Archive for September, 2010

Some snippets from last night’s meeting of Labour’s London members (sponsored by Canary Wharf Group) in Manchester, where Tower Hamlets mayoral candidate Helal Abbas received:

– a warm handshake and endorsement from new party leader Ed Miliband

– an even warmer pat on the back and cheeky wink from deputy leader Harriet Harman, who urged a packed room to descend on the East End to “support our fantastic candidate”

– an endorsement from a grimacing and slightly red-eyed Ken Livingstone who told me Labour’s selection process in Tower Hamlets had been “a disgrace” and urged voters to place Abbas first on the ballot paper and Lutfur Rahman second “otherwise we’ll get a Tory”.

I also chatted to someone closely involved in defending the party’s legal interests against Lutfur. I was told that Lutfur’s first case against his omission from the shortlist did not actually make the High Court and that the party had settled before that stage. Labour continues to be liable for Lutfur’s tens of thousands of pounds’ legal costs.

However, Lutfur’s second – and failed – case last week did make the High Court. Costs incurred there remain his liability.

Campaign expenses for all the candidates are going to make interesting reading.

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Waiseul Islam was elected as a Respect councillor in 2006. When George Galloway refused to grant him two favours, firstly to grant his desperate request for a personal loan (I was told this by a very close friend of George’s), and then to make him the parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow, he jumped ship to Labour. Senior bods in Respect laughed off his departure, labelling him a strange Walter Mitty type without brains.

Labour welcomed him with open arms because he helped bolster their slim overall majority in the pre-2010 council chamber.

After he agreed to support Lutfur for Labour group leader in 2008, he was suddenly given the new and paid title of Tower Hamlets Olympics Ambassador. He even tried, but failed, to secure a tax-paid trip to the Beijing Games in 2008.

Last May, the voters booted him out. Despite the tensions of covering a place like Tower Hamlets politics, we always got on OK…or so I thought.

Yesterday, I posted that Wais had effectively expelled himself from the Labour party after urging in an article for London Bangla to vote for Lutfur.

Here’s the actual article:

In the first in a series of unsavoury anti-Semitic exposes of Respect-linked comments on various websites, here’s Wais Islam insulting me on his Facebook site (as he knows I’m monitoring such things, it could well be deliberately provocative, but that’s no excuse; and as it happens, he does not know what faith, if any, I hold):

Wais Islam is seeing Labour GenSec Ray Collins to save my political career from Ted Jeory who says I’ve been expelled apparently. But why is Ray still writing to me? Come on pussy Jewry, try harder u low life peasant!

18 minutes ago via Mobile Web · · Share

    • Wais Islam I saw this working class ‘wanna-be-upmarket-urban-rat-low life who hates Labour drinking a pint outside my local rather posh pub Morgan Arms in the Bow Conservation Area last year and said in my mind, ‘nice try asshole’!
      3 minutes ago
    • Wais Islam They can’t expel me unless they also expel all the white Labours members who are with me on this Save Democracy in Labour campaign!
    • Wais Islam is urging Andrew Gilligan and Ted Jewry to investigate what percentage of Lutfur’s so called ‘extremist Islamist’ or Muslim votes Ed Miliband got that won him Labour Leadership because some people in fish pakiland Tower Hamlets are dying to produce a dossier to complain to the NEC for Ed’s suspension!

Does anyone think this is inflammatory?

UPDATE – Thursday, Sep 30

Wais Islam has sent a personal message apologising unreservedly to me for his remarks, which he says he made during a time of intense personal stress and family grief. He insists he is not anti-Semitic and I have accepted it. He says he will be taking a break from politics for some time.

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Oli Rahman speaks out

I have just spoken to Oliur Rahman, one of EIGHT, not seven, councillors who attended a campaign meeting for Lutfur Rahman in Brick Lane last night (the other was Ohid Ahmed).

Oli was Respect’s first ever councillor, elected back in 2004. He fell out massively with George Galloway and Abjol Miah, the then group leader on Tower Hamlets council in 2008 and retains a strong resentment to them to this day.

Here’s what he told me:

“I’m supporting Lutfur because he has been chosen as teh Labour party candidate by the members of the Labour party and the Labour party is only as strong as its members.

“As a Labour party member, and not as a councillor, I feel that the NEC and the regional London party should acknowledge that support. It’s very important that the party doesn’t forget the members.

“Therefore I’m standing by the decision that the members have taken. I don’t feel that expells me from the Labour party and it is still my home and the party for the working classes and trade unions. Ed Miliband reflects my aspirations.

“Respect is finished, but it can support whoever it likes. But I feel they have deliberately damaged Lutfur Rahman by supporting him because his opponents in Labour will now use that against him.”

I’ve known Oli for several years now, throughout the time he agonised about leaving Respect and the insults they then hurled at him. He is in no way linked to IFE. Perhaps he is someone who’s made his bed, but his position gives the whole anti-Lutfur campaign a different slant.

That momentum Lutfur is gaining will take on a whole new dimension after the Labour conference in Manchester when the likes of Cllr Marc Francis will probably announce their intentions to stay or go.

On the question of expulsions, here’s a comment from an official Labour spokesman:

“Anyone who supports a candidate standing against the party automatically expels themselves.”  

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Labour councillors defect

The full impact of Labour’s handling of the Lutfur Rahman saga is now beginning to show. Last May, they obliterated Respect in the council and parliamentary elections and now thanks to the shambolic way in which officials ran the selection process for mayor, they have, as one councillor said to me, created Respect Mark II.

This morning, I hear, seven Labour councillors have expelled themselves from the party by throwing their weight behind Lutfur.

I hear that they are Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum and her daughter Rania Khan (all of whom defected from Respect a couple of years ago!), controversial Alibor Chodhary, and new councillors Aminur Khan and wife Rabina Khan, and Shelina Aktar.

Hardly heavyweights, but still significant. In addition, another Respect defector, Wais Islam, who lost standing for Labour in May, has also left the party by urging people to vote for Lutfur in a Benagli newspaper article yesterday.

There are now serious worries that Lutfur, with the help of those Abbas supporters who allocate their second preference vote to the only other Bangladeshi name on the slate, could creep in come October 21.

For many in Labour, that is the worst of all worlds: a independent mayor controlling the executive without any check from a constituted party.

I have a feeling that this borough will soon be the focus of some pretty interesting national attention.


Cllr Rania Khan has just confirmed to me that she did attend a campaign meeting with Lutfur last night. She said: “As you know, I will fight against any injustice and I think there has been injustice to Lutfur.”

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IFE and Tower Hamlets

Bodrul Islam was the wedding groom insulted by Jim Fitzpatrick last year. He then joined the Respect party and failed to land a Tower Hamlets council seat in May. I wrote in this post last week that he seemed to be loose with his tongue when ranting on Facebook sites.

Here’s a reminder of what he said:

The tower hamlets labour party seems to prioritise naked self interest at the expense of democracy. Abbas, that castrated prostitute has no mandate to stand as a mayoral candidate. Part of me wants to laugh at the dismantling of the labour party but the serious part of me sees the grotesque injustice against lutfur. I personally think he should do what ken livingstone did, stand as an independent. With his popularity he will win, as the block bengali vote will be activated like never before. [My emphasis].

In the comments section of that post, his rant at first continued and then his tone softened; he became more polite and tried to draw me into a debate. Maybe someone had had a word with him.  However, his latest comment makes interesting reading and I’m producing it in full here. He makes a defence the Islamic Forum of Europe, the group at the centre of allegations surrounding Lutfur Rahman. Bodrul is backing Lutfur.

Ted I hope you are okay with me sharing my analysis here on ife. Ife are a socially conservative group that encourage residents to engage with the procedural and normative aspects of democracy. How do I know this? I have seen rigorous and acrimonious debates between ife and isolationist, exclusivist groups such as hizbut tahrir and al-muhajiroun. In all occasions ife have clearly come out in support of active citizenship via the democratic route.

The notion that ife have infiltrated the labour party for theological expediency is the most obscure and bizarre argument I have heard all year. What proof do we have of this? Has secular policies in the labour party changed into theological diktats? No of course they haven’t. Is there thus a concerted effort on policy levels to islamise tower hamlets? Of course not that is pure hysteria and conjecture.

We then move to the cry that muslims also have alleged the link of ife infiltration and extremism. Those muslims who assert this are quite easy to decipher, one of the most prominent one being related to me. Their assertions are based on political self-interest emanating unfortunately from the polarised nature of politics in Bangladesh. I will put a wager that every bengali person who has alleged ife being a socially divisive and regressive is an awami league supporter. That every bengali resident in tower hamlets knows. If you as a journalist were ever to produce a mass opinion poll of bengalis in tower hamlets I will also put a wager that 90 percent plus will hold ife to be a moderate group.

Ted unless we base our assertion on nuanced analysis complimented by tangible proofs all we are going to create is mass hysteria and a clash of the extremes which will devastate social cohesion. We must prevent polarisation where muslims think of a given white person as a potential racist and where whites think of muslims as the enemy within. We all need to get away from hearsay allegations and scrutinise the matter at hand with our logical capabilities.

And here’s another reminder of the comment he made in less unguarded moments on Facebook.

With his popularity he will win, as the block bengali vote will be activated like never before.

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As I’ve said before, I’m inviting all candidates for Tower Hamlets mayor to write in their own words why they want the job. For those who think this is mere regurgitation of press releases, we journalists can’t win: when we cut quotes to fit space or because they’re just dull, we’re accused of quoting out of context. This is not a newspaper, but a blog, and as such there’s more scope.

The scrutiny will also continue, of course.

Neil King is the Tory candidate. Though he’s a regular at Tory events and an occasional at council meetings, I don’t know too much about him. He’s a criminal barrister and, as you’d expect, pretty formidable in a debate. However, against the other main candidates he does lack the experience of office, but maybe that’s a good thing in Tower Hamlets.

His personal and professional profile is here:

Neil King
Call: 2003

Academic Background:
Charterhouse School,
Godalming. Oriel College,
Oxford, BA (Hons) History.
Oxford Brookes University:
Dip. Law (Merit) Inns of
Court School of Law: BVC
(Very Competent)

Quizzes, Cinema and Fulham FC

Criminal Defence and Prosecution
Cash Detention and Forfeiture
Road Traffic

Neil attended schools near his home in Surrey, before going to read History at Oriel College Oxford, eventually specialising in the late eighteenth century. At Oxford, Neil attained a scholarship and represented his college on University Challenge, where his team reached the final, losing to Durham!

Neil had been a member of the University Crime Forum, and this in part, led him to consider a career at the bar.

After completing a law conversion course and the BVC at ICSL, Neil began pupillage at what was then Francis Taylor Building in 2003. He was taken on by Valios and Boardman Chambers as a tenant in 2005.

Neil undertakes a wide variety of criminal work, both defence and prosecution and has prosecuted and defended in drugs importations, burglaries, harassment and cases involving violence among others. He also brings an eye for detail and knowledge of procedure to road traffic cases and to POCA hearings.

He also tells me:

I’m 31, I live in Wapping, I like quizzes, cinema, reading, my favourite author is Graham Greene, the last two CDs I bought were Britten’s War Requiem and Lady Gaga’s The Fame. I’m a Fulham FC fan, I can cook a little and eat a lot! I now mainly prosecute and have dealt with serious assaults, sexual offences, drugs rings and frauds. I am an approved prosecutor for the Attorney General’s panel and practice mainly in London and the South East.”

And here’s his case for the voters, in his own words:

Why I am Running for Mayor.

I have lived in Wapping all of my working life. I call Tower Hamlets home and I love the sense of community that exists in all our neighbourhoods, from the Isle of Dogs to Spitalfields.

But I believe we can do so much better. Since I was selected as the Conservative candidate in July, I have been struck by how desperate residents are for change. They want a mayor who will make decisions on behalf of all the community, not play groups off against each other. They want a mayor who will be a clean break from the past, bringing an end to cronyism. They don’t want gesture politics, but real substance and change. What is certainly clear is that Labour’s selection farce leaves local people in real doubt as to whether they can be trusted with this important job.

The Conservatives are the official opposition on the council, and we are the only party who can end Labour’s grip on the borough. I believe my priorities are the right ones and that I can bring ideas in each area that will transform Tower Hamlets.

I will prioritise employment, making sure that the exceptionally young population of this borough has the opportunities they need. I will introduce a joined up strategy for our markets, a Brick Lane Business Improvement District and job clubs.

I will focus on education, helping schools that wish to become academies and reversing Labour’s damaging cuts to English classes.

I will also emphasise crime reduction, so that we feel safe on our streets and in our homes by making greater use of the council’s powers to tackle anti social behaviour and meeting regularly with the Borough Commander and the Safer Neighbourhood teams throughout the borough.

We all know that as a result of the financial mess the new government are having to clean up that there are going to be financial challenges facing whoever is elected mayor. I will remove inefficiency and waste and preserve frontline services. Never again will £17,000 of our money be spent on putting photos on lampposts, nor will I spend £100,000 on bus stop advertising. I will also bring to an end the £2million a year East End Life; if I am doing my job properly, I won’t need this council propaganda sheet to tell everyone how well I’m doing.

On one final note, when it comes to negotiating with central government to ensure the East End gets a fair crack of the whip, surely electing a Conservative mayor gives us the best chance of being heard in the corridors of power.

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Nominations for Tower Hamlets mayor have closed.

There are five candidates:

Helal Abbas  – Labour

Neil King – Conservatives

John Griffiths – Lib Dems

Lutfur Rahman – Independent

Alan Duffell – Greens

Respect are not fielding anyone and will be backing Lutfur.

A statement given to the East London Advertiser by Respect reads:

“Having chosen to deselect Cllr Rahman, even more bizarrely, the NEC then chose not to offer the candidacy to the second place candidate, London Assembly member John Biggs, but rather to Cllr Helal Abbas Uddin who received less than one third of the popular vote received by Cllr Rahman and less than one sixth of the total votes cast by Tower Hamlets Labour Party members. Cllr Abbas has no credibility therefore to be Labour’s candidate either with the Tower Hamlets Labour Party membership or with the wider electorate.

“Cllr Rahman on the other hand has a fine track record as leader of the council and has declared that he wishes to lead the fight against the appalling Con-Dem cuts on the basis of a broad coalition involving the trade unions and community groups across the borough. We strongly believe he can win the mayoralty on this basis and we will do all we can to help bring about his victory.”

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Lib Dem “rescue” call

The moribund Lib Dems in Tower Hamlets (they used to rule this borough, but now have only one councillor, albeit in Stephanie Eaton, one of the best – and that’s a cross-party view) have issued the following press release:

Time to Bring Sanity to Tower Hamlets

Electors in Tower Hamlets are being urged by Liberal Democrat candidate John Griffiths to use their vote in the Mayoral election on 21 October to rescue the borough from sleaze and mismanagement.

A longstanding Tower Hamlets resident and former councillor for Bethnal Green North, John says: “In recent years, politics in Tower Hamlets have been dragged down into the gutter by Labour and the now moribund Respect Party. The latest shenanigans over Labour’s candidate selection for the Mayoral election are yet another example of the way the borough is being brought into disrepute.”

But John has rejected suggestions that the Mayoral election should be scrapped because of the Labour fiasco. “Local voters showed clearly in the referendum in May that they want an executive Mayor. It’s important now that they have the chance to elect someone of integrity who is committed to clean and transparent local government.”

John is campaigning as the principled voice of experience who can represent all communities in Tower Hamlets. “People shouldn’t be distracted by Labour’s infighting and rumours of Respect rising from the grave,” he says.

At the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool last Saturday, Canary Wharf Group hosted a reception for all the party’s London members. They were all encouraged – although not, I must say, by CWG’s Labour-supporting host for the night, Howard Dawber – to converge on Tower Hamlets to help campaign over the next month. (The same will happen at Labour’s conference next week in Manchester and then in Birmingham for the Tories.)

So Tower Hamlets is going to be swamped by awkward-looking politicos for the four weeks. Great.

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The grand arrival

Breaking news: Lutfur Rahman has just arrived at the town hall to sign his nomination papers….and his Labour party death warrant. According to one witness, Mllionaire businessmen and social housing tenant Shiraj Haque was there to greet him, cheering away.

More later.

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Lutfur, Labour and civil war

So, the deed is done, it seems. The East London Advertiser is reporting that Lutfur Rahman has finally jumped ship and decided to stand as an Independent in the mayoral election on October 21. It says that nomination papers have been served at Tower Hamlets Council, although a town hall spokesman has just told me that they’re not aware that has actually happened yet.

However, those in Lutfur’s camp have confirmed his decision, so let’s assume it’s true.

This will cause civil war in the Tower Hamlets Labour party, make no mistake about that. And it’s probably the purge that many members have been hoping for. While Lutfur is not standing as a Respect candidate, it will be George Galloway’s battle bus driving the thrust his grass-roots campaign.

So the question is who from Labour will join Lutfur on the road? Anyone making that leap will, like Lutfur surely will, be expelled from Labour. A lot of Labour councillors have some serious thinking to do over the next few days and up in Manchester. They include Marc Francis, Ohid Ahmed, Alibor Choudhury and the gang of three former Respect councillors Oli Rahman, Rania Khan and her mother, Lutfa Begum.

If they go they will be joining some pretty unsavoury characters in Respect, of which more later….

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