Roger Helmer Resigns

Labour Party

In a letter to Stephen Mold, East Midlands Conservative regional chairman seen courtesy of Guido Fawkes ( follow the link here) Roger Helmer says he’s had enough of working for a party that doesn’t subscribe to his eurosceptic, climate-change denying views. 

Although Mr Helmer lies somewhat on the fringes of the Tories, this does speak to the internal problems Cameron is facing from the right-wing of his party.

 I also noted that Mr Helmer assumed that he would be standing aside for a ‘younger man’.  Clearly that was no chance of the Tories trying to further the cause of gender equality by allowing a woman to take his place.  This isn’t surprising from a party that has managed to select no female candidates for their GLA lists.

This is the letter in full, thank you Guido:

Dear Stephen,

Resignation from the European Parliament

It was a great pleasure to see you at the Party Conference in Manchester last week.

I am writing to you now to advise you that I shall be resigning my seat in the European parliament effective December 31st this year.

As with any major decision, this is driven by a number of factors. Some might say that it is high time I stood aside for a younger man. For myself, I think that twelve-and-a-half years banging my head against the same brick wall in Brussels is perhaps long enough. And I should certainly like to see more of my three fine grandsons.

But it would be disingenuous to deny that my decision is dictated in part by my increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party. I am finding it ever more difficult to defend the policies of the Coalition, not only on my key issues of Europe, and of climate and energy, but on a range of other matters besides.

I will have more to say about this in coming days…

Boris Bankrupting Workers’ Pensions

Labour Party

Like me, you may have seen on BBC London News last night that Boris Johnson is denying that the Greater London Authority (GLA) agreed to repay the now-defunct Visit London’s £2.1m staff pension scheme deficit. I have had a look into this and  it appears that Boris Johnson and London Conservatives have deliberately bankrupted Visit London. Visit London was the tourism promotion organisation for London until 31st March 2011. As the greatest city in the world tourism is a major part of the London economy. This has now been transferred to a new organisation London and Partners.

It appears that Boris has again been spending too much time listening to his City of London chums. There is a sad record of private sector organisations where a few rich individuals walked away very comfortably after bankrupting their employees’ pension schemes. London Labour Assembly member Len Duvall who is Chair of the Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee has written a letter asking a number of pertinent questions. It appears that with Visit London and its pension scheme in deficit Boris Johnson has allowed Visit London to go into administration.

Visit London was a participatory partner to a special pension scheme run by the British Tourist Board, which it is understood Boris initially said the GLA would continue to fund once London & Partners was up and running. However Boris, has done a U-turn. He revealed this week that individuals who were employed at Visit London will no longer be able to benefit from the British Tourist Board pension scheme. It looks like those affected will lose 10% of their pension entitlement.

This is a dangerous precedent. Many Conservatives would love to bankrupt the pension schemes for teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public sector workers. This would allow them to cut the public sector pensions which they see as part of state spending to be cut on ideological grounds. There is no ‘we are all in it together’. People dependent on pensions they have paid into and worked for find they no longer are secure. I think Boris Johnson should make former Visit London’s future pension entitlements as secure as his own generous pension provision as mayor of London. Or can we bankrupt his personal pension pot to help make some cuts? 

You can watch Tim Donovan’s report by clicking the link here.  Scroll to 6 minutes 30 seconds and the piece is 3 minutes long.

Ken Livingstone Fundraiser at the Globe Theatre

Labour Party
It’s not so often that we get a star-studded event in the Labour Party. True to form Ken Livingstone came to the rescue yesterday with a gala dinner to rival all others, not just a a fundraiser, more a gathering of the Labour glitterati.
So who was there? Labour Leader Ed Miliband, of course, Richard Wilson aka Victor Meldrew, Ken himself and his running mate in the London Mayoral election, my old friend Val Shawcross, not to mention former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell.  All the Labour GLA Members were also present as was Andrew Dismore who I am supporting to be Labour’s GLA candidate in Camden and Barnet. There were others too. You will see me pictured above with the recently ennobled  Roy Kennedy and Labour Party Deputy General Secretary Alicia Kennedy and below with Ken and Nicky Gavron.  I was also pleased to catch up with Tribune owner Kevin McGrath.
It would be remiss not to mention Ealing MP Stephen Pound who did the auction, raising a considerable sum  of money. Stephen is in great demand  for his skills as an auctioneer, and was at his best raising money for Ken Livingstone’s for Mayor.
The Globe Theatre in Southwark was an excellent venue, radiant as it is with Shakespeare and Elizabethan memorabilia, a fitting place indeed for a London event, the event which launched Labour’s campaign to return a Labour Mayor in our great city. My thanks as ever to all those who organised the event and made it such a great evening. 

Mushtaq Qureshi – a remarkable man

Labour Party

wnews103009_04[1]It was a sad day when Mushtaq Qureshi passed away at the end of last month.  Mushtaq was one of those truly great people who spent his life working for others – for the Labour Party, for the Bangladeshi community of which he was such a prominent member and, of course, for his family.  A councillor in Queen’s Park Ward for the past 15 years up until his death, Mushtaq was the first Bangladeshi to be elected to Westminster Council.  He had been active in the Labour Party since coming to Britain over 50 years ago, having previously served as Vice-Chairman of the Awami League in his native Bangladesh.  It is a measure of his desire to help others that when Mushtaq retired from the restaurant business he worked at the Paddington Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Harrow Road. 

I was privileged to know Mushtaq and spend time at his family home in Maida Vale.  His daughter Papya, who is now also a Westminster councillor for Westbourne Ward, worked for me in Brussels for nearly a year.  I know his son Murad as a hard working member of the Greater London Assembly, having also been a Westminster Councillor  representing Church Street Ward.  The Qureshis are a truly remarkable family.

Many condolences to the Qureshi family.  All of those many people who knew Mushtaq will miss him for himself and for his very real commitment to those around him and to the causes in which he believed.

Human trafficking petition receives over 1,300 signatures

Labour Party

human handsAs regular readers to my blog will be aware, almost a month ago I launched a campaign to highlight the issue of human trafficking and started a petition intended for the Met Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to halt his proposal to close the Mets dedicated human trafficking unit.

I’ve received a huge amount of support so far and the petition has almost 1400 signatures to date. The campaign has received support from my MEP colleagues, MPs, local councillors and GLA members. In addition the Public and Commercial Services Union, and Anti Slavery International have also shown their support.

I will present my petition to Scotland Yard this Friday ahead of the decision which will be made by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) between 16 -18 November.

Opponents argue that the unit doesn’t save enough people to warrant it staying open but when you hear the stories of those it does save you understand why it’s so important.

Only last Friday the Met Police reported that a Hungarian human trafficker who regularly raped and beat his girlfriend over a period of two years and then brought her to the UK, forcing her to work as a prostitute, has been jailed for 16 years.

The head of the unit, detective inspector Steve Wilkinson said in a statement following the conviction, that the human trafficking unit ‘continues to work towards freeing exploited victims from their captors and ensuring that we continue to successfully bring the traffickers to prosecution.

‘We hope that this result will encourage any other victims to come forward and speak with police who may have felt that they couldn’t do so before.’

But if the MPA decides to cut the funding of the dedicated unit then where will those victims go? And who should they turn to? If there isn’t a dedicated unit how will a greater number of traffickers be prosecuted?

As I have said throughout this campaign, the unit requires the dedicated and specialist knowledge of trained officers to do this role and successfully catch the perpetrators.

Not only will fewer victims feel they can come forward but even fewer prosecutions are likely to take place as a result.