Archive for April, 2012

One of the curious aspects of life in Lutfur’s Democratic Republic of Tower Hamlets is the growing cult of personality and how history is being rewritten. The late Kim il Sung was adept at this as well.

Lutfur’s smiling face seems to be appearing everywhere, from multiple pages in East End Life to the sides of dustbin lorries and lampposts.

He’s now even personalised our council tax bills, sending us all a letter saying that “my budget” included a decision to give 0ver-60s a rebate of £50. Funny that, because I could have sworn that his budget as presented at the council meeting on February 22 contained no such proposal. I must have imagined it. Yes, that’s right, that Labour amendment (which I thought Lutfur later accepted) demanding a £50 rebate for pensioners was just a dream. Silly me. And when we see Lutfur touring the borough in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes handing out £50 notes to cheering older folk, won’t that make us feel all warm and good.

I suppose this is one of the things we must get used to in our shiny new postal-vote heavy Republic.

I mention this because, Labour’s Abdal Ullah has asked me to promote a football tournament taking place later this month. It’s called the SNT Cup, that’s the Safer Neighbourhood Tournament. He founded it 10 years ago and it grew to be quite an event, based on the Met Police’s safer neighbourhood areas in east London.

Of course, because it was so successful the cuckoos in Lutfur’s camp tried to steal it. And so it came to pass that last year, (in addition to the aborted Mayor’s Cricket Cup), we had the inaugural Mayor’s Cup which forced Abdal to move from Victoria Park and find a new home in Hackney Marshes. (Lutfur insisted he wanted a tournament for Tower Hamlets teams only, but laughably the inaugural winners were E7 FC, named after the, er, Forest Gate postcode.)

However, as you’d expect, Abdal was undeterred and trumped Kim il Lutfur by making his SNT Cup bigger and better than ever, even managing to get the Premier League and FA Cup trophies on display. This year, he’s persuaded Olympic sponsors Coca Cola to bring the Olympic Torch.

You really couldn’t make it up, could you.

Anyway, here’s Abdal’s press release, which has a lovely line about West Ham fanatic (and Parliament’s most talented footballer) Jim Fitzpatrick…

Safer Neighbourhood Tournament to take London by storm

The Safer Neighbourhood Tournament (SNT), an exciting community grassroots football tournament has returned for 2012. Now in its tenth year, the celebrated tournament is the brainchild of Stepney & St Dunstan’s member, Councillor Abdal Ullah. As a contributory member of the London Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), Abdal Ullah was of the opinion that football was a medium that could be used to effectively unite masses, whilst improving relationships between young people and the police.

What started off as a small community event consisting of half a dozen teams has now grown to become one of London’s biggest weekend one day knockout tournaments. This year 72 teams and thousands of spectators will be attending the April footballing bonanza.

The tournament is East London based but has traditionally attracted teams from all over London. This year, Hackney Marshes, the starting point for many of football’s icons will once again be the venue for the knock-out stage of the tournament.

Commenting on the upcoming football festival Abdal Ullah said: “We are very proud of the success of our tournament. This is our 10th year and we have now officially become one of the biggest grassroots football events in London. We gained support from FA and it was an honour to be one of the projects that were highlighted during England’s FIFA World Cup
2018 bid.

“The SNT Cup has support from the Met Police, NHS, TATA, McDonalds, Coco Cola, The Sun newspaper, Kick it Out, and many other local and national organisations, including London 2012. In previous years we have secured the FA Cup and Premier League trophy for display at our tournament. As a special surprise, on Sunday 29th April we will have the Olympic torch on display!”
He added: “This being our 10th year and the year of the London Olympics, we are very keen to make the tournament even more special, we are keen to attract teams from all over the country.”
The date for the knock out section is Sunday 29th April at Hackney Marshes, and the final will be played at a Prestigious London Football ground.
Abdal Ullah has also exclusively confirmed that on the day (April 29th) Coca Cola will bring along the Olympic torch for 4 Hours, whilst McDonalds will provide support to the event. And FA Community Shield will be on display from 10 AM till 3 Pm on the day, and there will be a message of support and health tips from Dr Zaf Iqbal, Liverpool FC’s first team doctor.

There will be health promotion events from the East London NHS health team and Safer London Foundation will also be present addressing issues of Community Safety.
Abdal Ullah also confirmed that the “Man of the match” award will be named after 27 year Kelvin Brown, who recently died after collapsing playing football on Hackney Marshes. A veteran’s cup will be named after local MP Jim Fitzpatrick.

The tournament is divided into several age categories – under  16s, over 16s, veterans (over 35) and for the very first time a women’s tournament has also been scheduled with the only Muslim women’s football team taking part. The winning purse is £1000+. Prior to the start of the tournament a live TV show on Channel 9 17th April (SKY 834) 7.15 PM will feature special guests announcing the tournament draw with the NPower Championship trophy in the studio.

Anyone interested should log on to www.sntcup.com or www.stepneyfc.com for further details, and highlights from previous tournaments.

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I’ve written the below for today’s Sunday Express. Bengalis I’ve spoken to about this think it’s a disgrace that council money is being used to pay for private tutors to teach kids what their families call their “mother tongue”. There is nothing wrong with children learning Bengali–indeed it’s positive because multilingualism is a real asset–but should extracurricular lessons be given on the rates? I don’t know when this policy started: my partner learnt Bengali when she was a child but it was her parents who paid for it – and “quite rightly so”, she says.

There are a couple of other aspects to this: the money is being given through the grants system to small community groups–the full list is here and here on my FoI request–so there is little scrutiny about how it is actually spent (plus, the tutors aren’t necessarily qualified or inspected); and this is a clever way of inflating the borough’s GCSE figures.

Here’s the article:

TAXPAYERS are bankrolling private language lessons for children of migrant families to learn their parents’ native tongue, even though many can barely speak English.

Some of Britain’s poorest councils have spent millions of pounds providing after-school tuition in languages such as Bengali, Urdu and Arabic at mosques and community centres.

Despite problems with English literacy in their areas, they claim the policy “celebrates diversity”, promotes “community cohesion” and helps children prepare for early GCSEs in the language they speak at home.

In Tower Hamlets, east London, where the level of English is so poor among some pupils entering primary school that translators are needed, the council spends £185,000 a year providing free Bengali lessons after school hours.

It has distributed £1.3million to about 40 community groups since 2006.

Beneficiaries include several Islamic organisations, such as Dawatul Islam UK and the Madrasah-e-Darul Qirat Majidiah, which also runs a fee-paying Muslim school.

The council’s Community Language Service even runs British citizenship classes at mosques and Islamic madrasahs, but the town hall was unable to guarantee those lessons were given in English.

In most cases, councils are distributing the cash as grants to small community groups and “supplementary schools”, a system over which councillors exert special powers. The money is used to pay tutors’ salaries and to cover rents.

Ofsted admits it does not carry out specific inspections and that it has been trying to ensure that tutors are vetted and qualified.

A survey by the Sunday Express found that most councils which had been offering “mother tongue” classes had withdrawn their funding over the past couple of years so they could concentrate on teaching English.

These included Wolverhampton, Newham in east London, Rochdale, and Ealing in west London, which had been funding lessons in Armenian, Assyrian, Tamil and Somali.  An Ealing Council spokeswoman it stopped its service because “we decided it was more of a priority to support people to feel more confident in speaking and writing in English”.

However, a number of other councils have continued the policy. As well as Tower Hamlets, they include Islington in north London, which gives £160,000 a year to “supplementary schools”, its neighbours Camden and Haringey, and Manchester.

Bradford Metropolitan Council says on its website that “we promote the teaching and learning of the mother tongue mostly in places of worship or community centres” and that it has been helping supplementary schools since 1983. The Sunday Express gave the council 10 days to say how much it gave in grants last year, but it declined saying too many staff were off on half-term breaks. 

Councils and academics claim that the funding helps children become bilingual which boosts educational attainment later in life.

However, David Goodhart, the director of the think tank Demos and who is currently writing a book about post-war immigration in Britain, said the councils’ policies were “barmy”. He said that while it was quite legitimate for children of migrant families to learn their ancestral language for GCSEs and to retain a link with their heritage, it was wrong that taxpayers were being forced to fund private tuition for those purposes.

He said: “If parents want their children to retain those links, then it really should be done privately or through the voluntary sector. This seems to be a kind of multiculturalism that encourages separateness and not a kind that helps launch children into wider society where fluency in English is so vital for social mobility and integration.”

Peter Golds, the leading Tory councillor in Tower Hamlets, said: “Over past centuries this country has welcomed numerous immigrants which has affected our language, cooking and culture. 
“One thing they all had in common was whilst remaining true to their own heritage, they became part of the local community, by learning to speak English and making sure their children spoke English. Schools are where languages should be taught: a local authority should not be handing money to unqualified people to teach languages. 
“In a difficult economic climate, which is not going to change quickly, regardless of who forms the national government, young people need to be fluent in the language of their own country.”

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said: “We teach community languages for two reasons: proficiency in a mother tongue aids with proficiency in a second language.  And secondly, pride and knowledge in your own background aids in promoting community cohesion.”

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This is a guest post by Dan McCurry, a former chair of Bow Labour. It first appeared on the New Statesman blog here but Dan has localised it for this site. (My personal view, for what it’s worth, is that there is a snowball in hell’s chance of Galloway returning to Labour: a) because Labour would never readmit him; and b) he wouldn’t want to anyway: far better to be the martyred rebel outsider.)

We know that George Galloway wants to return to Labour. The question is: does Labour want him back?

The tears and anguish in Bethnal Green & Bow in the early hours of 7th May 2005, when Oona King lost to George Galloway by 800 votes, were very different to the pale expressions of shock in Bradford, as Imran Hussein walked out of the count to disappear back into obscurity.  In east London, Galloway won by exploiting divisions.

In Bradford he won by offering entertainment, and stimulating a constituency where voters felt taken for granted.

At the time of Oona’s loss, I was chair of Bow Labour. I saw the Respect Party born through a coalition of Godless communists and religious fundamentalists. It was always doomed to division and that came in the council elections the following year.

I created the campaign slogan which was to became our mantra in Bow: “Vote for us, or you get Galloway!” The white working class obliged and the Lib Dems were wiped out in Bow. Respect did gain 11 council seats, but they were all Bangladeshi candidates, none of the SWP people were elected.

This was when Galloway started to complain about the tiresome village politics of the Bangladeshis. This is when he began to miss being a member of the Labour Party. From then on, he started to look around for some way, anyway, to get back into Labour, but every effort eluded him, until Bradford.

We never ignored George Galloway. If anything, he became our secret weapon. I wrote some copy for the party website which Jim subsequently used on all his election material. It portrayed Jim as surrounded on both sides by extremists with “George Galloway on his left promising to defend Islam, while on his right, tax exile Lord Ashcroft attempts to buy democracy with his millions”. It was Jim as the underdog. If he has to lose, then he’d go down fighting.

This is in stark contrast to the strategy in Bradford West. While we used the presence of George Galloway to our advantage, to motivate our supporters and get out and vote, they chose to ignore him as a has-been. It was a critical and lazy mistake.

Today, George doesn’t speak of rejoining Labour, but his actions do. He used to call for the death penalty for Tony Blair. Today, if he disagrees with Labour policy, he doesn’t make personal attacks. This isn’t just since the election, but during the election also. He is actively behaving himself.

The £200k salary from a sports radio slot doesn’t compare to the buzz of parliament. George doesn’t want that buzz to come to an end in May 2015, nor does he want the uncertainty and the hard work of trying to win somewhere else.

So what role could George Galloway have back in the Labour Party? There can be no question of George occupying a position in the Foreign Office. The salute to Saddam Hussein will never be forgotten. It’s difficult to imagine him occupying any ministry. The use for him is that he entertains us. Politics is often a boring subject. We hear the politicians make the same old arguments time and again. George fires things up. He is a character.

But do we really want the media to invite George onto TV panels as “The Labour bloke” at the expense of a senior Labour politician, especially when we don’t know what he’s going to say? He might be behaving himself now, but once he’s been accepted back into the party, there’s no saying what he’ll decide to do.

A return for George is more likely through real-politick than rational consideration. It is likely that this coalition will end with the Rat-Run Scenario. Once we get close to the election the Lib Dems will split along Labour/Tory lines and the government will survive on a wafer majority. We’ll be back to the days of sick MPs being brought in to vote on stretchers. At that point George Galloway becomes powerful, because he has a vote.

The problem with that idea is that Labour won’t leave it till so late to decide what to do about this seat. By the time the coalition runs for the hills, Bradford West will have a Labour candidate. If it’s not George then whoever it is will not step aside for anyone. So it’s unlikely that the national party will have anything much to do with it. It will be for the 400 members of Bradford West to decide. How will that play out?
Imran Hussein is unlikely to remain as candidate.

He made a fundamental mistake by ignoring Galloway and it’s unlikely that his party believe he can win in two years. A fresh face will be needed. The question is whether there is anyone who can take on Galloway and win this seat back. If it is the case that Imran Hussein was the best candidate that this constituency could produce, then George Galloway will be laughing.

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This is a guest post by Laurence Dodds and Raziye Akkoc, of EastLondonLines, the excellent news website run by students at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

The London Assembly elections are sometimes overshadowed by the grime and glamour of the mayoral contest. That’s not surprising when last night’s Evening Standard debate gave us the remarkable spectacle of Ken Livingstone joking about having Brian Paddick’s “wheezing” when they make love, Paddick being jovially informed by host Clive Anderson, the comedian, that he’ll have “a job under Ken”, and Boris Johnson accused of “spraying sticky water” everywhere (we promise we’re only taking the last one out of context).

But at 6:30pm on Tuesday, April 17, EastLondonLines is organising a debate between four Assembly candidates in Tower Hamlets, so we have a vested interest in drawing attention to their elections. Our site, run by journalism students at Goldsmiths, University of London, has been following the GLA elections for some time.  Despite their relative obscurity, we think they are important – and we want to explain why you should come to our hustings in Bethnal Green next Tuesday.

Our People’s Question Time will see candidates from the four main parties, including current Labour member John Biggs, stand up for their policies and answer questions from the public. We wanted to give people the chance to quiz the hopefuls on whatever issues they please.

Residents in the boroughs covered by the City & East seat – Tower Hamlets, Newham, City, and Barking and Dagenham – will be able meet, hear, and scrutinise the candidates, one of which is likely to win and represent them. Joining Biggs, who has served at City Hall for 12 years, will be John Moss (Conservative), Chris Smith (Green) and Richard Macmillan (Lib Dem).

You can find out more here, see interviews with the candidates here, and find it on Facebook here.

Because its only formal power is to amend the Mayor’s annual budget if two thirds of its members vote that way, the Assembly can appear powerless, the mere nagging spouse of the Mayor.

No doubt this owes to the circumstances of its creation. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997 he had to balance Labour’s longstanding commitment to re-establish direct government in London against the lessons he’d learned from Margaret Thatcher, from whom the city had nearly seceded in the Eighties under Ken Livingstone. Nobody could accuse the former Labour PM of being an inattentive pupil, and it was clear from his frosty antipathy to Ken that he considered city rule a double-edged sword (warning in 2000 of a “disaster” should London re-elect the red renegade). It’s easy to see the Assembly a deliberately toothless animal – a sop to the faithful but spayed so as not to cause additional threat.

Nevertheless, these elections are important. Despite the Assembly’s limited formal powers, it makes a reasonably high rooftop from which to shout your message. Its members have influence, and a platform, and consistent opportunities to report, question, or be quoted. Using its members as opinionated go-to guys is the kind of journalistic shortcut we’re only now learning we should have learned earlier.

More than that, this is an opportunity to voice your opinion on the current government. It isn’t partisan to point out that neither of the parties now in government actually won the election and that both have broken pre-election promises. That makes it more crucial than ever that the public get the chance to update its verdict. In such desperate times, in the depths of a recession, and with a Tower Hamlets council ward by-election in Spitalfields and Banglatown only days away, the results could be interesting – and they will be heard.

For that reason you’re all enthusiastically invited to attend our Assembly election debate on Tuesday April 17, from 6:30 until 8pm at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. No sign-ups or bookings are required. It is our solemn duty to ensure that the four we’ve invited all receive a good grilling, and that is something we trust you can give them. We hope to see you there.

Ted Jeory adds:

Former Tower Hamlets council leader John Biggs would appear to be as safe as houses, but he’s had an interesting journey since moving to City Hall in 2000. When Ken was an independent mayor, John was his self-appointed attack dog; when Ken was back in the Labour fold in 2004, John was his loyal servant; when Boris won in 2008, John moved back to his bullish attack dog mode. And of course, in 2010, John was the big victim of the Labour chaos that eventually led to Lutfur becoming mayor…on the back of Ken’s support.

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Forgive me for being off-topic from Tower Hamlets, but I wrote this in yesterday’s Sunday Express Crossbencher diary column. The list of donors on Ed Balls’s JustGiving page makes interesting reading: hardly any Labour MPs, including our own Jim Fitz and Rushanara, seem to have given. Come on, let’s give Ed a lift, especially as he’ll be running through our borough..

THE question of how much to donate to a work colleague’s charity endeavours is always a delicate matter, so spare a thought for Ed Balls’s Westminster friends.

The portly Shadow Chancellor is training for the London Marathon on April 22 and has set himself a fundraising target of £50,000for two charities, Whizz-Kidz and Action for Stammering Children.

Sadly, as of last night, he had only raised about £7,900, according to his JustGiving web page. It shows 120 people have donated and, of them, only a handful are his high-profile friends from Labour.

His wife, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, has donated £200 with a message saying he’s “mad”, while party boss Ed Miliband has forked out £100.

Ex-MPs Tony McNulty and Baron Jim Knight have also chipped in £100, while former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was embarrassed by the expenses revelations, has preferred to keep her donation secret.

Given that Crossbencher has made a donation to the worthy causes, isn’t it time that the likes of Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, David Miliband and even David Cameron dug into their bulging pockets? Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/teams/edballs.

PS – the bottom item on yesterday’s Crossbencher column was this:

BUOYED by George Galloway’s win in Bradford West, one of the ghosts of Respect past has reappeared. Left-wing barrister Nick Wrack, who quit as Respect’s national secretary after falling out with Galloway in 2009, is making a bid for the London Assembly on May 3 with a new party, the Trade Unionist And Socialist Coalition. Backed by film director Ken Loach, other supporters include Nick’s brother Matt Wrack, the boss of the Fire Brigades’ Union, and cuddly Bob Crow, of the RMT union. The party’s acronym is TUSC, which sounds uncannily like “tsk”.

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I’ve written this in today’s Sunday Express. Readers of this blog, who will be well aware of more complex and subtle factors, should note it’s for a national audience. However, there is a lesson for other areas about the Tower Hamlets experience.

WITHIN hours of his breathtaking victory in Bradford West 10 days ago, George Galloway will have first taken something to calm his understandable excitement (a fat Cuban cigar, no doubt, although contrary to his “I’m a good Muslim” claim to be a teetotaller, it could also have been the glass of wine his aides once told me he occasionally drinks in private) and then sat down to plot his next moves.

Yes, he would have salivated over topping up the Parliamentary pension pot he lost two years ago and yes, he would also have thought about his maiden Commons speech in a fortnight’s time but those around him would have concentrated his mind on a far more important goal: the forthcoming local council elections.

For on May 3, thousands of councillors will be elected to positions that will give them control over hundreds of millions of pounds of public cash and community grants that are too often distributed to those who have helped them into power.

Forget the easy and frothy headlines of Rise in Council Tax, the real story of local government is the small “c” corruption of public cash for votes.

There is far too often a tendency to view councils through a simplistic Westminster bubble, that they are a test of national opinion on the state of Downing Street.

The big-hitters help sustain this because it allows them to create an easier-to- understand national narrative.

Last week, for example, David Cameron, the supposed champion of “localism”, launched the Conservatives’ local election campaign by pledging “a flat-out, full- throttle fight” for Britain’s town halls… only to highlight a range of policy initiatives such as high-speed rail, welfare reform and cuts to public sector pensions that are all controlled by Westminster.

No wonder turnouts at local elections are low when the message from the top is so mixed. Cameron’s words do local democracy a disservice.

THIS IS a tragedy: a lack of engagement at the local level leads to distortions in the democratic process and to a lack of scrutiny and accountability of those responsible for the collection of rubbish, the state of our roads and the cleanliness of our streets. Which leads us back to Respect and George Galloway…

I was deputy editor of the local paper in Tower Hamlets, east London, where Galloway was MP for Bethnal Green and Bow between 2005 and 2010. As such, I got to know his team and their tactics well.

Galloway himself was uninterested in local issues and increasingly shied away from even attending weekly constituency surgeries. However, he was aided by a brilliant assistant named Rob Hoveman who knew exactly how to tap into the grass roots: forge a good relationship with the local paper (and that means tip-offs about those in power) and use the resulting headlines to mobilise a small but influential opposition of disaffected activists.

By chance Rob, who lives in east London, always had a holiday home in Bradford and he was heavily involved in Galloway’s latest triumph. It is certain he will be co-ordinating Respect’s next targets there.

Due to a lack of time and resources the party is only fielding 12 candidates on May 3 but something else is also happening that day which could be more significant.

Bradford is one of 12 cities in England holding a referendum on whether to move from a traditional leader and cabinet style of local government to a powerful, directly elected city mayor.

This is the big prize (maybe Galloway himself might want it) and one that Respect effectively seized two years ago in Tower Hamlets, a borough Communities Secretary Eric Pickles now views as Britain’s biggest basket case.

Because this could happen in any area, it’s worth examining how Respect did it. All that is required under local government legislation to trigger a referendum for a directly elected mayor is a petition containing five per cent of an area’s electors. In late 2009 Respect, having toured dozens of grass roots community groups, housing estates and mosques, handed such a petition to the town hall. It contained 17,200 signatures, or 11 per cent of the electorate. 

However, almost 7,000 of those were ruled invalid, with entire pages written in the same handwriting according to observers.

Despite such huge doubts about its authenticity the petition was allowed and within six months Lutfur Rahman, a solicitor who had been expelled by Labour and then backed by Respect, was voted into an office in charge of a £1billion budget – on a measly turnout of 25.6 per cent.

Look what has happened since. Within a few months of victory Lutfur leased himself a top-of-the range Mercedes for £72 a day (to be chauffeured around a borough well served by Tube, buses and the Docklands Light Railway), then told the ceremonial council mayor to take minicabs to civic events, and then ordered a major revamp of his office suite at a cost of £115,000.

A whole new set of community groups are being established to take advantage of the millions of pounds of grants under council control.

In almost all of this, opposition Labour councillors are powerless to stop him, while the decline of a cash-strapped local media means little journalistic scrutiny.

In effect, a clever mobilisation of a small but concentrated number of activists has completely changed the way a borough is run and how taxpayers’ money is spent.

Tower Hamlets should be a warning to everyone: voter turnout is vital.

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Tory group leader Peter Golds sent the following letter today to Aman Dalvi, the Tower Hamlets chief executive who is also the Returning Officer in the Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election on April 19.

Dear Mr Dalvi

Please find a copy of a leaflet being circulated in Spitalfields on behalf of the Independent candidate.Please note the second page the candidate is photographed standing in front of display material used by the council in its official activities.

I also draw to your attention the leaflet does not contain the name and details of the printer of the document. It merely states “promoted by Alibor Choudhury on behalf of Gulum Robbani, 57 Cottage Street, E14 0AA”.

I am sure that with six adults registered to vote and therefore presumably living at this address (which is a private home and not a business), and it being the operational centre of G Social, which has received council funding, a mainframe printing press with facilities for colour printing would be somewhat intrusive.

Therefore it is a matter of legal and public interest as to where the leaflet was printed and who by, particularly if this printer or printers is also in receipt now or in the future of council contracts (public funding).

Another matter of interest regarding Mr Robbani, who was election agent to the Mayor in October 2010 and subsequently became a paid adviser to the Mayor, is his position as Secretary of the Poplar Mosque and Community Centre, Robin Hood Gardens, E14.

The Mosque is an integral part of the Blackwall Reach Development and featured in recent discussions at Committee and previously Overview and Scrutiny. It was noticeable that there was a large and vocal contingent from the East London Mosque and associated organisations who attended both meetings.

As a matter of public interest in view of the size and scale of this application; did Mr Robbani attend any briefing meetings with officers and the developers and the Mayor? If so, did he declare an interest as a very interested party as well as being a paid adviser and were such declarations written in the record of the meeting?

There has been concern expressed that the Community Centre, agreed as part of the outline planning consent, should be that and not part of the Mosque. In view of Mr Robbani’s position and influence in the administration and the Mosque, will this situation be retained?Has he been briefed on this applications by officers in his capacity as an adviser?

There has been considerable concern expressed by residents with the Mayor and “officers” attending meetings in the Mosque as part of the consultation exercise, which were conducted in Bangla and thereby excluded other non Bangla speaking residents. Was Mr Robbani the “officer” mentioned by residents as attending?

Many thanks

(Cllr) Peter Golds.

 Both are relevant questions. I have a funny feeling that the council’s decision to award Mayoral adviser contracts to companies and not specific individuals will become problematic.

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Just a quick update on Tower Hamlets’ Weavers ward by-election which will be held on May 3 and which comes following the resignation, for personal reasons, of Labour’s Anna Lynch.

The candidates so far are:

John Pierce – Labour

Abjol Miah – Respect

Caroline Kerswell – Conservative

Azizur Rahman Khan – Liberal Democrat

Everyone expects this to be a straight fight between Labour and Respect, but the Lib Dems could be the dark horses. Until 2010, it was a strong Lib Dem ward in which Abdul Matin (or Motin Miah, as he was also known) exercised some powerful Bangladeshi village voting networks. The party’s candidate this time around is Khan, who was formerly a councillor in Bethnal Green North. If Matin, who is currently in Bangladesh, can get his former supporters out then Khan may stand a chance of slipping through the middle.

Interestingly, Lutfur’s camp were keen for the Lib Dems not to stand: they argued that everyone wants Labour to lose. They also know that if John Pierce fails to win, then Labour will lose their overall majority in the council chamber and that will affect the make-up of various committees.

The turnout was 62 per cent in 2010 and the results from that election are below:

Name of Candidate Description (if any) Votes
AHMED, Akhtar Imran The Conservative Party 667
AHMED, Gias Uddin The Conservative Party 640
AHMED, Kabir The Labour Party 2,082 elected
BAKER, Philip Liberal Democrat 1,383
GUTTMANN, Catherine Elizabeth Green Party 628
HANCOCKS, Ben Green Party 496
HAQUE, Fazlul Respect 892
HASSAN, Abdi Omar The Conservative Party 477
HOVEMAN, Rob Respect 728
JACKSON, Daniel Green Party 516
KHAN, Yousuf Respect 1,009
LYNCH, Anna Siobhan The Labour Party 1,895 elected
MIAH, Sajjad Liberal Democrat 1,179
MUKIT, Abdul Chunu The Labour Party 1,532 elected
O`FLAHERTY, Tim Liberal Democrat 1,099

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Apologies for the lack of blogging but I’m on holiday at the moment. However, I think George Galloway’s by-election victory in Bradford West needs a discussion on this site.

What does it mean for Tower Hamlets, for Lutfur and Respect? Anything?

George’s victory reminded me of one conversation I had with him. In 2008 (I think), he was mulling over his options for the 2010 General Election. He hadn’t decided about standing in Poplar and Limehouse and he was thinking of taking on Jack Straw in Blackburn.

He was finding the village politics of Tower Hamlets frustrating, he told me….and that the “Pakistanis [in Blackburn] are more sophisticated about their politics than Bengalis [in Tower Hamlets]”.

I wonder what the likes of Abjol Miah think about that…..


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