No to Lap Dancing in Tower Hamlets

I’ve just come back from speaking at an event titled “Lap Dancing, Liberation or Exploitation” with other speakers including Kat Baynard, Ruhana Ali from Telco and Sarah Castro from Poplar Harca, chaired by independent Cllr Rania Khan. 
At the core of the event were local women, of different identities and from different backgrounds, saying clearly and emphatically that we do not want strip clubs and lap dancing establishments to be licensed to operate in Tower Hamlets. 
For me, sex establishments are one small symptom of a much wider faultline in our society.  The operation of control of women’s bodies and commodification of women’s sexuality are a symptom of  gendered power inequalities.  I’m glad that the Labour government gave people the ability to say no to sex establishments in their area through granting powers to local authorities through licensing, and I hope that we make use of that power in Tower Hamlets.  If we’re serious about this, though, there is far more we need to do.  We must properly fund work that helps women exit the sex industry, we must do all we can to tackle child sexual abuse – many women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children – and we must properly fund and support work that deals with domestic violence. 
One argument set out tonight was that banning things isn’t right, and that our families and communities should be strong enough to resist the damage that might be done by a lap dancing club on the corner.  This misses the point.  I don’t buy liberal arguments in these circumstances – I got elected to use the power of the state for the betterment of the people I represent, not to stand out of the way when things get controversial.  Equally, the lap dancing club isn’t the sole source of the problem, it’s a symptom, but if we are serious about campaigning for equality for women and girls, it’s a symptom that we must treat.
Please do respond to the consultation  – it is important. 

An open letter to the House of Lords – Save our NHS

This is an email I’ve sent to all peers with links to Tower Hamlets I can find contact details for.  On the off chance any member of the House of Lords who cares about the east end of London is reading this, I’ll post it here too…
I am writing as the Tower Hamlets Council Labour Group lead on Health, to ask you to speak and vote against the health bill as it is presented to the House of Lords this week.
As someone with strong links to Tower Hamlets you will know that our excellent local services have been developed through co operation and collaboration, not market competition.  Our outstanding Primary Care Trust has been vital in bringing health professionals together to tackle deep rooted health inequalities.  GPs in Tower Hamlets have stated their support for the good work that the PCT does.  Whilst they will do all they can to preserve its good work if this bill passes, the legislation will make it very difficult for them. 
You will know that there are significant health inequalities between Tower Hamlets and the rest of the country. Male life expectancy is 75.3 years compared to 77.8 nationally and female life expectancy is 80.4 compared to 81.9 (2006-8). The borough has the highest or second highest mortality in London for the three major killers: cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. There are also substantial inequalities within the borough with life expectancy at ward level varying by eight years in males and six years for females.
We know that these statistics are rooted in deprivation and overcrowding.  The tragedy of these NHS proposals is that there has been no attempt by the government to describe how their changes will help areas such as Tower Hamlets improve our health outcomes.  
That the proposed NHS reorganisation is unnecessary, costly and not in the interests of the people of Tower Hamlets.  This bill was not in any party manifesto.  There is no democratic mandate for a costly top down reorganisation of our NHS.
Please speak and vote against this Bill.
Best wishes,
Cllr Rachael Saunders

Save the NHS

It is vital that we stop this bureaucratic, wasteful mess of a reorganisation of our NHS.

The TUC has created an excellent Adopt a Peer tool, see link.

This is particularly useful as, in Tower Hamlets, we already have Labour MPs who are opposing this damaging legislation – we need to influence the House of Lords.

I’m planning to go one step better. There are a number of members of the House of Lords with strong links to Tower Hamlets. I’m going to write to them to ask them to speak and vote against this Bill, and to give them all the information I can about how these changes would affect us locally.

Do let me know if there is anything you’d like me to include – any of your experience and knowledge of the NHS that we could ask members of the House of Lords to mention in their speeches.

Together we must save our NHS.

They Shall Not Pass – the 75th Anniversary of Cable st

It’s been an amazing weekend commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle of Cable Street. 

On Saturday we had a public dialogue about our campaign to strengthen the law so that, in the very occasional and extreme circumstances where it is currently possible to ban a march, it will also be possible to ban a static demonstration, or rally.  We do not want the EDL on our streets whether they are marching or standing still. 

Below is a picture of some of the local people who attended, and some councillors. 

Then today we marched to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the battle of Cable street, and I spent the day at the inspiring celebrations at the beautiful Wiltons Music Hall. 

Me, some local friends and some visitors from Bangladesh in front of the restored Cable Street mural. 

Me with the wonderful Beattie Orwell, life long party member, ex councillor and Cable Street veteran. 

Max Levitas and Beattie Orwell.