Friday, 30 April 2010

Video slanging match - Abbott, Boff, Angus and others

The main row is about 38 minutes into this debate and is about whether people should feel guilty about not voting - but most of it is worth watching anyway.

Earlier story:
Suzanne Moore: 'help' from friends and family

Suzanne Moore: 'help' from friends and family

Were friends and family of Suzanne Moore, prospective MP for Hackney North, testing out bold new PR techniques yesterday?

In the Jerusalem Post her friend Julie Burchill, godmother to her three daughters, wrote that she: "gave her (Moore) the green light to take up with my second (Jewish) husband shortly before I dumped him. “Why don’t you ‘comfort’ poor Cosmo?” was the way I phrased it, to her slightly repelled fascination. Didn’t stop her, though!"

In the Guardian her daughter chips in: "Her middle daughter, Bliss, 19, has just wandered in and out in search of toast, and on hearing that this is an interview, has said that all she really knows about her mother's life is she was "a junkie for about 10 years."

The Guardian writer points out this was a joke and, later in the interview, Moore says: "I'm not a junkie, like Bliss said, but I can say that I've taken drugs and liked it. I can't pretend otherwise. The fact is that, now, if you're of a certain generation and you haven't slept around, taken drugs, you're just not normal, so what are we going to do? . . . Do you want the people who represent you to be flawed, or to embody this perfect ideal? Because we've had the perfect ideal, and that's given us the bloody expenses scandal and two wars."

Will Jules Pipe have to back-track on ultra-orthodox planning rules?

According to the Jewish Chronicle, Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy is doing his best to win support from the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

In an article published yesterday the JC said: "Despite the slim chance of an upset, both Labour and the Tories are going out of their way to court the Charedi community in south Tottenham."

In Haringey the pursuit of the Charedi community's vote appears to have been behind the recent planning victory for Ultra Orthodox Jewish families living in Haringey.

When this was reported the community said it was also setting its sights on persuading neighbouring Hackney to change its rules too.

But in Hackney the Labour administration has fought-off planning exemptions for large families and Mayor Pipe has accused ultra-orthodox Jewish Consevative councillors of pursuing that agenda at the expense of the rest of the borough. ( 23,000 Hackney tenants used as bargaining chip)

So what were the reasons why Hackney didn't want to go down that road? If the Hackney Labour Party sticks to its position will it be condemning what's happened in Tottenham? Hopefully Jules Pipe will say, before the election, if he thinks his Tottenham/Haringey colleagues have taken a wrong turn.

According to the Labour-supporting, ultra-orthodox Abraham Pinter, the whole battle will centre around the Seven Sisters ward in Haringey where the Conservatives think they can win as they field an ultra-orthodox candidate against a Labour candidate who is Jewish, but not ultra-orthodox.

The pressure is already being applied on Hackney Council but Jewish Historian Geoffrey Alderman says the ultra-orthodox Jewish community should be careful with its new-found power. In a piece called Hacking off Hackney voters he said: "Jewish "communalism" is a major trigger of anti-Jewish prejudice. It may look clever but its victories, purchased at a high price, are invariably short-lived." Although would a back-lash be expected if concessions were made to any other religious or cultural group? Geoffrey Alderman interview here: Stop worrying and learn to love race politics

However Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South, says that this is exactly how mulitculturalism works. In an interview Blood and Property asked: "Does it matter if you have large, politically active communities, that do act with a certain level of self interest – or promote issues that affect this community?"

Meg Hillier said: "That’s what politics is about."

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The north south divide - in Hackney

Three stories:
1 The Independent reports a remarkable 15% rise in voter registrations in Hackney. But did they register because they wanted to vote? I'm one of the newly registered - my mind was made up because of a £1000 fine threat.

2. New varieties of diametrically opposite views from Meg Hillier (Hackney South) and Diane Abbott (Hackney North) are still being discovered.

Last night Diane told "This Week" viewers that the worst thing about Gordon Brown calling Gillian Duffy a bigot was that it raised the issue of immigration. When asked her why talking about immigration might be a problem, she didn't have an answer.

Moments later she said that Hackney was an area with a high level of illegal immigration.

Then she said that she supported the idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants - she specifically approved of the one proposed by the Lib Dems.

Compare that to Meg Hillier. According to this piece in the Guardian, Meg told the people of Barking and Dagenham: "We deport someone every eight minutes... We fingerprint anyone who comes in for over six months. Foreigners now have to carry special national identity cards."

3. Another interesting story: The Jewish Chronicle adds some extra detail to Simon Tesler's decision to stand as an independent candidate (Chops changes and councillor controversies) against his former Conservative colleagues. According to the JC, Tesler says he was dropped because he spent too much time working on ultra-orthodox Jewish issues. Matthew Coggins, leader of the Hackney Conservative Group, had a different story: "Mr Tesler was deselected not because of the time he spent representing the strictly Orthodox community but because of his lack of attendance at council meetings."

It also reports Labour supporting Abraham Pinter saying he is disappointed that Joseph Stauber couldn't be found a Hackney seat to stand in by the Labour Party. Some of these issues were discussed in Blood and Property: Chops changes and councillor controversies

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Is Hackney fragmenting? Is Diane's support fragmenting?

Would the leaflet pictured below qualify as communalism? Or the opposite? The message is from Muslim Lib Dem councillor, Dawood Akhoon, and he is calling on Muslim brothers and sisters to vote Lib Dem. As his two Lib Dem colleagues in the Cazenove ward are both ultra-orthodox Jews, Ian Sharer and Abraham Jacobson, it is hardly what you'd expect in a propaganda leaflet aimed at Muslims.

But the person who sent it to Blood and Property believes it has a bearing on the debate about communalism. It is clear that this leaflet was not intended for general release - so does it confirm the views of Geoffrey Alderman that Hackney Politicians have to interpret the community along racial or religious lines? (for the opposite view: Abraham Pinter responds to Geoffrey Alderman)

Not sure if the photos below will be legible but the leaflet starts off with "Dear Brother/Sister in Islam" and goes on to say: "As Muslims and residents of Hackney, we have many challenges ahead both locally and nationally."

It ends saying: "We have always served and supported the Muslim Community and we are all committed to continue to do so."

Meanwhile Diane Abbott laments the days when ethnic communities stood shoulder to shoulder against racists. In a piece in the Independent she writes: "The other strength of the anti-racist movement of that era was that it was genuinely multi-racial. Black, white and Asian went to Southall to resist the fascists. Since then we have seen a regrettable fragmentation. First Asian people resisted being called black. Now Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus all insist on a separate identities. A distinct cultural identity is one thing. But the struggle against racism has been immeasurably weakened by the political fragmentation we have seen in past decades."

Could Diane's vote base be suffering from the same problem? Earlier this week her Lib Dem opponent Keith Angus claimed that Afro-Caribbean voters were deserting her - Diane has yet to reply to Blood and Property's questions on this.

But what about Hackney's African population? Are Nigerians still smarting over Diane's 2006 article: Think Jamaica is bad, try Nigeria? Christian Party leader, George Hargreaves has focused on British-Nigerian voters. Could African voter identify more with his Christian Party? Could Diane's voter base, as well as the anti-racist movement, be suffering from fragmentation?

(Hackney Christians: Money, power, demonic possession)

Abraham Pinter responds to Geoffrey Alderman

Abraham Pinter has responded to points raised by Geoffrey Alderman in Stop worrying and learn to love race politics. In the piece Alderman says that Hackney politics are driven by religion and ethnicity, not class, as elsewhere in the UK.

Pinter says that Alderman is looking at the Hackney Jewish community as an outsider and is both out of date and out of touch.


Perhaps the most contentious issue is whether the ultra-orthodox Jewish community only votes for candidates from within its own community.

Pinter does not agree that this issue is described correctly by Alderman and says that both of their views will be put to the test on May 6th in the Seven Sisters ward in Haringey.

Pinter said that the Conservative party had come close to defeating Labour in the ward last year. He believes that this was due to 90% of ultra-orthodox Jewish voters supporting the Conservative Party which happened to be the only party fielding an ultra-orthodox candidate. He also said that this, combined with growth in the ultra-orthodox community over that short period, should point to a success for the Conservatives.

But he said that Labour would retain the seat because of the work done by the party to improve relations with the community – particularly over planning issues.

“The Labour Party took seriously what happened and they’ve taken steps to recognise the needs of the community.”

He said: “It is a test but I am confident. We know what goes on in the community because we are a school and we get a lot of feed back.”

If Labour retains the seat it would, he believes, disprove some of Alderman's claims. The victory would be achieved despite the Labour party having no representative from within the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, while the Conservatives do.

However he did acknowledge that it is common within the community to vote for a recognisable name, but he said that if a non-Charedi candidate could prove that he or she had the community’s interests at heart, they would be supported. He said that the Labour Party in Haringey had achieved this.


Pinter said that Alderman was out of touch on the role of women in the community. One of the organisation that Alderman talks about is Agudas Israel and Pinter points out that its chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association is Ita Symons.

He said that Symons was one of the most powerful people in the community. As a Labour supporter he said he didn't think the accolade of the Jewish community's Margaret Thatcher was a compliment, but said that the comparison had been made.

Pinter also pointed to Interlink which he said may now be a more powerful organisation: “Interlink is one of the most powerful organisations in the community and it is politically run by women. He pointed to a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle: Come on, women, lets get equal."

He said that Bella Sharer standing in the Brownswood ward in Hackney would only be a novelty if she won. He said it was common practice for wives to stand as paper candidates in seats they have no chance of winning. Unlike Ian Sharer, he does not believe the Lib Dems have much chance in Brownswood.


One of the issues raised by Geoffrey Alderman in Stop worrying and learn to love race politics referred to an article written in the Jewish Tribune back in 1978. Alderman said that the article had demonstrated a set of anti-black attitudes that still exist in the community, but which are not published because of the reaction from beyond the community.

But Pinter said the author of the article had been an older member of the community and that the sentiment had been that Jews should not fight battles on behalf of the black community – or they all faced the risks of a backlash.

He said that there were a number of the problems with making an argument like Alderman’s.

Pinter pointed to his own attitudes at the time: “The way I grew up, when I was an 18-year-old - 45 years ago - when I saw a successful black person, I always felt myself to have positive views, as in "isn’t it wonderful that a black person can do well here" now I think that this view might be racist because it is patronising. But that’s the way it was back then."

He said that views of society at large had changed and they had also changed in Hackney's ultra orthodox Jewish community.

He said: "I think it's worth mentioning that the Hamodia is now the main newspaper read by the community and not the Jewish Tribune, but as I said Alderman is an Historian."

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Stop worrying and learn to love race politics

Ethnicity and religion drive Hackney politics, not class, says Professor Geoffrey Alderman, a leading academic on British elections and modern British Jewry.

Alderman, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle and writer for the Guardian and the Times (profile) tells Blood and Property that politicians are deluding themselves if they don't accept that people vote along ethnic lines.

GEOFFREY ALDERMAN: I went to Northwold Road school and then the Grocer’s Company's School Hackney Downs, which, in its time was the best state school in the country. From there I went to Oxford. I am the official historian of Hackney Downs school and when I went to the school it was so Jewish that it closed on the Jewish holidays, there was no point in keeping it open. The few Christian boys there wanted to know when the Jewish holidays were so they could find out when the school would be shut.

I’m not sure if the Jewish community is larger or smaller than it was, probably larger now. My grandfather moved from Spitalfields to Hackney circa 1937 and rented the property my parents later bought in Walsingham Road. The Jewish community I grew up in in the 1950s and 60s was traditional but, on the whole, not a strictly practising Jewish community. The black hat Jews of Stamford Hill today were in a tiny minority then and they were exotic oddities.

The area began to change character in the 1960s after the Hungarian uprising which the Soviets brutally repressed. The Hassidic Jews survived the holocaust in Hungary and began to move into Hackney in the 1960s. Now they form the majority of Jews there.

But as a youngster I never saw many Hassidic Jews, may be one or two, now they form the majority of Hackney Jewry and demographically they are the fastest growing section of British Jewry. In Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington you will find families of of 11, 12, 13. This has been one of the pressures for planning permission.

In Modern British Jewry I deal with the political organisation of the Orthodox Jews in Hackney. When I was doing the research in the late 70s and early 80s it was already evident to me that the growing ultra-orthodox community (acted) through Agudas Israel, an organisation which functions as a mini-welfare state, and which publishes a weekly paper, the Jewish Tribune, .

A very important part in this community has been played by Joe Lobenstein, four times Mayor of Hackney. In my book The Jewish Community in British Politics I mention him and the pioneering work he was doing especially in reviving Conservative politics amongst Jews in Hackney.

But he, I believe, was getting ultra-orthodox Jews to vote for him because he was Jewish, not because of the party he was in. This tendency was definitely being observed by me in the late 1970s – Jews voting for Jewish candidates irrespective of their party politics.

One might ask, is this democracy? Well of course it is. These Jews are British, they pay taxes and they vote. Who are you or I to tell them how to vote? If they want to vote in a particular way then that is their right, whether you celebrate it or despise it.

May I make a general point here? I don’t think we in England, or London have yet got used to the idea of an ethnic political system. In the US, ethnic politics is so conventional they don’t bat an eyelid. There’s the Jewish vote, the Irish vote, the Italian vote. They are used to an ethnic based politics. We are not.

When I started investigating it in the 1970s everyone was talking about class and how you had to understand class. Class - it was said - was the basis of the British political system, everything else was embellishment. But I saw something else in Hackney and it was more like the situation in the US, where socio-economic class is less important and ethnicity and religion are - often - much more important.

In the book I also refer to the fact that Agudas Israel was already beginning to acquire a level of sophistication. In another book I published in the 1980s on London Jewry, I also noted how Agudas Israel had taken the trouble to rebrand itself to get resources for its community as Hackney descended into a battleground between competing ethnic factions.

It had previously described itself as Jewish rather than as representing an ethnic minority. Previously the Jews of Hackney had projected themselves as British people. Agudas Israel was sensitive to the rise in ethnic politics and said: “We’re not part of the working class, we’re an ethnic minority and we're discriminated against. We need resources."

Agudas Israel went along to the Ken Livingstone-led Labour faction that then controlled the Greater London Council. This faction paid attention. Agudas Yisroel played the game brilliantly.

I am fascinated by the relationship between the left-wing Diane Abbott and this community. On the face of it they have nothing in common. She stands for things such as democracy, free speech and women's rights. These are anathema amongst the chassidim of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill. One has only to read the anti-feminist and anti-black rhetoric put out by the Jewish Tribune to see that this is so. As for the gays, the Tribune wouldn't even dare mention the term.

I recall that in 1978 there was terrible scandal when the Yiddish Tribune ran a piece criticising Greville Janner for defending black people in Parliament. The publishers didn’t realise that other people might speak Yiddish and the following week the West Indian World translated this appalling editorial. That doesn’t happen any more, but not because the views have changed but because the Jewish Tribune knows other people can understand Yiddish."

How many Jewish councillors are women? None. Why? Because the type of orthodoxy in Stamford Hill allocates a certain role to women: to get married, have as many children as possible and to maintain a Kosher home. And in the home it is the woman who is the boss, not the man.

How many female Orthodox Jewish school governors are there? Only the minimum required by law. However they can be teachers and head teachers but they cannot be in a position of political leadership. And as far as this community is concerned there is no such thing as a female Rabbi. Outside the home it is a male dominated society. It is ruled by Rabbis, it is a theocracy. (Alderman said that this might be changing as Bella Sharer, wife of Ian Sharer, leader of the Lib Dems in Hackney, is standing in the May 6 elections.)

Every article, every advertisement in the Jewish Tribune is approved by a Rabbinical censor. If you are defamed by the Jewish Tribune you can’t go to the PCC, it is one of only a handful of UK papers that is not a member.

That said, the community is generally disinterested in wealth and its members do tend to help each other when help is needed. The men "learn" Talmud all the day and it is the women who go to work. Interestingly, this community has no problem in principle with women working and there are some very wealthy women in the community.

Whether you or I like the community is irrelevant. The community is very well organised, very hospitable and very successful. Its members may dress in ways we find peculiar, but you won't find its youngsters involved in gun and knife crime that is, alas, so rampant now in the Hackney I once knew.

Lib Dems leave Hackney strategy in a pub - is there an opposition conspiracy?

Apparently the Lib Dems left their election strategy for Hackney in the Wellington Pub on Balls Pond Road last week. Blood and Property has been told that the Labour activists who found it were not particularly surprised by its contents but were pleased for the confirmation.

The document allegedly says the target wards for Lib Dem canvassing are Cazenove, Brownswood, Hoxton and Hackney Central.

A source told Blood and Property that the combined campaign efforts of the Lib Dems, Greens and Conservatives look as if they may have been co-ordinated. So are opposition parties doing their best not to step on each others toes?

The conspiracy theory is that the Greens are targeting Stoke Newington Central and Clissold while the Conservatives are concentrating on the wards they already hold but also on Queensbridge and De Beauvoir.

If all of these were successful, then Hackney would have a hung council.

Matt Sellwood spotted the Labour Party habit of pushing this hung council phobia earlier this month. He provided a detailed break down with pie-charts and all: Labour's hung council ploy

Hopefully there is some truth in the conspiracy theories. May be the opposition parties should be working together. With any luck they'll have a bit more power to hold the Labour monolith to account after May 6.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Hackney Citizen's grand design

I was ensnared by the Hackney Citizen's general election debate late last night. I don't know what I was expecting but I only aimed to look at it for a maximum of 10 mins. May be an hour later I found myself composing a comment (by then it was 1.30am) which I then posted by accident - and then had to post again to dig myself out of a hole.

But the Hackney Citizen (and Hackney Voice) project is worth a look. There's an impressive response rate from candidates but the real story might be in who didn't answer what questions.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Hackney South Conservative responds to conflict of interest claim

Blood and Property received this email from Simon Nayyar - Hackney South and Shoreditch candidate for the Conservative Party - in response to this article: Darren Caplan and Simon Nayyar... is this criticism fair? (Link to Darren Caplan's response is here.)

Simon Nayyar wrote: "I should be happy if you would post the following response on your blog so that readers can know exactly where I stand on this issue:

1. I am totally and unambiguously committed to supporting small businesses in Hackney South & Shoreditch. Because of Labour's disastrous management of the economy and lack of empathy with their needs, small businesses in Hackney have really suffered over the past few years. They deserve the support of all of us: for it is small businesses that will power Hackney out of recession and generate the jobs that Hackney desperately needs.

2. I support the role that larger companies can play to generate wealth, create jobs and, through the corporation tax that they pay, help reduce Britain's national debt which, thanks to Labour's reckless spending, is now at record levels. A diverse economy needs a diverse range of businesses to provide consumers with the choice they want and have a right to expect. I do not see supermarkets posing a threat to small businesses. On the contrary, supermarkets and small businesses alike can play an important part in generating jobs in Hackney South & Shoreditch which, because of Labour's policies locally, has one of the highest levels of joblessness in London.

3. I do not personally advise ASDA or any other supermarket chain.

4. It is a matter of record that I work for a public affairs business. I have never made any attempt to hide the fact. On the contrary, my website specifically says that this is the kind of work that I do:

5. The business I work for seeks to be entirely transparent about the clients that it advises and, as such, voluntarily subscribes to the Code of Conduct and Register of the Association of Professional Political Consultants:

6. I believe that public service is a privilege. Unlike the Labour MP, Meg Hillier, I have already publicly stated that, if I am elected on 6 May, I do not intend to claim for parliamentary expenses. Also, unlike Meg Hillier, I will make immediate arrangements to move to live in the constituency.

Simon Nayyar
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Hackney South & Shoreditch
020 8144 4458

Black voters deserting Diane: Lib Dems

Lib Dem Hackney North candidate Keith Angus claims that Clegg-o-mania is stealing black voters - specifically Afro-Caribbeans - away from Diane Abbott.

In a post today he wrote: "There has been a shift in sentiment along these lines for a while. But not like this. The most interesting shift I’ve noticed is among Afro-Caribbean people. It’s fair to say that Diane Abbott’s vote among the Afro-Caribbean community was strong. But that now seems to be falling away."

Hopefully Diane will provide her observations from the front line too.

Darren Caplan: open letter to Blood and Property

Open letter to 'Blood and Property' readers (In response to this)

1. I believe in supporting local businesses. I would like corporation tax and red tape cut, and Labour's planned National Insurance jobs tax prevented, so that local businesses can grow and create more local jobs.

2. I would like large businesses such as Tesco to see their business taxes similarly reduced, so they can continue being a successful part of UK plc, and employ more people. This, in my opinion, does not threaten local businesses - the economy needs to grow for everyone, and the government should try neither to pick nor prevent winners.

3. I am the Director of B2L Public Affairs, the public affairs practice of Brands2Life, a full-service communications agency. Tesco is not, nor has ever been, a B2L Public Affairs client. For a list of clients, see the B2L Public Affairs listing in the Association of Professional Political Consultants register, which is publicly available for anyone to see at any time -

4. My background is included on my website profile, and includes professional public affairs experience - see I refer readers in particular to the following section:

"Since 2001 I have been working in communications on integrated public relations and public affairs projects to raise the profile of client campaigns. It’s said by some that this means I do not live in the real world, but the kind of campaigns I work on - whether helping to secure political and community support for hospitals such as the nearby Royal London, promoting advanced ‘Building Schools for the Future’ technology or widening telecoms and digital access for all - benefit many people, most of whom one can safely say ‘live in the real world’! Part of the work that I do means that I know how Westminster works, and so can use this knowledge to the benefit of people living in Hackney."

5. I would like to point out that B2L Public Affairs is a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, the self-regulatory body for UK public affairs professionals in the consultancy sector - see To be accepted, APPC members need to demonstrate that they are open and transparent about who their clients and staff are, and that they adhere to a Code of Conduct, ensuring high standards. Furthermore, APPC member staff are not allowed to hold parliamentary passes to carry out their work, and so have no more access to the political world than any other member of the public, including parliamentary candidates.

6. 'Blood and 'Property' is right to infer that the voters of Hackney North & Stoke Newington are entitled to know whether I would be a good Member of Parliament for them. The answer is to judge me on my track record as your MP. I have made it clear that as the MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington, I would focus on three areas which I believe are currently the priorities in the constituency - more jobs, better schools and cutting knife and gun crime, which is tragically costing lives. If I fail to deliver on these, voters should vote me out at the next available election.

In summary, if elected as your MP, I would look forward to using my professional experience to help get local businesses supported and creating as many jobs as possible. If readers would like to know more please do get in touch - I would be delighted to hear from you.

Yours sincerely

Darren Caplan
Conservative parliamentary candidate for Hackney North & Stoke Newington
07956 820145 (m)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Darren Caplan - the corrections...and dinner

Darren Caplan has pointed out an error in an earlier story: Darren Caplan on women's bodies (the corrections have been made and he has left a full comment after the post.)

He also telephoned to say he'd replied in the comments section. During the conversation he said that he may respond to the other story: Darren Caplan, Simon Nayyar...are these criticism's fair?

The story repeats claims from this story:Move over MPs expenses, there's a new scandal in town. (Incidently the same excerpts from the same article were published in the comments section of Luke's Blog on April 2.)

The criticism is that both Darren Caplan and Simon Nayyar work for lobbying firms that represent supermarkets Tesco and Asda respectively, but claim to support local businesses in their campaigns.

Caplan told Blood and Property that he did not work on the Tescos account and added that a number of prospective MPs come from this profession including Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

Blood and Property hopes he'll be able to answer a few more questions about what the job entails - whether standing in an election is just a good thing for a Lobbyist to have on his CV, or whether Hackney could benefit from an MP trained in the dark arts?

And while you wait, here's a 40 minute video debate with Darren Caplan: Question Dine in which he deals with questions on voting at 16 and immigration, all in a dinner party setting. I enjoyed the 15 minutes I watched.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Darren Caplan, Simon Nayyar - is this criticism fair?

This story was posted on 1st April (it doesn't look like an April fool) on Yahoo News: Move over MPs expenses, there's a new scandal in town

It says: "Hackney South and Shoreditch Conservative candidate Simon Nayyar is campaigning on a ‘save our local shops' ticket. Meanwhile, the company for which he is head lobbyist, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, represents Asda, owned by US giant Walmart - aka the company that killed off local shops in America." To check Spinprofiles

"Darren Caplan is standing in neighbouring Hackney North and Stoke Newington and, like Nayyar, he is spearheading a "support local businesses" campaign, "so those out of work have more opportunities to find new jobs." Also in common with Nayyar, he heads up lobbying for the PR firm Brands2Life, whose clients include Tesco, the friend of local business!" and B2L seems to confirm this

On this website Caplan says: "The B2L Public Affairs practice is headed by me, Darren Caplan. I have extensive political and influencer campaigning experience in Westminster and local/regional politics." Probably a very normal lobbyists CV, but what influencing has he been doing in "local/regional politics"?

Corrected: Darren Caplan on Women's bodies

Darren Caplan pops up in this debate: "Politics: Women and body image"

According to Annie Loves he said: "“I accept that having projections of the ‘body beautiful’ everywhere doesn’t help in getting positive messages across. But we should be seeking to make stronger citizens, not doctor the environment in which they grow up.”

(The original incorrect version: According to Annie Loves he said: "All these pictures around us bombard us with the message that unless you’re young, white, thin and beautiful – in inverted commas – then you’re really not worth very much.” In fact this comment was made by Janice Williams, the director of Object. Darren has provided his full statement in the comments)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

God on her side?

Back in February Blood and Property posted a story called "Brain cancer will not halt Christian bid for Diane's seat". It came from the Scotsman which reported that the Reverend George Hargreaves - the leader of the Hackney-based Christian Party - had pulled out of an election because his wife, Maxine, had fallen ill with cancer.

The paper said that Maxine Hargreaves had already recovered once from the disease and had undergone brain surgery in 2007. It also said that she still aimed to take on Diane Abbott in Hackney South and Shoreditch.

Yesterday her candidacy for Hackney North and Stoke Newington was announced.

How serious a threat does she pose? In February Diane Abbott told Blood and Property: "A large proportion of my constituents go to church so understanding religion is important to me. Huge amounts of money are being poured into the Christian Party here in Hackney, as your blog has pointed out. This seems to suggest religion may be on the agenda of politicians in the future but it will only really make a difference if candidates can win the support of people outside of their churches as well as within them."

The Christian Party now has the backing of some rich and powerful figures: Hackney Christians: money, power, demonic possession.

It also came 7th in the 2009 European elections, behind the BNP, in the London Region winning 51,336 votes (2.9%). (These figures are from Wikipedia which is worth a look for an interesting set of policies ranging from music copyright law to "discouragement of the practice of addressing women as Ms")

The success of the party, or the damage it could inflict on Labour in Hackney, will depend on how large the borough's fundamentalist Christian population is. Many of these could come from the African community which Hargreaves has been targeting, at home and abroad: Hackney Christian politician in BNP 'mistake'

However Hargreaves and his party are not well regarded in some quarters. On April 2nd the Guardian described Rev Hargreaves as "The black man who could help the BNP win Barking"

On Tuesday April 20th, the BBC published a piece called "Will Christians swing the 2010 election?" It concentrated on marginals and quoted Rev Hargreaves saying his party could have a "king-maker" role in some constituencies.

The Christian Party was started by Rev Hargreaves in 2004 and took on its current name at the end of 2005 (according to Wikipedia) so it has not stood candidates in a General Election before.

The party is also fielding a candidate in Hackney South and Shoreditch and in the borough's Mayoral elections.

Chops, changes, councillor controversies...

This morning Matthew Coggins, leader of Hackney's Conservative group, expressed a little frustration at Blood and Property's "obsession" with the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. It was much the same as the frustration expressed by Conservative mayoral candidate, Andrew Boff, when he answered Blood and Property's 'distasteful' questions two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Ian Sharer, leader of Hackney's Lib Dems, who is an ultra-orthodox Jew, expressed no such frustration.

Luckily both Sharer and Coggins were happy to discuss the changes that have taken place in their candidate line-ups.

And the most interesting changes appear to be those affecting the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

The fates of two are of particular interest. Joseph Stauber, who was a Lib Dem councillor in Cazenove ward from 2002 until he defected to Labour in 2008, will not be standing again. He was the only ultra-orthodox Labour councillor in Hackney.

And Simon Tesler, former ultra-orthodox Jewish Conservative councillor for Lordship, was de-selected. He has decided to stand as an independent in the ward.

Tesler was one of six ultra-orthodox Jewish councillors in the Conservative Group. But he has been replaced by Alexander Ellis, who was the Conservative candidate for the GLA in 2008.

The swapping of Tesler for Ellis is not totally straight forward. The Conservative decision to drop Tesler might have been made more painful because the party also took on a new ultra-orthodox Jewish councillor to replace a departing Jacob Landau.

Via a chain of replacements, Landau's departure made an opening for Benzion Tapier. This could be seen as a double snub for Tesler and might explain his decision to stand as an independent.

Tesler could still argue that he isn't splitting the "Jewish vote" (an interesting article) by standing because he has not been replaced by an ultra-orthodox Jewish councillor. He is simply relying on those who supported him before. A Labour source said that this rift in the Conservative Party could make the ward an interesting one to watch.

Matthew Coggins, said that Tesler's position had disproved the theory that ulta-orthodox Jewish councillors don't stand against each other.

But according to Lib Dem leader Ian Sharer, this practice is very much still the norm.

Sharer has always been open about the tendency of ultra-orthodox Jews not to stand against each other in elections. In January he told Blood and Property: "It is not a scriptural thing. The basic thing is that the Jewish community votes for Jewish councillors. They don't care which party you're in. They support you if you're Jewish."

He said that having more than one Jewish candidate in an election made it "confusing" and that these conflicts could get "nasty and a bit silly". He said that tactical voting of this kind took place in various forms in all politics.

He said that Stauber wasn't standing again in Cazenove because they were friends and didn't want to stand against each other.

But he made no bones about the fact that he and Abraham Jacobson were the only two ultra-orthodox Jewish councillors standing in the ward and that they are both Lib Dems because Jewish people don't like standing against each other.

Even so, why hasn't Stauber, the Labour party's only ultra-orthodox Jewish Councillor, managed to find another seat? He certainly tried to find one. What could have stopped him standing for Labour in Stamford Hill?

A Labour source said that Stauber "has taken it very well and still wants to be involved" adding that he hoped that it would be possible to find a way for him back onto the council. He also said that the Labour Party had always been keen to have a representative from the ultra orthodox Jewish community.

Another interesting fact is that Ian Sharer's wife, Bella Sharer, is standing in Brownswood. In doing so (and she's stood in elections before) she will (I've been told) be breaking new ground for women in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. According to her husband, the seat she is contesting this time is much more winnable.

Nominations for council elections closed on April 8. Here's the full list of candidates broken down into wards.

Changes in the Labour Party are more numerous but don't seem to be controversial. You can find the Labour ward candidates here.

LIB DEM buzz.

Ian Sharer, Matthew Coggins and the Labour Party source, were all aware that there has been a significant rise in Lib Dem support in the borough. Sharer didn't want to put a figure on the change but simply said he'd never seen anything like it.

He said he didn't quite believe that people who had voted Labour for twenty years would be able to make the change.

Labour said that the Lib Dem threat could prove a problem in wards where the Greens are already weak but in wards where Greens are strong, the shift to the Lib Dems could help Labour.

Apologies for not mentioning anything about Green candidates, I didn't have time. Interesting piece on Luke's Blog about recycling of Green councillors.

I'm also hoping to write up the hustings from last night at Hackney Community college - most interesting moment was the reaction to Meg Hillier's comment along the lines of: "If you went to Lithuania would you expect the Lithuanians to pay for you to learn their language?"

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Is anyone policing Hackney's PR department?

Over the last 12 months it looks like only one senior Hackney Council officer has publicly argued against cuts in their department.

Polly Rance, head of the borough's media and communications department said her department should not be cut during the recession. But would she allow the heads of other council departments to defend themselves from job cuts in a public arena?

In her latest piece in PR Week she defends Hackney Today, part of her communications empire: Councils would welcome resolution on publications debate (April 21 2010)

In an earlier piece (October 9 2009) she made a case for maintaining the size of the communications department:"In a recession the need for clear, accessible comms is greater than ever, as residents seek advice on debt, jobs and housing."

Compare Rance's recession plan with that of another Hackney Council officer who has been in the press - Gifty Edila, head of the borough's legal department. When she was interviewed by The Lawyer in November 2009, she said: “We’re in a recession and that’s impacting on the public sector, but we have to make sure we streamline resources while recruiting really talented people to fill the large number of vacancies we carry.”

Phrases like "streamline" and "large number of vacancies" are not used by Rance.

Is the communications department on a level playing field with other council departments?

Another council officer who has been interviewed or written for the press in the last year is Risthardh Hare, group head in the borough's social services, he reviewed the film Precious for the Guardian.

There may be more - I haven't seen them.

Hackney candidate faces repossession and other issues

Independent Hackney South and Shoreditch candidate, Denny de la Haye, answers his own selection of Blood and Property questions.

In the piece he reveals that the financial crisis has put his home at risk: "As it happens I'm in danger of having my flat repossessed since I lost my job last year, so I'm painfully aware of the ongoing problems the recession has left us with."

(Denny will not be on the panel of a hustings tonight at Hackney Community College - April 21 - but he will be in the audience.)

Blood and Property: Do you expect communities to be self-interested for
a multicultural system to work?

Denny de la Haye: Quite the opposite... I think the strength of London these days is that it's a cultural melting-pot. You can see this particularly well in school-children, with friendship groups often clearly crossing two or more ethnic groups, and those differences meaning nothing difficult to those young people - they're aware of them, but not troubled by them. I think for our multicultural society to work really well, we need to be aware of and interested in each other's cultures, and maybe take some of the best bits from each of them.

(Incidentally, I was obviously intrigued by Meg's reply that "We have a party system in this country and people will look at what policies work for them". The party system explicitly does not let people vote on policies - it requires you to vote for a party, and buy into their whole
manifesto. My 'direct digital democracy' system will let people really vote on what individual policies work for them!)

Blood and Property: Does it matter if you have large, politically active communities, that do act with a certain level of self interest – or promote issues that affect this community?

Denny de la Haye: I think this is a natural tendency that might have a lot of its negative side taken away if you let people vote 'per policy' instead of having one 'overall' vote. People will be less tempted to clump into clans and more interested in looking at how each individual
policy on its merits. As I said in my last interview with you, if a particular group is very engaged by a particular issue, then they will tend to be well-informed about it and I think that's a great reason to let them make decisions about it. If their position is countered by an opposing group, then you'll see some interesting debate and that will help others form their own opinion.

Blood and Property: How important do you think religion is in terms of understanding Hackney? Is it a big issue or not really?

Denny de la Haye: I'm not religious myself, but as with many other issues of personal belief, this is completely irrelevant to how I'd perform as a direct democracy MP. The fact that my vote on each issue is mandated by the public in an open and transparent way means that my
personal opinions are very secondary when considering me as a candidate. What I'm offering is a choice on each issue as it arises, instead of a single choice of a potentially unrepresentative representative.

Blood and Property: Do you think that Hackney has seen the worst of the
financial crisis?

Denny de la Haye: Quite possibly, yes. I think a recession always bites hardest at the bottom, and Hackney has a lot of people who are struggling financially, including many people living in poverty (defined as having an income lower than 60% of the national average). As it happens I'm in danger of having my flat repossessed since I lost my job last year, so I'm painfully aware of the ongoing problems the recession has left us with. We might be out of the recession in theory, but I don't think many people are feeling that at street level yet - and those
problems are clearly worse the lower your income is and the harder it is for you to find work in the present economic climate.

Blood and Property: Have things got much worse though, since the financial crisis?

Denny de la Haye: They certainly did for me, and I'm pretty sure I had it easy compared to some.

Blood and Property: How seriously do you think Hackney would be affected if a Conservative government came into power?

Denny de la Haye: Well, as Meg observed one of the main employers in Hackney is actually the council. The Tories are aiming to reduce the size of government at all levels if I understand their 'big society' plan correctly, so presumably that's not going to help the ongoing situation with unemployment in this area. As for their other policies, they've mostly been keeping them to themselves for now, so it's hard to say anything clear about them - but generally I'm distrustful of 'yet another political party' at this point, and I think a lot of people
share that feeling.

Let's hope for a hung Parliament, with a healthy number of independents keeping a watch on things without party whips telling them what to do!

Blood and Property: Do you think that in places like Hackney, or Tower Hamlets, that council departments and staff become politicised?

Denny de la Haye: I think that councils tend to have quite a strong in-house culture, but I'm not sure if it's politicised towards the prevailing party so much as a thing in its own right. A couple of the local Labour councillors actually knocked my door before I'd decided to run myself, and asked whether I'd be voting Labour. They didn't seem interested in defending the national party at all, in fact they seemed very aware that the national party was probably hurting their local prospects at this point. I certainly didn't get an impression of a closely-tied local and national Labour party 'machine' from that experience, which I think is a good thing.

Blood and Property: What about crime?

Denny de la Haye: My only experience of being a victim of crime in London was not long after I moved into Hackney - nothing serious, just someone did quite a lot of damage to my car. I went to the police station and they gave me a form and told me to bring it back when I'd filled it in. I asked what else would happen after that and they said 'probably nothing', so I didn't bother. I don't think that experience is particularly unique to Hackney - I suspect that crime figures are falling because of statistical tricks and under-reporting far more than because of an actual reduction in crime. If I'm right that might explain why people's fear of crime isn't falling - people know how safe or unsafe their area is, regardless of how the statistics are doctored
from year to year to show us steady improvement.

As far as I understand it, 'bobbies on the beat' is actually one of the least effective ways of reducing crime levels, so it's only really a publicity win (reduces the fear of crime without reducing crime). It seems a shame that the number of bobbies on the beat has been made into
a measure of success by both Labour and Tories - it seems that they care more about the perception than the reality.

Blood and Property: Do you think it is healthy that so many of the borough's schools are now academies - and whether it matters that these schools are not subject to the freedom of information act?

Denny de la Haye: I wasn't aware that academies were exempt from FoI, that's quite obviously a problem. Any public-funded body (including a great number of quangos) should be subject to FoI legislation.

Commenting on Blood and Property's Jules Pipe interview:

Denny de la Haye: I'll second the comment on his interview about it being very odd for him to claim that the Tories are Labour's main Parliamentary opposition in both Hackney constituencies - that's not what it looks like to me from a quick glance at the last few election results. That said, obviously I hope to present some serious opposition in Hackney South and Shoreditch this time round, given the unique nature of my platform.

NOTE: Denny chose these questions from ones that had already been put to other politicians.

These were
Andrew Boff interview
Meg Hillier Interview
Jules Pipe interview
Diane Abbott interview

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Empire boss accuses Boff of "great naivety"

The Stage covers Andrew Boff's proposals for the Hackney Empire: "Interim chief executive of Hackney Empire, Clarie Middleton, said that she thought the proposals showed “great naivety”, adding that the council grant would have to increase ten-fold in order to sustain the theatre as a producing venue."

And in case this wasn't clear, she didn't just criticise his proposals, she told The Stage: "This man is Naive."

Hackney police chief's odd reassurances

Hackney's borough commander attempted to reassure people after the death of Agnes Sina-Inakoju. Steve Bending told the Hackney Gazette it was "an extraordinarily rare incident".

But was it?

Feb 17 - Seven shots fired into a Hackney Chinese takeaway on Chatsworth Road. No one was hurt.

March 5 - Three shots fired at teenagers leaving fried chicken shop on Well Street. One shot in the arm. (Page 2 Hackney Gazette March 11 - couldn't find it online)

April 14 - One shot fired into chicken and pizza shop in Hoxton. Agnes Sina-Inakoju dies.

(Very late UPDATE :
22nd May Bystander seriously injured in London Fields shooting incident.)

I'm not sure how the last one qualifies as "an extraordinarily rare incident".

The Feb 17 incident was only made public after a statement was asked for. Have there been other takeaway shootings that have not been made public by the police?

Steve Bending's statement also included this: "To get it into proportion, the number of firearms arrests is actually very small." Is that reassuring?

May be he feels compelled to provide an antidote to comments like these: "The increase in gangland violence is a threat to everyone - and every parent is now worried their child will get caught up in a shooting or knife incident." (Darren Caplan (Con) speaking to Stokenewington People)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Black commentator mobilises against Suzanne Moore

Darcus Howe, writing in the Voice, didn't sound too concerned about the traditional Lib Dem, Green and Conservative challengers to Diane Abbott, just the independent Suzanne Moore.

"And lo and behold a journalist from the Daily Mail, Suzanne Moore, pops her head above the parapet to challenge Diane Abbott in the coming election in a seat she has held for 23 years...

"I phoned Diane immediately after I read Moore’s rant offering her my services. I have friends and acquaintances in that constituency. I will ring around inviting them to participate in my one in ten mobilisation. Each one will be invited to mobilise ten friends and associates and each of the ten will mobilise another ten and so on.

"Suzanne Moor has little interest in the issues at large, those that affect black and Asian people, particularly in these sad and racist times."

Hackney Citizen: Boff-tastic or intelligence wing of the Green Party?

Keith Magnum, founder of the Hackney Citizen, confesses that the paper's website looks a bit "Boff-tastic" at the moment. It's full of the various gripes of the Conservative Mayoral candidate, Andrew Boff.

This is odd considering Magnum stood as a Green Party candidate in Clissold in the last election (2006). What's doubly odd is that there is no Mischa Borris, the Green Party Mayoral candidate, in the paper's who's who for the Hackney Mayoral race.

I hoped this could mean one of two things. Either the Boff interest was a double bluff and Magnum was master-minding - in his own words - "the intelligence wing of the Green Party" or hated his former colleagues at the Green Party so much he'd turned to the Conservatives.

But Magnum said neither interpretation was correct: "I left the Green Party. I left because I didn't think being a member of a local party would be compatible with what I'm doing now. I'm still friendly with them but I'm not involved in it."

Apparently the lack of Green stories is because the Green launch has come a bit later than the others. "We're not avoiding them... I've known them for ages and I still speak to them. But it's not like this is the intelligence wing of the Green Party, they don't know anything before it gets published."

So, what's with all the Boff coverage - as opposed to the lack of Borris coverage ? "We've done stuff with Andrew Boff just because it's interesting." He said Boff had approached them with his story about the council refusing to print his election address.

Magnum - who has no background in journalism (I failed to ask him what his professional background was) - said "Hackney Council rejects mayoral candidates election address" was a "brilliant story" but hard to substantiate, which was probably a pop at the Hackney Press office which took its time confirming Boff's story.

Magnum says: "When I look at our homepage, it does look a bit Boff-tastic, but he's just given us the best stories." As an antidote he says Boff might have slightly brought the problem on himself by not attending relevant meetings and leaving it all to the last minute.

In contrast Magnum says the Greens have provided press releases about more money for pensioners which, while worthy, are unlikely to prompt the kind of reactions that Boff's problems have - lots of comments can be found at the end of the story.


Otherwise, has the Hackney Citizen overtaken the Hackney Gazette as the borough's main newspaper? While Magnum can point to a print run of 20,000 free newspapers, a statistician might balk at comparing this to the Gazette's weekly 8,000 sold newspapers. But according to Magnum his 20,000 probably means a readership of around 60,000.

Compared to the Gazette's full time editorial staff of 7 - four reporters, news editor, deputy editor, editor (that doesn't include sport, advertising or circulation) the Hackney Citizen doesn't have any paid staff. According to Magnum, the advertising revenue goes back into the circulation.

Meanwhile Magnum says he's watching for any web activity from Archant which owns the Gazette. He says the privately owned newspaper group has upgraded some of its local news sites.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Hackney Raving Loony PR stunt success

The BBC reports the Hackney North and Stoke Newington Monster Raving Loony Party candidate's plans for Londoners to use floating bicycles.

Meanwhile these Hackney blogs/websites have put in some hours to investigate issues in the borough.

Loving Dalston exposes idiotic bicycle rules on East London Line.

East London Lines uses Freedom of Information Act to investigate unused property in Hackney while 15,000 are on the housing waiting list.

Stokey Talk talks about the value of votes in Hackney
and more recently about the East London Line extension and general election in general.

Hackney Voice unearths the precarious fate of Hackney Wick's artist community

And Hackney Citizen sets up online Q&A with candidates from the borough's two constituencies (you need to register before 5pm on April 25th to take part).

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Is Green really red?

In this interview, Matt Sellwood, prospective MP for Hackney North and candidate for Clissold ward councillor says: "Increasingly, socialists who used to be in both the Labour Party and the far-left grouplets are joining the Greens, which is leading to a reassessment of how we achieve social change, what getting elected means, and how to best use our elected positions to change the world."

Has something changed in the Green Party since Red Pepper published this Greens on trial in 2008? Back then the magazine quoted the Green Party’s national election agent saying: "Many Green Party members wouldn’t like to describe themselves as left. If we positioned ourselves as explicitly left it would be dangerous, with no guarantee of success. We need to keep our reputation on the environment."

According to this 2008 Guardian article there has been a change and there is a reason: "The Greens are now only Green in name and the reason lies in the creation of Green Left in 2006, a leftwing entryist movement that now occupies many of the most powerful positions in the party. Founded by Peter Tatchell, among others, Green Left is an avowedly anti-capitalist movement. Like many people, I revere Peter Tatchell as a national treasure, but I would never vote for him."

So is this "entryism"? And do Hackney voters know what they're actually voting for? Labour Councillor Luke Akehurst, who gets a mention and has left a comment, appears to fear these same "far-left grouplets" entering the Labour Party.

Some interesting comments after this Socialist Resistance piece and in 2008 the Greens seemed to have a problem with a BNP.

Hackney Wick was saved by the recession: LDA

The Hackney Voice has posted an audio piece about how the artist community in Hackney Wick was on the brink of destruction at the hands of over-zealous developers. Eleanor Fawcett - head of Olympic legacy design coordination at the LDA - told the Hackney Voice that if the recession hadn't pulled the plug on "huge" and "insensitive" schemes Hackney Wick would have changed completely. And the change wouldn't have included a load of artists.

The piece also features Joanna Hughes who set up Mother Studios in Hackney Wick. From what she says, artists might need some kind of political representation. It sounds like no person or institution stepped-in to save the day - just a financial crisis. Vietnamese, Chinese and Polish communities have no representatives in Hackney council, should artists be added to that list?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Diane hypocrisy on DNA data base: Greens.

Worth a look from Matt Sellwood: "a potential constituent pointed out to me about a week ago, this vote on a Tory/Lib Dem amendment was the most recent opportunity for MPs to support the deletion of innocent people's DNA records as soon as they are found not guilty. Umm, Diane voted against it!"

Could it have something to do with this? Conservative curb on DNA data base underfire from Labour.

Some back ground on Hackney and DNA debate...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Dalston's East London Line opening cancelled

Tory Troll blog reports that the East London Line opening has been cancelled and cites a row over electioneering by Boris Johnson as the reason. He quotes the leader of city hall's labour group saying: "Boris Johnson is in chaos over his stunt to hold an official event using taxpayers' resources during an election campaign."

Monday, 12 April 2010

Boff answers Blood and Property's 'distasteful' questions

Andrew Boff is the Conservative Mayoral candidate for Hackney. He is currently a member of the London Assembly and will hold the seat until 2012. Some links: Wikipedia biography; His election website: (Also, there is an interesting piece in Hackney Citizen: Hackney Council rejects Mayoral candidate's election address)


1. Blood and Property: Do you think it is acceptable that Mayor Pipe has answered a similar set of questions to these via the Hackney Council Press office? Should tax payers money be used for this as an election nears?

Andrew Boff: This is one of the points that I'm trying to make about whether or not the Mayor should be paid. The Mayor should be a representative of the people, not subsumed into the bureaucracy of the Council. These questions are clearly related to the election. Using the press office would be highly inappropriate if that is what has happened.

2. Blood and Property: How significant is the PR/Comms department in Hackney? Do you think that it's senior figures - or any of the other departments in the council - have become politicised? And would you be able to work with them if you won the election?

ANDREW BOFF: To quote Government Minister Ben Bradshaw, “You’ve got local authorities that are spending a considerable amount of council taxpayers’ money employing armies of press officers to produce these propaganda sheets masquerading as newspapers. They remind me of (Soviet state newspaper) Pravda and papers I knew from my times in East Germany as a BBC correspondent. If the only information you’re getting is misleading propaganda put out by politicians from one particular party, I think that’s very dangerous.” Read Hackney Today and tell me it's not propaganda without giggling. There are some very good officers working in Hackney Council who can speak for themselves. The regime does not allow them to speak to the press, however, because Mayor Pipe wants to control the message. Under my Mayoralty officers would be allowed to speak for themselves, dispensing with the need for a large media management team.

Andrew Boff answered questions 3, 4 and 5 together below. He said he found them "distasteful" - (does this mean racist?). These are the questions:

3. How would you respond to the criticism that the Conservative Party in Hackney is a vehicle for an (ultra) orthodox Jewish political agenda rather than anything to do with the Conservative Party? (Must read for Hackney Politics)

4. Do you agree that (ultra) orthodox Jewish councillors rarely stand against each other in elections? Do you think it would matter if there was some kind of agreement within the Orthodox Jewish community for candidates not to stand against each other? Have you spoken to your Orthodox Jewish councillors about this issue? (Democracy Problem in Stamford Hill)

5. Last year Mayor Pipe accused Councillor Steinberger of putting the planning needs of the Orthodox Jewish community above the financial needs of the rest of the borough? (23,000 residents used as a bargaining chip, mayor claims) - are you concerned that this kind of prioritisation may be taking place with 2/3 of your councillors coming from the Charedi community?

ANDREW BOFF: Who is the criticism from? Nobody has said this to me. I'm not really one for conspiracy theories especially when it's directed against one section of the community. It's rather sinister. I've recently spoken out against the dangerous islamaphobic nonsense that Channel 4 and Jim Fitzpatrick MP have spread about the London Muslim Centre and these appear of the same ilk and I find them rather distasteful. Still, if I have to answer such questions - of the Conservative candidates in Hackney 11% are Orthodox Jewish 18% have a Caribbean/ African heritage, 4% are Turkish/Kurdish, 4% Polish and 2% Asian. The Conservative Party is a "vehicle" for all of us.

6. Blood and Property: Do you think it matters that Hackney's legal department was 25% understaffed during major development period - olympics, bishopsgate goods yard, dalston development. (Hackney legal department recruiting crisis)

ANDREW BOFF: I'd prefer the legal department to serve the interests of the people of Hackney, not just its administration. The Head of legal services letter to Lowell Grant (“Spirit”) which told him to “desist from misrepresenting the facts to the media” after the Council had corruptly taken away his home and business shows how that department has become a puppet of the political class in Hackney. No wonder they have problems keeping staff. (Easteight's coverage of Spirit's story)

7. Blood and Property: How much has the borough has changed in the last 10 years - demographically (there's some research claiming that Hackney North has the highest density of people with degrees in the country) Do you think this will change the make up of the voting patterns in the borough in your favour?

ANDREW BOFF: In Hackney, Conservatives have always had a better reception on the Council estates than in the wealthier streets. Now that even the wealthy are finding it difficult to afford Labour many are realising that if you want to vote for change, you may have to change your vote.

8. Blood and Property: To what extent do you think that changes in the borough are related to property prices and new people moving here - how easily do you think that this process could be reversed (i.e. do you think that many hackney residents see their homes as investments or just as homes?)

ANDREW BOFF: What is clear is that people brought up in Hackney are having greater difficulties staying here. The Council's policy of social cleansing doesn't help, with a large numbers of new dormitory developments and very very little for Hackney families. I will end the public subsidy of new one and two bedroom flats and ensure all that taxpayers money goes into building proper family homes, preferably with gardens. The overcrowding in Hackney is a severe problem and largely hidden. It has an effect on educational attainment, health and the cohesiveness of families. The Council doesn't seem to talk much about it though.

9. Blood and Property: Do you think that Hackney has suffered the worst effects of the financial crisis? Why is Hackney's employment situtation either improving more slowly than other boroughs? or degenerating faster than other boroughs?

ANDREW BOFF: The question is in the past tense and the past is not the biggest issue. The effects of the recession will carry on through the next few years and it will hit Hackney particularly hard. We already have the highest number of job applicants chasing each job (92) and I shudder to think of what is going to happen if we carry on with the current Council who have neglected their duty of care to help local residents find work. The example of only one Hackney resident on an apprenticeship on the Olympic site is a symbol of how rubbish the Council is at finding work for local people. It needs to be much more pro-active in assisting the unemployed.

10. Blood and Property: There is a fear that if the Conservatives win the next election, Hackney will see a substantial fall in financial support. Is this fear justified?

ANDREW BOFF: Whoever wins the General election will be cutting back on financial support to Hackney. That is the brutal reality of the financial crisis. The Government is paying out more than they are getting in. Their current policies are less to do with Keynesian stimulation of the economy and more about delaying the inevitable for as long as possible, well, after May 6th anyway.

11. Blood and Property: What sort of relationship does Jules Pipe have with Boris Johnson?

ANDREW BOFF: They have to have a constructive relationship. I do not know if Bozzer has ever invited him round for dinner.

12. Blood and Property: Do you think that you would be more effective at winning money and resources from Johnson's administration than Pipe?

ANDREW BOFF: Yes, because I am well placed, as a member of the London Assembly, to argue for the kind of things that Hackney needs. Having spent most of my life in proper jobs, becoming a paid politician in 2008 has given me the chance to campaign at the GLA for the things I think that Hackney needs such as more family housing, protecting small independent shops against the threat from chain stores and improving the London Plan in its attitude to street markets.

13. Blood and Property: Would a Conservative government and a Conservative Mayor of London be more benevolent towards Hackney if the borough had a Conservative Mayor?

ANDREW BOFF: They'd want to see a Mayor who was spending their financial support effectively rather than building plush new Town Halls, glossy marketing and jollies to Beijing. So yes, they probably would.

14. Blood and Property: Although crime in Hackney has fallen, other boroughs complain that Hackney has more policemen. Meanwhile, Hackney seems to rely on outside agencies like Operation Trident. If Boris Johnson cuts numbers of police officers, how will this affect Hackney?

ANDREW BOFF: The overall number of a Police Officers on the street will increase by 95.

15. Blood and Property: Also, while other boroughs are actively lobbying Johnson to siphon resources away from Hackney, can Hackney residents be sure that you will put in as many hours as a paid-up Mayor?


16. Blood and Property: To what extent do you think that the crime figure improvements in Hackney are down to numbers of police men in the borough?

ANDREW BOFF: The effectiveness of Police Officers (they can be women as well you know) is one part of making Hackney safer. However, there is an enormous amount of unreported crime especially that which is perpetrated against young people. We have also seen a disturbing increase in hate crimes and it appears that whilst the quantum of crime may have had a statistical improvement, the severity of crime has increased. This points to Police time being directed to the low hanging fruit to hit targets. The rise in knife crimes and anti-social behaviour indicates that there is not enough attention being given to issues around social deprivation, overcrowding, the shameful lack of positive activities for young people and the breakdown in community based self-policing . The Council has to abandon its hostility to people of good will in the community who are trying to make a difference. Only then will there be a truly sustainable and equitable decrease in crime.

17. Blood and Property: Do you think it is healthy that so many of the boroughs schools are now academies - and does it matter that these schools are not subject to the freedom of information act? - References here: Hackney academies: too good to be true?

ANDREW BOFF: I welcome there being more information about the academies coming into the public domain. The success of the academies comes not from their secrecy but their ability to manage themselves without the target-driven tick-box obsessed Learning Trust breathing down their necks. That dead hand and lack of trust is creating impossible pressures on excellent teachers and driving them out of the profession. The Learning Trust must be scrapped. It has been an abysmal failure. We need to bring trust back into education. Trust in the professionalism of the teachers, headteachers and parents who want to see their schools thrive.

18. Blood and Property: How important do you think religion and an understanding of religion might be in Hackney. Do you think that it will become more or less of an important factor in Hackney politics in the future? (There seems to be a lot of political activity in fundamental churches) and the orthodox jewish community is said to be growing fast and has specific requirements.

ANDREW BOFF: Understanding is generally a good thing. The secular media are curiously bi-polar when it comes to the activities of people with faith. If they separate themselves from the political process they are accused of not integrating, if they join political parties they are accused of entry-ism. The chattering all has a rather nasty taste to it. Hackney is the sum of its parts and must meet the needs of all its residents.

19. Blood and Property: Do you think the BNP will stand in the Hackney Mayoral elections this year: if so, how do you think it will affect the elections in the borough?

ANDREW BOFF: It now turns out that this was a hollow threat. That party works on creating mistrust between communities. That kind of approach has absolutely no place in Hackney. (Hackney Citizen covers Boffs BNP clash in the London Assembly)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Suzanne Moore: Unlike Abbott, my kids have gone to school here

I'm not sure how widely read the Mail on Sunday will be in Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Here's Suzanne Moore's piece about why she's standing against Diane Abbott: Something's got to change... that's why I'm standing for Parliament.

The story gets more interesting toward the end.

Suzanne says she could have gone for an easier target than Diane Abbott but: "In the past, vague overtures have been made to me for a safe Labour seat. For me this is another indictment of the current system. Why on earth should someone like me be super-imposed on some Northern town I have never been to? I am sure people have enough problems without some pretend local claiming to represent them. Is it naive to think you should know the place where you stand for election?"

She said: "I know my patch and I love where I live. I also know how unglamorous the problems are: poverty, unemployment, crime, a general feeling of lives closed down before they have properly started. Unlike Abbott, my kids have gone to school here. She has been an MP for 23 years and is now part of the Establishment. Change is needed."

But there wasn't much detail about what she wanted to happen in Hackney.

She said that there is "huge anger among voters, which is wrongly mistaken for apathy". In Hackney North and Stoke Newington, less than half of voters voted in 2005 and 2001 and just over half (52%) voted in 1997 and 63% in 1992. So Hackney North has been getting pretty apathetic/angry.

She said: "This is fundamentally DIY politics and I am learning every day. For as jaded as I may be, I am seeing that the process of democracy is alive if not well. In finding out how to stand I realise that we are made to think that becoming a candidate is incredibly difficult. It is not."

Friday, 9 April 2010

Hackney bookies takes big Lib Dem bet - Green, Labour who hates bookies most?

Proliferation of betting shops in Hackney could become one of the top election issues. It's already turning nasty in Stoke Newington.

Greens laid claim to the Hackney betting shop agenda in August 2009 - Greens thank Labour for joining their campaign and on page 8 of the Hackney Gazette 13 August 2009: Greens claim credit for clamp down on bookies.

According to Stoke Newington Labour councillors the Green Party has overdone itself on the issue and accuses the Greens of distributing a misleading leaflet. Apparently they've made unfounded claims about who worked hardest to stop Paddy Power opening in Stoke Newington.

Meanwhile quotes a Paddy Power spokesman yesterday: "Strangely, we've taken our biggest bet on a Liberal Democrat outright victory, £200 at 200/1. The punter, in Diane Abbott's Labour constituency of Hackney North, would be set for a potential return of more than £40,000 should Nick Clegg's party pull off one of the greatest shocks in parliament's 208 year election history."

Or from Diane Abbott's website (25 March 2010): "Hackney currently has 69 betting shops which is three times the national average.

“Applications like this are turning Hackney into a mini Las Vegas. I and the people of Hackney do not want the future of our borough to be gambled away like this. Hackney has high levels of unemployment and poverty and betting shops are a temptation to make money quick. They also attract crime and anti-social behaviour to surrounding areas without offering any benefit in return. The government and local councils need to act together to stop our high streets being dominated by the gambling industry before it is too late.”