Archive for September, 2013

I’ve written this piece for today’s Sunday Express which has relevance to Tower Hamlets.

The Met has a real problem attracting enough frontline officers from BME communities. Managers at the Yard are acutely aware of this diversity gap, which is much wider in Tower Hamlets than any other borough.

Here’s a page from the Met’s Diversity Health Check report that shows that while 42.9 per cent of the borough’s population is from a BME background (black and minority ethnic), BME officers represent only 14.7 per cent of the borough’s police force.


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That’s a serious problem.

But as Keith Vaz MP says in the below piece, I’m not sure downgrading the written English test is the solution.

Instead of accepting what many think is a problem in some migrant communities, the Met would be better off using its evidence there is a relative failure of BME candidates to perform well in these tests to lobby policymakers for change in broader education policies.

For we know in Tower Hamlets that Mayor Lutfur Rahman is continuing to chuck hundreds of thousands of pounds of our tax money into FREE Bengali mother tongue classes–when he knows full well kids are struggling with English.

Scotland Yard, though, doesn’t have a good track record in getting things right in this area.

Here’s the piece:

SCOTLAND Yard wants to downgrade the importance of written English tests at police recruitment centres to make it easier for candidates from ethnic minorities to join the Met.

Bosses believe people who do not have English as their first language are being discriminated against under current assessment rules.

They have recommended the weighting placed on the “Written Communication” section of the Metropolitan Police’s tough entrance exam is lowered.

However, they fear a “white backlash” among rank and file officers who feel they have already been passed over for promotion.

Home Affairs Committee chairman, MP Keith Vaz, said last night any move to drop standards would be “insulting” to ethnic minority candidates themselves, and would risk losing public cofidence.

The details are contained in an internal Met report marked “restricted” but which has been obtained by the Sunday Express under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Diversity Health Check document highlights a growing concern about race relations at the Yard, 11 years after the publication of the Macpherson Report into allegations of “institutionalised racism” surrounding the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1998.

The diversity report paints a picture of an agonised management acutely aware their workforce is not representative of the wider London community but at the same time concerned not to damage the moral of existing staff.

However, Met managers are determined to press ahead on filling the diversity gap.

The report, written by the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate in June last year—and still being discussed with Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe—recommends the Yard lobby for a law change that would allow “positive discrimination” in recruitment.

At the end of April last year, just 16 per cent of the Met’s 53,000 strong workforce was from an ethnic minority background, whereas non-whites comprise 41 per cent of the capital’s population.

To bridge the gap, the Met, instead of direct external entry, is now recruiting an increasing number of constables from the ranks of Police Community Support Officers where the pool of non-whites is far greater.

However, all constables must still pass the Met’s entrance test, known as Search (Structured Entrance Assessment for Recruiting Constables Holistically)—and this has been identified as part of the problem.

A statistical analysis of past exam results concluded that white candidates were more than twice as likely to pass.

This was “statistically significant” and not “random error”, the report’s authors stated.

They added: “The analysis also revealed that factors including increased levels of academic attainment, English as a first language and experience within the PCSO or Special Constable roles, impacted significantly upon Search outcomes, substantially improving the odds of success.

“However, the Written Communication competency area is an area of particular concern due to the weighting it is given in terms of the overall outcome of Search, considering it contributes a very small amount to the overall percentage.

“The data showed that substantial numbers of candidates achieved the overall pass threshold level – in the current case 55 per cent – often performing superbly in the majority of competency areas, but failed Search on the basis of the Written Communication competency.

“The competency appeared to have a disproportionately adverse impact upon Black and Minority Ethnic candidates, with candidates from this group nearly two times more likely to fail Search on the basis of Written Communication than white candidates.

“Paradoxically, Search was designed to measure potential to perform the role yet allows a single factor, which is very much a product of education and socialisation…to significantly influence the outcome of selection.”

It recommends Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey reconsider a previous proposal to raise the Search pass mark from 55 per cent to 70 per cent because “it would adversely affect black and minority ethnic recruitment”.

However, Labour MP Keith Vaz said: “We need more ethnic minority recruits to the police service.

“But it would be insulting to the black and minority ethnic applicant if standards were reduced, and to the public who would not respect the process. “There is a huge pool of talent within the ethnic minorities we need to ensure it is properly and fairly tapped.”

A spokeswoman for the Met said the force was making “excellent progress” on the recruitment issues but added: “We continue to review recruitment processes to ensure we recruit a workforce representative of London.

“We are not complacent and will continue to enhance our recruitment processes within the boundaries set by equality legislation to build upon this success.”

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Unless I missed it, Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman made no comment on his blog of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two years ago.

Last year, again nothing.

This year, today, he (or a minion) has written this:

Remembering 9/11

The names of the three thousand victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, are being read out today to mark the twelfth anniversary.

It is worth recalling that the victims included people from all walks of life, many nationalities and many faiths. The attack on the World Trade Center changed history; the war in Iraq and the continuing conflict in Afghanistan can trace their beginnings to that one terrible event. So today is also the day when we should remember the casualties of all wars and hope that the terrible civil war raging in Syria can be ended through diplomacy and through yet more war and destruction (sic).

In recalling the innocent people who lost their lives on 9/11, we should never forget the role played by the emergency services, the fire-fighters and the New York Police Department on that terrible day. Their often heroic role reminds me why it is so important to continue to fight attempts to cut back vital public services here and why we need to re-double our efforts to tell Mayor Boris Johnson that cuts cost lives.

Politics should be about sound judgement.

Lutfur just can’t help himself, can he.

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About this time two years ago, I wrote this:

My own view, as outlined here, is that the EDL should be banned as an organisation. I’ve seen them for myself on marches and they’re little more than a bunch of football hooligans who give both football and free speech a bad name. They go out to provoke and they glory in trying to outwit the likes of Anjem Choudary and the police when it comes to the former’s demonstrations.

So the Met’s decision yesterday to ask Theresa May to ban the EDL marching through Tower Hamlets last week is a good thing. Well done to Mayor Lutfur Rahman and all the other politicians and grass roots activists who helped persuade Scotland Yard. It was an easy win-win for Lutfur, but he grabbed the opportunity.

Plus ca change.

Pic credit: East London Advertiser

Pic credit: East London Advertiser

Credit must again go to Mayor Lutfur and his advisers for seizing yet another gift on a plate from the thickies of the EDL. How he must secretly love them.

And how his people must be laughing at Labour on this: he’s run rings around them.

Last year, Labour’s then group leader Josh Peck and many of his councillors decided to abstain from attending the counter-EDL rally. Josh’s view was that the UAF (Unite Against Fascism) was staging a demo as a precursor to a punch-up with the EDL. As it happens, he was right on that point of fact. But politically, even some of his allies think that was a mistake.

I’m told John Biggs thinks it was an error, which is why he was there in Altab Ali Park yesterday. Yet even under his leadership, Labour has allowed itself to be the object of ridicule and on the back foot. Their long-planned summer barbecue scheduled for yesterday was unfortunate timing, but how anyone failed to spot much earlier that it would be politically problematic is really quite odd.

If they are to beat Lutfur next May, they need to sharpen up their PR act big time…and quickly.

But let’s look at Lutfur’s tactics. His strategy for more than three years now has been to present himself to the Bengali community (via the press, satellite Bangladeshi TV channels and The Guardian) as the martyred Muslim victim of an evil racist plot by the Right-wing media, the institutionally racist decision-making bodies of Labour’s NEC and the anti-Muslim Peter Golds-led Tower Hamlets Tory party.

So when the English Defence League threaten to march this way, he becomes not just the martyr but also the hero leader: a modern-day Boudicca of the East End (in a Mercedes, not a chariot). He’s been telling his friendly uncritical TV channels (including the ones he now so generously helps to fund with council money) that it’s all Labour’s fault the EDL are coming.

He tells them that Andrew Gilligan’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme in March 2010 (disclosure: I appeared in it) was the main inspiration for the EDL. He says because Labour also played a part in that documentary (Jim Fitzpatrick was another interviewee), and because the accusations he was linked to Islamic fundamentalism were a big factor in his expulsion from Labour in summer 2010), Labour is thus responsible for the arrival of Stella-swigging monsters on the borough’s doorstep.

He then gleefully adds: “Look at what Labour are doing to stop them coming: they’re having a barbecue!” He has skewered them.

A classier group of politicians would then have let their actions do the talking; if you have the moral high ground, keep quiet and stay there. But Lutfur’s people can’t help themselves: they say any political leader not at yesterday’s rally cannot be in favour of Lutfur’s One Tower Hamlets mantra. The irony of this rally fascism is undoubtedly lost on them.

So where were the borough’s two MPs yesterday, they ask? Where was Peter Golds? I had a Twitter conversation about this with Lutfurite councillor Kabir Ahmed this morning.

There seemed to be some underlying implication that Peter is not as opposed to the EDL and fascism as Kabir is. Which given the sufferings of Peter’s family in the Holocaust is more than unfortunate. I then asked Kabir if he condemned the homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse that I’ve witnessed aimed at Peter by Lutfur’s supporters in the council chamber.

He was among the first Tower Hamlets councillors to sign the Hope not Hate pledge, he told me; he was a Hope not Hate champion…but repeatedly, Kabir refused to condemn those specific incidents by his own supporters. Such leadership.

There were probably other factors in the decision by some to stay away yesterday. They probably didn’t want to be associated with two of the rally’s predominant contingents: those strange bed-fellows, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Islamic Forum of Europe.

I’m told the IFE had a 1,000 stewards out on the streets of Whitechapel yesterday. They were everywhere, even guarding the main stage in Altab Ali Park where speakers couldn’t help talking about the need not to strike Syria (the EDL would have applauded that). It was also the same stage onto which John Biggs was apparently initially declined entry.

I also saw a couple of IFE stewards standing guard opposite the Yummy Yummy sweet shop in New Road. I thought that might have been a coincidence, but it probably wasn’t. That sweet shop was no doubt highlighted as a potential EDL target…because, as I revealed earlier this year, it’s run by Anjem Choudary and his crowd.

You see, although the East London Mosque hasn’t exactly helped itself by failing to prevent homophobic and hate-fuelled sermons from the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki in the past, Anjem is the EDL’s biggest enemy. They follow him and his helpers everywhere. They’re on the same intellectual level.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the United East End umbrella group of community groups etc etc take a stance on Anjem’s presence in the borough? Perhaps Lutfur and Kabir should organise a rally against him and his gang of terror groupies. I doubt we’d ever see the EDL again if he did that.

(And by the way, I hear that the Black Bloc anti-fascist group, many of whose members were arrested trying to attack the EDL yesterday, have started taking an interest in the Islamofascist tendencies of some Jamaat e Islami groups in the borough: that could be very interesting…).

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