Archive for September 29th, 2010

All the candidates for Tower Hamlets mayor are being invited to write a piece for this blog about why they want the job.

So far, Neil King of the Conservatives has contributed here, as has the Liberal Democrats’ John Griffiths, here.

Next up is Cllr Helal Abbas, the current council leader, the Labour candidate and the favourite to win. Abbas had finished his first stint as council leader by the time I joined the East London Advertiser in September 2005. Over the next three years or so, although he remained largely in the background, he was still the centre of much attention because he was a magnet for faction fights.

It was always said that his great enemy was Michael Keith, the man who replaced him as leader. When Michael lost his seat in 2006, his great friend Denise Jones grabbed the reins.

They were heady days back then; and Abbas and his own good Lutfur Rahman spent their time plotting Denise’s downfall. However, the friendship was ripped apart in 2007 when both men tried to become the party’s parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow, a quest in which they both failed after failing to beat Rushanara Ali.

Lutfur then became council leader, alliances changed…and now we are where we are.

While up in Manchester for the Labour party conference to some of the (non-Tower Hamlets) people who were involved in the mayoral selection process. The Guardian’s Dave Hill has done the same – see here. What we were both separately told – possibly by the same people, I don’t know – was that the major concern over Lutfur was his actual ability to do the job. The appointment of Lutfur Ali as assistant chief executive and the sacking of Martin Smith as chief executive raised serious concerns in senior circles.

Similar doubts have been expressed to me by council officers, who also say they have been impressed with the way Abbas has been running things since May.

Here’s Abbas’s article.

Social Cohesion

Tower Hamlets is a borough with a rich cultural history.

We have traditionally been a place for new arrivals to the country, with our heritage shaped by Jewish and Huguenot settlers and, more recently, the large Bangladeshi community and arrivals from China and Somalia.

We are a borough where children in our schools speak over 90 community languages in an area just eight miles wide.

And yet this diversity doesn’t divide us.

Our latest Annual Residents’ Survey reflects that our communities recognise the value of unified, strong communities.

Seventy-five per cent of residents said the borough was somewhere where people from different backgrounds get on well together, up from 69 per cent in the previous year.

This is partly because we’ve taken a stand together in the face of adversity.

After the London bombings our community leaders were quick to jointly renounce the violent actions of a mindless few. This clear message, led by our active Interfaith Forum, reflected a borough resilient to messages of extremism and hate.

This has remained a powerful tool for our communities. Earlier this year we made a robust stand against the use of a local building for a debate organised by a group with extremist links.

Our community cohesion is also achieved by working together.

As a council we work with our partners to promote One Tower Hamlets; a place where we work together to reduce inequalities and ensure our communities continue to live well together.

Our main partners in achieving this are local people – and we all have a part to play.

We’re developing the idea of a powerful public – where individuals and communities are empowered to do more for their local area and to shape their own communities.

We know this can work. Our hugely successful You Decide! scheme, has seen local people choose how to spend millions of pounds in ways which are of direct benefit to very local communities.

This has engendered a sense of pride of place – an ownership at a local level which in turn feeds our pride in our borough as a whole.

We’ve been through some financially turbulent times, and more tough times ahead – but together we’re stronger.

Together we can lobby the Government to demand a fair deal for local people, just like we’re lobbying the Olympic organisers to return the marathon to our borough.

Together we’re proud of our diverse history – proud of what we’ve achieved in the face of those who would seek to divide us.

But there is always more to be done.

We’ll be leading the way as a council by tackling the underlying key issues of worklessness and lack of affordable housing.

And we’ll be working with local people, encouraging more businesses to sign our No Place Hate pledge and asking everyone to help shape their Tower Hamlets into a borough we can all be proud of.

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