‘The strength of the wolf is the pack’: Rex Osborn honoured for his council service

Rex Osborn

Rex Osborn

Speech at honorary alderman ceremony in Wandsworth Town Hall, Jan 14, 2019, to mark the service of former Labour councillor Rex Osborn

It’s a real pleasure to say a few words about my friend Rex Osborn.

Rex was leader of Wandsworth Labour Group and a councillor for Graveney ward.

Usually, councillors have a bit of banter ready about their ward’s name. “It’s called St Mary’s Park ward because we have a church called St Mary’s and a big park”, that sort of thing.

I once asked Rex about why his ward was called ‘Graveney’.

Several minutes later he concluded: “…Richard de Gravenel’s widow Alice held his lands in dower until 1229 and the unnamed heirs of Gravenel were returned as tenants of his Tooting manor in the reign of Henry III.”

Rex has a passion for history. It’s always interesting to hear what councillors do in their day jobs. Rex is a tour guide – his passion for history comes in handy.

His Labour contacts also come in handy. He was recently guiding a group of tourists in Westminster, near the Abbey I think. The American tourists were surprised as the Mayor of London appears and warmly greets their tour guide. Sadiq advises them: “This is the best tour guide in London. Make sure you give him a big tip!” Former Wandsworth councillors looking after each other. Continue reading

Advertisements

2018: My (political) year in 18 pictures

1. Ready for the final push on election day, May 3, with Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott and Owen Jones. It was a special day. The bad news: we fell just short of winning the council. The good news: we got our best result for 30 years, won more votes than the Tories & now have 26 excellent councillors.

2. Sadiq Khan is the best campaigner I’ve ever worked with. He was incredibly supportive and energetic during the local elections. Sadiq said it would be close: after several recounts, we were just 141 votes away from winning Wandsworth for the first time since 1974.

3. Amy Merrigan (left), Battersea Labour’s awesome organiser in the local elections, leads the team in 177 Lavender Hill. Every Battersea target ward saw a swing of more than 8% to Labour according Lewis Baston, an election data expert. Baston rated Wandsworth Labour as running one of the top three most effective campaigns in the whole country.

4. We now have 26 Wandsworth Labour councillors – up from just 9 a decade ago. Here’s our hard-working, experienced team committing to pay all Wandsworth workers – on staff or on contract – at least the London Living Wage when we take control of the council

5. Emily Wintle, who worked her socks off to get elected in St Mary’s Park ward by 11 votes, celebrates at councillor Peter Carpenter’s summer garden party. We listened to tens of thousands of local people on the doorstep and our campaign videos were viewed 250,000 times on Facebook.

6. Watching England’s World Cup semi-final with Croatia in Wandsworth Town Hall’s council chamber before the start of our full council meeting. (July)

7. I grew up in Bournville in Birmingham. Cadbury’s made the cricket pitch we played on, the local swimming pool – even the house we lived in. It was a brilliant company that gave back to the community. It’s tragic what’s happened since it was sold to a multinational tax avoider. I’m still furious about this story.

8. Admiring the Trump baby blimp in Parliament Square. Later, I joined hundreds of thousands of people marching to Trafalgar Square to protest Donald Trump’s style of politics. (July)

9. Battersea suffered terrible bombing in the Second World War. I came across this extraordinary photograph this summer. A victim of a V-1 flying bomb is lifted on a stretcher by rescue workers on St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction on June 17, 1944. Full story here

10. How is it right that the street you are born in determines how long you live? The data for Wandsworth shows life expectancy ranges from 77 up to 88 years old depending on where you live. (August)

11. Wandsworth Labour’s brilliant shadow cabinet. Annamarie, Paul, Kemi, Andy, Kate, Jeremy, Judi and Angela create innovative policies and effective campaigns to hold the Tories to account

12. Discussing Brexit with Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan. This issue dominated national politics this year. Locally, we stood up for our EU citizen friends and neighbours – and produced this short film featuring their voices.

13. Ofsted rated Wandsworth Council’s Children’s Services as ‘inadequate’. The response to this crisis has been a disaster. £37 million extra spent from reserves in the last three years. The manager in charge left with a £300,000 pay-off. The council is still failing vulnerable children (October)

14. Wandsworth borough is made up of the three constituencies: Battersea, Putney and Tooting. These constituency Labour Parties are fun and friendly with a vibrant culture of social events, fundraisers and campaigning. Here, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP updates the Tooting Labour monthly meeting (October)

15. Just when you thought local government couldn’t get more glamorous! In the new Jaguar car advert, Eva Green strides through Wandsworth Town Hall with a real jaguar. (November)

16. My sons enjoy their first football match at Wembley – thanks to shadow sports minister Dr Rosena sourcing free tickets for hundreds of Tooting families (November)

17. Charlotte Despard, an aristocratic Irish nationalist suffragette, stood to be Battersea’s MP 100 years ago, in the first parliamentary election where women could vote and stand for office. Today the majority of Wandsworth Labour’s councillors are women, as are both our local Labour MPs. In this great picture from 1939, Charlotte Despard – then 89 years old! – addresses an anti-fascist rally in Trafalgar Square. (December)

18. Marsha de Cordova MP and councillor Tony ‘Santa’ Belton celebrate at Battersea Labour’s Christmas Party

See my year in pictures for 2016

Winstanley regeneration: A good deal for property developers and a bad deal for local people

The Winstanley Estate seen from the top of Sporle Court

Speech to Wandsworth Council, December 5, 2018

The Winstanley Estate desperately needs investment after years of neglect. The Kinghan report into the Clapham Junction riots said the estate was in the worst 1% of places to grow up in the UK.

As I said in this chamber eight years ago in my maiden speech, I joined this council to change the ward I represent, not to keep it the same.

Since I was elected more than a dozen young men have been shot and several murdered on or near that estate. Local children simply do not have the same opportunities as those born on the other side of the tracks.

As Latchmere councillors, our deeds match our words. We backed the most ambitious and far-reaching masterplan. We faced up to tough conversations. I have said directly to hundreds of local residents that I believe their homes should be demolished.

We were proud to agree a deal with the council where: all tenants and leaseholders get new homes on the estate; there will be a new school, church and leisure centre; and the same amount of green space is retained.

We were delighted when Sadiq Khan brought an overdue end to an era where estate Regeneration meant clearing out existing communities to make way for unaffordable new developments.

However, since that deal was agreed the council has added 500 extra units to the scheme, largely in private tower blocks. The rebuilt estate will now have only 35% genuinely affordable housing.

The council is a 50:50 joint venture partner in this regeneration. Sadly, that incentivises Wandsworth to behave exactly like a property developer. The more expensive the housing is, the more profit the council makes.

Instead of maximising affordable housing on public land, Wandsworth council is in the perverse position of trying to minimise affordable housing.

We were told the rate of return for the property developer on this project is currently 35%. That’s around double the industry average. The profits will be in the hundreds of millions. The Winstanley regeneration could easily afford extra affordable homes.

The figures in the parallel Alton Estate regeneration are even more questionable.

We can do better. We control the land, the crucial factor in any development.

Wandsworth Labour would make sure that an extra 100 of the homes in the regeneration are council homes for local people. Plus 70 extra in the Alton scheme.

This is a political choice and it simply requires political will.

We’ll always stand up for local people. Labour is proud to have led the community campaigns that stopped this council closing the Winstanley Estate’s library and nearby Battersea Sports Centre. Now we’re campaigning to save the Children’s Centre that serves the estate. We’re on their side.

When we take control of the council we will rebalance the regeneration deals, I want members, officers and our development partners to understand that.

If the current leader is serious about cross-party support he’ll meet people’s aspirations for homes they can hope to afford, real control over their neighbourhood and better opportunities for their children.

Many local people feel neglected. Previous promises have been broken. They see Wandsworth put property developers ahead of residents time and again. To win their trust he needs to truly listen, and to put local people at the heart of changes in their area.

If he chooses not to, he’ll find our scepticism hardening – and he’ll see the public’s opposition growing. I say all of this more in sorrow than in anger.

We want the Winstanley Estate to get the investment it so desperately needs. But this regeneration is turning into a good deal for property developers and a bad deal for local people.

How films win votes: My election in 6 videos

Labour ran a strong campaign to win 7 seats in May’s local elections. Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg explains how video was a key part of the campaign

The bad news is that we fell just short of winning the council. The good news is that we had our best result for 30 years, we won the popular vote and we now have 26 excellent councillors.

Video was a central part of our energetic and positive campaign. The films were fun to make and really helped us to connect with voters and local members.

Here are the six most important films from our campaign – with the lessons learned from each one. (You can see all of the videos from the campaign here)

1. Wandsworth Labour: Ambitious for everyone
(22,000 views, 125 likes, 34 shares)


What did you learn?

You need a strong narrative, a story you can tell to voters.

It’s tough to beat Wandsworth Conservatives: they’ve been in power for 40 years and they set the lowest council tax in Britain. We wanted to get across a positive message that Wandsworth is a great place to live – but its Tory council has the wrong values. This video explains that basic story to voters. I set out the full narrative in this Town Hall speech.

Repetition is important when you’re trying to get a message across.

Thankfully, video makes this a lot easier. Since the start of this year, Wandsworth Labour’s had around 250,000 views of our videos on Facebook. Thanks to the networks we’ve built, and Facebook’s technology, this content was targeted to people who’d consider voting Labour in Wandsworth.

I knew our strategy was working when other parents in the playground at school drop-off started saying to me: “Your videos are all over my Facebook and twitter!”

 

2. Why I’m voting Labour on May 3
(5,000 views, 65 likes, 31 shares)

 

What did you learn?

Get to know your audience and think about how they’ll consume your content.

This video was released in the final week of the campaign. The idea is to capture the attention of voters who focus on the election late on – and to put across the idea that ‘more and more people like me are choosing to vote Labour’.

Captions and clear graphics are crucial. Initially, we didn’t put subtitles on the videos. Then we realised most people were watching our videos on mobile phones so subtitles and really clear graphics were essential. (The subtitles are usually uploaded as separate files to Facebook so don’t appear on the twitter embeds on this page)

Every election is different. This was the first election where most of our contact with voters was digital. And through mobile phones, rather than desktop computers.

 

3. Battersea Power Station
(30,000 views, 266 likes, 57 comments, 117 shares),

What did you learn?

Production is important – in particular the sound quality.

You can shoot videos for free on your phone. I did with this post-election thank you video. (I used this inexpensive external mic.)

However, like all the six videos here, the Battersea Power Station video was shot by a professional with a high-spec camera and microphone. It makes such a difference. We’re fortunate to have a lot of talent in our local Labour Party.

The Tory council allowed the property developers at Battersea Power Station to cut 250 affordable homes from the scheme. This video helped us to make this a key election issue. It was a real buzz when voters started repeating the 250 figure back to us on the doorstep – proof the issue had resonated.

 

4. EU Citizens: One year to Brexit
(12,000 views, 119 likes, 32 shares)

 

What did you learn?

Let real people tell their stories. The video is so powerful because it’s local people saying exactly what they feel.

More than 26,000 Wandsworth residents are EU citizens.  Brexit was an key issue for some voters.

While face-to-face contact will always be the best way to connect, social media grows every day. We need to go where people are, which is why these videos were promoted on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

As we move online with our campaigns, voters might thank us for less leaflets: one organiser tells me that in the last election the leaflets he printed would form a pile taller than the Shard!

 

5. Greener, cleaner and safer streets
(12,000 views, 83 likes, 23 shares)

 

What did you learn?

The response to this video confirmed that the environment is a key concern for voters. Our campaign was positive and based on evidence of what residents wanted.

We learned from 20,000 doorstep conversations, plus research and data. It’s tempting to talk about the things you care most about – but crucial to speak on topics that concern voters.

Our manifesto was ‘digital only’ and read by 5,000 people. There was a strong response, for no production cost. Overall, we included more people than ever before in the campaign through use of digital technology. It does remain a challenge and a concern that some people aren’t able to access material online.

It’s helpful to keep testing ideas and keep learning lessons. This video had a script and it went through a few versions before it was ready.

 

6. Donate to help us win Wandsworth
(Raised £2,000 in crowdsourced donations)

 

What did you learn?

We were lucky to have amazing support from Owen Jones and Sadiq Khan throughout the campaign. In this video they join with lots of other Labour figures to ask for donations to win Wandsworth.

This video was pushed out to our supporters. It contributed to the great buzz of enthusiasm and a positive atmosphere for volunteers.

Video was an important part of how we got our message across during the election. It was useful for fundraising, member mobilisation and communicating with voters.

I’d recommend you consider video as part of your next election campaign. Think about what skills and equipment you’ll need and plan ahead. If you can, get someone with professional experience involved. I’m happy to explain more about what we did if you get in touch.

Wandsworth Labour’s fresh approach is built on fairness and common sense

Speech to Wandsworth council March 7, 2018

Wandsworth is a fantastic place to live. Its strong, diverse communities represent the best of modern London.

But with Conservatives in control locally and nationally, people are feeling the strain.

They once claimed to run a tight ship here, but they’ve become stuck in a tired and self-serving rut. They are trapped in a mind set that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

When our most vulnerable residents need more protection than ever, the Tories have instead prioritised their relationships with property developers and lobbyists.

Most clearly seen at Battersea Power station. A £9 billion scheme with only 9% affordable housing.

Where the council allowed developers to cut 250 affordable homes.

Where the remaining affordable homes have been moved half a mile away from the river to an old industrial estate.

Where a Transparency International investigation found 85% of flats are sold to overseas investors, 44% from ‘high corruption risk’ jurisdictions.

This scheme has become a symbol of everything that’s gone wrong with Wandsworth’s Tory council.

So Wandsworth is now at a crossroads.

Continue with a council with the wrong priorities and no new ideas, or choose a dynamic team with a radically different vision built on fairness and common sense.

As our neighbourhoods change, we need a council with the right values. And as London grows as a global city, we need a fresh, practical approach that harnesses potential without creating imbalance or division.

Only Labour offers this.

Labour will keep Council Tax low – because it’s not right to ask those who are struggling to pay more. We’ll freeze council tax this year and next, and we’ll raise 2% on the social care precept to make sure older people get the care they need and to relieve the pressure on our NHS.

We’ll open up the books, cancel wasteful contracts and cut councillors’ expenses to help pay for much needed services. And we’ll work with local people to protect high streets, provide the homes our communities want, and stop Wandsworth being a soft touch for developers.

We won’t repeat the Tory mistakes of the past.

When they let down vulnerable children and have spent £14 million of local people’s money trying to set right those failings.

When they turned Battersea Park into a motor-racing track – and tried to charge children £2.50 to play in the adventure playground there.

Selling of thousands of affordable homes and building only hundreds in their place.

Labour’s team is principled, experienced and successful. We will put fairness first and stand up to powerful interests. We’ll match competence with compassion, protect neighbourhoods and support those who need it.

We will be ambitious, act with integrity and work tirelessly to make Wandsworth a place where families can thrive.

Wandsworth deserves better. It’s time for a change, we’re ready to serve.

Wandsworth Labour will create a listening council, one that puts local people first

Speech to Wandsworth Council, Dec 6, 2017

simon-and-balloons-school-gate1

We love Wandsworth and want to make it an even better place to live.

In May 2018 at the local elections, local people will have the chance to vote for change. To leave behind a tired Tory party that’s run out of ideas and run out of road.

To trust Labour to deliver homes you can truly afford, better care for older people and outstanding schools.

We’ll defend jobs threatened by Brexit – and protect Wandsworth citizens from its negative impact.

We’ll create a listening council. One that puts local people first. Continue reading

A busy year: My first anniversary as Wandsworth Labour leader

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg with deputy leaders Fleur Anderson and Candida JonesThat went quickly! A year ago today I was elected leader of Wandsworth Labour.

It’s been an extraordinary year in politics. Lots of joy mixed with some real sadness.

In terms of election victories, we’re probably in Wandsworth Labour’s most successful period ever:

Local boy Sadiq Khan is London Mayor, Leonie Cooper joined the London Assembly, Rosena Allin-Khan was elected as Tooting’s MP, and ace campaigners Paul White and Aydın Emre Dikerdem became councillors.

There’s a huge amount of hard work behind these victories. Wandsworth Labour is a team of 19 brilliant councillors backed by more than 5,000 Labour members in Battersea, Putney and Tooting.

We’re in our best position for 25 years and we aim to win the council in 2018.

Wandsworth Labour listens to local people. We try to be positive and practical. I’m proud of our powerful education funding campaign, which took us to school gates across the borough.

For our vigorous work on Brexit, Candida Jones listened to the stories of EU citizens in Wandsworth. Former Battersea MP Alf Dubs came to the Town Hall to support our call for the council to accept Syrian refugee families.

Simon Wady joined our team as full-time Campaign Manager in March. We’re lucky to have him.

The low points of the last year in terms of Tory policy include:

• More than 1,000 homeless local families live in Wandsworth temporary accommodation

• 400 jobs cut as Wandsworth merges its staff with Richmond council

• More than £10 million set aside to clear up the fall-out from a Wandsworth council child protection scandal uncovered by an Ofsted inspection

The lowest points were personal. Rex Osborn stood down as leader last May due to ill health and has spent much of the past year recuperating. We look forward to seeing Rex in full effect in the Town Hall soon.

Worse was to come: Councillor Sally-Ann Ephson passed away last summer after a long illness. She was just 49.

Hundreds of people attended Sally-Ann’s funeral in Tooting. Sadiq Khan led the tributes: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”

Councillor Wendy Speck, who’s been a great Wandsworth Deputy Mayor this year, also gave a lovely tribute on Wandsworth Radio.

Wandsworth Labour was fully engaged during the EU referendum – where 75% of local people voted to ‘Remain’.

Volunteers are now working round the clock on a General Election.

We’re listening to local people every day in Battersea, in Putney and in Tooting – where we aim to re-elect our excellent local champion Rosena. It’s the third time in three years we’ve hit the streets to elect a Labour MP in Tooting!

The good news is that we like elections. Campaigning brings people together and Wandsworth is one of the most fun and exciting places in Britain to do Labour politics. Hundreds of volunteers help out each week. There’s a really positive team spirit.

A huge thank you from me to each councillor and every of our volunteers for making Wandsworth Labour what it is.

Do please get in touch if you want to join us!