Full Guardian Survey/Interview

The following was my responses to questions asked by the Guardian, of which only a paragraph was used. I gave this opinion in a personal capacity, however I do think people in my CLP should see what I said given I was quoted as being the CLP Secretary so here it is. 

Roughly, how does the membership divide its support between Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to see him replaced as Labour leader?

To respond I wish to highlight the following factual information:

  • Jeremy won by 59.5% of the Labour wide membership vote. 40% voted for someone else.
  • The data of how many of those 40% voted gave Jeremy their second preference is not known.
  • Our CLP in July 2015 did hold a Leadership Nominations ballot – Jeremy won 76% of the vote. Our membership at this time was about 900 members of which 200 were new and joined after Corbyn announced he was standing.
  • Since Jeremy became Leader our membership rose to 1700 (almost double) from Sept 12th – early Oct.
  • In the last two weeks, our membership has risen a further by 700+ members (however they will not get a vote given current rules).
  • At the end of June 2016, the local party did have a motion supporting Jeremy Corbyn, this was voted upon at our General Committee. It was passed with 90% of the vote.

With this in light, the response to your question is as follows:

We are yet to hold a Leadership nominations meeting for me to respond factually to this question. What I can say is Tottenham CLP does pride itself on being a ‘broad church party’ and there are of course people who did not and will not vote for Corbyn.

However there is no growth from what I can see in the numbers of members who have and always had this view.

Where the change has been is in the quantity of members compared last year and an assumption those who joined in Sept joined because Corbyn became Leader. They are able to now vote. This is the statistic that is important in my opinion.

As the other candidate(s) are yet to be decided (as they have yet to be given the nominations by the PLP) – I cannot say whether members are shifting there support elsewhere as that destination is yet to be offered.

Has that opinion changed in the wake of the Brexit vote? 

Again there is no official measurement that members are ‘blaming Corbyn’ for the results of the referendum.

Most members actually agree with Tony Blair’s analysis from 2-3 weeks ago on a Sunday morning politics show that the EU result we saw could be the same in the other 27 member states if they also held a referendum. Anti EU feeling is deeply entrenched in many communities across Europe and was never going to be untangled in such a short campaign.

In my experience, the party membership has never been in so much agreement about Tony Blair’s words – but we live in strange times.

Those who are using the narrative that Corbyn is to blame for Brexit are mainly from people who did not vote for him last time. Within that are a handful of members who did not assist in the EU Remain campaign and this can dilute the seriousness of their opinion, but it is their view and that has to be respected.

However, in answer to your question, I do not feel the Brexit vote has changed people’s minds about Corbyn either way.

Have there been discussions in your local party about a split in the party, if yes what do people think? 

No discussions of this nature have taken place.

Has the tone of your local membership meetings changed in the last few months?

Yes.

There is a great sense of pride and energy that so many Tottenham residents have decided to join the Labour party and our family.

There has been both an excitement to campaign for Sadiq Khan and also a great sense of pride that members from all or no sides of the party, old and new worked hard to give us the result we celebrate.

There was huge enthusiasm for the EU Referendum campaign, which was resourced by members time of which 70% were members who had been with us for under a year.

There is obviously disappointment and sadness that the country decided to vote out of the EU.

There is delight that so many members turned up to our 9 Branch AGMs held on 6th July and also that members both old and new were nominated to positions on the Executive Committee giving us both stability and new skills/energy to grow our party.

We are currently focused on the by-election in Tottenham and we have a fantastic candidate which members are out campaigning for every day.

I would say that the press and criticism (especially from MPs) that new members are getting is grossly unfair. Prior to Jeremy Corbyn standing, I would say 20-30 of our members out of the 700 were ‘active’, now I would say about 120-150 are (based on members in May/June of 1700). So our membership doubled and our activity tripled.

There are members who  have been with us for 10-20 years that I  have never seen or even got an email from. This illusion we had 100% activeness from older members and all of these new members do not contribute is a myth and is totally disrespectful to people who pay to be part of our party.

Members are people, they need to be welcomed, made to feel valued and also encouraged to take part. We put a lot of effort to do this, from social events to our Facebook group, but we realise we need to do more and are ready for that challenge. If new members are not engaging its for the party to change not the members.

Locally, what does the future look for Labour?

Tottenham has a Labour MP, all 9 wards have 3 Labour Councillors within them, our Assembly Member is Labour and our Mayor is Labour.

Tottenham is one of the most deprived areas in London and the UK with many other social issues that also require political attention. Locally, the future for Labour in Tottenham is to continue to make an impact on the residents who voted for us to tackle many of the social issues we face as a community.

Labour in Tottenham is in power and with that power comes responsibility and it’s a responsibility the Council Leader, The MP and the Assembly Member, regardless of what wing of the party they are from, take extremely seriously. Our residents have no time for us to be messing around with this internal battle, I am not sure where other MPs find the time, but our MP seems to be focused on the job.

When do you think Labour will next form a government? 

My understanding is the next election is not until 2020. I have every faith that if the party, especially the PLP focus we will win in 2020. We are a party, we all have responsibilities to make the Labour case in our constituencies and communities, it is all of our faults if we fail and to all of our credit when we succeed.

If we have a genuine concern about taking government at the next election, then our attention needs to be on Scotland. We cannot absolve Dugdale of responsibility claiming she needs more time following such a worrying losses in Scotland as she needs to tackle a problem 20 years in the making, but when it comes to Corbyn, who has stemmed the flow and we have won back City Hall, suddenly be the problem for us winning in 2020.

It gives the impression that some are not sincere about winning in 2020 when they distract us from where our real challenges lie.

This navel-gazing self-inflicted battle is not what we need and it is most certainly not what most members and voters want. The last 9 months of members of the PLP heavily talking down the party, is a luxury our voters and country cannot afford. However despite it, we still made gains and it raises the question of how powerful we could be if the PLP fully supported Corbyn if his Leadership, despite such public criticism did not wipe us out in May.

I do not accept that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. People said Boris would be ‘unelectable’ they were wrong. They then said he would become Prime Minister, thankfully they were wrong again. They also told us that Sadiq would lose as people would not vote for a Muslim in this climate, they were wrong. They told us that Zac Goldsmith would be the biggest threat to us winning City Hall, they were wrong – he turned out to be our biggest asset.

I am part of Labour because I believe politics has the solutions to the issues people face in society, if I wanted to be part of a fortune tellers society I would have joined the Mystic Meg fan-club.

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Shadow Minister for Perfect Eyebrows Resigns

Jeremy

It’s with a heavy heart I write to you to tender my resignation as Shadow Minster for Perfect Eyebrows. This of course will not be a surprise as we have been planning this for months regardless of the EU Referendum outcome but Hilary Benn cocked it up
and let you know before we could surprise you.

As you heard me say on Sky News last night, I simply do not think you are the Leader who has the abilities to take us forward because [AWAIT TEXT FOR REASONS WHY FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS PRIVATE CORPORATION FUNDING]. I had to go on Sky News as I wanted Alan Johnson to know I blame you, not him for his badly run campaign. However, no one has seen Alan for about 6 weeks but hope wherever he is, he has a TV.

Its been tough having you as a Leader, I found it hard to tell many of my golf club friends I supported social housing. I thought you meant councils would be giving the ‘riff-raff’ a tent, I had already accepted a £10,000 donation from a Tent Manufacturing company. Imagine how embarrassed I feel now he tells me you meant you wanted Labour to build homes for these working class people, if that was not bad enough Jeremy, you wanted these homes with water and electricity! You demonstrated by that one action how out of touch you are!

Your support for Trade Unions is a disgrace, how can we support such organisations who demand rights and minimum wage for cleaners and other servant type people. Who in their right mind would think voters would support such policies? Trade Unions contribute nothing to this party except millions of pounds. I bet they even think they created this party!

But the final nail in the coffin for me was you welcoming immigrants, to the UK. I am not a racist, I have a Polish Cleaner, a Slovakian Au-Pair and even get my takeaway curry from an Indian guy. But can you really want these immigrants here for more than cleaning and cooking? Apart from keeping our NHS alive, contributing billions to our economy and keeping our vital transport/public services going, what have the immigrants done for Labour or the UK? Our core voters are leaving to live in Spain, Portugal and South of France because they are sick of immigration!

Again, you’re out of touch with our voters (except the 3 million BAME voters and 20 million non racist voters).

We cannot win with you as our Leader, you are better suited to lead a democratic socialist party where members can elect you democratically through a vote. Maybe we should for a laugh try this democracy malarkey, you should stand, I’d be surprised if any party member would vote for you, you might be lucky to get 4.5%!

Anyway, must rush, I’m due back on Sky News in 20 minutes, hope they don’t ask me anything about the EU, I didn’t even go canvassing for the referendum, although I am enjoying the football, I put money on Canada to win!

Best wishes

Seema Chandwani MP

Ps: this is just a resignation of my shadow cabinet position, not as an MP – I enjoy my salary too much.

Sexism is not merely foolish behaviour

By Seema Chandwani | Twitter @SeemaChandwani

The debate on whether what Danczuk has been accused of (accurately or otherwise) is worthy of suspension [and investigation] is a worrying one for a party that proclaims to be progressive. There appears to be, in some quarters, no real understanding of what the concern is.

Two examples of this can be found firstly in Danczuk’s apology where he states “there is no fool like an old fool”. And later in the John Stapleton LBC interview with Ken Livingstone, where John talks about Danczuk “being a much older man who has just fallen for a ‘nice pair of ankles’” (whatever that means?) he then went on to ask Livingstone “is it really justifiable to suspend him from the Labour party, we’ve all done daft things”.

Continue reading

Immigrants Saved The NHS Long Before Burnham – It Is Time For Respect

By Seema Chandwani | Twitter @SeemaChandwani

After the election we find ourselves in the position of finding a new leader. But for a lot of ordinary members the choice is very difficult. Some members are even calling for MPs barely a week old to put themselves forward. It feels for many that we’re judging an ‘Eric Pickles lookalike bikini competition’ – no one contestant is turning us on.

The usual Labour demarcation lines of ‘left vs right’ are also not providing the ‘comfort zone guide’ some members rely on. For ‘the right’, they have many options at this stage to choose from – which is not the best place to be. For ‘the left’ however, we seem to be in a strange position, who are we backing? Are we resorting to backing the one who appears to have the least support from the ‘right’?

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‘Youth services are a right for every young person – the government must recognise this’

By Seema Chandwani | Twitter @SeemaChandwani

This month will mark 17 years since my first paid youth work job. It has been the most rewarding thing in my life and I am blessed to have worked doing something I love and enjoy.

For the past three years I’ve been privileged enough to work on the Positive Youth News Haringeyproject. My friends are amazed at what the young people achieve in the borough and think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to do what I do.

But, the PYN Haringey project has never proclaimed to have assisted in the achievements of young people in Haringey, we merely capture Haringey young people’s successes and ensure the wider community is aware and celebrates what they have done.

The hard work was done by them and in many cases in Haringey, by youth workers and centres across the borough.

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How the ‘Battle of Wood Green’ prevented fascism fouling our borough

By Seema Chandwani | Twitter @SeemaChandwani

The other week I went for a drink in this great cafe in The Mall Wood Green.

It has fantastic views from the bridge which enables you to see across the high road. As I waited for my sister – she’s never on time – I looked out and saw an elderly Asian woman in a bright colourful Sari walking along the pavement. Her carrier bag handle snapped, leaving an amazing exotic mix of mangos, okra and coconuts spread all over the pavement.

A middle-aged Jewish man ran over to help, holding his Yarmulke in place as he bent over to pick up some of her produce. He was joined by an African man in a flamboyant Dashikis, who rescued the few mangoes that rolled a bit further down. They both returned the goods to the woman, who by this stage, had been joined by a young English lady who was emptying one of her own carrier bags, putting the contents into her pram to supply to the lady with something new to carry her shopping.

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Long-term solutions are needed for policing in our community

By Seema Chandwani | Twitter @SeemaChandwani

I was too young to understand the tensions surrounding the death of Cynthia Jarrett which led to the Broadwater Farm riots, but a generation later I was a teenager during the death of Joy Gardner, and this negatively influenced my view of policing.

As time moves on, the next generation in Tottenham encountered the death of Roger Sylvester, and now the current youths have the death of Mark Duggan to refer to. All of these incidents have undermined confidence in policing for many in our area over the decades.

The solutions that have been called upon to solve this issue centre around ‘building’ or ‘repairing’ relations between ‘the community’ and ‘the police’. For me this seems bizarre. Continue reading