Nepal Earthquake

I am deeply saddened at the extensive humanitarian disaster unfolding primarily in Nepal, but also in Tibet and parts of India and Bangladesh.  My heart goes out to all those affected, in Nepal and surrounding areas, but also in the UK – a large community of Nepalese have lived here for generations, and many UK residents have relatives either visiting or working in Nepal.

British nationals who need help with Brits currently in Nepal should contact the Foreign Office’s emergency consular response unit – 020 7008 0000.  The FCO has regular updates about Nepal on their webpage Travel Advice Nepal

The most pragmatic way for UK residents to help communities in Nepal is to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).  DEC coordinates funds for all the main aid agencies who are out there, on the ground in Nepal.  The collective includes a range of secular and religious charities, so there is at least one charity involved with DEC that will meet your personal preferences.  Please donate to them: http://www.dec.org.uk/

I know rescue workers in Nepal are struggling to reach remote populations.  One of the groups in the hills right now trying to reach people on the knife-edge of survival is the Britain-Nepal Medical Trust.  I know UK doctors who have worked with them in the past, and the Britain-Nepal Medical Trust has been assisting the Nepalese health care system since 1968 – http://www.britainnepalmedicaltrust.org.uk/

Another group I know well, having fundraised for them a decade ago, is Tibet Relief Fund.  They care for the thousands of Tibetan refugees trying to survive in Nepal, having fled the Chinese annexation of Tibet – http://www.tibetrelieffund.co.uk/

The post-quake situation in Tibet itself is very unclear, which is giving serious rise to concern about the fate of entire communities there.  Initial reports on Sunday indicated Tibetan housing and infrastructure in at least two large areas had been devastated, and the weather was hampering rescue access.  The Tibetan aid effort is being left to China and, until today, three days after the main disaster struck, there has been scant information about how much is actually being done by China to help Tibetans.  Today’s first detailed update is troubling – http://english.cri.cn/12394/2015/04/28/3745s876350.htm – the window for immediate survival is closing rapidly, and hope is faltering for rebuilding the lives of thousands left homeless in Tibet.

Workers and migrant rights in Walthamstow

The first hustings I participated in last week was arranged by Waltham Forest Trades Council (WFTC) and the Parish of Walthamstow.  You can see how we candidates got on via the Occupy London webstream – http://occupylondon.org.uk/walthamstow-ge2015-hustings/

Before the hustings began, Dave Knight from WF Trades Council gave a moving dedication to Romanian worker, Marian Nemit, who died in a construction accident in Leyton recently (http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/wfnews/12909507.Picture_of_tragic_builder_released_as_reports_suggest_family_learned_of_death_on_social_media/).

I want to express my condolences to Marian’s family and friends in Romania and the UK.

There is a sizeable Romanian community in Walthamstow, many of whom I have spoken to during my campaigning.  They are unable to vote in this particular election.  They can vote in the local borough Council, London Assembly and EU elections, but not the Parliamentary elections.  However, I have wanted to talk to them because the migrant worker population in Walthamstow is an important part of our local society and I want to spend time understanding their situation and needs.  I want them to know, as well, I would care about their concerns as well as people voting for me.

My experience is that the local Romanian community, along with the Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Moravian and other East European populations here, are incredibly hard working and contribute to the vibrancy and economy of Walthamstow.

The reality is that migrant work is badly taken advantage of.  East European and other migrants often get paid less than minimum wage, often on zero-hours contracts, endure appalling working conditions which defy any basic standards of health & safety, and face extraordinary levels of racial abuse.  Frequently, they have to live in horrendous housing conditions and struggle to make ends meet, despite working all hours.

I have met some of the homeless migrants in the area; gentle, thoughtful, hard-working.  They are too proud to take handouts or rely on benefits.  They simply want to make a living for themselves, and contribute, away from the corruption and oppression of their home countries.

Waves of immigration going back over centuries have enriched the UK.  We need migrants workers to succeed in their lives in the UK, to be able to contribute more to society, both economically and culturally.

Migrant workers must be paid the London Living wage when working and living here, and their work conditions should more than meet basic HSE and employment law requirements.  Otherwise, all that happens is that UK domestic workers’ pay and conditions are undermined, stopping them from contributing to the economy and forcing them to become reliant on the state for assistance.

It benefits no one to mistreat or underpay migrants.  If elected, I would make supporting our local migrant populations a key focus of my work, and building social cohesion across Walthamstow to develop understanding and acceptance of each other’s cultures within the area.

Today is Workers Memorial Day and I want to pay tribute to those who work tirelessly to improve working pay and conditions through trades unions and workers associations, particularly Waltham Forest Trades Council.

Proud to be standing as a woman

As a woman in 2015, it should seem usual to be standing as a candidate in a general election, but it isn’t.  Sadly, the political world is still dominated by men.  Nationally, only a quarter of candidates standing are women.  Full gender equality is a way off yet.

I am proud to be one of four women standing for Walthamstow.  As women, whether we like it or not, in seeking election we act as role models for the next generation of Walthamstow’s young women.

We do not have to agree politically.  In fact, our different views are a bonus because our range of political beliefs and experience demonstrates that, nowadays, there is no set path to achievement.  Having said that, however, we can agree to respect each other’s lives and career choices as women.

I respect all three other women candidates for the life choices you have made to date.  You are great achievers in your family lives, careers and political aspirations.  Walthamstow is lucky to have such a line up to choose from.

Hustings galore!

These are the hustings I am participating in:

Waltham Forest Trades Council & Church of England Parish of Walthamstow

Wednesday, 22 April, at 7pm

Walthamstow Girls School, Church Hill, Walthamstow, E17 9RZ

 

Waltham Forest Council of Mosques

Friday, 24 April, at 8.15pm (although most people say it’s 9pm)

WFIA, Ghousia Hall, 119-121 Grove Road, Walthamstow, E17 9BU

 

Waltham Forest Women’s Network (women-only audience)

Saturday, 25 April, at 4pm

Wood Street Library, Walthamstow, E17 4AA

 

38 Degrees ‘Walthamstow Question Time’

Wednesday, 29 April, at 7pm

Sir George Monoux College, 190 Chingford Road, Walthamstow, E17 5AA

Here are your eight Walthamstow candidates – the people you should expect to see at hustings.  I’m number six on the ballot paper:

1 – Steven Cheung – Liberal Democrats
2 – Stella Creasy – Labour Party
3 – Michael Gold – Green Party
4 – Paul Hillman – UK Independence Party
5 – Jonty Leff – Workers Revolutionary Party
6 – Ellie Merton
7 – Molly Samuel-Leport – Conservative Party
8 – Nancy Taaffe – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition
See you there! If you cannot make any of the hustings, please do contact me and tell me your views direct, using the contact form on www.elliemerton.com or twitter or facebook!

Yesterday in the sun, and the chilly breeze!

Another cracking day of canvassing and learning.

First up a roadside chat in the sun outside a local mosque, talking about faith, no faith, politics and Islam.  I am constantly impressed by the depth of humanity, understanding and caring I experience when talking to anyone in our local Muslim community.  We’re lucky to have such diversity in our borough.IMG_4144_2

The highlight of the day had to be party time with local hero, Tommy Anderson, and the ladies and gentlemen of WF Social Club celebrating St George’s Day in fine style.  I was just a bit excited to meet a pearly king and queen and learn how they get selected and the types of charity work they do.  It is staggering the number of projects they support and the time and effort they put in.  And I learned the origin of ‘flash harry’.

My plan had been just to pop in and say hello, but I was honoured to be firmly sat down at a table to have a hearty natter about life in Walthamstow during the war, how much the streets have now changed, housing difficulties, volunteering up at Whipps and social care provision locally.  Francis (shown in the photo) and I had a top conversation about care allowances, how he’d worked for the same organisation since age 16, and his views on Whipps.  A very special afternoon.

Then it was off to a meeting on health, which confirmed all my personal suspicions about the way Whipps is managed and taught me a huge amount about how social and health care try to integrate, or not.

General canvassing highlights included musicians, civil servants, lots of great women, my window cleaner on a bus the other side of town, a retired railway man who started his first job the same day as Bob Crowe, and a bit of late night Kebab Kampaigning.

 

Monday’s inspiration

Canvassing on Monday afternoon, more long discussions about policy.  People do not lack for insight and understanding.  They just don’t feel they can share it with party hacks.  Long chat about economic probabilities, the chances of Russia going Baltic, and Tobin taxes for financial services’ reliant economies such as the UK.

The surprise pavement chat of the day was on animal rights and animal welfare.  I am the first to admit animal rights is not an area I have looked into much.  I’ve been too focused on human rights.

Where the two have crossed, however, is in horrific circumstances in Gaza.  There, the farmer’s donkeys are shot early on by Apartheid occupation troops when mounting incursions into Gaza.  There are also pictures from the 2009 incursions of decimated livestock strewn about.  They were slaughtered by occupation forces as well.

Incidentally, DCI (Defense for Children International – Palestine) has just delivered a damning report on how young children were deliberately targeted to be killed by the Apartheid occupation attacks on Gaza in 2014.

Save the NHS, Save Whipps Cross

Barts dwarfs Whipps.  That is exactly what patients experience all the time – central Trust PFI debts dwarfing their local health treatment.  Super-level PFI contracting must be stopped and mega trusts split back into sustainable constituent hospitals within the NHS. I believe Whipps Cross Hospital should be extracted from the mega, centralised Barts Health Trust that is draining Whipps dry,…

Walthamstow Historical Society

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

Save Walthamstow Cinema

The campaign to preserve this historic building as a place of entertainment

Forest Philharmonic

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

Walthamstow Folk Club

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

Walthamstow parkrun

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

East London and West Essex Guardian Series | News

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

38 Degrees

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

WALTHAM FOREST SAVE OUR NHS

Our campaign to defend our services and the NHS

Independent campaigning on human and social rights

Waltham Forest PSC

Independent campaigning on human and social rights