9 Jan 2020

Four good reasons for Labour voters to support Andrew Linnie after the Labour candidate's suspension

Reprinted from  the Wembley Matters blog reflecting the writer, Martin Francis' personal view

The Kilburn Times reports LINK that the Labour Party has suspended Chetan Harpale, its candidate in the Alperton by-election  over alleged anti-Muslim tweets. Wembley Matters  broke the story on the tweets on December 30th  LINK which apart from the anti-Muslim comments also suggested Jeremy Corbyn was pro-Jihadis and praised right wing Tory MP Bob Blackman.

Harpale remains on the ballot paper and suspension is not the same as expulsion. Due process means that there will be an investigation and Harpale will have the chance of defending the comments or perhaps claim that his Twitter account was hacked. 

Labour Party activists are unlikely to be able to stomach campaigning for Harpale given the allegations but under Labour Party rules are not able to openly campaign to support a candidate from a rival party. This does not apply to Labour voters of course, who can make up their own minds over which candidate from other parties standing in Alperton comes closest to reflecting their own beliefs.

A further consideration is that if Harpale is elected despite the allegations, perhaps through automatic support for Labour by habitual Labour voters, he could be expelled by Labour but attempt to keep his seat as an Independent. As an Independent action could be taken against him in the Standards Committee using the Code of Conduct for Councillors.  Ironically the previous Chair of the Standards Committee was James Allie who the Kilburn Times reports has also been suspended by the Labour Party. He resigned before Christmas following allegations that he has 'utilised' a dead woman's legacy for his own uses, including the purchase of a house. LINK

If Harbale is elected, but resigns immediately, there will need to be another by-election in Alperton ward.


I would argue that the best way to solve this mess is for Alperton Labour voters to support Andrew Linnie the Green Party candidate.  Andrew has an excellent reputation as an Alperton resident who has campaigned on housing and regeneration issues.  He has addressed the Planning Committee on behalf of residents and issues a regular campaigning Newsletter in the locality.

More broadly the Green Party has national and regional policies which many Labour  activists would support. These include:
  • ANTI-AUSTERITY The Green Party campaigned against the imposition of austerity from the outset while the Labour Party pre-Corbyn, was ambivalent to say the least. Locally we were members of the cross-party Brent Fightback. (Caroline Lucas addresses the People's Assembly Anti-Austerity march in 2014 HERE)  The Lib Dems were of course pro-Austerity.
  • GREEN NEW DEAL Greens came up with the idea, in collaboration with trade unionists and other groups, a long time ago supporting One Million Climate Jobs and advocating a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. Green Party statement on Green New Deal 2007 LINK
  • HOUSING Greens have a range of housing policies LINK which start with the principle that 'affordable, secure and comfortable accommodation is a basic human right'. We reject the current misuse of the term affordable and through our GLA Assembly members are campaigning for the the London Mayor to have control over London's housing so renters are guaranteed decent homes and are protected from unfair evictions and unaffordable rents.
  • DEMOCRATIC ACCOUNTABILITY OF EDUCATION The Green Party adopted a policy of opposition to academies and free schools and their integration back into the local authority system well before the Labour Party and also opposed SATs because of their detrimental impact on both pupils and teachers. LINK

This is the motion on Islamophobia adopted by Full Council on July 8th 2019:

“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
Contemporary examples of Islamophobia in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in encounters between religions and non-religions in the public sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

·                Calling for, aiding, instigating or justifying the killing or harming of Muslims in the name of a racist/ fascist ideology, or an extremist view of religion.

·                Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Muslims as such, or of Muslims as a collective group, such as, especially but not exclusively, conspiracies about Muslim entryism in politics, government or other societal institutions; the myth of Muslim identity having a unique propensity for terrorism, and claims of a demographic ‘threat’ posed by Muslims or of a ‘Muslim takeover’.

·                Accusing Muslims as a group of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Muslim person or group of Muslim individuals, or even for acts committed by non-Muslims.

·                Accusing Muslims as a group, or Muslim majority states, of inventing or exaggerating Islamophobia, ethnic cleansing or genocide perpetrated against Muslims.

·                Accusing Muslim citizens of being more loyal to the ‘Ummah’ (transnational Muslim community) or to their countries of origin, or to the alleged priorities of Muslims worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

·                Applying double standards by requiring of Muslims behaviours that are not expected or demanded of any other groups in society, e.g. loyalty tests.

·                Using the symbols and images associated with classic Islamophobia (e.g. the Prophet Muhammed being a paedophile, claims of Muslims spreading Islam by the sword or subjugating minority groups under their rule) to characterise Muslims as being ‘sex groomers’, inherently violent or incapable of living harmoniously in plural societies.

·                Holding Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of any Muslim majority state, whether secular or constitutionally Islamic.

7 Jan 2020

Green candidate Andrew Linnie calls on Labour to withdraw support from their Alperton candidate over 'Islamophobic views'

The website yesterday published more extracts from Tweets allegedly written by the Labour Party candidate in the Alperton by-election, Chetan Harpale,

Andrew Linnie, Green Party candidate for Alperton said:
I am shocked and disgusted by the racist, islamophobic views aired by Labour's candidate in the Alperton by-election. I think it is important, given the hostility of the language used, that Labour leader Cllr Butt not only condemns these views but withdraws support from this inappropriate candidate from the election while there's still time. Mr Harpale has no place representing anyone, let alone representing an area as culturally diverse as Alperton.

4 Jan 2020

Andrew Linnie - our Green Party candidate for Alperton

Why we need independent Green voices on Brent Council

A version of this article first appeared on the Wembley Matters blog which reports on environmental and social justice issues in Brent and beyond.

To borrow from Shakespeare, 'There is something rotten in the state of Brent', a fact confirmed to residents and campaign groups when they encounter the reality of the Labour Council's intractability whether on the closure of Strathcona school, regeneration projects , bulk waste chargesor the cutting down of street trees.

The Council is well entrenched with a massive majority which is reinforced by a structure that centralises power in a small group of councillors in the Cabinet and General Purposes Committee. The personnel are almost identical:



The Cabinet are all Labour and there is just one opposition member on the General Purposes Committee. Similarly there is only one Conservative member on the Planning Committee. Membership of committees reflects the proportion of seats won by the parties in the Council elections but I would argue that the Conservatives have failed to offer any rigorous challenge in their diminished role as the official opposition.

So what about some rigorous scrutiny of the Cabinet cabal's decisions by Labour backbenchers (up until the recent resignations there were 52 non-Cabinet members)? Well many have positions on various committees which attracts additional allowances and that may limit any public criticism, but those who do raise their voices find themselves at the mercy of the Labour Whip and the ire of Cllr Butt, the Labour leader.

Wembley Matters has covered Duffy's raising of issues such as asbestos in Paddington Cemetery, deficiencies in the Veolia waste contract and the Kingdom littering contract. He had the Labour whip removed and was not selected for the last Council election. LINK LINK

Cllr Zaffar van Kalwala fell out with Cllr Butt over personal issues but also over his championing of Stonebridge Adventure Playground which Butt succeeded in closing to the lasting detriment of the local community. There were allegations that Butt engineered the moving of a Full Council meeting  date to trap Kalwala via the non-attendance rules. Kalwala did not stand at the last Council election. LINK

Cllr Abdi Abdirazak fought back, without success, when Cllr Butt allegedly removed him from the Planning Committee for not voting for the planning application for a new Ark primary academy on the York House site in Wembley LINK

Cllr Sarah Marquis announced she would not stand again as  chair of Planning Committee after she had exercised her independence on several applications including voting against the Twin Towers on the Chesterfield House site and rigorously questioned planners over affordable housing. LINK
Marquis has resigned from the Council citing family reasons.

Cllr Michael Pavey eventually resigned from the Brent Cabinet saying he did not share Butt's approach to running the Council but had angered the leader over his support for a rise in Council Tax and the sanitising of his report into racism in Brent's Human Relations department. LINK LINK He has also resigned for family reasons.

Cllr Jumbo Chan currently stands out as a Labour councillor willing to question Council policy, most notably over academisation and the Strathcona closure but also more recently over street tree policy. Veteran councillor Janice Long also has her moments but has lost influence with the subsuming of what had been a separate Housing Scrutiny Committee, which she chaired, into a main Scrutiny Committee.

Any Labour candidate, however good their credentials, elected in the by-elections will face problems when faced with the conflict between honestly representing  residents' concerns and following orders from the Labour leadership.

The two Scrutiny Committees do some useful working, particularly in task groups, but are handicapped when it comes to Cabinet decisions. They have the power to call-in such decisions and can make recommendations but these go back to the Cabinet which decides whether to accept them or not.

The Cabinet system centralises power in the hands of just 10 councillors, gives considerable power via appointments to the leader; diminishes the role of the backbencher in questioning decisions via the whipping system and limits them to mainly dealing with casework as the go-between between residents and council departments.  Councillors who disagree with decisions are reduced to deliberately  missing Full Council meetings or popping to the lavatory when key votes are taken so as not to be on record as defying the whip.

Something 'rotten'  indeed!

In the absence of an effective opposition this blog has attempted to inform the public on some of the issues including fake consultations, too close relationship between the leader of the Council and developers and the scandalous decision to, in essence, return £15.8m Community Infrastructure Levy monies back to  Quintain for 'improvements' to Olympic Way including the cosmetic replacement of the Pedway by steps.

Some councils are rejecting the Cabinet system as undemocratic and returning to a modified form of the Committee system, often maintaining one or more Scrutiny Committees, which actively involves many more councillors in local government and this could be a medium term aim for Brent. Some form of proportional representation in local government in the longer term would ensure a wider spread of councillors and a broader democratic representation.

Meanwhile for an effective opposition unhampered by a whipping system and the leader's patronage I urge you to vote Green if you happen to be in one of the affected wards:

Alperton: Andrew Linnie
Barnhill: Martin Francis and Peter Murry
Wembley Central: William Relton