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Archive for November 8th, 2010

Labour’s NEC must be close to the point of declaring UDI against the local party in Tower Hamlets. Within hours of Abdul Alim being picked to fight Spitalfields and Banglatown on Saturday, a letter of complaint was being drafted accusing senior local figures of a stitch-up.

This letter from Mosabbir Ali, the chairman of Labour’s Spitalfields and Banglatown ward branch, was sent yesterday to the party’s regional boss, Ken Clark, with a copy to the NEC and Ed Miliband. A copy has also ended up in my inbox.

He complains that no one from his ward branch was consulted about the selection, yet then accuses one of his ward councillors, Labour’s group leader Helal Abbas, of orchestrating the “imposition” of Abdul Alim. Like many others, he says he knows very little about Alim, but supposes that he comes from the same village in Bangladesh as Abbas – and says that’s why he was chosen.

In places the letter is a piece of comedy. “There are electorally unhelpful rumours that the candidate is a waiter,” Ali warns. How egalitarian, comrade! (Maybe he should examine John Prescott’s CV). But in the main, the complaint either adds to the lingering impression of a long running farce in this borough, or it is part of a rather cunning plan to test Lutfur: pick a poor candidate and dare Lutfur to back him.

Here’s the letter in full:

URGENT 07/11/2010

TO: KEN CLARK, LONDON LABOUR PARTY REGIONAL DIRECTOR

Dear Mr Ken Clark,

RE: OFFICIAL COMPLAINT AGAINST LABOUR PARTY CANDIDATE SELECTION OF SPITALFIELDS AND BANGLATOWN BY-ELECTION

As the chair of the Spitalfields and Banglatown branch of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, I am writing to make an official complaint on behalf of ALL LOCAL WARD PARTY MEMBERS to raise our objection to the selection process that was used to determine the candidate for the by-election scheduled for December 16, following the election of Lutfur Rahman as the executive mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Local party members are outraged and completely unfamiliar with this ‘imposed’ candidate, Abdul Alim, whom we have nothing against personally but who has very little connection or knowledge of local politics in this ward let alone the ability to win in this complex ward without their support.

Graham Taylor, the chair of the borough party and interview panel failed to consult local party members on who would make a good candidate amongst those on the approved panel who had nominated themselves. We believe that the candidate was chosen because he is from the same village as the Labour group Councillor Helal Abbas (who has led the party into Opposition after sixteen years in power).

We are aware that several candidates who had nominated their CVs were not even invited to the interview on Saturday. Neither were local members even aware of this so-called interview. This is a failure on the part of borough party officers responsible such as Chris Weavers and others sitting on the interview panel. Many of those ‘approved candidates’ that applied including the ones who were invited to the interview possess far better experience and skills than the current candidate, who has never been seen campaigning for the party in Spitalfields and Banglatown.

There are electorally unhelpful rumours that the candidate is a waiter and possibly a business partner of Mr Muquim Ahmed, Chair of the local Conservative Party in Bethnal Green and Bow. This news will most definitely reach the press and cause embarrassment to the Labour Party. Word was already out that he would be the candidate before even the so-called ‘selection’. Surely, there must be more qualified candidates on your approved panel suited to do the job of a councillor in our rather deprived but multi-ethnic ward?!

There is still a bit of time left before the submission deadline of candidate nomination to the council. We urge the London Regional Labour Party to cancel the current selection altogether and put forward to all the branch members the names of candidates who nominated themselves so that we can, as paid members, select the best candidate whom we believe will win this important council seat against any heavyweight Opposition candidate from George Galloway’s Respect Party.

Failure on your part to review the incumbent candidate’s suitability and replace him with one who is strong will reflect negatively on the party’s reputation locally and possibly regionally, ahead of important mayoral and general elections. We are extremely disappointed by the manner in which local ward party members have been ignored. That is why we believe that you should allow the selection of a candidate who has broad support from most ward party members.

For your information, this letter has been copied to the chair of the London Labour Party, all the members of the NEC and Ed Miliband.

We, the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward party members, would like to meet ALL the approved candidates and select the best one we believe can defeat the Opposition candidate. Please note seriously that we will take further action if we lose this election due to your negligence as Director of the London Labour Party.

I look forward to hearing from you immediately regarding this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Mosabbir Ali

Chair, Spitalfields and Banglatown Labour Party

Mobile: xxxxx

Email:

Mosabbir Ali

CC: Ed Miliband, Graham Taylor,  LEN DUVALL

 

 

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Some have wondered how long Labour would hold out in their determination to remain in Opposition in Tower Hamlets. The excellent commenter Judoker has more than once made the point on this blog that Labour sees last month’s Mayoral election as a watershed, that a line has been drawn in the sand allowing the party to be cleansed of malevolent forces.

I’ve not been so sure. The forthcoming by-election in Spitalfields and Banglatown on December 16 will be a good pointer. On Saturday, Labour selected a chap called Abdul Alim to be their candidate. No one knows too much about him, other than he’s apparently been a consistent campaigner for Labour over the years.

Labour’s selection panel compromised Chris Weavers, Clair Hawkins and Graham Taylor, all of whom are from the “this party needs cleaning up” faction. Bow West councillor, and Labour’s chief whip, Anwar Khan was also on the panel.

Respect, who will choose their candidate within the next 36 hours, believe Amin is a Lutfur Rahman man, but I’ve no idea. It will be interesting to see if Lutfur will publicly endorse him. If he does, that will be a clear signal of where he wants his future to lie.

It would also add to the arguments of those Labour councillors who are still trying to persuade their colleagues to work with Lutfur’s administration. I understand that those discussions are ongoing and that some in the party are now increasingly worried that Marc Francis may change his mind and help his old friend out.

Lutfur could also of course back an independent candidate, but I suspect he could just hedge his bets and keep his counsel private.

As an aside, among those who failed to make Labour’s shortlist in Spitalifields were two former councillors, Abdus Salique and Wais Islam, both of whom are known Lutfur Rahman fans. That Wais actually remains a party member is more than surprising and underlines Labour’s double-standards during this saga. You’ll remember that not only did he publicly back Lutfir for mayor, but also that he made anti-Semitic comments about my name here. Yes, he apologised to both me and some of his colleagues for his outburst, but compare Labour’s inaction with the commendable way in which Respect dealt with another foul-mouthed tirade by one of its senior members, Abul Hussain.

UPDATE – 3.15pm
As soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button, Respect sent me the following email:
Respect choose Fozol Miah to be their candidate in the Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election

The Tower Hamlets Respect Party today chose former councillor Fozol Miah to be their candidate in the Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election to be held on 16th December. Fozol Miah was councillor for this ward from 2006 to 2010.

In 2006 Fozol Miah received more votes than the newly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets,  Lutfur Rahman, who represented the same ward and he increased his vote by a further 200 votes in the most recent local elections, despite losing the seat.

Fozol Miah said: “I am greatly honoured to have been selected again by the Respect Party to seek to represent this ward. And I am greatly honoured to be able to stand before the voters of Spitalfields and Banglatown again to ask them if they will vote for me to represent them in the council chamber.

“We are facing the most terrible assault from this Condem Coalition government on the services that so many people in Tower Hamlets depend on. I strongly supported the election of Mayor Lutfur Rahman. If elected, I pledge I will work with him to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the people of Tower Hamlets from this assault. But I will also ensure that wherever and whenever criticism and opposition to his policies are justified, I will provide that criticism and opposition.

“I am looking forward to this election in the ward I was proud to serve for four years and to seek again the opportunity to serve the residents of this most deprived of areas.”

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George Galloway has flown so many kites over the years that I’m sure he grew up not up in Dundee but in Afghanistan. In his column in today’s Daily Record, here, he hints that he will stand for the Scottish Parliament next May.

In the time I’ve known him, he’s “considered”: running for Tower Hamlets council, as a councillor and as mayor; standing against Jack Straw in Blackburn; running alongside his friend Tommy Sheridan in 2007; running for London Mayor in 2008; and just last week hinting that after the disgrace of his former researcher Phil Woolas he would stand in the forthcoming Oldham East and Saddleworth by election.

None of those materialised, of course, but as he’s fervently anti-nationalist, I can see him quite fancying taking on the SNP’s Alec Salmond. His aides reckon he’d need around 10,000 votes from Glasgow to make the Parliament’s top-up list.

At least it would give him a job and an excuse to avoid Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘work-shy detectors’.

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The Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall reports here that Tower Hamlets council has started judicial review proceedings against Lord Coe and his team at LOCOG for their decision to re-route the Olympic marathon away from the borough in 2012.

The council’s “pre-action” letter can be viewed here. Chief executive Kevan Collins and legal head Isabella Freeman claim that the council has already invested “considerable money” into the concept of “High Street 2012”.

High Street 2012 is in fact the filthy main road that runs from Aldgate to Stratford, along Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road and Bow Road. When it was first coined a few years ago, the council announced they were going to rename the roads the Olympic Boulevard, something that not only triggered much mirth but also the ire of Jacques Rogge and his colleagues. The word “Olympic”, you see , is a fiercely protected copyright.

I’m not exactly sure what the council has spent money on, but I’ve not seen any evidence of those roads being spruced up. Did some cash go on consultants, I wonder? I’ll ask.

However, given that the Games organisers had sucked out so much PR value from telling everyone how great they were for staging the marathon through the deprived East End, the council is absolutely right to challenge them.

Seb Coe’s decision, and particularly the reasons for it – that there were logistical problems associated with people running through Tower Hamlets (listen, Seb, that’s what we all do here!) – was a disgrace.

I’ve had some experience of Isabella Freeman: Seb Coe might well lose this one.

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