Another political resignation this time my own:
• I am resigning as a member of the Conservative & Unionist Party
• Therefore I quit as leader of the Conservative group on Tower Hamlets Council
• I become an independent Councillor, a member of no political party, I am not joining another existing political party
• But to ensure that there continues to be an opposition locally I will stay as one of two members of the opposition Conservative group on Tower Hamlets Council (if I quit this group there would no longer be any formal opposition group as a group needs a minimum of 2 members)
• So the nature of my work will barely change except that it will be Peter Golds rather than I that lead the group (which will mainly affect who speaks at Cabinet / Council meetings).
My reasons for leaving are mainly because I have lost confidence in the ability of the Conservative Party as an institution to make good use of the power it now has.
While it has an extraordinary ability to win elections (and is even luckier in its opponents) it is weaker on what to do with that power. I disagree with too many Conservative policies/decisions to stay in not just because I think some are wrong but that I also think too many policies are inadequate given the challenges AND opportunities we now face. I have been publicly very critical of aspects of what Tower Hamlets Council does but in truth I am almost as critical of recent decisions made by the government. Three Conservative Prime Ministers have made a series of strategic errors and I worry things are getting worse, not better so it must be systemic to the party despite the presence in it of a number of capable people.
I also support a relationship with Europe based on an EEA/EFTA economic model. The party has chosen a different harder model and like the Peelites in 1846 I think it is more honest to split then pretend that I support the proposed trade policy. I cannot support a trade border in the Irish sea nor increasing trade friction and am concerned about the lack of debate about the impact on our services industry of a Canada/WTO relationship. The modern Conservative party has ignored why Margaret Thatcher pushed so hard for the Single Market with its four freedoms and Customs Union within the EU.
And it would be dishonest of me to stay in and to stay quiet (although as one of my reasons for quitting is to focus more on local issues I may not have much time to say much about national stuff). Being an independent will allow me to focus on local issues and to support politicians who I think are doing a good job including Liberal Democrats and yes some Labour politicians. The tribal nature of British politics is one of its greatest weaknesses.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has had an extraordinary history, we have achieved extraordinary things for such a small group of islands and had a greater impact on the modern world than almost any other country. I think that contribution has not ended and I think that we could continue to have an outsize influence on how the world develops. Brexit now forces us to ask new questions about ourselves and our place in the world. What will we do with those new freedoms? What is the balance of risk and opportunities? Is the nation-state the only model or should we work collaboratively with other nations in a structured manner and how do we do that? I am not sure that we have even asked these questions properly let alone got answers yet. That is almost entirely due to failings within the Conservative party.
In 2016 I applied to become a Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative party to try and influence the Party from the inside. I have twice been rejected (ironically the 2nd rejection arrived just before I posted this) although I know many other people in Tower Hamlets who were made candidates. Three of them are now MPs.
But the final nail in the coffin for me was Robert Jenrick’s decision to approve Westferry Printworks against the advice of his own planning inspector. There was a solid argument for staying in and fighting on behalf of my residents with the government (as I fear our local MP’s will be ineffective at doing that). But that decision was so shocking I knew immediately that I had to resign.
I need to have a think about what to do next as I have effectively ended my political career.
But my main focus this year will be on local issues as I plan to do a lot of work on;
• Youth centers on the Isle of Dogs, we only have one small one, that is not sustainable
• New playgrounds in Sir John McDougall Gardens and Millwall Park, better than those to be found in neighbouring Boroughs, we have more £ then them
• Increasing school capacity on the IoD, getting Westferry Printworks secondary school built + rebuilding George Greens + improving school buildings and working out how many schools we actually need
• Transport issues on the Isle of Dogs from Jubilee line to new river crossings
• Plus continue to support the work of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum
• Lastly asking whether we should we explore setting up a Town Council for the area to give us more power and resources locally
But I have a question for you. Should I resign now and hold a by-election? Should I stand for re-election? I got elected in May 2018 as a Conservative, does leaving the Party but staying in the Conservative group work or not? I think for most residents the work I do won’t change (many do not even know I am a Cllr) but many people vote for parties not individuals, so can I still represent you until May 2022, the next scheduled election? Let me know.