My Christmas reading

I’m about a year behind in my reading – I had a busy 2013 and am now getting round to reading some of the books I bought at the end of 2012.

This book has some compelling arguments for associative democracy as a means of democratising the economy and creating a more responsive welfare system.  I know that the way you do politics determines the change you can make, and, whilst this book leaves plenty of questions unanswered, it makes a strong case for services and businesses governed in a way that puts the people they are supposed to serve in charge.

Everything I have learnt in my decade in Tower Hamlets has taught me that power and resources need to be in the hands of people seeking to build their own future.

There are plenty of examples locally of people and organisations that changed the world for the better from the ground up.

Matchgirls, dockers, Labour leaders, suffragettes– their ghosts everywhere.

In Tower Hamlets, local government is never boring, and at its best it can achieve so much.

I ran a seminar on the East London Federation of Suffragettes last year,  and this year I’ll edit and publish my account of how east end women united to fight for the vote and for their families and communities before the 100th anniversary of the creation of the federation this summer.

This account  of how local elected politicians, council officers, parents, young people and school governors, backed by national government, transformed education in Tower Hamlets, is fascinating – I hope I can talk to enough people to give a locally rooted version of it.

The battle of Cable  street is well known, the story of fight against the National Front and BNP in east London in the later part of the 20th century has not been fully written.  How can we change that?

There are a number of organizations in Tower Hamlets that hold enormous expertise on how to support individuals and families to change their lives.  I won’t name them without their permission, but I hope to write up some of what I have learnt from them.

On this blog I will try to write as I learn, and I hope that if you’ve read this far you will be interested enough to comment, tell me where I’ve got it wrong, tell me what I should read and who I should talk to.  A huge number of extraordinary people have already made their contribution to creating a united east end.  It is for us to build our shared future.

Thank you – Forward

Huge thanks to all my friends and supporters for all the hard work over the past few weeks and months, and for the kind words since Saturday.

The result of the selection has been widely reported:

Round 1: Rachael Saunders 261, John Biggs 257, Helal Abbas 207, Sirajul Islam 26.

Round 2, after Abbas and Siraj eliminated and second preference votes redistributed): John Biggs 328, Rachael 319.

John Biggs was therefore selected as our mayoral candidate, and we will all now unite behind him to win back Tower Hamlets council for Labour in 2014.

I stood in this selection because I felt so strongly about what we need to do win for Labour in 2014 and move Tower Hamlets forward.  Now this stage is over I will do all I can to contribute to a Labour win, and will continue to fight for a politics that is open and transparent, that values the different contributions that people have to make to this great, diverse borough.

I hope to continue to serve as a councillor and to work as a part of a Labour team to bring hope to Tower Hamlets, through jobs, decent housing, cohesive neighbourhoods and strong public services.

A fourth Labour leader, Dennis Twomey, backs Rachael

Six Labour people have led Tower Hamlets council since we won back power in 1994.  Two of them are standing in this selection.  The other four are all backing me. 

Today I am able to announce the endorsement of Dennis Twomey.  His statement is below:

“I’m backing Rachael because I think she is far and away the best candidate, and because although I don’t support having Mayors, if we’re going to have one I want one who is going to be open and transparent and who will bring new thinking to the problems of Tower Hamlets”.  

The statements of Denise Jones, Michael Keith and Julia Mainwaring, the other three past council leaders backing me, are here:  

Tackling poverty, public health

handing in NHS petition

April 1st sees the implementation of changes in how the NHS operates, with GPs taking over commissioning and public health responsibilities coming to the local authority. 

Whilst Tory cuts to services are a real threat, there is hope for Tower Hamlets with our GPs committed to transparency  in decision making.  Practitioners and commissioners are working together to resist privatisation and fragmentation.  The NHS Pledge is our bottom line, and Sam Everington GP as the chair of the clinical commissioning group is signed up.   

As Mayor, I would put public health at the heart of everything the council does. 

Ill health is both a cause and a symptom of poverty.  With overcrowding, damp housing, and outrageous pollution levels we face real challenges, but there is so much we can do. 

We can break the cycle of poverty by tackling malnutrition in our schools.  Significant priority has already been given to childhood obesity, but the issues are wider, and we need to work with schools and health professionals to develop nutrition measures so we can develop objectives for improving the wellbeing of our children, to give them the best possible start.  “Can Do” community grants and health trainers are the start of local people and organisations leading change on healthy lifestyles. 

As Mayor I would work with colleagues to use public health impact assessments across the council, including in regeneration and planning. 

Air pollution is responsible for close to 9% of deaths in Tower Hamlets each year, and is at the root of a range of chronic conditions.  As a council we must get serious about tackling congestion and holding developers to account for the pollution caused by building works. 

Currently, we have a Tory Mayor Of London who dodges responsibility for tacking pollution, and an Independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets who is interested in short term gimmicks than in making real change on public health. 

I have brought GPs, health professionals, trade unions and campaigners together as Tower Hamlets Labour’s lead on health.  I know how to bring people together to get things done.  As Mayor, I would protect the NHS, and bring local people and organisations together to tackle the health inequalities that perpetuate poverty.

Easter hope for Tower Hamlets – welfare cuts

On this Easter Day I am glad to see a number of church leaders taking the opportunity to protest against the government brutal benefit cuts which will come into force tomorrow.  Whilst Easter is a time of hope and joy for Christians, today is also a day to stand with all those who won’t be able to pay the rent next month because of the government’s attacks on our community. 

Around 1,600 households will be affected by the Tory  benefits cap which comes into force tomorrow, and 2,861 families will be affected by the bedroom tax. 

We need a change of council leadership and a change of government so we can hold business to account, change the council’s skills and jobs brokerage provision and get people into work.  As Mayor I would introduce landlord licensing and push hard for agreement on Living Rents.  

As Labour’s mayoral candidate, I would lead a campaign exposing the reality of these cuts.  Tower Hamlets is about to see an increase in poverty, higher rent and council tax arrears, an increase in personal debt, increases in overcrowding as people move in together to avoid the bedroom tax, and forced relocation, as families can no longer afford the pay the high rents in Tower Hamlets. 

We can take action now.  We can build a Living Rent campaign.  We must organise as a party to give all the support we can to those of our neighbours affected – I am looking to build links with local organisations who could work with us to train Labour activists in welfare and debt advice.   The council has already contacted all those families most seriously affected, sign posting them to available support.   Unite the Union has some advice for those who can be affected here.   

These welfare cuts are brutal, and with his cuts to advice services the Independent Mayor isn’t helping.  We need change at the top to move Tower Hamlets forward. 


How we win in 2014

canvassingThe most important question members are asking as they make up their minds who to vote for in this selection is who can win for Labour in 2014.  I am clear about what we need to do, and why I am the candidate we need to win.

We need rebuild trust. 

To win back Tower Hamlets council in 2014 we must win back the trust of the people of Tower Hamlets.

We have a national disaffection with politics, made worse in Tower Hamlets by the mess we made of tackling the destructive factions within our own ranks.

In 2010, when we lost the mayoral election, many people chose to stay at home rather than vote.

They were annoyed with a mayoral system they didn’t like and alienated by a party that had turned in on itself.  The Labour Party looked like we were more interested in fighting our internal battles than fighting for the people of Tower Hamlets.

Labour made mistakes

To win again, we have to acknowledge that we made mistakes.

The Labour Party isn’t entitled to win elections in Tower Hamlets.  Too often, we go out thinking that if we put on a red rosette and knock on enough doors, we’ll win.  That’s wrong.

We ran a conventional campaign in the 2012 GLA elections, and although we got a good result locally, turnout was only 34%.  We won’t win back the council if we can only inspire 34% of people to come out of their houses to vote.


We have to have the humility and the grace to listen.

We will make change in Tower Hamlets if we back the people who know best how to build our communities – the people that live here.

We will win again if we listen to those people, in Labour Party meetings, on school gates, in children’s centres, on street corners, in trade union branch meetings, outside Friday prayers, in churches synagogues and temples, in the community centres and voluntary sector organisations that change lives every day.   We have to knock on doors, and we have to go to where people already congregate and build together a policy plan that will create our shared future.

When we have acknowledged our own mistakes, when we have listened to local people and built a policy platform collectively – then we can ask for votes at an election.

We need to demonstrate that we have learnt from our mistakes, and moved on.  I am the candidate that can personify that change.

I’ve worked for the Labour Party, and knocked on doors in countless elections. I’ve been the organiser in a key seat for a general election. (We won).  I know how to mobilise volunteers and activists and I’ve never shirked a leaflet round.  My own ward has consistently had the highest Voter ID rates across the borough since I was elected.  When I first came to Mile End East it was a marginal ward, where in 2006 Respect had won a seat.  In my by election in 2008 I got 48% of the vote in a four party race.  Following the 2010 elections, Mile End East is the strongest Labour seat in Tower Hamlets.

The way you do politics determines the nature of the change you are able to make.  Our strength in Tower Hamlets is the diversity of the skills, knowledge, experiences, ideas that our people bring, through the many different routes that brought us here to the east end.

We will win in 2014 because we have united as a party and because we have built trust across the diverse communities of our borough.

I hope you can vote for me on April 6th, and join me in the campaign to move Tower Hamlets forward.

My hustings speech

I know a number of local members had hoped to make the hustings but didn’t make it.  I thought it might be worth blogging my speech notes from the last hustings session.  Do get in touch if there are any questions at all you’d like to ask. 




Good evening

As-salam alaykum 

I’m Rachael Saunders 

Won a by election in Mile End East in 2008, re elected in 2010. 


Been chief whip, led for the Labour Group on health, social care and equalities, in cabinet and in opposition. 


So why am I standing for this selection? 


I am not standing in opposition to any other candidate, but because I feel so strongly about what we need to do to win the election, run the council, lead the borough, and move Tower Hamlets forward. 


We need rebuild trust. 

I believe that the way we create the change we need in Tower Hamlets is to start from the bottom up.  When we’ve lost elections in Tower Hamlets, it has been because we think that just rolling out the dusty old Labour Party machine is enough to win. 


It isn’t. 


We ran a conventional campaign in the 2012 GLA elections, and although we got a good result locally, turnout was only 34%.  We won’t win back the council if we can only inspire 34% of people to come out of their houses to vote. 


We have a national disaffection with politics, made worse in Tower Hamlets by the mess we made of tackling the destructive factions within our own ranks. 


Last time, in the mayoral election in 2010, people stayed at home, annoyed with a mayoral system they didn’t like and alienated by a party that had turned in on itself. 


I’m the candidate that can change that. 


I have a clear vision for how we create a shared future for Tower Hamlets.   


We will make change in Tower Hamlets if we back the people who know best how to build our communities – the people that live here. 


The Tories Big Society is meaningless and empty because they want philanthropy, not a shift in power.  They want people to run services, but only because they want to cut budgets. 


My politics is different, because it is based on a belief in the value of every individual and the different contributions they can make. 


Our strength in Tower Hamlets is the diversity of the skills, knowledge, experiences, ideas that our people bring, through the many different routes that brought us here to the east end.  


The greatest human tragedy is when those talents are wasted, through the wreckage of human potential of poverty, ill health, poor education, overcrowding, unemployment.  


Our future is built together, and politics is the place where we combine our collective power to advance our shared interests. 

For that to work, we have to hold those with money and power to account. 

money flows through Tower Hamlets – Crossrail, Canary Wharf, the Olympics on our doorstep – but local people see little benefit. 


That must change. 


Jobs  for local people, the strong public services I’ve fought for in my campaigning on the NHS, creation of social and affordable housing – these are my building blocks of a shared future. 


The power of the mayoral model must be shared too. 


Opposed mayoral model, want to work with you on a new constitutional settlement, a new way of doing politics.    Agree as soon as selected so you can hold me to account once elected.   

I would be transparent, open and inclusive in decision making, because it is right, and because the way you do politics determines the nature of the change you are able to make. 


I am the Mayor that would bring the borough together, women and men, across ethnic communities, across streets and estates.  I know how to bring the public, private and voluntary sector together to get things done.   


The people who are backing me know that I am the change we need to win. 


Trade unions – not blokes on regional committees, but workers in the town hall who voted to support me because they know I have their interests at heart. 

My councillor colleagues, including the deputy leader of the Labour Group.  An ice skating baroness!  Three people who have led this council who have run this council before, and know I could do it too. 

Friends, support me, join with me, to move Tower Hamlets forward. 

Local Unite branch backs Rachael

I’ve been a member of Unite the Union and predecessor unions since I was 19, so it means a lot to me to have the Unite LE/1998 branch, the Tower Hamlets Town Hall branch of Unite,  backing to be the next Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets.

Tory cuts to council grants will mean tough decisions will have to be made by the Mayor and councillors post 2014.  I’m committed to openess, transparency and dialogue as those difficult choices are made.  That’s why the Unite Tower Hamlets Council  branch is backing me.  The statement of the branch secretary, Paul Ward, is below.

Dear Rachael,

At the Unite Tower Hamlets Branch meeting held on 13th March 2013, there was a unanimous decision to support you in your Tower Hamlets Labour Mayoral Candidacy.   

The Trade Union movement and the Labour Party are inherently linked but that relationship in Tower Hamlets has waned of late. Of all the Labour Mayoral candidates you are the only one to approach a local Trade Union, in this case your union of Unite, not only seeking support but providing assurances as to improving the working relationship between the local Labour Party and Staffside to deliver excellent services for residents of Tower Hamlets.   

That open approach and willingness to work with all parties will be essential to take Tower Hamlets Council forward. We therefore hope that all local Labour Party trade unionists will support you in your candidacy.   

Paul Ward

Unite Branch Secretary

No regional or national committe of Unite has voted to back me – Unite the Union as a whole isn’t formally endorsing anyone in this race.  I am proud that the council workers of the LE/1998 branch based in Tower Hamlets Town Hall has chosen to vote to support me.

Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman and Cllr Mizan Chaudhury back Rachael

Today two additional senior councillors have announced that they are backing me to be the next Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets. 

Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman, current Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and a previous ceremonial Mayor of the borough, and Cllr Mizan Chaudhury, the first Speaker of Tower Hamlets council and a councillor for Bethnal Green South.  

I am grateful for their support.  

Their statements are below. 

Cllr Motin Uz-zaman, Deputy Leader of Labour Group and Mayor of Tower Hamlets 2010

“I’m backing Rachael as I believe she will be best the candidate for winning back the council in 2014. As my ward colleague, I have worked with her hand-in-hand and know how good she will be as the Mayor for this borough. She is considerate, approachable and an excellent listener – someone that is full of energy and passionate about the community with a vision to do better for all; in moving this borough forward. She will be a good ambassador for the young people and women in our borough as she could relate to their issues and concerns. I could relate to the vision she has and as a team we could achieve those. I want others to join us in making history by electing the first woman directly elected Labour Mayor in the country”.   

Cllr Mizan Chaudhury, First Speaker of Tower Hamlets, Bethnal Green South Ward

“I have thought about it thoroughly who will be the best candidate to deliver for the community and have reached the decision it will be Rachael. We need a candidate that can unite the community in moving the borough forward and I believe Rachael is that person – she is young, fresh, energetic, passionate, inclusive, reliable and has the vision and commitment to deliver for all sections of our community – a vision that I share too. Like me, she understands the needs of our borough, young people, women, the elderly and local organisations – that is why I am backing her and together we could deliver on these. Its time to move forward and make a change. Working as a team we will bring a new direction to Tower Hamlets that only seeks to make changes for the better, a brighter and proud future for all – lets all be part of this change.”

 To see more of my supporters: