Sadly, given the abject lack of interest by the local mainstream television channels such as the BBC, much of the election campaign for Tower Hamlets mayor is being conducted on the influential satellite TV stations that serve the borough’s large Bangladeshi community.
These channels, such as Bangla TV and Channel S, are regulated by Ofcom and are subject to the Representation of the People Act 1983, which lays down rules about impartiality and balance of air-time during elections.
The question of whether they comply is a matter for Ofcom, but what is equally interesting is the actual content. The below YouTube clip was broadcast by Bangla TV on October 2 and contains a series of well known faces from Tower Hamlets politics and beyond speaking at Helal Abbas’s launch event. The voice-over is in Bangla, as are some of the speeches, but there’s also quite a bit of English.
You’ll see Jim Fitzpatrick in full podium-bashing form, Rushanara Ali, Frank Dobson, and Abbas himself. You’ll also see Lutfur Rahman say a few words (“Those who say I’m a puppet should look at themselves”).
And you’ll also see Lutfur’s main backer, the millionaire social housing tenant Shiraj Haque, give his assessment of Abbas.
“Helal Abbas is completely unfit for many reasons. I can’t trust my responsibility, my finances, £1.3billion of assets of Tower Hamlets in the hands of somebody who can’t even manage his own affairs.”
This is a reference to the bankruptcy of Abbas’s restaurant/ sari shop business in Brick Lane some 20 years ago. Abbas is then seen explaining the matter:
“Unfortunately, like many businesses in this country, they open, they close, they’re successful, they’re unsuccessful. This has no relevance whatsoever to do with me running the council.”
Isn’t it a touch ironic that a man who displays moral bankruptcy by depriving those more needy than him from living in a large family-sized housing association home in Bethnal Green complains about ancient historic financial bankruptcy in others?
By the way, none of the other candidates, Neil King of the Tories, John Griffiths of the Lib Dems and the Greens’ Alan Duffell, make an appearance in the report.
Here’s the video.