It’s being said the biggest problem John Biggs is going to have in beating Lutfur Rahman this May is his skin colour. Race and accusations of racism haunt Tower Hamlets politics like nowhere else.
The allegation is chucked around like confetti by politicians who really should be guarding and upholding the meaning of the word for those who are truly victims of it.
Very often those who feel so wronged are also sadly blind to the teeny-weeny possibility it’s they who might just possibly be the racist.
But are all parties institutionally racist to some degree? That’s possible as well.
Take the case of Bow West councillor Anwar Khan. I wrote about him here last month when he was finally dropped as Labour candidate for the May election. I’d previously written that would have been a shame because as a successful professional in the City, he was a role model for young Bengalis.
At that time, I wasn’t aware he was in dispute with the council he represents over a parking issue. The allegation is that Anwar abused a parking attendant, but Anwar says it was he who was abused. There’s an ongoing investigation.
Separately, there was another parking matter in which Anwar had been raising a number of member’s enquiries to argue a case for a constituent. Cllr Carlo Gibbs, Labour’s chief whip, made reference to that to the party’s selection panel, but apparently got his facts wrong. That said, there does seem to have been some concern in Labour circle about Anwar’s temper.
I’ve also been told that Anwar was involved in some smear campaign against John Biggs last year led by a former enemy of the Labour mayoral candidate. Anwar denies that as well.
When the deselection decision came through last month, Anwar said he would maintain a dignified and noble silence. He told me he’d maintain the moral high ground and wait to fight another day. He scoffed at the suggestion he might stand as a Lutfurite or help in the mayor’s campaign. He said he would make a more detailed statement in the New Year and when I asked him about the parking issue, he said he was unable to comment.
That conversation took place on December 11.
Yesterday, he sent me a press release that he’d sent out on December 18 in which he re-iterated comments he’d made that day at a press conference he’d called in Spitalfields. He forgot to invite me.
What he did say is detailed painstakingly here. This is a straight copy and paste from his press release and it’s worth reading all of it.
Labour Councillor Anwar Khan, representing Bow West in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, confirmed at a press conference in his home ward of Spitalfields that he will not be standing in the 2014 Local Government Elections.
Councillor Anwar Khan challenged John Biggs AM, City and East to provide valid reasons for his deselection and felt that the bullying that he has been subjected to has been an injustice to the community that he has served for the last four years.
Councillor Anwar Khan raised serious questions about the integrity of the selection process. Councillor Anwar Khan attached an email that went to the Labour Party selection committee from the current serving Chief Whip, Councillor Carlo Gibbs representing the St. Peters ward.
In that email, Councillor Anwar Khan confirmed that there were false accusations and lies that influenced the decision of the committee.
Councillor Anwar Khan said “there has been a false allegation made about a parking ticket incident, which is not true. I have not received a parking ticket for about 4 years”.
He continued, “Looks like John Biggs and the Labour superiors haven’t learnt from the dodgy dossiers in 2010. We have yet another set of lies and another dodgy dossier. This certainly is a déjà vu moment, one dodgy dossier is bad enough, but two goes to show the heart of Labour politics needs be more transparent and removed of the nastiness”.
Councillor Anwar Khan said “ if that wasn’t enough, Carlo Gibbs, Johns Biggs Chief Whip, hit the nail in the head with an email suggesting that he has the power to “stitch me up” if he wanted to. The exact quote from Carlo Gibbs is “if I wanted (or still did want) to stitch you up, I could easily have given them some of the emails”.
I am disgusted and horrified that John Biggs and Carlo did not allow the course of the selection process to work and this email just proves, the selection process overseen by John Biggs wasn’t whiter than white”.
Councillor Anwar Khan also questioned, it seems odd, that John decided to deselect genuine hard working Labour Councillors in favour of defected Respect activists. He said “Hard working sitting Labour councillors and activists are ditched in favour of Respect members, this doesn’t make sense”.
See attached email evidence from Carlo Gibbs – “stitch up email” and the “dodgy email” about the parking ticket.
Councillor Khan stated that on one hand, Johns Biggs AM (also proxy Leader of Labour Group) talks about, making politics in Tower Hamlets healthier and cleaner, such as the motion agreed in council on the allegations against the Mayor on paid canvassers in the last council meeting.
Councillor Anwar Khan said “it strikes me that John Biggs is accusing others of nasty politics, when he needs to get his house in order first”. The lies and false information from the Chief Whip shows that this isn’t the case and this is certainly not healthy for the good people of Tower Hamlets.
Councillor Anwar Khan said, “what was stopping John from asking me, whether I received a parking ticket or not and why did he feel the need to use Carlo to do the dirty work and write these false emails”.
Councillor Khan also confirmed that he was given an additional interview, which was one more than everyone else, which is unfair to all those who only got one.
He said, “it looks like they have been after me and simply fishing for a reason, in the additional interview, a regional officer, who was supposed to be an observer led the questioning, I think that was quite unfair, and I am concerned that he may have been subject to information that was provided by third parties, he even said that he was only an observer and won’t do any questioning”.
He went on to say “it is also surprising that others were only interviewed once, then why was I interviewed twice.”
Anwar Khan continued “in the Whips report that was prepared by Carlo Gibbs, once again there was reference to a “disciplinary matter”, that disciplinary matter, was actually me trying to do my job as a councillor to help a resident get a parking permit. If Carlo just asked me, why I have been challenging officers, I would have given him an explanation, that it was an ongoing issue for about 4 years where the resident has been misled about his car parking permit, I have tried to help the resident and the council have been unreasonable, as the resident was lied to that his new house offered a street permit, when in actual fact it was a car free zone.
Why and how that becomes a disciplinary matter is quite beyond belief, I was just doing my job to serve my constituents, what I was elected to disciplinary matter. And how can this be a disciplinary matter, they didn’t give me a chance to explain that.
All very botched up and this isn’t the reason I came into politics, I came into politics to represent people and that’s exactly what I did. I am a community councillor, not a town hall technocrat or bureaucrat”.
Councillor Anwar Khan, said, “there have been no reasons provided to me with regards to the reasons for my deselection. I have worked hard for the people of Bow, and I am confident there is not a single complaint against me from the community. I have one of the highest member’s enquiry rates”.
Member’s enquiries are a key measure of how effectively councillors are representing their constituents. He said, that the community should decide on which Councillors are hard working and which Councillors aren’t, they should review the members enquiry numbers for themselves.
Councillor Anwar Khan said “as his Shadow Cabinet Lead for Employment, I led the policy forum on economic growth and employment in Tower Hamlets.,
John talks about helping young graduates into jobs in the City and Canary Wharf, I am a local graduate working in the City and have helped many people into jobs in Canary Wharf, then why has John deselected me, it seems to me, that as soon as they fear that someone from the Bengali community is outspoken, and can challenge John’s politics, they easiest thing to do is to remove them. Why remove someone who has achieved something that you want other young people to achieve.
– ENDS –
1. Councillor Anwar Khan was elected in 2010 in the ward of Bow West, winning a conservative seat from Anwara Ali, a local GP.
2. Councillor Anwar Khan has lived in Tower Hamlets all his life, went to Osmani Primary School, Swanlea School. He studied in Newham Sixth Form and later achieved his undergraduate degree in Cass Business School, and has a Masters in Global Politics.
3. Councillor Anwar khan, lives in Spitalfields with his family
4. Councillor Anwar Khan works in the financial services industry in the City of London
5. Councillor Anwar Khan also served in Shadow Cabinet in all years, including holding the role of Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources and is currently the Shadow Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Regeneration and Employment.
6. Councillor Anwar Khan was the Chief Whip for the first 3 years. During his term he also served as the Chairman of the Pensions Committee.
7. Councillor Anwar Khan has been one of the longest serving Chief Whips in the Labour Group.
A lot to take in I agree and such injustices, but I was grabbed by this line in particular:
as soon as they fear that someone from the Bengali community is outspoken, and can challenge John’s politics, they easiest thing to do is to remove them
I asked him if he genuinely believed what amounted to an allegation of racism and he said he stood by his words. He said John wanted a group he could control, people who went ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir’. He said John had reacted badly when he, Anwar, challenged John’s choice for a health scrutiny role. John would dump anyone who stood up to him, he added.
And then came the poisoned arrow.
He asked how many of the current crop of Labour Bengali councillors are unemployed or “have ever had a proper job”. He said John was encouraging young people to go to university and look for a job, yet he was picking candidates who were the very opposite of that while deselecting him and Mizan Chaudhury, a professional civil servant.
So I asked a friend of his who he had in mind. Well, said this friend, look at the following:
Cllr Abdul Mukith Chunu – unemployed, serves as board member for Spitalfields housing association
Cllr Rajib Ahmed – mini cab driver
Cllr Abdal Ullah – unemployed/ BBPower100 consultant/ President of Stepney FC/showboating councillor who does community radio
Cllr Motin Uz Zaman – long term unemployed
Cllr Helal Abbas – Charity Outreach worker
Cllr Siraj Islam – works part time for two days a week at East London Business Alliance
Cllr Khales Uddin Ahmed – owns a restaurant in Bexley Heath
Cllr Helal Uddin – director at Bromley by Bow centre
Sanu Miah – St Peter’s candidate – long term unemployed and unsuccessful businessman
Faruk Ahmed – Whitechapel candidate – Works for Sonali Otith football club
Cllr Shiria Khatun – community worker
I suggested that many of these jobs, eg Rajib working as a minicab driver, meant they were more likely to be in touch with constituents than full time City professionals like Anwar. But the friend said “at least he lives in Tower Hamlets”.
There’s a few more things I could write from my discussions but I think this is enough for now!