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Archive for February 6th, 2013

Further to my last post, it’s not just the Tories and Labour who are facing splits after last night’s Commons vote on gay marriage. Respect are as well.

While their single MP George Galloway voted in favour of the proposed law, that doesn’t seem to have gone down well with his chief lieutenant in Tower Hamlets, its former leader and wannabe MP, Abjol Miah.

For why else would he create a discussion on his Facebook page highlighting the vote by his long time enemy and Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, also in favour of gay marriage.

Hat tip to Graham Taylor, who today resigned from the Labour party over the issue, for pointing out the discussion. Graham has also gone one step further and written directly to George, who has seen his tweet about it, asking him to condemn many of the homophobic comments on Abjol’s page. Some of the comments suggest Rushanara has cast herself out as a Muslim for her vote.

Here is Graham’s letter to George:

Open Letter to George Galloway

George

In 2010 you and your party officials once condemned me and called on me to resign my (then) position as Tower Hamlets Labour Party agent for Islamophobic comments made by others on my Facbook page. In fact I withdrew the post as soon as this was brought to my attention.

Will you now condemn as Abjol Miah, The Respect Party’s parliamentary candidate in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010, publicly and in as equally vociferous terms?

And here’s a copy of the Facebook discussion. The comments by a Mohammed Hussain are particularly thick.

 

UPDATE, Wednesday Feb 7, 9.30am

Rob Hoveman, George Galloway’s chief of staff, replied to Graham this morning. Rob says because Abjol hasn’t made any homophobic comments, he shouldn’t be condemned. I suppose the question is why hasn’t Abjol used his own Facebook page to condemn the homophobic comments? Rob, if you’re reading this, do you think Abjol should condemn them?

Here is Rob’s reply:

Dear Mr Taylor,

You have sent George Galloway a screengrab of a number of people exchanging views, none of whom appears to be Abjol Miah. Your suggestion that George Galloway should condemn Abjol Miah on the basis of the evidence you have supplied is palpably absurd.

As for the events of 2010, may I remind you that you referred to Tower Hamlets town hall as a centre of Islamic Fundamentalism on facebook, a claim that was an Islamophobic insult to every Muslim that worked in the Town Hall. You may have taken down the offending comments that you made and also encouraged but I do not recall any apology and you remained, of course, the Labour Party election agent for Rushanara Ali and the Labour council candidates.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Hoveman, Chief of Staff to George Galloway MP

UPDATE – Friday, Feb 8, 9am

Shortly after the last update above, Rob Hoveman emailed me with some clarifications about his discussion with Graham Taylor. They were a bit odd, so I asked Rob if he had anything else to add. He hasn’t.

So here’s his letter to me:

Dear Ted,

You have posted the first of a number of emails I sent to Graham Taylor this morning concerning his allegations. The email I was responding to had a screengrab of a number of people exchanging views on Rushanara Ali’s decision to vote to legalise gay marriage. In that first screengrab Abjol Miah had not in any way participated in this exchange, never mind made any homophobic comments. Mr Taylor then sent me a second screengrab with Abjol Miah stating that Rushanara Ali had voted for gay marriage, as did George Galloway. Again there was no homophobic comment attached to this plain statement of fact. I pointed out to Mr Taylor in response that there were no comments attached to this screengrab and therefore I was still at a loss as to what it was he expected George Galloway to condemn.

Mr Taylor then referred me to your blog where I have now seen a fuller screengrab. However, nowhere in this does Abjol Miah appear saying, encouraging or endorsing any homophobic comments. So I am still at a loss as to why George Galloway should in any way condemn Abjol Miah.

The issue of gay marriage is one on which people hold strong views. There are many people who have profoundly held religious convictions that gay marriage is wrong. The free vote in the House of Commons reflected that this is a matter of conscience. We should accept that there are people who oppose gay marriage without being homophobic and that it is perfectly reasonable to respect such views whilst disagreeing with them. That is why, after all, the law that has been passed exempts religious institutions which choose not to opt in to holding gay marriages. Of course, George Galloway and The Respect Party would condemn any homophobic comments where those comments are motivated by hatred and prejudice, but it seems to me that Mr Taylor is simply confusing matters.

Yours ever,

Rob Hoveman

Chief of Staff to George Galloway MP

The Rob Hoveman with whom I used to have regular contact when I was at the East London Advertiser would certainly agree that some of the comments on Abjol’s Facebook page were motivated by hatred and prejudice, eg this latest one:

Mohammed Hussain Brother Abjol miah! Your in big trouble now! She will set her gay friends on you now! Watch your back!!!

 

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It’s not just the Tory party which has split over last night’s Commons vote on gay marriage. Labour is experiencing a degree of internal turmoil as well.

Yesterday, Graham Taylor, a former chair of Tower Hamlets Labour and an ex-election agent to both Oona King and current Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali, tore up his membership card. It was in protest at Ed Miliband’s decision to allow his MPs a free vote on the issue, something he had been persuaded to do following complaints from, among others, East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

Graham believes this was a betrayal of Labour principles of equality and social justice.

He wrote the following letter to Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary:

Dear Iain

My resignation from the party: Membership number

Today an historic vote took place in Parliament to give same sex couples the right to marry. Not least this is historic because it was tabled by a Conservative led administration and in recent history all advances in social justice and equality have been won by the Labour Party against opposition from the Tories.

I can understand why many Conservative activists and members opposed this measure – it’s in their blood to resist changing anything. What I cannot excuse is why the leadership of The Labour Party, a party that enshrines social justice and equality in its constitution allowed a free vote on this.

I’ve been a party member for 21 years.

I was immensely proud to work on Stephen Twigg’s campaign in 1997 and to be able to vote for an openly gay man to be the first ever Labour MP to represent the constituency I grew up in, Enfield Southgate.

I was immensely proud to campaign for Oona King, in Bethnal Green and Bow, in 2001 and to be her election agent in 2005. One of, then, only two black female MPs.

I was even more proud to help win back Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010 and defeat Respect (a party that thrives on religious and communal prejudice) as election agent for Rushanara Ali, our first Muslim women MP of Bangladeshi origin.

Why did I do all of this?

Unlike so many activists I meet, I’ve no ambition to become a politician. Nor do I hold some sort of outdated notion of building a socialist utopia. I did it because I believe in social justice and equality. And I thought the Labour Party did – these objectives are enshrined in word – in clause 4-2(b) the Labour Party constitution;

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

(b) a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power and they are enshrined in deed – carried through actions of the great Labour Party social reforming governments of the 40s, 60s and 90s/00s.

Today the Party leadership performed an act of political cowardice in not whipping this vote. A number of Labour MPs walked through the ‘no’ lobby or sat on their hands. One, Stephen Timms, is MP for a near neighbouring constituency to mine. I’ve a number of friends that live there who voted for him in 2010, thinking they were voting for a party that believes in equality – they won’t be voting for him again.

I can no longer claim that the party – and in particular its national leadership – believes in equality and social justice, and it is with regret that I resign my membership forthwith.

Yours truly,

Graham Taylor

Cc:

Baroness King of Bow

Rushanara Ali MP

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

John Biggs AM

Cllr Joshua Peck

Chris Weavers CLP chair

And he issued the following statement today:

Yesterday an historic vote took place in Parliament to give same sex couples the right to marry.

Not least this is historic because it was tabled by a Conservative led administration and in recent history all advances in social justice and equality have been won by the Labour Party against opposition from the Tories.

Unlike so many activists I meet, I’ve no ambition to become a politician. Nor do I hold some sort of outdated notion of building a socialist utopia. I’ve been a Labour movement activist for 25 years because I believe in social justice and equality. And I thought the Labour Party did.

The Party leadership performed an act of political cowardice in not whipping this vote. 38 Labour MPs walked through the ‘no’ lobby or did not vote. One, Stephen Timms, is MP for East Ham. I’ve a number of friends that live there who voted for him in 2010, thinking they were voting for a party that believes in equality – they won’t be voting for him again.

I can no longer claim that the party – and in particular its national leadership – believes in equality and social justice, and it is with regret that I have resigned my membership forthwith.

 

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