Archive for May 28th, 2010

Deciphering Abdal…

It takes time, but after a while you learn never to take things at face value when it comes to Tower Hamlets politics. Charming smiles are aplenty, straight talking a rarity. Despite having both those qualities in abundance and despite catching him out a couple of years back defaming me in a party email, I’ve always had a soft spot for Labour councillor Abdal Ullah.

He was first elected in 2006 after a six-year spell as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, a period which covered the July 7 bombings in 2005. Ever since his election he has served in the council’s cabinet taking responsibility for “community safety” issues. In short, he is the council’s main liaison with the Met and is what we journalists describe as “close to the police”.

Yes, he likes his own voice, but he’s rare in Tower Hamlets for being someone worth listening to in the council chamber. He has other claims to fame: in the Nineties, he attended Tower Hamlets College with Ed Husain, the famed author of The Islamist and co-director of the counter-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation. As Ed set out on his path to Hizb ut-Tahrir, entrepreneurial Abdal organised student parties.

With his party days over and with power and influence his new goal (and, of course, a deep desire to drive change in the community), he created networks among the East London Mosque hierarchy. Some in his own party said he was close to the Islamic Forum of Europe, but if he was (or is) I tend to think it was for political and not ideological reasons. Abdal is a survivor who swims with the tide, often ahead of it.

What’s certain is that for the last couple of years, at least, he has been a close ally of former leader, Lutfur Rahman. So imagine my surprise when I asked him at Wednesday’s full council meeting for his views on the forthcoming mayoral contest, he said: “I think John Biggs would be a very good for the borough.” When I then asked whether he’d support council leader Helal Abbas’s bid, he said: “I think John Biggs would be very good for the borough.” And what about Lutfur? “Others will make their own choice on that.”

On the face of it, that’s Lutfur out, Biggsy in. But there’s just tiny part of me which thinks there’s more to it than that. Abdal, me old mate, I know you’re reading this: care to comment?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: