Category Archives: Regeneration

My Journey Into UKIP

Out of the blue, less than 24 hours before nominations closed on 9th April, I received a call from UKIP London Region chairman asking me if I would be a candidate for the party in the General Election. He wanted me to stand in the Brent North constituency where the intended candidate apparently had gone AWOL.

Immediately I consented. Then, working with local activists, we managed to submit the required papers, signatures and deposit with just two hours to spare.

ukipIt was an unexpected and personally significant turn of events, so I thought I should email an explanation about my UKIP journey to people close to me. This, then, is what I wrote to them back on 11th April; the UKIP hierarchy requested that I shouldn’t publish it on my blog until today when the General Election campaign is over:

Dear family, friends and colleagues,

In October I joined UKIP, which surprised many, horrified some and delighted others.

Further, over the past month I have been campaigning at weekends for UKIP’s excellent candidate in the party’s most winnable London seat, Dagenham & Rainham. Then this week UKIP suddenly asked me to stand as their paper (that is, nominal or non-campaigning) candidate in the unwinnable Brent North constituency – which I readily accepted.

When I lost my seat on Newham Council in 2010 after eight satisfying years as Christian Peoples Alliance councillor, I decided that my period of electoral politics was over. I’d had my time and I’d done my bit. So I am, perhaps, as surprised as anyone to find myself back in the fray ahead of the general election on 7 May, this time on behalf of a different party.

I thought I’d try to explain why to those who know me and may be puzzled by my recent political conversion to UKIP. If however you are simply not interested or find it boring, please be free to ignore and delete this email.

the crossWhen I became a Christian in my late 20s, my worldview changed dramatically. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the corporate success, high income and jet-set lifestyle that I enjoyed then, I realised immediately that the Christian God rejects egotism, arrogance, selfishness and untruth: Christ showed us that His compassion is for the weak, the voiceless, the marginalised, the deprived, the disabled and the despised.

As a result and following my faith, I left the prosperity of leafy Highgate in north London and moved to inner-city Canning Town in London’s east end, then the most deprived neighbourhood in the country according to the London Research Council. There I founded and became live-in warden of an after-care home for young offenders following their release from prison, and I ended up running a local church and community centre for the disadvantaged docklands population.

My heart was primarily with the outsider and the underdog, so when in 2001 and without consultation Newham Council highhandedly and Mugabe-like announced a brutal housing clearance scheme across Canning Town (“social cleansing” the appalled locals termed it) I moved into action. I door-knocked, leafletted and held mass meetings. I was then elected onto Newham Council as the sole Opposition member facing 59 Labour councillors and a Labour executive Mayor. I was the first non-Labour councillor in Canning Town for nearly a century and this small local earthquake helped kick-start my short political career…

The union of one man and one woman in marriage, faithful to each another “for the procreation of children” and “till death us do part”, is an almost uniquely Christian ordinance. Like Christianity itself, this monogamous ideal has for more than a millennium so influenced our society, culture and language that we hardly notice it; for instance it is a bit of a shaker to consider that if I had been born in, say, traditionalist Africa or Muslim Middle East, my beloved Sally could be merely the first of my three or four wives without anyone batting an eyelid or me breaking the law.

wedding handsThe social benefits of Christian-style faithful marriage have been so great, especially for the nurture and socialisation of the nation’s children, that I put the promotion of the marriage-based family via tax breaks and other incentives at the top of my agenda. For instance when I ran for Mayor of London against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in 2008, my prime election pledge was to “Promote marriage and stable family as a long-term solution to youth crime, educational underachievement and child poverty”.

I was stunned therefore when in 2011, without prior notice or indeed, initially, the support of gay campaigning groups like Stonewall, David Cameron commenced his crusade for same-sex marriage and, consequently, the debasing and degrading of traditional marriage. Under the government’s gay marriage legislation, loyalty and faithfulness were negated as a key defining characteristic of marriage (“Go on, be modern, play the field, everyone does”) and, necessarily, so was procreation and the nurture of the marital union’s offspring.

Yet same-sex marriage was not in any of the main parties’ manifestos at the previous general election; there was no Green or White Paper consultation over the issue; debate in Parliament was severely restricted and one-sided; opponents were excoriated as stone-age dinosaurs or homophobes – in this way the whole metropolitan liberal political bubble (led unitedly and enthusiastically by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson) highhandedly rammed through the destruction of this foundational building-block of a healthy society. They betrayed our children and it’s the coming generations who will suffer the consequences.

For me it was the last straw. It was shades of highhanded Newham Council again, but at the national level. Until this betrayal I still had – just – some residual respect for our political elite and our existing party system. But no more. Their cavalier and flagrant abuse of the political process over this vital social issue was, for me, jaw-dropping. They shoved it down our throats, and it made me sick.

But not UKIP.

UKIP is an unsophisticated grass-roots party of mainly ordinary people, warts and all. The leaders make mistakes but deal swiftly with the jesters and worse that any new party attracts.

The leadership has common sense and very real courage: alone they stood against gay marriage; alone they want the UK to exit the corrupt and undemocratic EU; alone they campaign to end to the madness of uncontrolled mass immigration; alone they plan to protect childhood innocence by banning sex education from primary school pre-pubescents.

I don’t agree with some of UKIP’s stuff, but as despised outsiders and in spite of virulent opposition the party has single-handedly shifted the political agenda on both the EU and mass immigration. The party is currently doing the same over health tourism and wages depressed by cheap labour. Yet encouragingly a significant percentage of supporters come from ethnic minorities who too, of course, are outsiders.

So I’ve joined UKIP and am campaigning and nominally standing for the party on 7 May. I want our society to regain its identity and confidence, to come out of the cosy but crumbling rich men’s club that is the EU and to engage independently with the wider world (including Europe) so that we stand or fall by our wits.

friends-fingersI don’t expect all my friends to agree with me (that’s not what friends are for!) or to support UKIP. But it is important to me that you understand why I am actively campaigning for them.

If you want to know more about the moral fury that has driven me into UKIP, I urge you to read my post “Matthew Parris’ Poison” (especially the second half) at www.alansangle.com/?p=1531.

Also if you have any comments, favourable or otherwise, be free to email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Very warmly,

Alan

Stepping Down And Moving On…

After a decade at the helm it’s time for me to step down as leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA).

The party is currently reviewing its way forward for the next few years and in my view my resignation is necessary so that new blood can come forward and a new vision develop, unimpeded by the past.

Furthermore since ceasing to be a Newham councillor in May 2010 many fascinating and hopefully useful new doors have opened, ranging from working in Baroness Caroline Cox’s parliamentary office to supporting the church against militant Islam in northern Nigeria and challenging the aggressive and culturally destructive gay political agenda here at home.

The role of national leader of our small party has proved fulfilling, but especially enjoyable were my eight years as CPA local councillor and leader of the Opposition on Newham Council and also the campaign as candidate for London mayor in May 2008.

Promoting CPA’s Christian democratic vision at national and local level is a tough call in our selfish materialistic society where money, power and now celebrity are the public measures of personal value and the elderly, the unemployed, the vulnerable, the inarticulate and the ugly are consigned to the margins. A sleek self-centred liberal individualism dominates all public life and, despite exciting bits of progress especially in the technical/scientific/medical arenas, our once-vibrant national culture is decaying, our social capital is dissipating, and our previously prosperous civilisation seems in terminal decline.

What’s more the current fashion- and arts-driven ‘Cool Britannia Mark 2’ and the capital’s Jubilee/Olympics feel-good froth have encouraged the complacent liberal media to salivate over the wonders of the UK’s politically correct multi-culturalism (necessarily only the polished version made visible on our screens by Team GB of course) and the undoubted creativity of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. But these enjoyable diversions are simply metropolitan mood music played by the orchestra on the deck of the stricken Titanic.

The nation’s underlying and intractable greed-fuelled debt-driven financial crisis continues to push us towards the economic precipice. This is but a deep symptom of an even deeper malaise caused by the loss of our civilisation’s foundations: integrity, self-restraint, public service, objectivity, responsibility, patience and commitment to family and community have all but disappeared as public values, with no adequate replacement.

As on the Titanic (here), the funereal ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ seems the appropriate national swansong as Britain and Europe steadily sink under a cynical secular public discourse, an indigenous birth-rate below replacement, widespread welfare-bred apathy, and the loss of hope, descendants and a future. The decline and fall of Roman civilisation took more than quarter of a millennium; ours looks to be much quicker. How urgently we need the rich revitalising truth-based love-your-neighbour teachings of Jesus Christ.

Despite (Sally reckons because of) the odds and Labour Party hostility, I hugely enjoyed pioneering Christian democracy at the local level in east London. There’s no doubt our CPA team usefully impacted the Newham agenda on a wide range of issues, including challenging the brutal Canning Town housing regeneration project, disputing the closure of local Post Offices, supporting a local UNISON trade union leader against Council persecution, exposing the separatist and sexist fundamentalism behind the proposed West Ham mega-mosque, defending the excellent Queens Street market at Upton Park from senseless redevelopment and opposing the massive biennial arms fair at ExCel exhibition centre.

In particular I enjoyed helping local people with their individual problems. Unlike the then-West Ham Labour MP Tony Banks, I received real satisfaction from serving constituents. It’s a mystery why Banks was idolised locally when he so publicly despised the lives of the people he represented (here). But his dismissive attitude was typical of Newham Labour Party and explains why I battled against them so much.

So I step down with great personal memories, no regrets and many thanks to my party colleagues and to the voters in Newham.

CPA now needs to move forward with optimism and expectation. I find myself doing just that in new pastures and at full speed by God’s grace.

The resignation takes place formally at the party’s AGM on 13th October, dv.

An Oasis of excellence wrecked – or how not to do regeneration.

Seven years ago Newham Council announced that it intended to regenerate the predominantly council housing stock in my electoral ward in Canning Town. Nothing wrong with that: many of the homes were in urgent need of rebuilding or renovation.

But it became a classic New Labour project, typical of their many projects up and down the country that are more concerned with ends than means, of achieving targets rather than helping people. Despite buckets of warm empty words about “consultation” and “involving residents in decision- making”, the scheme was ruthlessly driven top-down from the executive mayor’s office.

The working-class people of Canning Town became irrelevant in the town hall’s blind obsession with yuppifying the neighbourhood. Locals were moved about like pawns on a chess board. The regeneration was done to and at the local people, nor for and with them – a superb opportunity for community regeneration replaced by an ugly example of community destruction.

This scenario was well illustrated at a meeting I had this week with the parents of children at Oasis Nursery School on Burke Street.

Oasis is an excellent nursery school, one of four in our neighbourhood but the only stand-alone one. It has received outstanding Ofsted assessments and is a popular and happy place with a superb head and committed staff. It is streets ahead of the other nursery schools. It’s a diamond and a unique asset in deprived under-serviced Canning Town.

All the local schools, like Oasis, are suffering from a fall in pupil numbers as families are moved out of the area as a result of the housing project. In addition, planners tell us that the Oasis building itself is to be bulldozed to make way for a new road and development of the surrounding land.

So DOH! Our imaginative town hall came up with an intelligent creative plan. They’re going to close the best nursery school in the borough and spread the pupils and staff around into much lower-performing schools nearby. That’s it. End of. The committee met, the slide-rules and calculators came out and the decision to terminate one of Newham’s few outstanding schools was taken, top down. Educational excellence is replaced by mediocrity. The parents I met are distraught.

Is it beyond the wit of man and Newham town hall to be a little more resourceful and inventive – even if this entails more financial risk? The developers are set to make £millions from the housing regeneration project. How about they are compelled build a new and larger nursery school for the community? (It’s called Section 106.) Oasis staff and pupils could then move in and the children from other underperforming local nurseries should be offered places too – which may of course lead to their closure. But at least educational mediocrity would be replaced by excellence. And I’m confident from my meeting that it would be supported by parents and local community.

Oasis is destined to be shut in August. Is it too late for Newham Council to see sense?