Member Champion for Climate Change Update

The following update was delivered at Full Assembly on 30 September 2020.

Climate change and wider environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and air quality are my passions, and in the short space of four months I have already started to work on some exciting projects across the borough, which I look forward to updating colleagues on throughout the coming year as things take shape.

Often when people think of climate change and the environment, they think of fossil fuels, trees, wildlife, pollinators etc. all crucial things to consider, but actually it goes wider and is more deep rooted into our everyday lives than that.

It’s the developments we build, it’s the products we buy, the way we travel and the things we eat.

Historically when people think of Barking and Dagenham they think of Ford and industry, but in the future, I want to see the Leader’s vision realised where our borough is seen as ‘the green capital of the capital’.

This isn’t without it’s challenges.

Something which is often missing from the climate change debate is how its impacts will disproportionately affect traditional working class communities such as those in Barking and Dagenham,

Yet our communities are often hard pushed to adapt, especially after a decade of Tory cuts to local government budgets, public spending, and support for those that need it most.

It’s hard to shop ethically when you’re trying to provide for your family on a shoestring, and it’s hard to justify and find the time to visit Britain’s national parks with so many other pressures.

That is why as a local authority we have to look at an ethos from the past to improve our future – before the 1840’s there were no public parks in Britain. The Victorians introduced the idea of bringing the countryside to the city – encouraging communities to enjoy and feel a sense of ownership over the outdoors.

In the coming months I will be working on a number of comms projects that seek to engage and empower our residents to explore and enjoy our parks and open spaces. I have also been in touch with some of our neighbours to look at best practice on how we establish active ‘friends groups’ which will seek to educate and instil in our residents a greater sense of ownership over their local parks and nature reserves.

In addition to this I am liaising with colleagues in BeFirst about increased cycle infrastructure. Making the most of new funding streams available due to the pandemic. Trying to pull something positive out of these difficult times.

I’ve been building relationships with our Ranger Service, horticultural teams and external partners to help increase canopy cover which will deliver a wide range of benefits to our residents.

Next month I’ll be on site with the cosy homes team, safety guidelines permitting, to see the invaluable work they are doing to retrofit and insulate homes across the borough – as around 30-40% of carbon emissions come from the built environment nationally.

Lots of this work has already been set in motion by Cllrs Ashraf and Geddes – for example the Gascoigne regeneration project is now seen as a benchmark for sustainable development, and the Wild and Free in LBBD project has already seen local families venturing into our parks in greater numbers.

With that – I’m really excited to see what achievements we can make together in the coming year.

Thank you.

Solidarity in Dagenham and Rainham

This was first published by LabourList on 20.12.19. Original article here: https://labourlist.org/2019/12/solidarity-in-dagenham-and-rainham-how-labour-held-the-key-tory-target/?fbclid=IwAR0ZezwCu_dPqVwMm2nG3GJwiIZv4yiMe3Q62GBX-yyUQmHFwD29p0kJvKk

I felt I should write this before the bandwagon rolled through town and everyone started talking about how they saved Dagenham and Rainham. From day one, we were told in no uncertain terms that we would not be receiving wider support – despite being a key Tory target.

We ran the entirety of the campaign on a shoestring and, until the last week, with a very diminished team from previous years. With a core team composed of four people and the same seven to 15 people turning up to canvass daily, we were all pretty tapped out by half-time.

One of the most trying moments was when we had to get 45,000 leaflets delivered in one week. I walked 72 miles in five days and so did the rest of team Cruddas. If I say I’m going to do something, for good or ill, it gets done and by a huge team effort we got them delivered.

We had a clear strategy, which was a mixture of suppressing the Tory vote in Havering and turning out the Labour vote in Dagenham. The one thing we didn’t count on was the nature of our core working-class voters. It is a very Dagenham trait that instead of discussing the point, you’ll get a smile and a thumbs up on the door before being punished at the ballot box.

The fact is that for months Labour have been telling the people in our community that, having voted to leave the EU in 2016, their vote counts for nothing. Our national policies didn’t exactly strike a chord with our voters either – communities like ours don’t want freebies or handouts, they want decent education and vocational opportunities for their children and meaningful work. They want to feel pride in the lives that they lead. It’s as simple as that. Many people in our area felt patronised by Labour’s policies. I bet it was the same across the ‘red wall’ in the North.

So, we got smiles and a thumbs up from every doorstep until polling day when ‘our people’ said that after pledging their support, they hadn’t voted for us. However, in Dagenham and Rainham we have a habit of bucking the national trend – much to the annoyance of the Tories. This is primarily because we don’t take our lead from the national or regional strategies.

In Dagenham and Rainham, we set our own agenda, our own priorities, and we campaign in the community all year round on issues that matter in local people’s lives. Our win was also down to Jon’s Brexit position, which managed to cut through the Tories ‘get Brexit done’ mantra.

We knew that our voters were out there, and that we had enough to edge the win but with our small team there was no way we could get to all of them with GOTV materials. Mobilisation on polling day was something that I couldn’t bring myself to contemplate even as close as a week out.

However, after the MRP polling was released a week before polling day, despite being five points behind throughout the campaign, suddenly people started to wake up. It is all well and good flooding seats with support for a token win, but it just isn’t worth it if it costs us elsewhere.

For much of the campaign it felt like we were on our own with our backs against the wall. Which is why, when people from all over London flooded into the campaign room with a week to go, it was an incredibly moving act of solidarity that I will never forget.

Every door, every phone call, every leaflet, every person that came to help. If we had done anything differently, we would have lost the seat. A solid strategy and the people to deliver it is all we need – nationally we have one but not the other.

I’m still waiting for someone to ask how we won in 2015 and 2017 against the odds. I hope that this time the party really does seek to learn lessons from both extraordinary victories and defeats. In the coming months I would urge members to vote for a leader that can speak to communities in areas like ours and put forward a strategy that can rebuild all of Britain.