My post yesterday on Sir Robin Wales appears to have caused a bit of a stir, most of it within his own party.
From what I hear about Newham’s mayor, he is regularly attacked as “divisive”, which seems to the untrained eye as odd when you consider he’s been running the borough continuously since 1995 and when all 60 councillors are from his party. But as I say, I’m not that yet very familiar with the borough: I plan to learn more.
And on that note, I’ve heard rumours about Robin’s ambitions for City Hall for more than a year, so I just presumed he’d confirmed them to someone somewhere. But apparently not.
In my post yesterday, I wrote that he’d admitted he wants to follow Boris Johnson as London Mayor (using his Newham experience and policies as a manifesto) but I provided no quotes to back that up.
They’re at the end of this post, and it’s worth looking his claim that what’s happening in Newham will be replicated by a future Labour government.
However, a bit more background is probably useful. In 2011, he launched a policy document based on ‘Resilience‘, the concept that underpins the thinking on “migration management” that I detailed for the Sunday Express and which has been praised by David Goodhart.
It’s worth looking at some of this before reading his thoughts on City Hall. So, according to the Newham council website:
Our approach to building resilience in Newham
Newham is the second most deprived borough in the country and we face enormous challenges. Our approach to transforming the lives of our residents is unique. Through building resilience; personal, economic and community, we will make a positive and lasting impact, working towards the people of Newham having the same life chances as those in other parts of London.
In 2011, following our consultation A Strong Community: Building Resilience in Newham, we launched Quid Pro Quo, Not Status Quo, Why we need a welfare state that builds resilience (pdf). It was our delivery plan for building the resilience of our residents and community. Since then we’ve committed to embedding resilience in everything we do as a council. We have made great progress in building a more resilient Newham and we have now launched Resilience Making it Happen – An update on delivery (pdf) which outlines what we have achieved so far.
We are building resilience in Newham by:
- Jobs through our local employment scheme, Workplace, which gets 5,000 people a year into work, half of which are long term unemployed.
- A comprehensive Every Child programme. This includes a groundbreaking programme which gives children in Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7 the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, at no cost to parents.
- Free universal school meals for all primary age children;
- A guarantee of one to one tuition for primary children falling behind with reading;
- Free theatre-going and sports participation, including Every Child a Chess Player.
- Our elected Councillors with our residents will have real control over physical assets and local services. From now on they’ll direct the biggest council-run volunteering service in the country. They’ll be able to pro-actively approach hub co-ordinator officers to share ideas about what will make their neighbourhood better, and then participate to get changes made.
- The country’s first borough-wide licensing scheme for private rented sector landlords. Better quality housing will mean healthier residents, better community relations and a higher quality physical environment.
A more resilient future for Newham
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games brought the world’s attention to our doorstep. We’ll always fight for legacy from the Games and beyond. That means jobs and we’re delighted that we helped so many Newham residents get employment during the Games. Summer 2012 was a also a time for celebration as a our Lets get the Party Started programme supported residents from all walks of life come together and celebrate. This is just the beginning of our work in this area and we’re making sure we’re supporting local people in the most effective ways possible. From helping young people to find work, to plans for a life-changing fund for local people who want to transform their lives, we’ll keep looking for new ways to build resilience in partnership with local people.
Understanding community resilience
To build our understanding of community resilience in Newham and the strengths, networks and connections in the borough we conducted a research project with think tank the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and The Campaigns Company.
That’s the background, as is the piece from yesterday, and here are some of the other quotes from my interview.
Asked whether his thinking was being plugged into Labour party head office, he said:
“Our values are trust, solidarity, fairness and reciprocity, and if you follow that those through, it happens that it works out in this area and it detoxifies immigration, so people think, ‘Do you know what, it’s not a bad thing.’ Properly managed, it can work really well, not only for the country, but where local people are, and also for the immigrant.
“So Resilience is what we believe, that sense of people doing things and us being their best buddies and helping them to do it. Then the stuff on private sector licensing, I think the Labour party is very keen on that and is very supportive of what we’re doing. The minimum wage and enforcing will be a party commitment, while the GMB have also been great on that.
“Many of the things we’re doing, the party recognizes but then many good Labour progressive authorities will do these things as well. Maybe we’ve put a narrative around resilience that’s much clearer than elsewhere. So we follow that.
“I think head office has a vision and our vision is similar to head office’s.
“We’re very supportive of the direction of travel for the Labour party is taking. We’ve got experience on the ground. As a Labour authority, we’re doing the things that a Labour government would do. So let’s get rid of these bloody clowns in [Coliation] and let’s have Labour in.”
Asked whether he would like to be Mayor of London, he said:
“My point is currently around resisilience at this point. I think we need to have a vision for London and we’re putting together a vision for London. The most important thing the Labour party has to do for London is have a vision.
“I argue it should be based on resilience, I’d argue the stuff we do on economic development and transport infrastructure, on housing. We plan to build lots of houses and lots on hoiusing; what a pity that the Mayor of London is not doing that.
“We think we’ve a very interesting offer. Now my argument would be when the general election is over (in 2015), we should pick the best candidate but the key issue should be what are our policies.
“And I think our policies I think are the right ones for London and we will be pushing that and saying this is what we want.
“So the answer is to, ‘Would I like to be mayor of London’, is of course I would, but the issue is what are you standing for, what is Labour going to stand for. I believe it should be based on resilience, based on the things we’re doing here and if we can get a good candidate who does that, I’ll be the first to support them.”