Damian White gets the Post-Election Blues

Damian has defeated a challenge to his leadership by a single vote. He was challenged in a WhatsApp message from Robert Benham,1 who spoke of ‘in-fighting’. He and his supporters lost and the Conservative ‘pot-of-gold’ politics might inflict a punishment beating on Robert and his supporters. Who knows? Damian might be magnanimous and they’ll all live happily ever after.

The galling fact for Damian is that he leads the largest party but needs five more votes. Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) have 20 seats and are negotiating for Labour’s nine votes to create a Friendly Understanding. HRA have 29 votes in sight but that means taking responsibility. HRA like permanent opposition. It’s painless and well-paid. All of which means that they might actually prefer a seductive offer from Damian.

In 2018 Damian mopped up HRA councillors. He’ll try again but this time it’s harder. Why? Sally Miller, John Mylod and Michael Deon Burton all lost. Their fate is a warning to renegades.2 Individual HRA councillors might take Damian’s offer. It is, after all, a few thousand pounds, for doing little else than agreeing with him.

Can Damian heal? The challenges will test his mettle. The nest of vipers that’s the Conservative group have had a very public split, which could result in flaky members drifting to HRA. Throwing gold around solves some problems but there are some Conservatives with ambitions. And they’re lean and hungry.

The excitement is building towards May 25th when a new Administration is brought into being.

Notes

1 Damian’s deputy in the Conservative group

2 The Harold Wood Three bucked the trend and prospered

Havering: Politics as Friendly Understandings

Eight elections since 1990 have resulted in No Overall Control. Conservatives have ruled Havering since 2002 but only once as a majority party. On every other occasion they’ve used HRA councillors. The last Administration used Harold Wood’s three councillors for four years. The 2022 election has put the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) in the driving seat.

Damian White was aware of the challenges of getting a majority in Havering and acted accordingly. He believed Rainham was vulnerable. He put in place a team of local Conservatives and won it. The Rainham result was announced and Damian was vindicated. Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought the unthinkable. Romford wasn’t the citadel he imagined and Conservatives lost three seats. Bang went his plans and the ‘nightmare’ of an HRA – Labour Friendly Understanding became a distinct possibility.

Andrew Rosindell could tell Damian a thing or two. In 1996 Havering had a Rainbow Alliance.2 HRA’s Louise Sinclair led an Administration that included Conservatives and Socialists. The Socialists were, by Havering standards, hard left. Andrew was voting with Socialists in a joint Administration. Goodbye political purity! Labour enjoyed watching Del Smith influence them for two years.

Havering has spoken. And what they’ve said is they like Friendly Understandings. If the young Andrew could do it for the greater good then so can anyone.

Addendum: A case for Proportional Representation?

Abstentions: 65% of the electorate

Notes

1 Local Elections 2022: Havering Council live results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Rainbow Alliance – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Election: Thrills and Spills

Hornchurch and Upminster have no Conservative councillors at all. Emerson  Park fell when Roger Ramsey retired. Labour won their first Romford seat for 20 years but the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) will take power.

Havering’s politics is complex. The election result1 is a mish-mash. HRA 20 seats, the Conservatives 23, Labour 9 and Renegade RAs three.2 Meanwhile in Rainham the count continued on Monday 9th May and the result was announced during an acrimonious recount. Four burly police officers were there, at huge expense, to protect the Chief Executive in case things got physical. Three Conservatives won leaving them short of a majority.

HRA + Labour reach the magic 28 seats but will they do a deal? Havering’s politics depend on deals. There’s no political ‘purity’. This is the fifth time in six elections with No Overall Control.  In the previous four, Conservatives have done deals with RAs. Now it’s the RAs turn to do a deal or not.

That’s the Thrill.  Now the Spill.

Damian White had an innovative way of awarding allowances. Consequently, every Conservative councillor is facing a pay-cut. Damian loses about £55,000 a year. This might explain his anger on Election Night as he saw it dribbling away.

Local government has national organizations. There are many committees which demand representation. There’s nothing quite like an awayday at someone else’s expense and Conservative councillors are going to miss them.

There’s also the glory of summoning Chief Officers and strutting round the Town Hall. Demotion to backbench voting fodder is cruel but is the result of depending on a niche electorate.

Four years isn’t too long if you say it quickly.

Notes

1 Local Elections 2022: Havering Council live results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Harold Wood councillors propped up the Conservatives 2018-22

Havering Council Meeting: 23rd March 2022

This was Damian White’s final council meeting as Leader before the election. He’s matured politically, becoming less frenetic and in charge of the agenda.1

The meeting began with very long-standing councillors being honoured. Councillors O’Flynn, Ower, and Ramsey were treated stylishly. They demonstrate the stability of Havering’s politics. More councillors will follow them out of the door, not all of whom will be pleased.

Question time2 (@1 hour 07 for 45 minutes) was effective. Osman Dervish’s boyish charm carried him through a multiplicity of questions mostly about pavements and pot-holes. (There were nine Resident Association questions.) Roger Ramsey answered Ray Morgon’s question (@1:30 minutes) about Havering’s deficit with magisterial ease showing how much he’ll be missed. Ray’s question was uniquely probing.

The debate on crime was peculiar.3 Councillors demanded more crime reporting using Alice in Wonderland logic. ‘More crime = more police and police are a Good Thing therefore Havering needs more crime reporting.’ Jeff Tucker led the ‘discussion’.

Ray (@2:10) stepped into the gutter. He announced Damian had a driving/drugs conviction. Damian subsequently said he’d struggled with his sexuality and was depressed. This explanation sounds sincere. Ray’s intervention was uncharacteristically sour and unpleasant.

Havering Council meetings end with the National Anthem. They’re usually sung quite appallingly. The sound system on this occasion threw in the towel and it was muted.

Notes

1 Damian is still Leader because Nigel Farage’s ego trip prevented him from becoming an MP. See Damian White Scuppered by Nigel Farage! 12th December, 2019 – Politics in Havering

2 The entire Council meeting can be seen here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 The RA motion is here Final – Motions.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Romford Conservatives, Sadiq Khan and Clean Air

Romford Conservatives are unhinged. They’re opposing Sadiq Khan’s Clean Air policy because it’s a Labour policy.1 This is political immaturity at its worst. Air pollution causes debilitating illnesses like asthma. Romford Conservatives are defending clapped out 17 year-old bangers to make a political point. And their ‘political’ point is:

We Really Don’t Like Labour And Especially Not Sadiq Khan.

For a once great party to be reduced to petty childish opposition to a Public Health programme is shocking. Winston Churchill (see Addendum) would have been astonished. Clapped out bangers are being charged for the health risk they pose.

Every London Mayor, including Boris Johnson, uses the pricing mechanism to achieve policy objectives such as controlling car parking.2 It’s very effective. Surging demand for electric vehicles demonstrates this. They’re subsidised directly,3 ULEZ is the other side of the coin.

Air pollution is invisible but real.4 Air pollution causes long-term illnesses in young children and the elderly. Havering Council monitors air pollution throughout the borough, especially near schools.5 Romford Conservatives are opposing their own policies by opposing ULEZ. Their immature opposition is demeaning.

Addendum: Clean Air Act, 1956

In 1953 Winston Churchill’s government initiated the Clean Air Act.6 This act was hugely disruptive, and expensive, but absolutely necessary. The ULEZ programme is a 2022 version of Churchill’s Clean Air Act.  It’s harder to sell because air pollution is invisible unlike the smogs of the 1950s. They share one thing: without these policies Havering’s children will suffer unnecessary ill-health.

Notes

1 STOP ULEZ | Romford (romfordconservatives.com) ULEZ = Ultra Low Emission zone

2 Toll roads could be introduced to UK roads as electric car ownership surges (msn.com)

3 There is a direct cash payment and nil Road Tax

4 Toxic air in London caused 1,700 asthma hospitalisations in just three years, study finds | The Independent

5 Air Quality in Havering: Environment Overview and Scrutiny sub-committee 20th February 2019* – Politics in Havering

6 The Clean Air Act | HouseFuel

Havering Council Meeting: 17th November, 2021

Havering’s councillors love eulogies. Nothing deters them. David Amess, the murdered Southend MP, brought Ron Ower to his feet. Ron lived near Amess in Forest Gate as a boy and councillors were pleased to hear about that. Eulogies are supposed to celebrate the deceased, not provide a platform for ego massage.1 They should be given a maximum of 10 minutes to stop time-wasting.

The Climate Change Emergency was the principal item of business. The Council’s plan is huge and lacks detail. It emerged on 10th November and Ray Morgon and Keith Darvill said it needed scrutiny. It didn’t get it and was brought to Council seven days later. Thirteen minutes of argy-bargy ensued. Bizarrely, this means scrutiny will happen after agreement.

Councillors in speaking order:2

Joshua Chapman (44 mins) remarked Climate Change meant “an organisational and cultural change” for the entire Council.

Jeff Tucker (50) said the plan was basically a directive from Boris Johnson, aka ‘The Big Boss’.

Keith Darvill (56) reviewed his previous objections in a telling way.

Viddy Persaud (59) likes the way officers work hard.

Robert Benham (1:01) sold his Jaguar so the Emergency is virtually over.

Ray Morgon (1:03) described the Plan as a ‘massive wish list’, uncosted and ‘all talk’.

Stephanie Nunn (1:07) was scathing, describing it as ‘uncosted’ and ‘rubbish’.

Roger Ramsey (1:08) claimed ‘existing budgets’ would take the strain. He had a straight face proving what an old pro he is.

Michael Deon Burton (1:11) said opposition members were petty for objecting.

Dilip Patel (1:14) wants to spend a lot of money for the future of children.

Barry Mugglestone (1:16) said they hadn’t got the basics right

Chris Wilkins (1:17) said the 2019 report had been ignored.

Jeff Tucker (1:18) spoke movingly about out-of-order lights in Rainham churchyard.

Damian White (1:23) was in combative mode. He claimed councillors hadn’t read the report and the oft quoted £500,000 cost didn’t exist. Surprisingly he added it might cost £10 million. He said Overview and Scrutiny committees were hopeless and never produced anything for the Cabinet to discuss. He’s becoming a class act.

Keith Darvill, Ray Morgon and Damian White should have a round table discussion and get on with substantive decision-making. The drivel that punctuated this debate demonstrates that leadership is called for. Amazingly, Michael Deon Burton was quite right. There is too much pettiness and this matter is too important for that.

Notes

1 The finest recent example of a eulogy was by Roger Ramsey about Del Smith. Havering’s Council Meeting: 1st September, 2021 (part one) – Politics in Havering

2 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All the times relate to this source

Keith Prince vs Damian White: 2022 Conservative Leadership Contest

Keith is a Conservative superstar1 and fancies himself. He was re-elected a GLA Member in May, 2021 but it was a joyless victory. Sadiq Khan’s London Labour are tightening their grip and that’s the kiss of death for Keith who wants to be a mover-and-shaker. Keith now has his sights on Havering. The Havering Conservative Leadership election, 2022, could be blood-thirsty.

Political ironies pile up. Damian is vacating his seat in Squirrels Heath and moving to Havering-Atte-Bower. And who steps into Squirrels Heath ward? Keith!

Damian shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s politically adroit and built a coalition in 2018 out of nothing. For four years he’s used Special Responsibility Allowances2 for the only electorate that matters: Conservative councillors. But that was then. What can Keith offer?

It takes a very brave Leader to re-jig allowances when it’s going to cost councillors money. Neither are going to do that. So the election depends on other things. And what might they be?

Damian has amiable contempt for his colleagues, which he conceals badly. The Bob Perry revelations about possible gerrymandering showed Damian’s unpleasant side. He’s also keen on councillors pulling their weight when it comes to campaigning. This is unpopular with elderly Conservatives who want a quiet life. Perhaps Keith will be more understanding?

This is predicated on the Conservatives forming an administration in 2022, which is far from certain. Keith could find himself rejected by Squirrels Heath’s voters and nursing even more thwarted ambitions.

Notes

1 Keith was a Havering councillor 1990-5; a Redbridge councillor 2003-18 (Leader 2009-14); GLA member 2016-present. He was re-elected in 2021 with a majority of 15,327. On 9th May 2022 Damian survived a leadership challenge by one vote but not by Keith but by stalking horse Robert Benham.

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) For the allowances of individual councillors see Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary This is slightly out of date but gives a reasonable idea.

Havering’s 2022 Election: Is Damian White Doomed?

Local elections are usually a verdict on mid-term governments, except in east Havering where Resident Associations (RAs) dominate.

Damian knows that in a ‘good’ year, 20181, he didn’t get a majority. He used nifty political footwork and created a majority from renegade RAs.2 Damian looks doomed in 2022 because of his reliance on Romford’s heartlands.3 Romford Conservatives have massive majorities and look impregnable. This is an illusion. No-one survives a vicious political swing, as John Major found out in 1997.

Brexit isn’t the Promised Land of milk and honey. The details will be forgotten by the electorate but there’s a feeling it’s been badly handled. Who’d have expected foreign HGV drivers to be imported to rescue Christmas? And the hospitality sector is reeling from staff shortages.

Damian is facingnational tax increases four weeks before the election. Inflation is rocketing, with electric, gas and petrol leading the way, closely followed by the price of poultry. And saving rates are a joke. Poor council finances means tax increases will be substantial. More trivially, after 20 years the electorate’s bored with Conservatives.

2022 should produce an RA majority but they might implode 2018 style.4 Damian Lazarus White wants to be Leader and knows how to get it. Is there an RA who’s as keen on power as Damian?

Isn’t Havering fascinating?

Notes

1 Jeremy Corbyn was the Labour Leader and Brexit was the Promised Land.

2 See Damian White’s Political Arithmetic – Politics in Havering

3 Local Elections 2018 | The London Borough Of Havering

4 What will happen to the Harold Wood 3? Can anyone work with Jeff Tucker? These are just two significant challenges for an in-coming RA Administration

Seven Questions: Any Answers?

The powers of Overview and Scrutiny Committee1

In particular, regulations give enhanced powers to a scrutiny member to access exempt or confidential information. This is in addition to existing rights for councillors to have access to information to perform their duties, including common law rights to request information and rights to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Annotated advice para 38 (my emphasis)

Discussion

Councillors must exercise their powers to fulfil their statutory obligations. For this huge responsibility they’re well paid.2 Most committees only met once in the first six months of 2021. This is an outrage. Committee chairs sabotage the powers the government has given them.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees are listed below, along with suggested questions.

Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

1 How was Marshalls Park Academy selected for £6.8 million pounds of capital works as opposed to the Council’s own Junior Schools?

Crime & Disorder Sub- Committee

2 What discussions have taken place about Knife Crime since Jodie Chesney was tragically murdered nearly two years ago? And what positive action has taken place?

Environment Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

3 When will a Task Force be established to discuss flooding measures? This critical problem needs well thought out strategies.

Health Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

4 How is the Digital Divide being tackled for Havering’s elderly population access to GP services?

Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

5 The recent report on N.E.London’s Health Service highlighted the distressing experiences of some disabled residents. What has been the Council’s dialogue with partners?

Overview & Scrutiny Board

6 The 2019 purchase of the Marks and Spencer site costs half a million pounds a year in interest payments. Damian White said this would be paid for with rent. How much rent has actually been paid since the purchase?

Towns & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Sub- Committee

7 What was the impact of the loss of business rates when Debenhams store closed?

Damian White’s Councillors are incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities and should be thrown out next year.

Notes

1 Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Damian White’s Dereliction of Duty

Background

Havering’s Health and Wellbeing Board is a high powered forum for the Council, the NHS, local GPs and the Council’s directors to discuss the ramifications of the pandemic.1 The 28th April meeting included GPs who offered expertise despite not being full members of the Board.

Discussion

There have been eight meetings of the Board since the pandemic struck. Damian White has attended only two. The pandemic has been catastrophic for Havering, killing nearly a thousand residents. The Board discuss the ramifications of Covid-19 some of which are, as yet, unknown.

At the 28th April meeting, which Damian didn’t attend,2 there was a discussion of Long Covid. This illness is new and not yet understood. At its worst, it’s catastrophic and could be incurable. Neither Havering’s director of Public Health or the NHS know the scale of Long Covid. They know it’s emerging as a medical and social challenge.

Apart from the chair, Jason Frost, none of the other councillors were present. None of them offered apologies. They appear to treat this critically important forum as trivial. The worst offender is Damian White3. His behaviour is a disgraceful dereliction of duty. There should be a vote of ‘No Confidence’ from his own party or they will suffer the consequences.

Addendum One: Membership of the Board

Elected Members: Cllr Robert Benham, Cllr Jason Frost, (Chairman) Cllr Damian White, Cllr Nisha Patel.

Officers of the Council: Andrew Blake-Herbert, Chief Executive, Barbara Nicholls, Director of Adult Services, Mark Ansell, Interim Director of Public Health

Havering Clinical Commissioning Group: Dr Atul Aggarwal, Chair, Havering Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) Ceri Jacob, BHR CCG

Other Organisations: Anne-Marie Dean, Healthwatch Havering, Jacqui Van Rossum, NELFT and Fiona Peskett, BHRUT

Addendum Two: Board meeting 23rd June 2021

All four councillors attended this meeting for the first time since the 21st October 2020. Damian went off camera at 41 minutes and didn’t reappear and was silent during the period he was there.

1 These are the Minutes of the most recent meeting 28th April 2021 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk)

2 Neither did Robert Benham, deputy Leader, or Nisha Patel. None of them offered apologies to the chair, Jason Frost. Nisha Patel has missed three meetings out of eight (two without apologies).

3 See Damian White and Havering’s Pandemic – Politics in Havering