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Archive for May, 2012

Well done Shanene!

Tower Hamlets resident and part-time council worker Shanene Thorpe has just given us all a lesson in how to tackle unfair and biased coverage in the media.

Last week Shanene was interviewed by the BBC’s Newsnight team as part of a story about the impact of government welfare reform. She took part in good faith. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Newsnight reporter, Allegra Stratton who quite clearly had her own agenda from the outset. The consequence of that was a report that depicted Shanene as a benefits scrounger. The report was essentially an opportunity for Newsnight’s new political editor to grandstand her rather reactionary onions – and was as far removed from what the BBC should be doing to present a balanced view as is possible.

This kind of unfair reporting happens all the time. I know how unpleasant it feels like to be on the receiving end. Normally journalists like this just get away it. 

But not this time!

In cooperation with Change.org Shanene organised an online petition demanding an apology which by Wednesday had gathered over 22,000 signatures! Because of the pressure Newsnight have issued the apology she asked for. Perhaps they might now also apologise to Councillor Rabina Khan, Cabinet member for Housing, who was interviewed – but whose views clearly didn’t quite chime with that of reporter, Allegra Stratton, because she was unceremoniously dropped from the report.

Well done Shanene! You have just struck a blow for victims of biased media coverage everywhere.

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Tower Power

Reports that energy bills could rise by up to a third will send shivers down the spines of residents in Tower Hamlets.

Last year increases in gas and energy prices pushed an additional 400,000 people into fuel poverty.

We have an estaimated 46,000 families living in poverty in our borough. With unemployment rising, and welfare benefit cuts starting to bite, an increase in heating and electricity bills is the last thing our residents need.

According to the Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Davey, there is not much we can do to ‘turn back the tide’ of rising energy bills.

I don’t accept this argument.

Politicians can act, and should be acting, to protect people from the impact of recession.

That’s why I am setting up a new energy co-operative; T. H. E. Community Power. When over 5,000 households have signed up, the Council will negotiate with energy providers for a reduced tariff.

In addition to cutting bills the co-op will provide additional benefits to members, including access to energy efficiency advice, resources and household renovation schemes.

On 6th of June I will be launching his campaign to get residents to sign up to T.H.E Community Power. Stay turned for more details….

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The Morning Star reports on spiralling home care costs for the elderly and disabled; £13.61  is now the average for an hour of home care. With the bulk of government cuts yet to come this situation is set to get worse. I am really proud that Tower Hamlets is one of the few councils  in the country still providing free home care.

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This week, both Peter Golds leader of the Tory group and the leader of the Labour Group, Joshua Peck colluded. They instructed their groups to vote down the first BME Chief Executive of an east London borough, Aman Dalvi OBE. Golds had reportedly shaken hands with Mayor Rahman, promising to vote for Dalvi, shortly before voting him down and potentially throwing the borough into crisis. Peck, whose day time job is as a senior lobbyist, specialising in ‘energy and utilities’ and boasting his local government committees on his company, MHP’s website, had also originally promised the highly qualified Dalvi his support. All of that changed, when Peck blamed Dalvi for not backing his appointment to an Olympics development quango run by Boris Johnson.

More here from Left Futures.

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Across Europe, people are saying no to the policies of ‘austerity’. In France, the victory of Francois Hollande and in Greece the surge of support for Left parties opposed to the economic policies that have brought us high unemployment and massively declining living standards, may be just the beginning. At long last the policies of the mad-house are being challenged, because for nearly thirty years most governments in Europe have pushed for privatisation, de-regulation and letting the financial sector do as it pleased. As a result, we have a growing inequality, and in Britain in particular, the fastest growing rate of inequality almost anywhere in the Western World.

Britain is not immune to the wave of popular revolt in the rest of Europe. Yesterday we saw thousands of public sector workers take to the streets in protest against pension and police cuts. And last week voters in the local government elections showed that they to refuse to believe that there is no alternative to austerity.

I was pleased to see Labour doing well across the country and congratulate Ed Miliband on a night that saw the party win over eight hundred council seats. I was also pleased to see that Labour did well across the capital. But it was disappointing to see that the turn-out in many parts of London was so low. Clearly many voters are still looking at the main parties and thinking that they do all too often look and sound the same. No one can ever say that about Ken Livingstone. The fact that he lost – and so narrowly – is I believe a real blow to London and to Londoners. The media campaign against Ken must have played its part in his defeat, and Boris Johnson did nothing to reign in some of his attack dogs. Of course it did not help either that some in the Labour Party, including here in Tower Hamlets seemed happier attacking Ken Livingstone than supporting him. It is a tragedy that Ken Livingstone won’t be representing us as Mayor of London. That said, I hope that Ed Miliband now finds a role for him that makes use of what he still has to offer.

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Having taken a cool, long look at the facts, Ian Mikado School voted not to become an Academy. This is local democracy in action, and I entirely welcome their decision. The late Ian Mikado, who represented this area in Parliament for over twenty years, and after whom this school is named, would undoubtedly have approved as well. Clearly a majority of people in Tower Hamlets want all our schools to remain in the hands of our Local Authority.

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