Labour’s NEC must be close to the point of declaring UDI against the local party in Tower Hamlets. Within hours of Abdul Alim being picked to fight Spitalfields and Banglatown on Saturday, a letter of complaint was being drafted accusing senior local figures of a stitch-up.
This letter from Mosabbir Ali, the chairman of Labour’s Spitalfields and Banglatown ward branch, was sent yesterday to the party’s regional boss, Ken Clark, with a copy to the NEC and Ed Miliband. A copy has also ended up in my inbox.
He complains that no one from his ward branch was consulted about the selection, yet then accuses one of his ward councillors, Labour’s group leader Helal Abbas, of orchestrating the “imposition” of Abdul Alim. Like many others, he says he knows very little about Alim, but supposes that he comes from the same village in Bangladesh as Abbas – and says that’s why he was chosen.
In places the letter is a piece of comedy. “There are electorally unhelpful rumours that the candidate is a waiter,” Ali warns. How egalitarian, comrade! (Maybe he should examine John Prescott’s CV). But in the main, the complaint either adds to the lingering impression of a long running farce in this borough, or it is part of a rather cunning plan to test Lutfur: pick a poor candidate and dare Lutfur to back him.
Here’s the letter in full:
TO: KEN CLARK, LONDON LABOUR PARTY REGIONAL DIRECTOR
Dear Mr Ken Clark,
RE: OFFICIAL COMPLAINT AGAINST LABOUR PARTY CANDIDATE SELECTION OF SPITALFIELDS AND BANGLATOWN BY-ELECTION
As the chair of the Spitalfields and Banglatown branch of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, I am writing to make an official complaint on behalf of ALL LOCAL WARD PARTY MEMBERS to raise our objection to the selection process that was used to determine the candidate for the by-election scheduled for December 16, following the election of Lutfur Rahman as the executive mayor of Tower Hamlets.
Local party members are outraged and completely unfamiliar with this ‘imposed’ candidate, Abdul Alim, whom we have nothing against personally but who has very little connection or knowledge of local politics in this ward let alone the ability to win in this complex ward without their support.
Graham Taylor, the chair of the borough party and interview panel failed to consult local party members on who would make a good candidate amongst those on the approved panel who had nominated themselves. We believe that the candidate was chosen because he is from the same village as the Labour group Councillor Helal Abbas (who has led the party into Opposition after sixteen years in power).
We are aware that several candidates who had nominated their CVs were not even invited to the interview on Saturday. Neither were local members even aware of this so-called interview. This is a failure on the part of borough party officers responsible such as Chris Weavers and others sitting on the interview panel. Many of those ‘approved candidates’ that applied including the ones who were invited to the interview possess far better experience and skills than the current candidate, who has never been seen campaigning for the party in Spitalfields and Banglatown.
There are electorally unhelpful rumours that the candidate is a waiter and possibly a business partner of Mr Muquim Ahmed, Chair of the local Conservative Party in Bethnal Green and Bow. This news will most definitely reach the press and cause embarrassment to the Labour Party. Word was already out that he would be the candidate before even the so-called ‘selection’. Surely, there must be more qualified candidates on your approved panel suited to do the job of a councillor in our rather deprived but multi-ethnic ward?!
There is still a bit of time left before the submission deadline of candidate nomination to the council. We urge the London Regional Labour Party to cancel the current selection altogether and put forward to all the branch members the names of candidates who nominated themselves so that we can, as paid members, select the best candidate whom we believe will win this important council seat against any heavyweight Opposition candidate from George Galloway’s Respect Party.
Failure on your part to review the incumbent candidate’s suitability and replace him with one who is strong will reflect negatively on the party’s reputation locally and possibly regionally, ahead of important mayoral and general elections. We are extremely disappointed by the manner in which local ward party members have been ignored. That is why we believe that you should allow the selection of a candidate who has broad support from most ward party members.
For your information, this letter has been copied to the chair of the London Labour Party, all the members of the NEC and Ed Miliband.
We, the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward party members, would like to meet ALL the approved candidates and select the best one we believe can defeat the Opposition candidate. Please note seriously that we will take further action if we lose this election due to your negligence as Director of the London Labour Party.
I look forward to hearing from you immediately regarding this matter.
Chair, Spitalfields and Banglatown Labour Party
CC: Ed Miliband, Graham Taylor, LEN DUVALL