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Ahead of Wednesday’s full council meeting, this is a guest post by Cllr Oliur Rahman, leader of the 12-strong Tower Hamlets Independent Group (formerly known as Tower Hamlets First). Discuss…

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Much has been made of the dawn of a new kind of politics.

With the bitterness of last year behind us, it is our hope that we can work constructively across parties to put Tower Hamlets first.

Our group would be the first to admit that Mayor Biggs’ administration has had some successes, based on the Mayor’s ability to look beyond party politics and continue to implement much of former Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s progressive agenda. Mayor Biggs is not the only one to admit that Tower Hamlets was generally a “well-run borough”, as he put it, under his opponent.

The Municipal Journal, the National Association of Care Catering, Keep Britain Tidy and a range of professional bodies have celebrated the former Mayor’s legacy – while figures across the spectrum as diverse as an Anglican canon, the Conservative former political editor of the Spectator and centre-left Guardian writer Zoe Williams have cast doubt on the merit of the court judgment that saw Lutfur barred from office.

We must now move forward and this new age of conciliation has seen some big wins for the people of Tower Hamlets. Mayor Biggs has defended our administration’s landmark education grants for young people. After some regrettably costly delays, he has gone ahead with our plans for the regeneration of Whitechapel, the creation of a new civic centre and a multi-faith burial ground that between them will create 3,500 new homes and 5,000 jobs while preserving dedicated space for culture and small business.

Biggs is pushing ahead with plans for landlord licensing, school places and new social and affordable housing developed by our previous administration, along with our proposed policy of mayoral question times. The current administration have developed our plans with an Affordability Commission to investigate what kind of genuinely affordable housing we should provide – which we welcome, but believe should not have property developers and social landlords with poor service records sitting on it while no opposition spokespeople are invited onto the panel.

Mayor Biggs’ drive for transparency is also an important one, which can now progress freely in a less contentious environment. His Transparency Protocol and whistleblowing procedure will facilitate a more open culture at senior management level – but he would be well advised to go further. The lack of transparency over a grant to the Rich Mix of nearly a million pounds, made by executive order behind closed doors with little real rationale rings dangerously of patronage politics.

 

His decision to scrap East End Life, again by a secretive executive order and in spite of overwhelming support from members of the public for the paper, is also questionable. There seems little other way currently for Tower Hamlets to communicate with vulnerable and digitally excluded residents about the services they should be aware of. Setting up a Transparency Commission chaired by his own aide John Pierce was also questionable.

In the Mayor’s defence, he, like all politicians, has powerful interests pressuring him – in his own party, in Town Hall politics, and in the form of Eric Pickles’ commissioners who were recently accused of a complete lack of transparency by a leading voluntary sector organisation. We hope that in spite of all that he is able to stick to the pledges he was elected on: getting tough on waste, creating a more open council, delivering decent housing and strengthening our communities. There are many things we disagree on, but those aims we can get behind.

Looking ahead, the first budget by Mayor John Biggs is imminent. The Independent Group has consistently opposed cuts to the most vulnerable, particularly those which affect frontline services and increase charges for critical services or to succumb to “false” savings just to balance the books without considering the overall impact and wider picture.

Mayor’s budget proposals include cuts in funding for incontinence laundry service for the most vulnerable and elderly, youth services, free home care for the elderly, voluntary sector grants, children’s school history trips to Gorsefield, bursaries for university students and PGCE training for BAME teachers, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), East End Life, introducing new charges for adult care and deleting the posts of 10 THEOs (environment/waste cleaning), as part of the Mayor’s £18m of cuts now, with £63m cuts over three years. We feel this approach lacks a vision and is simply managerial.

Independent Group highlighted this, by way of just one example, at the Scrutiny meeting on January 4, that to get rid of 10 THEOs would not contribute to the cleaner streets that were among the Mayor’s top priorities. The large volume of food outlets, small businesses and markets that are a core part of the local economy generate a considerable deal of waste, which coupled with fly-tipping, graffiti and other associated issues present a considerable challenge to delivering cleaner and greener streets.

If the Mayor and his colleagues decide to cut Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) services, alongside cuts to youth services, it is likely to both exacerbate the situation and create issues. Deprivation is often linked to poor mental health, and in Tower Hamlets, one in two children live in poverty, so it is vital to provide safety and therefore continuity with CAMH services. Speaking to people who work in youth services we know they provide support and safe spaces, which contribute to a young person’s sense of wellbeing and provides the opportunity to have the life-skills needed to prosper.

Unemployment is another burgeoning problem in Tower Hamlets. Canary Wharf provides thousands of jobs but predominantly filled by finance specialists from outside the borough. Therefore we believe that any cuts to the current system of paying wages to those on internships and bursaries for teacher training courses from BAME groups is following the Tory government suit by forcing the poor to disproportionally shoulder the cuts. Public sector jobs, such as teaching, provides a sixth of the borough’s jobs and therefore a system that provides opportunities for citizens to be a part of the workforce is worth protecting.

It is well documented that cuts to youth services, as proposed by Mayor Biggs, coincides with a rise in crime and antisocial behaviour – coupled with this administration’s proposal to remove the safety net for the police budget – will undoubtedly create disastrous results. Safety in the community is not a privilege but a necessity, and a child lost to the criminal justice system is both costly and tragic.

miliband-2.jpgIt would be remiss of me not to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. Many have speculated we are simply looking for a route back into a renewed Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. This is nothing new: most of our group were Labour people exiled from the party either by the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq, or by the rigging of a mayoral selection in Labour that even election judge Richard Mawrey agreed was indefensible. We were drawn from all ranks of Labour – Lutfur was a Progress member and David Miliband supporter at the time of his expulsion!

But we are here first and foremost to serve the people of this borough – and when the current administration is considering weathering austerity with cuts to teaching bursaries, library closures and the sacking of council staff who keep our streets clean (following a pledge to get tough on waste), it is our duty to stand up for residents’ interests. We have a crippling housing crisis, severe pockets of poverty and a range of social problems that we have a responsibility to help fix. That’s what we were elected for – and in 2016, we hope to be able to perform that duty constructively and positively across civil society organisations, political parties and communities.

May I take this opportunity to wish your readers and residents a peaceful, prosperous and happy 2016.

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Slightly off topic but…

At 11.09pm last night, 23 Labour MPs, including Poplar and Limehouse’s Jim Fitzpatrick, were sent the below email by that well known branch of the Unite union, the Retired Members’ Association (Colchester and District).

The others who received it were:

Dan Jarvis, Wayne David, Jim Dowd, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Emma Reynolds, Frank Field, George Howarth, Gloria de Piero, Graham Jones, Harriet Harman, Heidi Alexander, Margaret Hodge, Holly Lynch, Tom Blenkinsop, Jenny Chapman, Joan Ryan, Alan Johnson, John Spellar, John Woodcock, Helen Jones, and Kevan Jones.

They all voted with the Government to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The branch chairman Mike Le Cornu wrote (I’ve highlighted a couple of pars in bold):

Dear Colleagues

We believe it is high time to remind you that Jeremy Corbyn was democratically elected Labour leader with almost 60% majority, the highest ever recorded for a leadership contest.

While we understand that some of you will have been disappointed at the final result, we would expect that all of you should have the grace to accept that this was clearly a demand for a change of policy direction towards the desires and aspirations of the overall majority of working people.

We have to say that we find it distasteful that some of you indulged in, what can only be described as a ‘Judas’ congratulations to Jeremy when his overwhelming victory was announced.

Subsequent actions and statements and involvement of the media by some of you, indicate that even during the election campaign, steps were already afoot to undermine him.

It is our view that those of you engaged in disruptive tactics would be better engaged in analysing why such a huge majority have chosen Jeremy as the new Labour leader and that his success has resulted in a three fold increase in membership of the party in contrast to the 5 million votes lost by the previous Labour administration.

It might be pertinent to remind you that New Labour in office was the first Labour government in our history to preside over the gap between the rich and poor increasing, leaving illegal anti union laws on the statute book placed there by the Tories in violation ILO standards, extending privatisation rather than advance the public sector and, most shocking of all, abandoning the principles of peace and international law and lining up with a reckless, aggressive reactionary US administration.

Clearly the majority of the membership believe it is time to reclaim our party for the values of working men and women, the values of socialism.

Clearly supporting the Tories to unlawfully bomb Syria indicates that you have learnt nothing. 

Did you feel comfortable going into the voting lobby with the Tories whose leader has, in effect, insulted millions of British people who have doubts about the bombing by implying that they are supporters of terrorism?

It is becoming abundantly clear that the idea that air-strikes will destroy ISIS while they are selling to oil to Turkey and are funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar is ludicrous, and to exploit the memory of those who gave their lives to fight fascism in Spain and in WW2 is a misinterpretation of both events and an insult to those involved in both conflicts.

As veterans of the recent conflicts have stated ‘these invasions, occupations and attacks have caused great devastation, killed hundreds of thousands of people and have led to the destruction of societies’.

This irresponsible action has now placed Britain to the fore front and rather that make our country safe has exposed the British people as principle targets for the terrorists. 

With the rampant behaviour of some of you, we can be forgiven for concluding that maybe it’s not ISIS or Assad that you are interested to remove but Jeremy Corbyn whose success, you feel, is a threat to your careers as politicians and to the privileges you enjoy as members of the ‘parliamentary club’. 

While we are not in favour of ‘bullying’, it should not surprise anyone that those of you in the fore front of disruptive behaviour should be the recipients of severe and emotional criticism. 

As for those of you who excuse yourselves for voting on the basis of conscience, we wish to make it clear to you that selection for MPs cannot be based on individual conscience but on strict loyal support for party policy as determined democratically by the majority of the membership. 

As for the question of selection or deselection, that is a matter for CLPs to choose who is best suited to campaign for the aims of the party as a whole. 

Our message to you all is to desist from any further divisive actions or statements and to unite behind our new leader and concentrate on getting rid of the Tories once and for all and establish a Labour government dedicated to achieve a socialist alternative to the present decadent society. 

Yours sincerely

As far as the remit of this blog goes, Jim’s constituency party backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership, while Jim doesn’t have to worry about deselection as he’s retiring at the end of this Parliamentary term.

 

Here’s a scan of the full letter, and in pdf here: Letter to Labour MPs1.

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As Mark Baynes of Love Wapping wrote in sadly his final article a few weeks ago, it takes a fair bit of time and energy to maintain a constant flow of blog posts.

The past five years of writing them have been fun and rewarding, and certainly worth the effort.

But taking a break after my last post in August was the natural and right thing to do. After all, it was summer and the new regime of Mayor John Biggs was still settling in. There wasn’t an awful lot going on and the feedback I was receiving from the town hall was that by and large it was becoming a bit normal.

I kept on watching, albeit from a little more afar than previously, but still the most interesting bits were being provided by Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First brigade, now known as the Tower Hamlets Independent Group (abbreviated here on in as THING).

In the past few weeks, Lutfur has of course – and I’m going to assume most people know this (otherwise I really would have a lot of writing to do) – declared himself bankrupt. This development came about during his attempt to avoid paying £500,000 of legal costs arising from the Election Court hearing.

The drama of that case (and I’m yet to hear whether anyone has investigated messages apparently sent by at least one supporter on social media earlier this asking people whether they would be prepared to bank transfer money to a legal fighting fund in return for the same amount given in cash…) took another twist last week when Lutfur’s wife appeared in court.

Ayesha Farid claims she, and not her husband, is the major owner of a buy-to-let property the petitioners are trying to force a sale on. And during her evidence in court, she insisted she was an independent woman who paid her own bills and had her own income. In fact, she let it be known she was so distancing herself from Lutfur that she said he had brought “shame” on her family. He quotes were so dramatic that they provided The Wharf with this current front page:

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The full story is here. The court is yet to make a decision on the matter.

In the meantime, Lutfur continues to work on the judicial review of the Election Court petition, case that could to trundle on for months and possibly years if appeals on human rights grounds reach Europe. (His team, by the way, are confident of overturning the spiritual influence verdict.)

So in reality, Lutfur is now pretty much a ghost of a politician and Ken Livingstone’s Project Lutfur has now shifted lock, stock and barrel to Project Corbyn.

And without discipline of the Kennite brigade at Mulberry Place, that crazy little thing called THING is starting to fall apart at the seams.

During the time away from this blog, I was understandably criticised for not paying the same attention to the Biggs administration as I had done with Lutfur’s. I get that, but as I’ve said this is a voluntary exercise and we all have to prioritise our time.

One who implored me most to start writing again was Cllr Shahed Ali. In particular, he was exercised by the issue of Rich Mix whose future had been under threat by court case over a £850k council loan under Lutfur, but then saved when John Biggs, via a mayoral edict, dropped the proceedings. The story was covered by the Standard here. Had this been a decision by Lutfur on something else, he argued, I and others would have been all over it.

In October, Shahed also sent me an article he’d written on social housing ratios. He asked me to publish and I agreed but in all honesty I never got round to it: I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted the blog to move forward.

The article was actually pretty good. It was on a subject that had always interested him; in fact, he was the only Tower Hamlets councillor to attend an event my current employers had arranged on that particular issue in the Palace of Westminster in July.

Throughout the decade I’ve known him social housing/planning and Palestine had been the causes he’d been most passionate about.

So it was with a certain sadness to learn of the latest episode in his career.

Last Wednesday, he attended Thames Magistrates’ Court charged by Tower Hamlets Council with two counts housing fraud under Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 (failure to disclose he had a portfolio of properties whilst maintaining a council tenancy in his name).

A council spokeswoman told me he pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case has been sent to Crown Court for a further preliminary hearing later this month.

Let me stress again: he has pleaded not guilty and the case is live and likely to go before a jury. I’m going to allow comments on this thread (because it’s been a long time ‘n all, but there can be nothing written about this case).

It’s also a bit ironic that it’s Shahed’s predicament that has partly prompted me to blog again: I think I’m right in saying that no other mainstream outlet has covered it yet.

On the politics of the Shahed case (and careful comments are allowed on this), I asked THING leader Oli Rahman for a statement. Was he suspended, for example. This is what Oli sent me:

I was recently made aware of allegations involving Cllr Shahed Ali. He has pleaded not guilty and has agreed to step down while the case is ongoing. The Independent Group takes all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously and will cooperate fully with any enquiries from Council or elsewhere if necessary.
Independent Group expects all members of the council to hold the highest standard and regard for their office, their constituents and particularly we expect that from our own group.

So at the beginning of the week, THING had 15 councillors (remember Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah had quit the group earlier this year to sit as Independents). On Wednesday, after Shahed stepped down, they had 14 (although the council still lists Shahed as THING).

By Friday, they’d encountered more trouble. I’m told there have been some blazing rows in the Mulberry Place office of THING. I’m also told that Oli Rahman has been furious with his fellow former deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

After John Biggs was elected in June, Ohid apparently told colleagues he did not wish to sit on any committees. To his colleagues, that decision rendered him lazy, someone who did not wish to share the workload but still happy to accept his £10k a year count councillor allowance.

He was also, they tell me, viewed with some suspicion. Some thought him desperate to get back into the Labour party (they think he had a long meeting with Labour NEC exec member Christine Shawcroft who told him that was unlikely for the time being); others thought him desperate to run for mayor in 2018.

On December 9, the THING leadership (and that incredibly includes the twin Tweedle Dumbs of Tower Hamlets politics, Maium Miah and Mahbub Alam) sent the following email to all group members:

Independent Group Member
Independent Group
Mulberry Place
Tower Hamlets Town Hall

​​​​​​​​​9 December 2015

Dear Independent Group Member

Following the Group meeting on 8 December 2016, We have been asked by the Group to formally write to every single Member of the Group to outline some of the serious issues that were discussed.

The Group agreed in principle that all Group members must adhere to the following:

•All Members must attend their Council meetings, including Group meetings. Failure to attend three meetings will result in a warning and written explanation sought.

•The Group has agreed to open a Group bank – every member to contribute £20 per month, Councillors with additional allowance such as the Leader and O&S Lead will make additional contribution. £40 for the Leader and the O&S lead.

•The Group agreed to have the Constitution/Memorandum of Understanding, if you have any suggestion, please let our Political Adviser brother Ali – know by close of play, 20 December and copy me.

•No one should give media comments or interview about Group matters, without prior approval, except the Leader to ensure smooth running.

•The Group reserves the right to disciple any Member whose conduct brings the Group into disrepute or create disunity – avoiding collective responsibility – including the Leader or officer bearer of the Group.

•Key events and group engagements that all must attend are: 14 December at 6.30 pm (Independent Group workshop), 16 December at 6.30 pm in Watrelily (Unite against Islamophobia and Racism) and 14 January 2016 at 7 pm (People’s Budget meeting in Canary Wharf).

I look forward to professional cooperation and unity in order to move forward together.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Oliur Rahman, Leader-independent Group
Cllr Mahbub Alam, Group Publicity Officer
Cllr Maium Miah, Group Secretary

I’m told this email was aimed at Ohid. He had, I understand, recoiled at the idea of attending the Unite against Islamophobia and Racism rally at the Waterlily this coming Wednesday.

Not, of course, because Ohid doesn’t agree with such things (you’ll all remember he’s fond of using the terms), but because of who’s speaking.

Here’s the poster for it:

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Although these are exactly the same people Ohid has appeared with many times in the past five years, his colleagues say he’s worried about upsetting the new political hero in his life: London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.

So THING had a row and Ohid apparently left the group’s WhatsApp channel. This, I’m told, is a cardinal sin. They were then all under the impression he was going to quit the group proper.

But in the end, someone else did. On Friday, Shafiqul Haque, another defector from Labour in 2010, officially left THING to become an Independent. Ohid’s colleagues whisper that Ohid has bottled it.

I asked Ohid for a statement or comment, but he declined to answer. Shafiq, however, did reply. Here’s what he said:

 It was good to work with independent group some time. I am always an independent minded individual. If anything I can’t agree I always raised it even when I was part of the labour group for number of years. At the current situation I believe it would be better for me to be completely independent to work for best interest of my constituents and the residents of this borough.

By being independent I can pick and endorse the policy better for our residents from either of the political parties or group.

I can support my chosen candidates in local and national elections.

I will have the independence to make own judgement in term of the policy.

My priority would be as always was to work for the best interest of our residents.

Hope I could explain my reason to be completely independent.

I asked Shafiq if he would be supporting Sadiq next May and he said “fighting the Tories is very important and I’ll support whoever fight austerity and tackles the housing crisis and cost of living crisis”.

So THING is down to 14.

But of course, they’d all love to rejoin Labour, particularly under Jeremy Corbyn.

Ever-smiling Oli Rahman even managed to grab a selfie with Corbyn at the Finsbury Park mosque protest nine days ago.

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But say what you like about Corbyn, isn’t he brilliant at answering questions by use of road signs…

Happy Christmas, everyone.

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First the politics.

bigpicSince my last post (due to time and summer priorities, I’m writing less regularly) we’ve had one more defection in the Independent Group formerly known as Tower Hamlets First (who were formerly known as Independents).

Mufti Miah (pictured) has had the courage to do what other bigger mouths have been threatening to do for quite some time.

John Williams, the busy head of ‘democratic services’ at Tower Hamlets council, wrote this to councillors on July 31:

Dear Councillors,

I have today received notice from Councillor Mohammed Mufti Miah that with immediate effect he is no longer a member of the Independent Group of councillors.

Councillor Miah has asked me to inform all Councillors of this.  He will continue to serve on the Council as an independent (ungrouped) member. 

Councillor Miah has told me that he wishes to thank everyone who he has had the honour of serving the community with, and he looks forward to serving the community in all constructive endeavours to improve the community and the lives of those who have elected the councillors.

Mohammed Mufti Miah joins Abjol Miah as the two lone defectors from the very unstable and unhappy ship of Lutfurites, who now number 15. More are sure to follow.

Now the comedy.

Here’s how that fine upstanding man of principle, Cllr Gulam Robbani responded to John’s email:

Dear Mr William,

Thank you for your email. I would be grateful if you can inform Cllr Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah if they would like to resign from the council and re-elect  as independent or labour if that what they been dreaming about? Tory will not touch them with burg pole ! They were elected on back of THF and they should follow the UKIP model?  UKIP MP resign from Tory and they were re-elected as UKIP ! Would both Miah follow the UKIP MP if they feel so confident? I would like to challenge both councillor to do that! [sic, ad nauseam]

I love the way Robbani admires the Ukip model so. Had all his honourable colleagues followed it throughout the years, by my count we would have had 11 by elections in total. Instead we have had none.

For the record, Ohid Ahmed defected from Labour to Lutfur/independent in 2010, as did Abdul Asad, Shafiqul Haque, Aminur Khan, Rabina Khan, Shahed Ali and Oliur Rahman. The latter two have defected two and three times respectively during their career (Shahed from Respect to Labour; Oli from Respect to Respect Independent, then to Labour).

And let’s not forget Maium Miah who jumped from the Tories to Lutfur in 2010 as well.

So good for Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah. They’re merely following a fine tradition in Tower Hamlets.

Now for the intrigue.

Eric_Pickles_OfficialLast week, Sir Eric Pickles again singled out Tower Hamlets for mention as he launched his first initiative as David Cameron’s corruption tsar: a nationwide investigation into vote fraud. In various interviews he compared multiculturalism,

In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote this:

In Tower Hamlets, police and council staff failed to tackle intimidation – often in foreign languages – both inside and outside polling stations. Just as we have seen with child sexual exploitation in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham, institutionalised political correctness can lead to the state turning a blind eye to criminal conduct. But the law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to do so.

And in an interview with Sebastian Payne at the Spectator, he said this:

‘What appears to have happened in Tower Hamlets is similar to what happened in Rotherham, in the sense that as with sexual exploitation, people just turned a blind eye because they were worried about community cohesion and the same seems to have happened in Tower Hamlets’. To clarify, I ask does he believe that politicians and officials were too concerned about multiculturalism and ignored the years of warning signs from Tower Hamlets? ‘Yes, of course’.

This is dangerous territory for it risks feeding a racist narrative that [electoral] corruption exists only in non-white communities. There is enough corruption/fraud in the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall with MP/Lords expenses and government contracts to know that’s certainly not the case.

I suspect that in Tower Hamlets, the Met failed to do its job principally because it was wary of getting involved with murky local politics. That’s not to excuse them by the way: I think they’ve been useless over the years and as Sir Eric also points out in the Spectator, corrupt behaviour in one sphere can be symptomatic of rottenness elsewhere:

‘Tower Hamlets is a warning,’ Pickles says. ‘If you are willing to bend the rules and to break the law with regard to elections, you are willing to bend the rules and break the law with regard to the proper running of an authority’. 

Which brings us to the ongoing court saga involving Lutfur Rahman. Love Wapping has been doing a great job in reporting, e.g. here and here.

6716_Andrew_EdisOn August 3, Mr Justice Edis (pictured) delivered his ruling on the injunction freezing Lutfur’s assets, a decision made by an earlier judge after an application by the election petitioners who are seeking to recover their legal costs.

The full judgment, extending the injunction until Jan 31 2016, is here. I also recommend bookmarking it: it is characterised by a certain degree of scepticism regarding the origin of Lutfur’s legal fund.

Some of you will not be aware just how much money he managed to accumulate by way of what he says were loans before, during and after the Election Court hearing. If not, take a deep breath: £750,000.

As part of the court process, Lutfur was forced to disclose his list of donors/lenders, which included young nieces and nephews lending more than £100,000.

Having highlighted and uncovered so much corruption during the election court hearing, Francis Hoar, the petitioners’ barrister who was described as a “tour de force” by Richard Mawrey QC in April, quite clearly senses a certain back-of-the-envelope/cash-under-the-table modus operandi when it comes to those involved with Tower Hamlets First. He said the list of donors suggested “money laundering”.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Edis delivers a mild rebuke to Francis, but asks whether the loans were “designed to conceal” Lutfur’s “true wealth”:

There controversy during the hearing before me on 3rd August about Mr. Hoar’s description of this evidence as showing “money laundering”. This was, in my judgment, an unnecessarily inflammatory expression. Mr. Hoar made it immediately clear that he did not mean that any of this money was the proceeds of crime. To my mind that makes the use of the term inapt. What he actually meant was that this evidence casts grave doubt on the suggested source of the sum of £749,500. If it was not loans from the 52 named people or companies was it actually the defendant’s money? If so, was the arrangement designed to conceal this fact so that his true wealth remained hidden from the claimant?

Dynamite stuff.

Following Lutfur’s ‘Defend Democracy’ rally at the Waterlily at the end of April, Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft volunteered to become a trustee for a properly constituted legal fund; she even wrote a cheque for the grand sum of £100. As a result, she was suspended by the party.

It seems as though she was the only Trot to put her money where her mouth was when it came to backing Lutfur. But that fund never even got off the ground. In the background, there was a move by Lutfur’s supporters to boost the coffers of the existing fund. Lutfur’s lawyers were due to lodge the details of his loan arrangements with the court on Friday.

If suspicions remain, it won’t just be lawyers asking serious questions.

For the fund, there 123 transactions listed from 53 separate people or organisations.

Thanks to the excellent technical work of Love Wapping here, we can see a summary below:

From Subtotal (£)
Foujiya Sultana 82,500
CLR Sullik Ahmed 60,000
Mohammed Abdul Munim 60,000
Muzirul Haque 42,000
All Seasons Lettings 40,000
Amirul Choudhury 35,000
Rafla Munni 31,000
Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 24,500
Shamsun Noor 24,000
London Training Centre 22,000
A Chowdhury 20,000
Anuwar Ali 20,000
Shenaly Miah 20,000
Lutfur Rahman 17,700
CLR Aminur Khan 14,500
Rafia Munni 11,730
Mamunur Rahman 11,500
Rina Begum 11,000
Ahfaz Miah 10,000
Ashadur Rahman 10,000
CLR G Rabbani 10,000
Jayed Khan 10,000
M lslam 10,000
Roseina Yasmin 10,000
Saif Uddin Moni 8,000
Masuma Sultana 7,000
Rujina Yasmin 7,000
Nanu Miah 6,000
Salik Zahid 6,000
Zuber Ahmed 6,000
Afia Farid 5,000
Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
Baig Ahmed 5,000
Fateha Ahmed 5,000
Mornotaz Begum 5,000
Nafisa Nargis Robbani 5,000
Sanjid Sarni 5,000
CLR Maium Miah 4,500
Jabir Miah 4,000
Shahed 4,000
Dipa Begum 3,000
Mazharul Alom 3,000
Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
Razia Salique 3,000
Saleh Abed 3,000
Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
Syed Shahriar 3,000
Suma Rahman 2,000
Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,300
Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Ayesha Farid 270
Total £749,500

 

Top of the chart is Lutfur’s niece, Foujiya Sultana, who lives with him in Old Monatgue Street. She’s aged 23. Here is what Mr Justice Edis had to say about this in his judgment:

The “loans” identified…total £749,500 and were made by 53 different donors. Ms. Turner, the claimant’s solicitor has filed evidence to show that some of these individuals are not likely to have been able to afford such sums. I will not set it out in full, but an example is Foujiya Sultana. She is said to have lent the defendant £80,000 between September and December 2014 and a further £2,500 since. The defendant said in his evidence at the trial that Foujiya Sultana was his niece aged 23 or 24 years. She has a job which is not likely to enable her to acquire large capital sums.

Rafia Munni is said to have paid £8,000 directly to K&L Gates [Lutfur’s solicitors] on 17th July 2014. This is the only payment so described and I infer that the rest of the payments (amounting to £741,500) were made to the defendant who paid them onwards to K&L Gates. This inference is supported by the payments out to that firm from the defendant’s Natwest account to which I will come shortly. In addition to that payment Rafia Munni paid further sums amounting to £34,730 in September and November 2014. Again, the evidence suggests that her employment is unlikely to generate such sums.

Limehouse.com is said to have lent £25,000 and the London Training Centre £22,000. The financial circumstances of these companies, so far as the evidence reveals, do not permit the making of such loans. Therefore, the suggested sources of these payments into the defendant’s bank accounts are questionable.

Where did the money come from? A further question is this: why did all these people lend the defendant money? A donation to a political cause is one thing, but a loan implies an expectation of repayment. Why did anyone think that the defendant would be able to repay £749,500 in loans? According to him, he has a 26% share in one property in London and £12,659.62 in the Bank. It is reasonable to infer that some of these lenders must have a different view of the creditworthiness of the defendant than this. How has this come about?

Other notable names on the list include Cllr Sullik (aka Suluk) Ahmed, who is said to have lent £60,000. According to his current register of interests he has no employment or declarable income. He is said to be reasonably wealthy from a house renovations company he used to run.

Other councillors include Maium Miah with £4,500. According to his register of interests as of August 2015, his employment is as a Community Development Worker at the Island Neighbourhood Project, Methodist Church (although according to this statement dated October 2014, that project has since closed down). Cllr Aminur Khan, Rabina’s husband, lent £14,500, while Cllr Ghulam Robbani seems to have had a spare £10,000.

Quite possibly the wealthiest name on the list is Amirul Choudhury, who gave/lent £30k. He owns and runs successful ChyTel Communications a mobile phone shop on Mile End Road and which forever advertises in East End Life.

A former council employee, Mazharul Alom, who used to work for not a great deal of money in Lutfur’s mayoral office before suddenly walking out rather abruptly on John Biggs last month, is also on the list. He appears to have had £3,500 spare. He gave that money to Lutfur by cheque on May 8, a few days after the Waterlily when the calls for help were at their most intense. How very generous.

The full list of transactions disclosed to the court is below.

A number of people are now examining each and every one. Anyone who has solid evidence or credible information and not mere speculation, please get in touch.

Lutfur’s lawyers have stressed throughout there is no wrongdoing in any of this.

No Date From Amount (£)
1 17/07/2014 Rafia Munni 8,000
2 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 5,000
3 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 15,000
4 03/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
5 03/09/2014 Rafia Munni 1,730
6 03/09/2014 Rafla Munni 7,500
7 04/09/2014 Shenaly Miah 15,000
8 05/09/2014 Rujina Yasmin 5,000
9 08/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
10 08/09/2014 Ayesha Farid 270
11 08/09/2014 Rafla Munni 5,500
12 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 5,000
13 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
14 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
15 19/09/2014 Nanu Miah 6,000
16 24/10/2014 All Seasons Lettings 10,000
17 31/10/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,000
18 Nov/2014 Afia Farid 1,000
19 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 2,000
20 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
21 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 3,500
22 Nov/2014 Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
23 Nov/2014 Syed Shahriar 3,000
24 Nov/2014 Rafia Munni 2,000
25 Nov/2014 Shenaly Miah 5,000
26 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
27 Nov/2014 Foujiya Sultana 15,000
28 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 10,000
29 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
30 Nov/2014 Mamunur Rahman 5,000
31 Nov/2014 Saif Uddin Moni 1,000
32 Nov/2014 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
33 Nov/2014 Rujina Yasmin 2,000
34 Nov/2014 Dipa Begum 3,000
35 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 5,000
36 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 7,000
37 Nov/2014 CLR Aminur Khan 2,000
38 Nov/2014 All Seasons Lettings 10,000
39 Nov/2014 CLR G Rabbani 5,000
40 Nov/2014 Nafisa Nargis Robbani 5,000
41 03/11/2014 Roseina Yasmin 10,000
42 06/11/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
43 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
44 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
45 18/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
46 20/11/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
47 21/11/2014 Afia Farid 2,000
48 Dec-2014 Fateha Ahmed 5,000
49 Dec/2014 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
50 03/12/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
51 09/12/2014 Foujiya Sultana 40,000
52 19/12/2014 CLR Aminur Khan 10,000
53 19/12/2014 Anuwar Ali 10,000
54 29/12/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 10,000
55 29/12/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
56 29/12/2014 Jayed Khan 10,000
57 29/12/2014 Mornotaz Begum 5,000
58 30/12/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
59 30/12/2014 Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
60 30/12/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,500
61 Jan/2015 Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
62 02/01/2015 CLR Aminur Khan 2,500
63 05/01/2015 Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
64 21/01/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
65 23/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 25,000
66 26/01/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 1,000
67 30/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 8,000
68 Feb/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
69 Feb/2015 Amirul Choudhury 5,000
70 02/02/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 4,000
71 03/02/2015 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
72 04/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
73 06/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
74 06/02/2015 Muzirul Haque 9,000
75 06/02/2015 London Training Centre 7,000
76 06/02/2015 Anuwar Ali 10,000
77 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
78 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
79 27/02/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
80 02/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
81 03/03/2015 Salik Zahid 5,000
82 09/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
83 09/03/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
84 09/03/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
85 09/03/2015 Razia Salique 3,000
86 09/03/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
87 09/03/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 2,000
88 09/03/2015 Suma Rahman 2,000
89 09/03/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,000
90 10/03/2015 Sanjid Sarni 5,000
91 10/03/2015 Saleh Abed 3,000
92 10/03/2015 Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
93 10/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
94 11/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 1,000
95 11/03/2015 Masuma Sultana 2,000
96 16/03/2015 Salik Zahid 1,000
97 16/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
98 30/03/2015 Ashadur Rahman 10,000
99 07/04/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 1,000
100 10/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 15,000
101 13/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 15,000
102 16/04/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,700
103 16/04/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 300
104 24/04/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
105 28/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 10,000
106 30/04/2015 CLR G Rabbani 5,000
107 30/04/2015 Rina Begum 11,000
108 30/04/2015 Jabir Miah 4,000
109 05/05/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 20,000
110 08/05/2015 Mazharul Alom 3,000
111 13/05/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
112 13/05/2015 Shamsun Noor 2,000
113 13/05/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
114 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 9,000
115 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 1,000
116 14/05/2015 Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
117 14/05/2015 Masuma Sultana 5,000
118 14/05/2015 Foujiya Sultana 2,500
119 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
120 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
121 15/05/2015 Mohammed Abdul Munim 10,000
122 15/05/2015 Mamunur Rahman 500
123 18/05/2015 Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Total £749,500

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This is not the most earth shattering post, but I have something of a tradition of publishing legal threats and other warnings against this blog.

Four days ago in a post about Lutfur Rahman’s latest legal developments I mentioned that he had hired eminent QC Ben Emmerson to fight his proposed judicial review against the Election Court judgment.

In the following two paragraphs I wrote this:

He has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Alongside those paragraphs I published this photograph:

Saghir HussainThat’s Saghir Hussain.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Cage:

Dear Sirs
We are writing in relation to a blog post recently uploaded to your site, the post in question can be seen here.

We note that you have used an image from our site, which contains our logo on it, without seeking permission prior to posting. Furthermore, the source of the image has not been adequately referenced, if at all. In any event, we have not and do not authorise the use of said image on your site.

We therefore request that you immediately take down the image and refrain from using our images in the future without seeking our express written permission beforehand.

We hope that this matter can be resolved amicably, without further escalation.

Kind regards

CAGE

I emailed back to ask which image they were referring. I followed this up a few minutes later with this:

Further to the below, I presume you’re referring to the image of Saghir Hussain.

If so, that’s a screen grab I took personally from a video already posted/published on YouTube. I’m not aware of any permissions I need from you for that.

If I hear no more from you, I’ll consider that the end of the matter.

Many thanks.
Ted Jeory

There was a clue to the source of the image in the URL for the photo (https://trialbyjeory.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/screen-shot-2015-07-19-at-21-58-55.png) but for Cage’s benefit, it was from this YouTube video published last year of a public event at which they had unfurled their banner.

I haven’t heard back. Perhaps they have more important things to do.

As they were busy writing to me yesterday, they were also reportedly considering defamation action against David Cameron for branding them ‘extremist’ in his speech on Monday.

Bigger fish to fry.

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As has been mentioned in the comments thread to the last post on this blog, Lutfur Rahman has now lodged his application for a judicial review of the April 23 Election Court verdict.

To recap, he was found guilty on seven of nine counts in the petitioners’ case. His JR seeks to have three overturned.

These relate to the findings of bribery in respect of grants and payments to the media, the payment of canvassers, and of undue spiritual influence.

He is not challenging (and in effect accepts) the finding of false statement (S106 of the Representation of the Peoples Act) against John Biggs (an offence for which he was found personally liable), and various findings of corrupt practices and electoral fraud (fraudulent votes and false registration etc) via his agents.

He is currently banned for five years from holding office because he was found personally guilty of a corrupt practice (bribery). If he overturns this finding his ban will automatically fall to three years, that being the penalty for the other lesser offences.

His ban would then expire April 23, 2018. That would prevent him from standing for mayor that year as the close of nominations for candidates would be a few weeks earlier. However, he would be free to stand as a councillor in a by-election after that date or indeed for Parliament in May 2020.

Ifs, ifs…

As for his hopes of succeeding in the JR, I’m by no means and expert and will leave that to other people to judge or guess. The grounds for his case are outlined in this document: Grounds for JR.

A useful summary is provided on p2 of that document, here:

p2 JR

So he is arguing there are findings of fact by Commissioner Mawrey for which there was no evidential basis in law. His JR also has a human rights flavour to it.

Ben_Emmerson_at_Chatham_House_2013For this, he has hired an extremely heavyweight QC, Ben Emmerson, pictured left, (who I don’t think has much experience of local government or election law, if that matters). Emmerson is the counsel for the current and controversial Child Sex Abuse inquiry.

How much will that cost Lutfur, has been the cry in the comments section on that blog. Well, the answer to that lies in Lutfur’s other ongoing and related predicament: the outstanding cost order against him. You’ll recall that Mawrey ordered Lutfur to pay £250,000 of costs incurred during the Election Court trial. Not a penny of this Judgment Debt has yet been paid.

In court documents prepared for a recent freezing order on his assets (we’ll come to those later), it emerged that he expects his full costs of a judicial review that proceeds to a hearing will be about £160,000. Of that Ben Emmerson QC would collect about £61,000. Lutfur’s solicitors K&L Gates would earn around £55,000, while the junior counsel in the case would pocket about £34,000.

No wonder lawyers love Lutfur. One day, I’ll try and calculate how much his profession has earned from his since the day he took Labour to court in the 2010 mayoral selection process.

Saghir HussainHe has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Hussain tweeted during the Election Court trial in March that the case against Lutfur was about the Establishment wanting to crush “all uppity Muslims”.

Saghir Hussain tweet

If Lutfur wins his JR, it’s likely the Judgment Debt of £250k will be reduced from its original penalty. In addition (and a lawyer can correct me on this if I’m wrong) the petitioners would also become liable for all or some of his JR costs; I’d imagine they would be offset against the new Judgment Debt.

If he loses the JR his liability to the petitioners increases of course by any money they have to spend on the JR.

So that brings us back to the question of how he’s going to pay for it all. The petitioners lawyers say that he has yet to disclose how much has been donated to the fighting fund set up at the Water Lilly rally in April, a fund being chaired by the suspended Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft.

There is also a running argument over the Lutfur’s property interests and these have been detailed well by Love Wapping here. Lutfur lives in a six-bedroom family home in Old Montague Street with nine other adults and one child and the petitioners argue that his outgoings towards bills in that house (owned by his father and brother) must be low.

During his time in office his register of interests disclosed he owned two investment properties bought 10 years ago. These are 30 Deal Street in Whitechapel (bought for £272k) and 3 Grace Street, a small terraced house he bought for £230k in Bromley-by-Bow. But his wife now claims she owns all of 30 Deal Street and 74 per cent of 3 Grace Street, so she argues they can’t be used to pay her husband’s debt. She also owns the neighbouring property at 5 Grace Street; Lutfur has not disclosed whether he has any interest in that.

According to Zoopla, 30 Deal Street is now worth about £572k, while 3 Grace St is estimated at about £420k.

Apparently both are rented out. Again according to Zoopla, the estimated annual rents are £26,400 (£2200 per month) and £22,992 (£1916 per month).

The petitioners’ lawyers have alleged Lutfur is trying to hide his assets and are seeking more information about any other large assets he might own. Lutfur has denied this.

It was also alleged in the Election Court that Lutfur owns a stake in the Bangla City Cash and Carry, off Brick Lane in Spitalfields. This stake is estimated at £100k. But Lutfur denies any such stake.

[As an aside, is there an argument for councillors to disclose all properties they own (both in the UK and abroad), not just in the borough in which they serve? How many own properties abroad, e.g. Dubai, I wonder.]

Two weeks ago, High Court judge Mr Justice Edis ordered Lutfur to disclose income and expenditure going back five years. He also froze assets worth £350,000 and required him to disclose tax returns going back seven years. A review of the situation will take place in the near future.

The saga continues.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 20.27.42Shortly before Ramadan in 2008, then Lib Dem councillor Stephanie Eaton fired off a complaint to those in charge of council committees about a memo they’d sent out asking members to change their eating habits. Back in those pre-austerity halcyon days, councillors were given free snacks to help them endure the messy business of part-time democracy: biscuits, tea and coffee were served at the side of the room. It was all very civilised.

But the memo in August 2008 requested committee members to refrain from gorging on food until the breaking of the fast during the forthcoming month of Ramadan. This, the memo said, was out of respect for Muslim councillors who may be fasting.

Stephanie, who I think later regretted speaking out (for the fuss it caused nationally) but not the point of principle, said on behalf of her group at the time: “We fervently believe that the rules of any one religion should not be imposed upon others.”

Many, including Muslim councillors, applauded her. It was seen as a mistake by do-gooding non-Muslim council officers.

I think it’s fair to say that there’s no other borough in Britain that is more sensitive to observant Muslims than Tower Hamlets.

A quick glance of the calendar of council meetings, for example, shows that many have been scheduled to start earlier during this past month of Ramadan.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 21.05.05

Yet there remain those who wish to exploit whatever perceived or minor insults they can for sad political reasons. Or even create insults for the same end.

Next Wednesday, it is Mayor John Biggs’s first proper full council meeting and the list of papers for it has just been published. They include a list of tabled questions to him from councillors.

This is what Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Lutfur Rahman’s former deputy mayor and someone who fancies the main role for himself in 2018, wants to ask.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 20.19.29

Throughout London and elsewhere these past four weeks fasting Muslims and non-Muslims and others have shared offices without even the slightest hint of tension or friction or breakdown in “basic etiquette” as people have simply got on with their daily lives. Some have fasted, most haven’t. Some in the latter group will have politely asked their colleagues if it’s ok to eat in front of them. The replies are likely to have been ‘Of course! Thanks for asking.’

Indeed, this has undoubtedly been the case in Mulberry Place itself.

AMOhid-AhmedBut there will always be those wanting to whip up or fabricate friction. I suppose someone or some people must have moaned to Ohid for him to learn about this meeting, but his language – is the stuff of parody.

“I believe morning breakfast [what other breakfast is there?] was offered…with much pomp and grandeur [what?? was it served by Royal butlers??] to the behest [I think he’s picked the wrong word here] of those who were observing their faith and those who felt left out and demotivated and somewhat belittled by the event taking place when they are obligated to fast.”

It’s the kind of stuff you see in exaggerated whip-lash claims. Or OTT constructive dismissal cases.

So what was this event that “belittled” people anyway? Well, it was work. More than 1,000 employees were asked to turn up to work.

As it has been explains to me, it was the Senior Management Development Conference. Lutfur used to hold it for fewer people in Mile End but this year Biggs and the council top team switched the venue to the Troxy and extended the invitation to 1,000 staff members, some 20 per cent of the workforce. It was aimed at informing the staff about developments at the council and listening to their feedback.

It lasted from morning until late afternoon, apparently and simple food was served for those who wanted or needed it. Sandwiches during the breaks/lunch, and tea, coffee, orange juice, biscuits and other snacks on arrival.

I was told speeches from Sir Ken Knight, the chief Commissioner, and John Biggs went down well. The latter was apparently cheered when he said there would be no more chauffeured mayoral car.

And I was also told (but I haven’t checked) that there was also an 80 per cent satisfaction rate from a survey at the end of the meeting.

Earlier this week, I was at the Arbour Youth Centre for an Iftar hosted by the committee there and by St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney. Many of the congregation of that church, as well as the rector, the assistant priest and the wardens, attended having themselves fasted throughout the day so they could share the breaking of the fast with their friends in Stepney’s Muslim community. (At one point John Biggs turned up to say hello before moving on to another Iftar elsewhere).

It was harmonious, sharing, respectful and friendly. I wish Ohid had been there. I suspect many in the Muslim community will find his cheap attempt at entrenched identity politics embarrassing.

In the meantime, below are the other questions for next Wednesday’s meeting. They are the usual mix of sycophantic, silly and sensible. I’ll let you decide which is which.

TO RECEIVE WRITTEN QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL

And Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers. Don’t hoot your horns too wildly tomorrow…but then again why not!

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