Developing Our Diversity – Tower Hamlets Poppadom & Politics

On 19 April 2016, we held the latest instalment of our round-table forums on policy priorities.

Following on from the highly successful "Pizza & Politics" night in February, The Tale of India restaurant hosted our "Poppadom & Politics" night, focusing on diversity within the local party.  The importance of discussing this issue was apparent from the outset, given the composition of the attendees - 100% white and 90% male.  But this certainly didn't preclude a lively and informed discussion on what our diversity priorities should be and how we should go about improving diversity within the local party.

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Reporting Back: Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at Federal Conference in York

York is a beautiful city, and with the mild weather and the daffodils coming into bloom along the city walls it was a beautiful time to be there… but with a packed agenda in only two-and-a-half days, there wasn't a lot of time for smelling the flowers!


The Liberal Democrats used the conference to set out some big, bold, new policy ideas – you may have seen the headlines about legalising cannabis or the broadcast with Norman Lamb.


Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London, put forward new policy on protections for private renting, and former London copper Brian Paddick made it clear that we would strongly oppose the Home Secretary's "Snoopers Charter" to let spies follow everything you do on the internet (even more important, now that Labour are going to give the government a free ride!).


And, as we had guessed at our Pre-Conference Pizza & Politics, the most hotly debated motions were a move to oppose fracking and another to make the Party's MPs more diverse and better reflect the people we want to represent.

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Tower Hamlets submits three amendments to Lib Dem Conference

Federal Conference is the place where the Party discusses and decides the headline policies that will lead our national and local campaigning. And when we discussed the conference agenda at our Pizza & Politics event, we found members in Tower Hamlets were very keen to have an input into the national policy debate.

We have taken the suggestions that people came up with there and drafted three amendments to submit.  Please support our amendments, by clicking on the links below!

1. On the economy motion: add a bolder direction

We think that the economy motion is good, but it could be better and we would like to add to what is already there.

Our first suggestion is to add a "Conference Believes" section that more clearly differentiates Liberal Democrats from Labour and Tories and sets a direction of travel in line with some of the things that Tim has been saying about opportunity and small business.

Read the amendment here. 

Support our amendment by entering this form!

2. Also on the economy motion: add policy on digital technologies.

Our second suggestion came from Ben Simms and is specific policy on supporting new digital technology, through infrastructure and apprenticeships and by inclusion in the government industrial strategy.

Read the second amendment here.

Support our amendment by entering this form!

3. On the Diverse MPs motion: make it more outward looking

Diverse MPs is sure to be the hot topic of the conference, and we're sure that in particular All Women Shortlists will be hotly debated. But we want the Party to look outside itself for ideas on how to do better, and how to get more people of different backgrounds to join us. Elaine particularly championed the idea of unconscious bias training as a must have way to tackle our problem with diversity.

Read our diversity amendment here.

Support our amendment by entering this form!

Isle of Dogs gridlock warning for this weekend

Frustrated residents of the Isle of Dogs will already be painfully aware that the level of un-coordinated construction work in the area has led to a high amount of traffic disruption in recent weeks. We have now been warned to beware further disruption this weekend (5-6 March), due to continuing works around Westferry Road and Marsh Wall.

Although this primarily affects residents on the Island, the gridlock is expected to disrupt traffic across the (already congested) East India Dock Road and beyond, so all residents in the south of Tower Hamlets should beware continuing disruption.

This has already caused a great deal of discontent in the area, with some residents creating an 'Isle of Clogs' on Marsh Wall - hanging shoes along the road to protest against the disruption.  Elaine Bagshaw, GLA candidate for City & East, said “The lack of planning around these developments has caused unnecessary disruption and frustration for local people, who won’t even benefit from these works. I and the team will be taking this up with the local council to see how we can stop this from happening in the future”.

For more updates, follow us on Twitter at @THLDs, or visit our stall at Chrisp Street Market this Saturday at 10.00-13.00.

Discussing the Conference Agenda - Tower Hamlets Pizza & Politics

Pizza and politics was the name of the game as Tower Hamlets Lib Dems gathered in a packed top room of the Bow Bells pub in Bow, to discuss some of the motions soon to be discussed at the upcoming Spring Conference.

Diversity, fracking and the economy where all debated with a steady flow of pizza aiding the conversations. 

We discussed an amendment to the motion for ensuring diversity in MP selection (all-women shortlists): this would involve extending the remit of the 2020 diversity task force, to try and address some of the infrastructural challenges that affect the ability of candidates from under-represented groups to stand for Parliament. 

The motion on fracking received a more mixed reception. Although there were concerns raised about the Tories taking money away from the green economy to subsidise another carbon industry, it was also felt that the motion was not in keeping with either our evidence-based or liberal anti-banning philosophies. It was suggested that the motion be amended to delete all after line 11.

Finally, we talked about the economy, with the suggestion of two amendments brought forward. One to give the motion more of a positive direction of travel for the Party and another to add a digital dimension to the policy proposals, possibly as a foretaste of Tower Hamlets submitting a full motion of our own to Autumn conference.

These amendments were agreed by the group, and will be sent to Conference for consideration.

The Bow Bells pub is an East End boozer in the heart of Tower Hamlets with the great bell of Bow Church just over the road.  It's an area rich in political history with the likes of Sylvia Pankhurst setting up the East London suffragettes nearby and old Poplar Town hall just opposite.

The debate on all the issues was strong and fair, representing the diversity of views from around the room, and in the tradition of the activists of the East End gone by.


Sainbury's Residential Housing Proposal in Whitechapel

With house prices in Tower Hamlets growing at between 10% and 20% over the last two years, we should all be concerned about building more housing to stem the upward flow of prices.  However, given the range of historic housing stock that still remains in parts of the borough, building new residential accommodation in densely populated areas was at some point bound to clash with the need to preserve old buildings.

As the Standard has reported  last week, Sainsbury’s is proposing to build a large residential block in Whitechapel, near to the Crossrail station. This block is going to be built very close to the historic Trinity Green almshouses and the residents are upset that the views from their homes are going to be obscured by the new Sainsbury’s building.

It is fair that the residents are upset the views will be obscured – the views from their property are part of their value and this is going to be eroded by construction of the new building.  If the proposal were such that the fabric of this historic landmark was to be jeopardised, then clearly there would be an overriding argument for changing the design of the new building.

However, with just the views being affected, the need for more housing must be prioritised in this instance.  We support the right of the Trinity Green residents to oppose this development, but we believe that Christopher Wren, the commissioner of the buildings in the 17th Century, would be the first person to argue that a city needs to flex and change to meet the needs of its citizens.

We also hope that both Sainsbury's and the Tower Hamlets planning committee support our proposal to make all new developments include 50% social housing and truly affordable homes for East Londoners to live in, not "safe investments" for foreign investors.


Tower Hamlets Council Using Right to Buy Money to Build New Homes

Tower Hamlets council announced last week that they would be using money from Right to Buy purchases to fund the building of new homes by housing associations. The aim being to start reducing the waiting list for council homes, which is currently over 21,000.

The scheme incentivises housing associations to build homes which are truly affordable, rather than the definition of affordable used by profit-making housing developers, a definition which doesn't seem to make sense to anyone else.

The ÂŁ7m being put up by the council must be used to build at least 70 homes, and must also be no more than 30% of the total development costs. This means that even if the housing associations can only build flats for ÂŁ100,000 each, then the residents of Tower Hamlets will still get an additional 163 homes, as well as the initial 70.

Clearly the people of Tower Hamlets are going to need many more homes than 233 to reduce the council house waiting list from 21,000, but we are glad to see that the Labour Council is starting to recognise the problem. As Liberal Democrats we do not think this plan goes far enough however, which is why we have a plan to build 200,000 homes across London including 50,000 more council homes by 2020. To find out more about that plan visit here.

Caroline Pidgeon to halve TfL fares for all journeys before 7.30am

Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, today set out plans for half price fares on Underground, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail services for people who start their journeys before 7.30am.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, said:

“Half price fares on TfL’s Tube and rail services would really help some of London’s lowest paid workers who often have to work unsocial hours.  This is a genuine fare cut that can be delivered immediately.

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To say that 2015 was an interesting year to be a Liberal Democrat would be an understatement.

January – March: IN GOVERNMENT

Liberal Democrats in the Coalition continued to deliver right up to the end of the last Parliament, including:

  • Securing an increase to ÂŁ10,600 free from income tax for everyone.
  • Passing the modern slavery bill, to protect victims.
  • Delivering voters the right to recall their MPs, and securing the power to suspend or expel members from the Lords
  • Guaranteeing that Britain will continue to meet the international standard of giving 0.7% of GDP in aid to some of the most needy countries in the world.

Our time in Government cost the Party dear, but it was worth it for delivering bold liberal policies like the Pupil Premium, Apprenticeships, same sex marriage, and Norman Lamb's bringing mental health to the forefront of the debate, while also stopping the massive I.D. card database scheme and ending detention of children at the Yarlswood immigration centre.


Many of us from Tower Hamlets went to campaign for Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey & Wood Green or Simon Hughes in Bermondsey; our own Elaine Bagshaw was one of the leading lights of the Team 2015 team and Head of Candidate and Customer Support at HQ.

Sadly, we couldn’t save them.

It's fair to say the Liberal Democrats took a hammering on Election Night. We got 8% of the vote and 8 seats. Which would be fair enough if the Tories had got 30 instead of 300.


Everyone in the Party was devastated.

And a lot of people in the country looked at the results and thought that it wasn't fair. That wasn't what we deserved. That wasn't what they thought they'd voted for.

They listened to Nick Clegg's fierce, dignified, resignation and they thought something they hadn't thought in five years. They agreed with Nick. They looked at the Liberal Democrats again and they thought: Britain does need a Liberal voice. Britain needs the Liberal Democrats.

And they started to join us.

May to June - #LibDemFightback BEGINS

Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats were immediately faced with by-elections for the Mayor and the council seat of Stepney Green. Our candidates, Elaine Bagshaw and Will Dyer, and other activists were out knocking on doors again on May 10th, just a couple of days after Nick's resignation.

And people were listening to us.

In the mayoral election, we were the only party to increase our number of votes and increase our share of the vote.

July to September – THE #LibDemFightBack TAKES FLIGHT

Membership of Tower Hamlets Lib Dems doubled over the summer.

We continued campaigning building on what we learned in the Mayoral by-election and collected petition signatures on London's housing crisis.

In September, Elaine was selected to fight to be the City & East Member of the London Assembly.

We went to Bournemouth to the Lib Dems' Autumn Conference. Elaine Bagshaw & Chris Walts delivered a fringe about our Tower Hamlets campaign. Building on that we have been working to share our ideas and knowledge across the Party, and helping other London Liberal Democrats in local by-elections. We also were Runners Up at the ALDC Awards for Digital Campaign of the Year.

Tim Farron is the first British politician to demand that the UK do more for the Refugee Crisis, visiting camps in Calais and the island of Lesbos to talk to refugees.


At the end of October, a by-election was called for the Boleyn ward around the West Ham stadium in the middle of Newham. Led by the brilliant Sheree Miller, our incredible campaign to give local people a voice saw us win 9% of the vote and go from never knocking on a door to second place.

The still-growing number of supporters meant City & East could support the setup of a new Newham, Barking & Dagenham local Lib Dem party – which was inaugurated at a meeting in November, and becomes official from 1 January.

December and 2016 – THE FUTURE STARTS TODAY

In 2016 we face the first big test of the #LibDemFightback: the London elections. After that, the there’s the Tories' Europe referendum that we simply must win.

We’ll be campaigning in our target wards every week across City & East.

And we want to deliver more for our City & East members with monthly social and policy and campaigning events, including a reward scheme for the local parties.

Lib Dems Warn of Waste and Centralisation in Town Hall Move

Tower Hamlets Council voted on November 3 to go ahead with disgraced former Mayor Lutfur Rahman's plans to move the town all to the former Royal London Hospital site in Whitechapel. Labour's Mayor John Briggs had previously described the plan as "a bit of a palace".

The move comes as neighbouring Newham Council is considering moving out of its own centralised Town Hall only 3 years after the moved in at a cost to taxpayers of ÂŁ110 million.

Speaking while campaigning on London's housing crisis, Lib Dem candidate for City and East Elaine Bagshaw said:

"I am strongly against this move. At a time when Londoners are desperate for properly affordable homes, Tower Hamlets Council is going to spend millions on itself. This will move services further away from people who need them, in spite of the evidence coming from Newham that shows it's a bad idea.

Whitechapel should be a centre of affordable homes and space for local businesses, not a hub of paperwork and bureaucracy."

Sheree Miller, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Boleyn Ward, Newham, said; 'At a time when Newham council are warning residents of their need to cut £50 million from their budget, it is galling that they now realise their mistake and the subsequent waste of money incurred to the tax payers.  Services have therefore been affected twice over. Should I be elected, I would demand greater scrutiny and accountability for decisions like these that have a huge affect on local people.'

People still remember the Liberal Democrats' Local Neighbourhoods which made Council services closer and more responsive to people. This would be at the heart of a Liberal Democrat-run Tower Hamlets.

Notes to editors

  1. Lutfur’s Palace:

  2. Newham considers leaving its Town Hall after three years:

  3. Newham and Tower Hamlets are the two most deprived boroughs in the country for housing and services:

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