our Trade Unions and Affiliates at the London Policy Forum, will be incorporated into the Labour London Manifesto for 2020.  Lets hope so. 

Grenfell immunity – just not on!

After listening to the deliberations of yesterday in the morning session of the Grenfell Inquiry on the case for and against the immunity of prosecution of corporate witnesses (on an individual basis), it would a travesty if the Chair SIr Martin Moore-Bick now refers the matter to the Attorney General. 

He should decide the matter in this investigation in light of what happened in phase 1 by throwing the request out.  No firefighter sought immunity from prosecution during their evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry in the first phase, as corporate participants are now seeking. It would be grossly unfair that you have this difference if the matter is referred further up and it is decided a case exists. Indeed as Michael Mansfield QC stated on behalf of the families any indemnity against individual prosecution in phase 2 would also mean a “license to lie” when not answering questions.  

So we all await this judgement today hopefully. 

Global Day of Action against the CAA

I was glad to join the Global Day of Action against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act brought by the BJP in India today in London, as chair of Stop the War Coalition. 

The Citizenship (Amendments) Act as brought in by the BJP in India has caused huge nationwide protests, involving people of various religions, professions, castes and classes, such that we  haven’t seen since the freedom struggle, took place in India.

And why maybe this so? The CAA & the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) hits at the heart of the very nature of the Indian state constitution of being a sovereign, socialist, secular & democratic republic  and its multi-ethnic & multi religious Indian identity

Modi’s government says its doing this on the pretext of offering citizenship to “persecuted refugees” from three nearby countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) But not, say the Rohingyas from Myanmar? Why is there a difference between them?  Has it got something to do with three of them being Muslim majority states!  On the basis of the BJP’s CAA Act, such desperate political refugees like the Rohingyas moving onto the sub-continent would have no basis of making a claim for citizenships. 

We have also seen in Indian politics the return of a federalism  as well as a response to these events. that the BJP is are even more bitterly hostile to than Indira Gandhi ever was. As six states – West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha – have refused to participate in Delhi’s plan for a nationwide NRC.

Many individuals have also begun to go into the civil disobedience mode that Indians adopted under the British, saying they would either not furnish papers for the NRC or that they would declare themselves Muslim. And would you believe it, Modi government are even using desperate restrictions from the colonial-era section 144 (proscribing a gathering of more than four persons) to restrict mass protest.

So l was glad to speak and defend the multi-ethnic & religious identity of being an Indian in a constitution that is a socialist, secular, democratic republic

And personally l also welcome a return to federalism as states like West Bengali who refuse to take part in the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) and the BJP attempt to enforce their Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Bakerloo line extension – How to fund it?

I am completely signed up to the extension of the Bakerloo line beyond Elephant & Castle to Lewisham and even further but l also think we need to upgrade the whole of the Bakerloo line and fund the project with a levy on surrounding land of the extension, as its unlikely to attract grants from central government in the political climate for up to the next 10 years.

Having grown up the Bakerloo line beyond Paddington, l have seen the advantages of that extension done over 100 years ago but its clear parts of it have been falling to pieces including the train stock and the tracks. For example just over 4 years l lead a campaign to get the seats replaced given how poor the state of the seats were in comparison to other tube lines which was to the benefit of all travellers on the tube whether north or south of Paddington. Furthermore on the new extension, it would not make much sense to have very old stock of trains and tracks as it will undoubtedly affected the quality of the service along the line. So l would argue its in every ones interest to get the upgrade of the line down at the same time or certainly before as the extension takes us further into South London.

How to fund the extension is more critical, as it appears the priority for the new government on infrastructural investment will be for connecting up the Northern towns to the nearest cities. So we will have to show other means of funding the extension proposed.

Research by Jones Lang LaSalle commissioned by Transport for London in 2004 ( under Vice-Chair Dave Wetzel 2000-08 ) confirmed that the Jubilee Line extension created increased land values around the two stations studied. The extension cost £3.5bn to build and we now know that in the 10 years from 1992 to 2002 this project created an unearned uplift of more than £13bn for landowners in the vicinity of the 11 new stations.

As a result, TfL suggested to the Treasury and Department for Transport that a land levy be applied to the whole catchment area to fund the circa £16bn cost of Crossrail with no need for contributions from existing taxpayers.

It was only when this strategy was rejected that TfL suggested a much more modest scheme to raise £4.1bn with the introduction of a supplementary business rate on large commercial properties within the Greater London Area. Consequently, even before the trains are operating this has left landowners in the Crossrail catchment area from Shenfield to Reading with massive land value gains arising from taxpayers’ contributions from all over the country, many of whom will never travel on Crossrail.

Assuming the enhanced land value is greater than the build cost of the Bakerloo extension a land levy should be introduced and be applied to the whole of the catchment area of the new extension with no need for contributions from existing taxpayers.

The way forward – Closer ties with Bangladesh on Climate Change

On my annual trips to Bangladesh, it is indeed booming as the ADB (Asian Development Bank) estimates a growth rate of 8 per cent next year illustrates well though there are some issues politically.

At the liberation of Bangladesh, the UK played a critical role. When the founding father of the nation Sheikh Mujib was released from detention in West Pakistan he actually came to London first to be greeted by PM Edward Heath before going to Dhaka. So the bond is close from the outset.

With the UK hosting of COP 26 next year in Glasgow on Climate Change globally, what better way to forge a closer bond then taking on board the climate change agenda for Bangladesh and involving the Bangladeshi diaspora population in the UK as well.

The fifty anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh will be on the 26th of March 2012 around the corner after the COP26 and it will be a fitting tribute to the closer bonds for the future, if we can use the opportunity in Glasgow to cement it.

The Trump Card

While the focus has been on Russian interference in British politics, we should not forget the
interventions of the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

As soon as the General Election campaign began Donald Trump returned to his running
commentary on British politics to again attack Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking to Nigel Farage of all people on LBC, he said “Corbyn would be so bad for your
country, he’d be so bad, he’d take you on such a bad way. He’d take you into such bad places.”

This comes in addition to his regular attacks on our Labour, and Muslim, Mayor of London Sadiq
Khan. 

Both Jeremy and Sadiq can of course take these attacks as a badge of honour.

Labour stands for everything Trump can’t stand – peace, international respect for human rights,
action to tackle the climate emergency, plus support for equality, tolerance and diversity.

Furthermore, by demanding a pact between the Tory and Brexit parties it is clear that Trump
wants a so-called ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US firmly rooted in the politics of
the far-right. This is consistent with his international alignments with the likes of the far-right
Bolsonaro in Brazil amongst many others.

John McDonnell rightly called it “Trump’s alliance” of “Farage & Johnson following Trump’s
orders” after Farage stood down candidates against the Tories. 

As for the NATO Conference itself in London, which Trump and others like Erdogan are
attending, one needs to ask what is the point of NATO? It is after all 30 years on from the fall of
the Berlin Wall ending the Cold War, the campaign it was designed to win by containing the
threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact alliance.

More recently, we have just witnessed the cancellation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear
Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 between Moscow and Washington. More may follow with the end of
the Strategic weapons treaty START 2 due to run out in 2021, with no realistic replacement in
sight.

Unfortunately, a New Cold War is emerging and we have yet to adjust to the old one ending. As
the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, one of two major architects of the above
agreements, has warned that the current tension between Russia and the West is putting the
world in “colossal danger”. He raised severe concerns about the threat from nuclear weapons and called for all countries to declare that nuclear weapons should be destroyed.

The good news for progressives and Labour members though is that during this election
campaign we can tell Trump clearly that his interference is not welcomed at the national
demonstration in Central London when the Queen will be hosting a reception of NATO leaders at
Buckingham Palace on the 3rd of December.

We should also remember that this is within a context when the government’s latest review of
spending showed them keen to spend £2.6 billion next year on Defence to maintain its NATO
contribution at Trump’s insistence. This is almost as much as their intended spend on schools,
health and policing.

It also shows where their real priorities lie in appeasing the Trump administration – as does the
priority they are giving to a sweetheart free-trade deal with the US, even if it means putting the
NHS up for sale, plus a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and environmental protections.
If you want an anti-War Prime Minister committed to peace and international justice, rather than
slavishly following Trump’s hard-right, war-mongering agenda. you can only vote for the Labour
Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on the 12th of December.

As Jeremy himself has said, it’s time that we stopped outsourcing our foreign policy and security
to the increasingly erratic Trump administration. Who knows what he is going to be saying on
twitter while in London!

So let’s make this happen, as part of our programme for real change, both here and around the
world. Join the demonstration and vote Labour!

Lets not forget, Donald Trumps antics while he is here may well be our Trump Card!

This article was published on the 30th of November in the weekend edition of the Morning Star.

 

 

 

Success of the first Rail Clean Air Zone

Banners on the concourse of Marylebone station informing commuters of the efforts to improve the air breathed at the Rail station.

One of my pleasures in my neighbourhood, is walking daily through Marylebone station. Its easily the most pleasant terminus stations in London. What makes it even more enjoyable to walk through is its efforts in reducing air pollution inside the station itself with the its own clean air zone. Making it the first rail clean air zone. 

After a year of operation, the nano carbon filters behind the advertising hoarding on the station concourse have helped reduced pollutants like PM ( particulate matter ) and NO2 ( nitrogen dioxide ) by 70 and 75 per cent in the surrounding air, respectfully. 

So while all the tube station in zone 1 have been shown to be polluted with bad air with the recent FT survey suggesting that London Underground is the dirtiest place in Central London, we have a rail air clean zone at Marylebone Station showing the way forward. By cleaning the surrounding air with its filters, it means users of the station can more easily breathe, something the tube should also try at all their stations in Zone 1. 

Ultimately stopping deisel trains coming into Marylebone and replacing them with electric ones would help a lot in reducing the emissions on the concourse and the surroundings of the station.