Archive for February 18th, 2012

On his blog today, Mayor Lutfur Rahman says this about his adversary, Tory group leader Peter Golds: “I don’t agree with much of Cllr Golds’ politics, but I do respect the tenacity and conviction with which he pursues them.”

Lutfur then refers to Thursday’s Evening Standard spread by journalist Stephen Robinson in which Peter highlights the homophobic abuse he has been subjected to, both in the council chamber and in the borough at large.

Here’s an extract from that Standard article:

On the streets of Tower Hamlets, councillor Peter Golds tends to stick out. For a start, he is a contentedly “out” gay man. In what is now a heavily Asian borough, he is of Jewish origin, and even more unusually, in a neighbourhood where few are proud to be Tory, he is a strident Conservative.

These factors combine so that when Cllr Golds stands up to speak in the council chamber, things can turn very ugly in the public gallery.

“I get the hissing, the calls of ‘poofter’, they shout ‘Zionist scum’ at me,” he says, sitting in his office at the Town Hall. This sort of treatment can be equally disturbing for a lesbian Labour councillor, who is subjected to other strange heckling.

More shocking still than these eruptions from the public benches is that this behaviour is seemingly tolerated, even though Tower Hamlets’s first directly elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, says he is relentlessly intolerant of sexist and racist bigotry.

As Golds said in a formal complaint to the borough police commander, were white skinheads observed yelling abuse at Muslim east Londoners, it would not be tolerated. The worst of the abuse occurred shortly after Rahman’s election in October 2010 but Golds says it continues to this day.

And here is what Lutfur has written on his blog today:

I call on the police to investigate allegations of homophobia in Tower Hamlets

Those with even a passing acquaintance of Tower Hamlets politics will know that myself and Cllr Golds, the leader of the Conservative group, are regularly at loggerheads with each other.

I don’t agree with much of Cllr Golds’ politics, but I do respect the tenacity and conviction with which he pursues them.

I was alarmed therefore to read in the Evening Standard that Cllr Golds had been subject to regular homophobic abuse at Tower Hamlets council events.

I had been aware of alleged comments from a member of the public on the night of the February council meeting last year. But I was unaware that the problem of homophobia at council meetings was as serious as Cllr Golds intimated to the Evening Standard journalist.

Tower Hamlets Council is determined to stamp down hard on homophobia, and any incidents of hate crime. That’s why I have decided to contact the borough commander to request that the police conduct an investigation into the allegations of homophobia at council meetings, or related events.

I am proud that Tower Hamlets Council came sixteenth – as well as being the best London borough and the second best local authority in the UK – in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers 2012, published last week which showcases Britain’s best employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. However, there is still much work to be done in overcoming homophobia.

I look forward to the police response. I will be encouraging the fullest cooperation with their investigation when it commences.

I’m not quite sure what to make about this. Maybe it’s the cynic in me but I wonder if Lutfur is asking us to read between the lines. Does he genuinely believe that Peter has been called “Zionist scum” in the chamber? Is he asking Peter to put that in a police statement? Is he asking for the police to listen to the audio tapes of the latest council meetings?

It’s just curious that he never called in the police when his self-styled financial backer Shiraj Haque was alleged to have hurled hateful abuse last year. As Lutfur says, he was aware of it then but did nothing.

In fact I sat in front of Shiraj while he delivered some of his not-too-subtle brand of prejudice in December 2010. Here’s what I wrote then:

Here are just a few of the things Shiraj bawled out:

“One Mayor, one borough, he will do anything he likes”; “Peter [Golds], get out of the borough, you can rent one of my flats”; “Peter, are you going on a honeymoon with Jim Fitzpatrick?”; and heckling during a discussion on investment strategies, “I can give you a better rate of interest if you invest in me”.

With any luck, the police will interview me as a witness. Let’s see…

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