Monday, April 07, 2008 

The Race Debate 2008 - In Memory of Gilly Mundy

Newham Monitoring Project presents
The Race Debate 2008
Racism and the State of Britain

Wednesday April 23rd
from 7pm to 9pm

The Brunei Gallery
School for Oriental & African Studies
Thornhaugh St,
Russell Square
London WC1N 0XG

£5 (free for SOAS students and staff)

A panel discussion with panellists including:
Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission Nick Hardwick, civil liberties lawyer Gareth Peirce, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg

Chaired by Asad Rehman, Newham Monitoring Project

Institutional racism, community cohesion, culture, segregation, terrorism, Britishness... the debate over the state of Britain in 2008 is increasingly focused on race.

One of the country's leading community anti-racist organisations, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), has therefore brought together a distinguished panel to debate the issue of racism in Britain in the first Gilly Mundy Memorial Debate. The event is named in honour of Gilly Mundy, the anti-racist and custody-deaths campaigner who was a management committee member and former worker for NMP and who supported bereaved families as senior caseworker for the campaigning charity INQUEST. Gilly died suddenly in March 2007 aged only 36.

To reserve tickets, call NEWHAM BOOKSHOP on 020 8552 9993

Supported by INQUEST and hosted by SOAS UNISON

Download the flyer from and please circulate as widely as possible.


McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers

Newham Bookshop presents
Misha Glenny discussing

McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers
Friday 11 April
Wanstead Library at 7 pm.

For the final event in its March/April season, Newham Bookshop is pleased to welcome Misha Glenny, former BBC central Europe correspondent, talking about his latest book McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers.

In this powerful and groundbreaking book, Misha Glenny takes us on a journey through the new world of international organised crime. For three years, he has been recording the stories of gun runners in Ukraine, money launderers in Dubai, drug syndicates in Canada, cyber criminals in Brazil, racketeers in Japan and many more.

During his investigation of the dark side, he has spoken to countless gangsters, policemen and victims of organised crime while also exploring the ferocious consumer demand for drugs, trafficked women, illegal labour and arms across five continents. The journey begins with an appalling and inexplicable murder in England's stockbroker belt and continues with stories that are often horrifying, sometimes inspiring, usually bizarre and occasionally funny. But together they build a breathtaking picture of the shadow economy that may now account for up to 20% of the world's GDP.

Usually the preserve of sensationalist reporting in the tabloid press, organised crime has seeped into our lives in so many ways and often without our knowledge. This consistently riveting account unveils the nature of crime in today's world but it also offers profound insights into the pitfalls of a globalisation where the rules dividing the legal from the illegal are often far from clear. It also argues that conventional policing methods are no longer appropriate to deal with a problem whose roots lie in global poverty and the ever widening divisions between rich and poor.

Buy a ticket for £5, get one free.

020 8552 9993
to reserve a ticket. Free drinks and nibbles as usual.

Thursday, April 03, 2008 

Newham's Mayor Buys Himself A Group of Charities

Newham's executive Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, today completed a process that we first described back in November 2006. At a meeting at the Town Hall, he addressed a select group of local charities who have been awarded contracts to deliver public services on behalf of the council. Wales told them that they represented the 'best of the voluntary sector', the opposite of those he described as 'corrupt and venal', and that they alone would have access to his office and the opportunity to bring him their ideas- ones that the Mayor said he would fund if he liked them. But, warned the Mayor, if the contracts they are undertaking appear to be failing, they can expect to have their money taken away.

All this was presented as some kind of partnership with the borough's voluntary sector. The reality, however, is that it represents its division, for the lifetime of the council's new contracts, into the favoured few and the excluded majority, most of whom are neither 'corrupt' or 'venal' but quietly making an enormous impact on the local community through their underfunded work with local people. The very idea of a new 'inner circle' of charities with special access makes a mockery of the idea of openness and accountability, of Newham council's pledges to ensure equal access to funding and consultation.

And even for the inner circle, it's hardly a genuine partnership when they have so little power and will have to spend the next three years trying to second-guess the whims of Newham's increasingly messianic Mayor. Once part of the inner circle, how many will risk banishment by speaking their minds, even if it means falling from the favours of the Mayor and his courtiers? Furthermore, it's not even as if most of the most-favoured are getting a particularly fair deal. They had originally been promised that they would be able to recover their full costs on becoming Newham council's subcontractors, but that promise has been quietly dropped. There is no way that private sector businesses would ever agree to the demands that the charities have been asked to meet. No wonder they have been given the promise of 'jam tomorrow' - its a very effective way of buying privatisation on the cheap.

And that is where the Mayor's use of the word 'venal' is so troubling. The dictionary defines it as "capable of being obtained for a price", or "acting for reward", or "capable of betraying honour, duty or scruples."

The excluded majority of Newham's voluntary and community organisations might ask, with some justification, why they are the ones who have been painted as mercenary?

Sunday, November 18, 2007 

Olympic Promises

Interesting report this morning on Radio Five Live by Barbara Collins on whether the East End will benefit from the 2012 Olympics and whether the Games will really leave a legacy of sporting facilities, business opportunities and a brand new transport infrastructure. In the week when the Olympic authorities have been trumpeting their plans, what kind of regeneration is on the cards?

Download as a podcast here [mp3 - right click to 'Save As...']

Saturday, November 17, 2007 

The RESPECT split and its impact in Newham

For those who are still unaware, one of Newham’s two opposition parties, RESPECT, has split nationally into two factions, one led by George Galloway and the other by the Socialist Workers Party.

Following an emergency meeting of Newham RESPECT on 26th October, a statement was issued that strongly opposed any split in the party and called upon the leadership “to pause and refrain from any move to divide us.” The statement adds that “Newham members are united in believing that everything that brought us together still exists and more so now” and that the party locally “appreciate our weaknesses and resolve to move forward and manifest the nation's desire for a political organisation that reflects the most important aspirations for a just society.”

What is interesting about this statement, as with much of the sudden and acrimonious collapse of RESPECT as a political project, is who has signed it and where it has appeared. It is posted on the ‘official’ RESPECT website, which is controlled by the SWP faction, but a number of the signatories were most definitely not SWP members, including Sabia Kamali, the unsuccessful candidate for councillor in Plaistow North, or the Mayoral candidate Abdurahman Jafar, or branch chair Michael Gavan, or Sarah Ruiz, a former Labour councillor who lost her seat after standing as a RESPECT candidate for councillor in East Ham North. But the names very obviously missing included the three RESPECT councillors who were elected - Hanif Abdulmuhit, Asif Karim and Abdul Karim Sheikh. Hanif was also RESPECT's chosen candidate for the Greater London Assembly (GLA) constituency of City and East.

Since the end of October, however, a number of the signatories of the ‘unity’ statement have chosen sides. SWP members, unsurprisingly, have opted for their party's 'Continuity Respect', whilst Abdurahman Jafar and Sabia Kamali have chosen Galloway’s “Respect Renewal” camp. Michael Gavan understandably has more pressing concerns to worry about than which of the two competing conferences on 17 November to attend. Meanwhile Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit in particular has become very close to George Galloway, hosting a “members” meeting at his home after Galloway refused to attend one at the local RESPECT office whilst SWP members were present (reported in the SWP's internal bulletin Party Notes as “further evidence of a declaration of war against us”).

But others are torn, between the deeply sectarian SWP and the faction led by an MP who has not turned up to a single constituency surgery in 10 months, hardly ever enters Parliament, but is the fifth richest MP in Britain though TV work (that the SWP faction allege includes forthcoming, lucrative adverts for... Domestos).

With the SWP fairly weak in Newham and the Galloway faction more likely to prevail, the likelihood is that a number of these independents, especially those who have never been particularly enamoured with Galloway's raging ego, will drop out completely.

Meanwhile, the local New Labour councillors can barely restrain their glee at the rupture within RESPECT. Many were genuinely concerned at the last local council elections that they might lose their seats and there was a sigh of relief when RESPECT failed to capture more wards.


The Hounding of Michael Gavan

On Monday, Michael Gavan will be fired from his job as chair of Newham UNISON Local Government for alleged "gross misconduct", because Newham council accuses him of "not acting in the best interests of the council" and organising an "unauthorised" meeting against possible privatisation of services.

Newham UNISON has denied the allegation amounts to gross misconduct and moreover argue that this is a direct attack on the union, aimed at gagging their main negotiator as it starts a campaign against the privatisation of the refuse and cleaning service.

Newham Council’s case rests on two allegations. First is the “unauthorised” meeting of refuse and cleansing staff that Michael is said to have organised and attended. There was indeed a stewards meeting to discuss privatisation, but unfortunately for the council, it had been called off the day before it was due to be held. The second allegation is even more preposterous: the allegation of “not acting in the best interests of the council” is purportedly the result of Michael’s representation of a UNISON members who have been suspended for more than a year on an allegation of having committed a criminal offence that the council claim Michael was aware of – and should have reported.

To make matters worse, the council decided to bring in the former head of the School of Management at Westminster University to “investigate” Michael, who subsequently faced a perfunctory interview that failed to address the central claims against him. The appointment of a management consultant to investigate makes clear that the intention is to sack him and remove one of the union’s most effective representatives.

Newham Council’s aim seems to be to intimidate other union representatives by showing it can remove anyone who dares to stand up for rights at work and oppose council plans to privatise. Protests against Michael’s treatment have come from trade union branches all over the country, but although he has formal backing from UNISON nationally, there have been complaints that the London Regional Office has been slow to call a ballot for strike action (action eventually happened on 31st October). And despite the fact that Newham branch secretary Irene Stacey is also a member of UNISON’s NEC, general secretary Dave Prentice has yet to flex his union’s muscle within the Labour Party nationally to stop the appalling actions of a Labour council much-favoured by Whitehall. Could this perhaps be because Michael is also the chair of the local branch of Respect?

Michael is likely to win the inevitable employment tribunal that will result from the hounding he has received from the council, but he will be out of work next week and unlikely to see an outcome in his case for anything up to two years. In all probability, the council will settle at the eleventh-hour, satisfied that its money will have been well spent in breaking the union. Meanwhile, the borough’s New Labour Mayor Sir Robin Wales will be able to plough on with privatisation, resulting in cuts in pay and longer hours for cleansing and refuse staff.

Messages of support can be emailed to the branch at and messages of condemnation sent Robin Wales at

Sunday, November 11, 2007 

UFFC Remembrance Procession 2007