Why can’t things ever be simple with the Tower Hamlets Labour party?
Abdul Alim’s selection as Labour’s candidate for Spitalfields and Banglatown on Saturday has caused chaos within the party’s ranks. As I reported here, Mosabbir Ali, the boss of the party’s ward branch, complained that there had been a stitch up. But even as he was drafting his letter, Labour’s selection panel was considering another slight hiccup.
For they had just been informed that the man they plucked out of thin air had, rather disturbingly, a criminal conviction. (Anyone who captured the moment on camera, do please send me the photo.) So they summoned him back for another interview and demanded the details.
It turns out that way back when – I’m told about 20 years or so ago – he was involved in a fight with some “BNP thugs” in Brick Lane. As a result of that incident, he was jailed and spent time inside a Youth Offenders Institute for violent disorder. I’m told that he was sentenced to six months and he served all of it.
Because the conviction is spent (he is now 38 and he says he was 18 at the time), he told the panel that he didn’t think he needed to disclose it. One Labour official told me that because the violence was “against BNP/National Front” thugs he shouldn’t have been ashamed of it. I would have thought that that – and any provocation at the time – would have been a matter for the judge.
Here’s the press statement Labour has just put out:
Tower Hamlets Labour Party today confirmed their candidate for the Spitalfields & Banglatown by-election as Abdul Alim. Abdul was selected from a panel of exemplary applicants – including a number of former Labour councillors – and will now go on to contest the by-election for Labour.
The selection was made following consultation with activists from the ward and a thorough application and interview process.
Abdul Alim has lived in Tower Hamlets since 1976 and grew up in Spitalfields, where his father was a local businessman for many years, during which time he attended Stepney Green School. Having previously worked as a Civil Servant, he is now runs a successful in business in Spitalfields.
Said Alim: “I am proud of the East End, and of the progress we have made here. We have had to overcome many challenges. In the past, people went about this neighborhood in fear. In 1990, my friends and I were attacked by BNP racists. We defended ourselves, and we were arrested and prosecuted. But in the last 20 years our community has changed so much and grown stronger. Now, our families can walk in their community without fear. Labour is the party of unity in the East End, the party that brings people together to solve problems. I am delighted to have been selected as the Labour Party Candidate for the Spitalfields & Banglatown by-election. Local residents need a councillor to fight back against the unfair cuts of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government and who will effectively hold the new ‘Independent’ Mayor to account. I promise I will do my best for the people of Spitalfields & Banglatown.”
He has a high profile in the local community through his past involvement in groups such as the Weavers Community Trust & the Progressive Youth Organisation.
Chair of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, Graham Taylor said: “Alim is a strong candidate and is absolutely committed to serving the whole of Spitalfields & Banglatown. He will be a valuable addition to our existing team of Labour councillors as we face the dual challenge of coping with the ConDem Government cuts and the heavy burden of scrutinising the ‘independent’ Mayor.”
After I spoke to Alim last night, he sent me the following text:
Twenty years ago I thought I had to fight physically to protect the people in the Eastend who were threatened by racisits. Since then I’ve got a family, run a business and lerned to love this community that I was brought up in. I still have to fight for it, but viloence is never the answer. Now we have a political battle to fight against Tory and Lib Dem cuts – to our schools, our hospitals and our housing. That’s why I’m a Labour candidate. That’s why I’ll be a Labour councillor. I’m going to fight these coalition cuts and I ask you to join me in this fight, so that together we can unite the Eastend.
No doubt, journalist in the area will be poring over the newspaper archives for more details of this incident and asking Alim more questions about it.
The local Labour party sure knows how to create its own fight, doesn’t it…