View from the House: Special thanks to former councillors

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 November 2018


Last week, I had the chance to thank former East Ham councillors who stepped down in May.

I invited them to a reception at Westminster. Hilary Benn, chairman of the select committee on Exiting the European Union, joined us to thank them on behalf of the Labour Party.

The longest serving was Amarjit Singh. The first Asian member of Newham Council, Amarjit first stood for election in 1978. At the time, some warned that racism among voters would jeopardise Labour’s chances. National Front candidates were on the ballot paper too.

In fact, Amarjit won more than 300 votes more than the next-placed candidate, and went on to represent the ward for 40 years. He was mayor in 1991-2, when I was council leader.

Ted Sparrowhawk represented Wall End ward for 24 years, from his election in 1994.

Before that, he was a parent representative on Newham’s education committee. He fought two great battles successfully: to raise standards in Newham schools, and for inclusion in mainstream education of children with special educational needs.

Paul Sathianesan was elected alongside Ted in Wall End wrd in 1998, and served for 20 years. Paul came to Britain as an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka. The single bag he brought with him featured in an exhibition on the experience of refugees at the Museum of London. He is still an ambassador for the Refugee Council.

The group also included Jose Alexander, David Christie, Mukesh Patel and Rohima Rahman, who were first elected in 2010.

And Sir Robin Wales, former mayor, dropped in to say hello too.

Being a councillor is hugely demanding, and under-appreciated.

All those who stepped down last May served our community well.

It was a privilege to host them in parliament, and, on behalf of the community, to also thank them for their work.

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