On this #InternationalRomaDay, we must take a stand against racism towards the Roma – an acceptable form of racism in the UK and Europe today. We also need much better awareness of the Romani Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and the continued marginalisation of the Roma people to this day.
The Roma people are the largest minority group in Europe. They are originally from India. They moved to Europe 1000 years ago. According to some sources, up to half a million Roma people were murdered during the Second World War.
On Sunday 28 March 2021, I took advantage of the longer day with the start of the British Summer Time delivering leaflets for Sadiq Khan and Labour Party in my ward, Noel Park with my Cllr colleague and London assembly candidate, Emina Ibrahim.
It is a difficult time in the middle of a pandemic for the election to take place. However, the election is also well overdue having already been postponed by one year. Sadiq Khan has enjoyed five years as the Mayor of London. He has served Londoners well during that time. He deserves to be re-elected. It is good to see that he commands a healthy lead against the Tory candidate.
In any other election, I would be out on the doorstep speaking to residents along with my Labour Party comrades. This has not been possible thus far because of lockdown measures. It is hoped that it may be possible to knock on doors in the coming weeks with the easing of lockdown rules.
Today (26 March 2021), #Bangladesh marks its golden jubilee, 50th anniversary since independence. I remember the many martyrs who died in the liberation war in 1971. My thoughts are also with my British Bangladeshi community who have been most affected by Covid-19.
As Tottenham Constituency Labour Party’s Campaigns Vice Chair, I chaired a meeting this evening to coordinate our campaigning ahead of the London Mayoral election on 6 May 2021.
Sadiq Khan won in 2016 with the biggest personal vote for any politician ever. He made history despite the Tories’ most racist election campaign in living memory. There had not been a more racist election campaign since the 1964 Smethwick by-election in which the Tory candidate used an openly anti-Black slogan.
The Tories now have a candidate in Shaun Bailey who made xenophobic comments regarding just about every minority group in society. His values are not the values of London.
We need to re-elect Sadiq Khan with an even bigger vote share than 2016. Voter turnout maybe low because of the pandemic and the continuing fears of a third wave. The safest and the most convenient way to vote will be through postal ballot. Everyone can apply to vote by post. You have until 5pm on 20 April 2021 to apply for a postal ballot. Please Google ‘Apply for a postal vote’ and fill in the form on gov.uk website and return it to the Electoral Services in your local authority. In Haringey, the council has posted a postal ballot application form with a pre-paid envelope to every household. Please look out for it, complete it and send it back at your earliest convenience.
Postal ballot certainly made a big difference in the November 2020 US Presidential election. Joe Biden secured the most votes ever cast for a presidential candidate. If the US can do it, we can do it too. Please sign up for a postal ballot and encourage at least one other person to do so.
I was born in Bangladesh and spent my childhood there. I moved to Haringey, London at the age of 12. My Bangladeshi heritage is an important part of who I am. Bangladesh declared its independence on 25 March 1971 from West Pakistan, which is modern day Pakistan. The Pakistani army launched a violent and brutal crackdown on the people of Bangladesh known as “operation searchlight”. This was followed by a bloody nine-month war with the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation on 16 December 1971.
This month, Bangladesh celebrates 50 years since its independence. It is no longer considered by the UN as one of the least developed countries in the world. There has been a huge investment in the most marginalised and the destitute in Bangladesh lifting 25 million people out of poverty in the last 15 years.
This week, a New York Times article suggested that President Biden should look to Bangladesh as an example of how to invest and empower America’s poor. This indeed is a great testament for a country that was famously written off by Henry Kissinger as a ‘basket case’.
Bangladesh has seen a phenomenal growth in its GDP in the last few years. It has consistently had a GDP growth of between 7 and 8% which is higher than India and China. Bangladesh presents huge opportunities for the Bangladshi diaspora living abroad to go back and exploit those opportunities. At the same time, foreign investors are also eying up opportunities in diverse areas such as large infrastructure projects, IT, hydrocarbon and renewable energy, pharmaceutical and ready made garments.
UN Anti-Racism Day or the ‘International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ is on Sunday 21 March 2021. This day is observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960.
Are you aware that there is such a day? Does your organisation or company mark this important day in the calendar?
It was really amazing to see so many great events take place on the International Women’s Day recently. I hope that companies and organisations across the globe will also mark the UN Anti-Racism Day. The fight against racism in the workplace and in society generally is everyone’s struggle irrespective of the colour of your skin.
Noel Park is a great place to live and work. I am proud to represent this ward where I grew up and my parents continue to live. Quite a number of properties have pre-fabricated bathroom pods at the back that are now past their shelf life. They might have asbestos making it unsafe for residents in those properties. In September 2020, 76 leaseholders received estimates from Homes for Haringey for major works including the replacement of bathroom pods. The estimates were rather exorbitant. Some of the estimates were so high that you could buy a house with that price in other parts of the country. The whole issue proved to be rather controversial for understandable reasons and residents who are affected have raised the matter with the Council repeatedly.
The Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel carried out a scrutiny review in the issue and made a number of recommendations. I gave written evidence to the Panel which I have set out below.
There is an admission from Homes for Haringey (“HfH”) and the Leader of the Council that the Section 20 Notice to leaseholders was framed inappropriately. In my view, the timing and the content of the Section 20 Notice were hugely problematic. The Section 20 Notice did not make it clear that it was just a consultation. Instead, it had the words “major works bill” written at the top with a two-week deadline to come up with a payment plan. This is completely unacceptable especially given the unfortunate timing that it arrived in the middle of the global pandemic. I would like the Section 20 Notice to leaseholders to be withdrawn until all of the concerns can be addressed some of which I have set out below.
My understanding is that leaseholders were sent estimates of works that may be required to their properties. Some of these estimates exceeded £100,000 which is an exorbitant sum of money. These estimates may go down when a detailed survey is carried out. Equally, there is a possibility (albeit unlikely) that the cost of works could go up. It is not reasonable nor is it fair to expect leaseholders to come up with funds when there is such uncertainty about the costs. Therefore, in my view, a detailed survey should be carried with a meaningful input from leaseholders before proceeding any further. It is only fair that leaseholders also have a say about which contractor will carry out the works. My understanding is that leaseholders had no input into how Engie was appointed as a contractor.
There is a significant concern that the cost of works may be high because of a lack of proper maintenance and repairs by HfH over the years. This should be properly investigated. It is no fault of the leaseholders if there is evidence that HfH had failed to repair and maintain these properties in a timely manner. Therefore, it is my view that leaseholders should not have to pay any increased cost that could be attributable to a lack of timely repair and maintenance.
Leaseholders have also expressed concerns about the proposal to replace a bathroom pod with another bathroom pod. It is felt that other options may not have been considered more carefully such as a permanent brick extension. One leaseholder has written to me with a proposal not to have their pod replaced at all. They live on the first floor with a council tenant on the ground floor. The leaseholder has no objection to the ground floor pod being replaced, but they could incorporate a bathroom within the existing internal brick structure of their flat without needing a pod on the first floor. This option should be considered and where appropriate, it should be given to leaseholders.
Leaseholders have also told me that previous estimates they were given were much lower. In some cases, previous estimates were less than a quarter of the estimates that they were sent recently. It would be good to understand how the estimates could have gone up so significantly. Again, the question of whether the delays to these works might have increased the costs cannot be ignored.
Some leaseholders do not agree that all the proposed works are necessary. Before requiring leaseholders to pay for works, there should be a process to ensure that the leaseholders are entirely satisfied that the works are absolutely necessary (not just desirable). It does not appear that what constitutes “absolutely necessary” has been set out with any clarity to the leaseholders.
An amicable resolution to the current stalemate should be found so that the leaseholders are satisfied and that there is no adverse effect on their wellbeing. In a recent scrutiny meeting, representatives of the leaseholders mentioned the enormous psychological impact that all of this happening in these uncertain times. We must not lose sight of the human impact of the decisions we make. It is particularly important that we take into account people’s wellbeing before proceeding with any decisions.
Happy mother’s day to my mum, who continues to inspire me with her tenacity. She is a fighter. She has fought major battles throughout her life and won. She is currently battling cancer. She was diagnosed with lymphoma towards the end of last year (2020). She has had a number of chemotherapy sessions and her treatment is ongoing. She has embraced cancer with a smile and patience that she has deployed throughout her life.
She fought poverty and won. When she married my father in the early 70s, my father was just a university graduate from a poor family in rural Bangladesh. He had no money. Job opportunities were very few and far between in Bangladesh at that time which had just become independent after a bloody nine-month war with Pakistan. Soon after, there was a devastating famine in the country. My father secured a job as a college lecturer. He left Bangladesh in the late 70s in search of better opportunities overseas. He worked in Algeria as a lecturer for a few years and then he moved to London around 1986. Meanwhile, my mother stayed in Bangladesh raising me and my five sisters.
My mother brought up six children all on her own. Between 1971 when my eldest sister was born and 1993 when my mother and my siblings came to live with our father in London, our father was away from us. Not through choice. He worked hard to give us a far better standard of living than the one he and my mother had when they were growing up.
Looking back, I can realise what an extraordinary job my mother had done looking after six children all on her own. She never complained once to my father. She always gave him the impression that everything was ok so that he did not worry about us being thousands of miles away from us. Actually, everything was ok because my mother managed things so well. We were well fed and well looked after. Above all, she instilled in us values that I hold dear to this day.
My mother’s life is a life well lived. Despite poverty and hardship in the early years of her life, she never complained and got on with living. She taught me to be grateful for the things we have. The way to truly appreciate what you have is to look at those who are less fortunate than you are, she taught me. For example, when you bemoan the house you live in, think about the millions around the world who are refugees and have no home. That’s when you appreciate what you ‘have’ rather than depressing over what you ‘have not’.
I love you mum. In our Bangladeshi culture, we don’t usually express our love in words but through action. But, I want you to know how much you continue to inspire me every day.
I have previously served as a branch chair and secretary and Tottenham Constituency Labour Party (CLP)’s BAME Officer. Comrades asked me to throw my hat in the ring to be the vice chair with responsibility for campaigning. My opponent was a councillor colleague who had previously run as a parliamentary candidate. In my pitch to the party members at the AGM on 11 March 2021, I stated that I will not only coordinate election campaigns, I will also spearhead campaigns for nurses’ pay, renationalisation of the NHS, right to food as a human right, social housing and so on. I said that I will organise campaigns to stand shoulder to shoulder with trade unions, because the Labour Party is the product of the union movement.
Traditionally, vice chairs with responsibility for campaigning would coordinate various election campaigns. Of course, I will organise to ensure that we re-elect Sadiq Khan and a majority of Labour GLA members across London in May 2021. After that, I will oversee our election campaign to elect Labour Councillors at the 2022 local election.
At the heart of any campaign has to be to retain the current Labour administration in Haringey which is socialist. It is a bucking the trend nationally by building a thousand council homes during its term in office. These will be council homes at council rent. Not ‘affordable’ rent or another type of product. I grew up in council housing and believe that the right to housing is a human right. When people have security of tenure – secure in the knowledge that they have a roof over their head – they do not become alienated from the rest of society. Their children can flourish in school, university or in their chosen vocation.
After Tottenham Labour members voted online, ballots closed at 5pm on 12 March 2021. I was elected with 81 votes and my contender received 70 votes. I have much work to do in order to deliver on my promise. I look forward to working with the rest of the executive committee.