Colonial politics in Tower Hamlets?

Many in Tower Hamlets talk of racism, religious discrimination, colonial politics and sympathy for the far right. The accused are said to be orchestrating methods which is seen as institutional as opposed to skinhead thuggery – the poison stemming from politics which is supposedly in place to protect those that it serves. Some say that bigotry can be a norm within areas of politics. Parties such as the British National Party and the British Freedom Party are allowed a platform using the name of democracy to make it a norm. Disappointing to many, Tower Hamlets apparently gets worse in some aspect. It is said that the Tower Hamlets Labour Party are disguised with politicians who have right wing views, playing divisive politics, communities against each other, own a few well trained ethnic-mascots and are in cahoots with the Conservatives.

Many Tower Hamlets residents from BAME backgrounds have felt that right-wing politicians in Tower Hamlets (Labour too) do not take very well to educated people from ethnic minorities – especially those with support, influence and Power. For example, in 2010 when the Tower Hamlets Labour party deselected their own Bangladeshi mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman, who was then a councillor, former council leader and lawyer by profession. During Lutfur’s time as council leader he faced accusations of extreme Islamic links and attempting to create a borough with laws compliant of “Shariah”. Members of Tower Hamlets Labour Party and the council leader used rhetoric that led to a Channel 4 Dispatches programme called “Britain’s Islamic Republic” – thought provoking isn’t it? This demonstrated much of the desperate insecurity and frustration felt by Labour party mascots and activists.

Months later through a referendum, the people of Tower Hamlets chose to have a directly elected mayor. Lutfur was chosen as the Labour candidate for mayor when members voted him. At the time this was known to be a threat by a small group of Labour members, which as a result Lutfur became deselected as the Labour mayoral candidate for Tower Hamlets. He was then replaced with councillor Helal Abbas, an old friend of Lutfur’s (turned nemesis) and used as a tool to block Lutfur’s ambition of becoming the first directly elected mayor in the borough. To many, it was a clear attack to divide the Bangladeshi/Muslim vote.

Lutfur went on to stand as an Independent candidate and won by an overwhelming majority. He gained support of the community, politicians, the Respect Party and Labour councillors who abandoned the party in protest. Lutfur Rahman supporters saw Lutfur becoming mayor, causing the local Labour party to use itself as a platform for those who intended to cause political turmoil in the borough. That certainly wouldn’t have been the basis for good community work or how a mainstream party should be run.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman with his councillors were now known as Tower Hamlets First, with achievements over three years that supporters often refer to.

Things of interest to residents is as follows:

Housing:
• Built 3,250 new homes
• Keeping the promised time scale
• Achieved a £50m bonus from the government for building the most new homes compared to any other local authority
• Over 3,000 overcrowded families re-housed. Plus a pot for £168m for a Decent Homes programme to renovate every single council home

Education and Youth:
• A £400 a year grants from the mayor’s budget to replace EMA to help college students stay in education, which was scrapped by the government.
• A £1,500 bursary helping undergraduates with university costs.
• Free school meals for all year 1 and reception pupils.
• £10m a year for our youth service.
• New youth centres, children centres and renovation of schools.
• An additional 1,575 school places.
• A £4.5m Idea store at Watney Market.

And if you’d like to know more, you can see it here:
http://lutfurrahman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/mayors-3-years-email-low-res.pdf

It is said that the Tower Hamlets Labour Party is at it once again. Using methods to deselect political hopefuls of Bangladeshi origin and a second national TV documentary; this time as John Ware’s BBC programme “Panorama – They Mayor and Your Money”. Tower Hamlets Labour has chosen John Biggs as their candidate to contest the 2014 mayoralty. Biggs is a former Tower Hamlets council leader and a Greater London Assembly member. It is said that John Biggs is part of the machinery which has orchestrated the removal of certain Bangladeshi individuals being able to run for the Labour party in elections. Notably councillor Anwar Khan representing the Bow West ward. Khan was once known as the protégé of Councillor Joshua Peck former Tower Hamlets Labour leader. Khan has been known to opponents of Joshua Peck as a puppet and a harsh critic of the mayor. Khan is an educated young British Bangladeshi who was seen as a threat to colonial Tower Hamlets Labour. He was replaced by the Labour Party in Bow West. The prospective hopeful is Khan’s sister-in-law Asma Begum and the wife of Labour member Tarik Khan. Sources suggest that Anwar Khan came to the realisation he had become deselected due to institutional racism within the local Labour party.

John Ware’s BBC Panorama was used by Labour activists in hope that it would be exposing Lutfur’s intentions behind his mayoralty. The story of an Imam on visit from the Holiest sight in Saudi Arabia being welcomed by Lutfur during his time as council leader surfaced again. This story was used in a 2010 dossier by Helal Uddin Abbas to the Labour NEC, the same story which destroyed Abbas’ attempt to become a Labour’s mayor for Tower Hamlets. The Labour Party have regularly made claim that the mayor has been funding Bangladeshi/Muslim organisations and neglecting others. However, the Panorama documentary went on to show how the faith grant was inspired by Lutfur’s visit to a synagogue and working closely with non-Muslim communities. There are many ethnic Bangladeshis living all over Tower Hamlets, some in the most deprived parts of the borough where money has been spent for the well-being of residents. The suggestion that this level of community care is favouritism has suggested to many to be a form of racial jealousy being used to play communities against each other.

The consensus amongst many Tower Hamlets First supporters is that if local Labour stuck to traditional Labour values there would never have been a need for Tower Hamlets First. Perhaps Labour should have contemplated on why the local Labour party lost to the Respect Party in 2005 and had lost mayoralty to Lutfur Rahman in 2010. It seems the state the local Labour Party is in will always allow splinter parties to form in search of Labour values.

Counter Panorama documentary: http://vimeo.com/90422433

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