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Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The ongoing selection process to is to replace London Assembly member John Biggs, who was elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and will be stepping down from his City and East London seat. It's a fantastic step for the Chinese community towards greater representation in our political system.

The next step for Ash is a formal nomination from at least one of the parliamentary constituencies that comprise the City and East area (City of London, Bethnal Green & Bow, Poplar & Limehouse, East Ham, West Ham, Barking and Dagenham & Rainham). If you want to help Ash get elected as the Labour candidate for City & East then please contact Ash at ashlbth@hotmail.com or 07703 438881. Here's more from Ash:

Dear friends,

I'm writing to introduce myself as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly.

The seat will become vacant next year when John Biggs steps down. John has represented us brilliantly at City Hall since it came into being 15 years ago, across policing, transport and economic development. I shall especially miss the sight of him getting under Boris' skin during Mayor's Question Time!

Making a Home in East London

 I wasn't born a Londoner but - like so many people in East London - chose to become one. I made a positive choice to study, work and live in this city of opportunity: a magnet for people from hundreds of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Like so many private renters I moved all around the city, finally settling in Tower Hamlets nearly two decades ago. I've lived in Whitechapel, St Katharine's, the Isle of Dogs, Bromley and Mile End and I've been privileged to represent the Labour Party as a local councillor in Limehouse. It is in Tower Hamlets where I ran Jim Fitzpatrick's successful General Election campaign, finally getting rid of the divisive George Galloway from the borough once and for all. 

I love London but increasingly we see its divisions and strains; the huge gaps of wealth and opportunity rising under this Tory Government and Mayor. It's not just the poor who are being left behind. In a Labour London everyone must have a fair share in our city's success. 

My Public Service

For the past fourteen years I have worked for the Metropolitan Police Service - expanding neighbourhood policing into every single ward across London, securing funding for Sexual Assault Referral Centres (including for East London at Whitechapel) and settling up the Security Programme for the Olympics, the biggest peace-time security operation this country has ever seen. 

I have also worked across the NHS to tackle inequalities in health; improving access to services for young people, women, black and minority ethnic communities and those with disabilities. 

Why I'm Standing

I've been lucky. Despite not having the easiest of starts in life I was able to get on with the help of an incredibly supportive family and a good comprehensive school education. This allowed me to come to London and study, to get a decent job and to settle down here. It is a travesty that too many of our children in London do not have the same life chances I've had. 

Labour must be ambitious for London. A Labour London could be a place where every child has the opportunity and security to succeed, where our transport system is affordable and works, where we deal with London's housing crisis for all renters and those who want to buy, and provide a better quality of life for a growing city. 

Through working in our public services and as a grassroots Labour activist and councillor, I have fought tirelessly for Labour values and for the people who depend on us to stand up for them. It would be a privilege to do so for you on the London Assembly. 

 

Vice Chair Ash McGregor for City and East

Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The...

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Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase in the number of free hours for childcare, and agreeing that the principle of non-domiciled tax status is unfair, are all policies that Labour first campaigned on. Now that the Tories (and the right-wing press) are in agreement with our side of the argument on these issues, we should push them to move faster and harder.

However, we should not get away from the fact that the Tories have unfairly punished the poorest in our society. The Chancellor attempts to obfuscate the issue by declaring the increase in the minimum wage, the ‘living wage,’ but the increase is well short of the actual living wage. Currently the 2015 living wage in London is £9.15/h, with the Chancellor promising to increase the minimum wage to £9/h by 2020, still less than the actual living wage. Furthermore, the Living Wage takes into account tax credits, many of which have been abolished or sharply curtailed. No matter how you look at the issue, the increase in the minimum wage cannot replace the loss of tax credits.

While, the Chancellor is right to ensure that our welfare budget is spent appropriately, withdrawing tax credits from those in need, without anything to replace them with is to vindictively punish the poorest in our society. The Chancellor has put the cart before the horse, choosing to remove tax credits without solving the underlying issues that necessitates their need.

The reality is that the Chancellor has produced a policy for short-term political gain, rather than long-term economic benefit. He has done little to address the long term economic problems with the levels of productivity less than France and Germany. True, the apprenticeship levy will help encourage businesses to invest in their personnel and help develop higher value and more productive workers. However, the Chancellor has little to say about addressing critical infrastructure issues. A mention of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in the budget statement sounds little more than rhetoric after the cancelled plans to electrify the northern railway network. Labour’s election pledge to allow for capital spend borrowing, makes increasingly more sense as it would have allowed for proper investment in our country’s infrastructure.

Yet the biggest indictment of Osborne’s short termism, is an alarming attack on the under 25s. The move from maintenance grants to loans, the loss of housing benefit and the ‘living’ wage only applying to over 25s all serve to punish the youth and will in the long term harm our economy. Is it fair for the poorest in our society to be priced out of education, when education is the most important factor in social mobility?

While the budget may be garbed with some of Labour's progressive policies, we should not shy away from the fact that the Chancellor has punished the poorest and youngest in our society for short-term political gain. If he truly wants to deal with the number of tax credits being claimed, then he must address the underlying issues, not remove them and hope for the best. 

Alvin Shum is the Communications Officer for Chinese for Labour. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Budget Response

Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase...

Britain is a rich country. But not since a century ago has so much of our wealth been docked from so many to enrich so few.

Back in the 1910s, the richest 1% took home almost 20% of the income of this country. But from the 1920s on, along with the emergence of the Labour Party as a real political force, things began to change. By the 1970s, the top 1% earners were pocketing not 20%, but about 5% of all income. More money went into the pay packets of ordinary workers and more investment was put into public services for the benefit of all.

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All this changed with the ascendancy of Thatcherism and its plutocratic legacy. After 1979 the richest 1% were once again getting an ever larger share of our national income, and in the 2010s, we’re heading back towards the 20% share they held back in the 1910s. In 2012, the chief executives of the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange were getting an average pay rise of 49% compared with average increase of just 3% for their employees. If we take financial assets as well as income into account, the richest 1% today own as much as the poorest 55% in the UK.

Is this because handing a larger share of our country’s money to the richest few is the only way to generate significantly higher growth? The reality is that from the founding of the NHS and the welfare state in 1948 to 1978, UK’s average real per capita GDP growth rate was 2.17%. The corresponding average growth during the Thatcher years of 1979-1990 was just 2.05%.

And do the top executives, who pay themselves 145 times the average pay of their employees, really work 145 times harder or endure 145 times more stress than the workers who have to struggle to get by in lowly positions with inadequate pay? Or are they just much more powerful because those in government have increasingly looked after their interests at the expense of everyone else?

Money is the most potent form of power in society today. It can buy up public assets, fracking licences, propaganda, litigation expertise, market advantages, not to mention political influence to shape laws and policies to suit the wealthiest 1%.

People work together to generate the wealth of this country, and they expect the fruits of their labour to be shared out fairly. Historically it has been the Labour Party that has been at the forefront in striving to secure this outcome. And it is time for Labour to be bold and clear in declaring that it stands for the 99%.

Four Core Commitments

To do this, it needs to be unequivocal about four core commitments.

First - the commitment to true enterprise. We don’t want the enterprise of the con-men whose one talent is to manipulate others into making money for them to siphon off to off-shore tax havens. We want Labour to promote true enterprise where genuinely beneficial talents and hard work, including the vital work carried out by countless carers at home, are rewarded fairly because they are of great value to society. Labour should give everyone a greater incentive in making their enterprise a success by promoting worker participation and ownership. And it should have clear plans for clamping down on corporate fraudsters and tax dodgers.

Secondly - the commitment to real security. Terrorist attacks threaten lives, but so do malnutrition, living in squalor, inadequate healthcare, domestic violence, delayed ambulance services, and riots fuelled by social divisions. We want to see Labour enhance the security of the people of this country, in relation to every from of life-endangering threat. And to achieve this, Labour must be ready to invest in the improvement of public services, the building of affordable homes, and the rebuilding of our NHS after the trauma it has been put through in the last five years.

Thirdly - the commitment to a sustainable economy. Deregulating the finance sector so much that banks could gamble away people’s savings and wreck the economy is a Thatcherite legacy that must be corrected. Financial schemes that take reckless risks with our money while dressed up as investment opportunities are not a substitute for the production of goods and services that meet people’s needs. Instead of contrived profits concocted for the few, Labour should support the development of renewable resources and zero-marginal cost productions so that everyone’s quality of life improves along with better protection for the environmental assets on which we all depend.

Last but not least, the commitment to honest democracy. Instead of talking about being localist but keeping power in Westminster, Labour should be fully dedicated to devolving more power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London, and the diverse regions of England. Labour should be the leaders on political transparency and make MPs answerable to their constituents by having to declare and explain to them their expenses, external earnings, and gifts and donations received. It should also put an end to Ministers taking on any form of paid role with companies that have benefited by their actions for at least ten years after they leave office.

Henry Tam is Director of the Question the Powerful project, lecturer at Cambridge University and visiting professor at Birkbeck College, London University.

The article was originally published in February 2015 edition of The Orient - Chinese for Labour's bi-annual publication. If you have an idea for an article, or an event to share then please email alvin@chineseforlabour.org.

The Orient Archive: Labour for the ninety nine percent

Britain is a rich country. But not since a century ago has so much of our wealth been docked from so many to enrich so few. Back in the 1910s,...

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