Archive for November, 2013

This is the list of questions to be posed to Mayor Lutfur Rahman by Peter Golds’. His group’s proposed motions for the council to consider are underneath.

Cllr Tim Archer

Will the Mayor please outline how his “Community Champions” were selected, and what steps were taken to ensure they were representative of the entire Tower Hamlets community?

Cllr David Snowdon

A number of new parking spaces have recently been marked out on Westferry Road opposite the Clifton Restaurant and Supermarket. Cllr Davis and I have had a large number of complaints that cars parking in these spaces have led to reduced visibility for cars turning off and onto Westferry Road.

Will the Mayor explain as to whose instigation were these parking spaces marked out?

Cllr Peter Golds

The 4th November Edition of East End Life contained on pages 16 and 17 what can only be described as a Council-paid advert for the administration.

Will the Mayor give an undertaking to pay to Tower Hamlets the commercial rate for this double page spread, not least as the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which received an unopposed second reading in the House of Commons, will soon receive Royal Assent and the Secretary of State will be legally empowered to direct the closure of East End Life?

Cllr Dr Emma Jones

Will the Mayor tell me how much was spent on this year’s Borough Fireworks display, and why once more no outside sponsorship was sought?

Cllr Zara Davis

What steps is the Mayor taking to ensure that Isle of Dogs residents do not suffer increased aircraft noise pollution as a result of the works proposed in the two major London City Airport planning applications recently submitted?

Cllr Gloria Thienel

Will the Mayor confirm for how long Social Care visits are timed within the borough?

Cllr Craig Aston

Will the Mayor indicate what actions he has taken to ensure the safety of residents and pedestrians in the vicinity of 96 Narrow Street, following the erection of hoardings across the full width of the pavement, thereby forcing pedestrians to use the road? 

Motion – Spitting and urination in public

Proposed by Cllr Gloria Thienel

Seconded by Cllr Peter Golds

This meeting of Tower Hamlets Council expresses concern at the increase of spitting and public urination which is turning many of the borough’s streets and open spaces into serious health hazards.

The council condemns those whose anti social habits damage the health and environment of our public spaces.

This council resolves that those responsible for enforcement should undertake that existing laws and by laws are observed through penalty charges and where necessary, the prosecution of offenders.

Motion – Registered social landlords

Proposed by Cllr Peter Golds

Seconded by Cllr David Snowdon

This meeting of Tower Hamlets Council supports the principles of the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the press and public to find out how Government and councils behave, and spend taxpayers’ money.

This council notes that whereas Registered Social Landlords, according to the High Court,  “work side by side with, and can in a very real sense be said to take the place of, local authorities”,they are not currently subject to FOI requests.

This council believes Freedom of Information Act should be extended to cover Registered Social Landlords.

Therefore, in the absence of current legislation, The council resolves to work with local RSL’s to encourage them to adopt the Freedom of Information Act principles on a voluntary basis.

Motion – Commercial events in borough’s public parks

Proposed by Cllr Tim Archer

Seconded by Cllr David Snowdon

This meeting of Tower Hamlets Council recognises the vital importance of public available green spaces and parks within the borough.

This council reiterates that this is a vital community asset within Tower Hamlets, where many residents do not have their own gardens.

This council reaffirms that our parks are much loved and appreciated by residents and therefore reject the unfortunate comments made by Councillors Shahid Ali and Rania Khan directed at those residents of the borough who are concerned about the preservation and enhancement of the borough’s parks.

The council congratulates residents of the Isle of Dogs who have come together to form The Friends of Island Gardens, a genuinely community based organisation dedicated to preserve this oasis, situated on the World Heritage buffer zone opposite Greenwich Palace and encourages other residents to get together to support their local parks.

The council reaffirms that primarily, parks are for people, and therefore opposes the increased use of our parks for commercial events, such as those that affect Victoria Park during the summer holidays ; and opposes the loss of park land to new developments.

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I’m sure Private Eye’s Rotten Borough won’t mind me reproducing here for free their lead item from the current issue:

BITTER internal squabbling continues to cost the taxpayer dear in Tower Hamlets, one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs.

Last month the local East London Advertiser (ELA) ran a story, followed up gleefully by the Daily Mail, about the council’s former “interim” chief executive, Aman Dalvi. Mr Dalvi, it said, had “earned £115,000 for 46 days’ work”, or £2,500 a day, while in the temporary post. Local government minister Brandon Lewis accused the council of paying “footballer’s wages”.

Tower Hamlets press office put out a statement saying the story was rubbish and Dalvi’s daily rate hadn’t been anything like that. Yet council accounts clearly state that his “salary, fees and allowances” for the post in 2012-13 had been £115,007, plus £3,884 pension contribution.

He did the job for 46 days in that financial year. The ELA duly did the maths.

So what was the money for? The Eye can explain. About £25,000 of it was pay — at a more modest £550 a day. The other £90k was in settlement of a “racial discrimination” claim brought by Dalvi against the council and its former Labour group leader, Joshua Peck.

Dalvi was appointed to become the council’s interim chief exec in 2011 and took up the job, but failed to secure the permanent post in May 2012.

Some councillors objected to Dalvi

because, they alleged, he was a crony of the borough’s “Independent” mayor, Lutfur Rahman (Eyes passim).

Dalvi claimed some Labour councillors’ attitude was racist and started employment tribunal proceedings; Peck and the council agreed to settle to avoid an astronomical legal bill. Confidentiality clauses all round!

Dalvi got his dosh, but it was confusingly entered in the accounts under “salary”. Peck’s £9,225 bill from law firm Slater Gordon was paid under the heading “miscellaneous expenses” authorised by the council’s “head of paid service”, Stephen Halsey.

Dalvi was miffed because he thought he had secured the top job and then had it snatched away.

It is hard to feel too sorry for him. He got his £90,000 – and went back to his old job as the borough’s “development and renewal director” on £137,000 a year. In all he was paid £256,452 by the council last year.

The ELA had, we understand, put detailed questions to the council press office about the misleading entry in the accounts, but received a “no comment” brush off from the press office – so it was a bit rich of the council to moan about the “inaccurate” story when it appeared.

The Eye asked the press office for an explanation but – much to our surprise – they were unable to comment!

Much of this was detailed on this blog last month, of course. Lutfur’s team of advisers have all been very excited by it because they’ve been whispering conspiratorially that because Josh Peck’s legal fees were paid for, there must have been a backroom deal between him and senior officers to ensure Aman’s appointment was vetoed in favour of a white man.

They’ve been claiming it’s further evidence of racism at the top of the council. This seems to be a fundamental narrative of Lutfur’s re-election campaign.

His opponents, however, allege his administration is characterised by cronyism. He denies it but such allegations do need proof and investigating.

Take this latest issue that’s been highlighted to me.

At the last full council meeting in September Josh Peck tabled this question to Mayor Lutfur Rahman about the Malmesbury estate in Bow.

8.27 Question from Councillor Joshua Peck

Whether he intends to complete Decent Homes works on the Malmesbury and Alfred Estates by May 2014?

It really goes without saying that Lutfur declined to answer it. Instead, we have been given this characteristically measured response from his cabinet member for housing (and wannabe MP), Rabina Khan:

As Cllr Peck will know from our response to his party’s inaccurate and inflammatory press statement on Decent Homes that was so gleefully used as propaganda by the EDL, every single council house in the borough will receive Decent Homes works in the next two years.

It is estimated at present that the internal works on 457-527 Mile End Road properties will be completed in year 3 of the programme, by 31 March 2014, and external works are programmed for year 4 2014/15. The remainder of the estate is currently being programmed, this process will be concluded at the end of September 2013.

So one block has had its revamp work already started, while the rest of the estate had not even been programmed. Was this block in some dire need? No, according to Labour councillors: they’d not had one inquiry from that block, while they knew from their own eyes that other parts of the estate were in far worse condition.

So, a mystery.

But a very fortunate one for the people who live in that block, including a one Abjol Miah.

Remember him?

The former Respect boss who backed Lutfur in October 2010 and whom Lutfur backed in the Weavers by election in May 2012.

This is all probably just a lucky coincidence, I’m sure.

Aman Dalvi is in charge of regeneration at the council and his team is responsible for deciding which blocks have their work done first.

Perhaps one of his people can explain and point to the underlying surveyors’ reports.

Labour are asking questions.

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In April, around the time David Goodhart published his book on immigration, The British Dream, I wrote this article for the Sunday Express comparing and contrasting Robin Wales’s Newham and Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose…the esteemed Economist newspaper published its own version yesterday. It’s here.

Why not compare and contrast the two pieces. The Economist piece seems to have been written by someone making their first visit to the borough, by someone overawed by the Mayor’s Hollywood limo-driving charisma (ahem); by someone who hasn’t even considered the resentment caused by his policies, by someone who thinks synagogues are aplenty and the backbone of the community, by someone imagining Tower Hamlets is a microcosm for potential Middle East divide: note the lack of a single reference to any churches.

Note also how it is Lutfur Rahman building all these five bedroom homes–nothing to do with the Ocean New Deal for Communities regeneration scheme…

STRIDING into the east London Central Synagogue, Lutfur Rahman grasps Leon Silver, a wiry Jewish elder, in his arms. Mr Silver hugs back. Since winning the mayoralty of Tower Hamlets, an east London borough with a quarter of a million inhabitants, in 2010, Mr Rahman has allocated some £3m ($4.5m) to repairing religious buildings. The synagogue is one of them. Tactile and soft-spoken, with a beaming countenance, Mr Rahman—a Bangladeshi Muslim—is every bit the local champion. Crossing the street, he poses for a photo with the owner of a café. That causes a traffic jam, which worsens when drivers spot the mayor and demand to shake his hand.

Fans duly placated, Mr Rahman sets out his political philosophy. Religious groups are the backbone of Tower Hamlets, he explains. The riots of 2011 never came there because faith groups patrolled the streets and elders kept the young in line. Nurturing a community, he says, means building up religious outfits and charities that serve particular groups: mosques, synagogues, lunch clubs and the like. Mr Rahman also waxes eloquent about the social benefits of large extended families; he is building five-bedroom public homes to accommodate them.

Mr Rahman’s job is unusual. Only four of London’s 32 boroughs have elected mayors. Elsewhere party-political cabinets elect a council leader. Borough mayors emerged mostly where local councils were ailing. These days all are overshadowed by Boris Johnson, the TV-friendly mayor of the whole city. But two stand out, because of their contrary views.

East of Tower Hamlets, Sir Robin Wales, the elected mayor of Newham, has an entirely different notion of how to run a diverse borough. Whereas Mr Rahman soothes and smooths, Sir Robin fizzes and bulldozes. “We need to be constantly knocking down walls,” he says in a Scottish accent (he moved south 30 years ago). He means it literally: he points to a forest of cranes erecting new shops and housing, some of it on the Olympics site. He also means it figuratively. Sir Robin wants to take a sledgehammer to divisions between religious and ethnic groups in his patch.

In Newham, every spare penny goes on events and organisations designed to benefit everyone. The borough provides children with three years of music lessons and a visit to the theatres of the West End. Sir Robin refuses to give money to faith organisations and has cut spending on translation services. “If you give money to a group you make it more powerful,” he growls. Any street that wants to hold a party can apply for money—so long as the event involves all, not just one community. In allocating social housing, Sir Robin insists he is ironing out the divisions between different ethnic groups.

The two mayors’ philosophies are thus utterly at odds—and also rather odd, at least for Britain. Mr Rahman’s style of ethnic-group politics is reminiscent of urban America. Sir Robin’s determined secularism is more French.

One explanation is the different make-up of Newham and Tower Hamlets. Both have lots of immigrants and non-whites, but Newham is more diverse. No ethnic group constitutes more than one-fifth of its population (see chart). Tower Hamlets, by contrast, is about one-third white British and one-third Bangladeshi. And, because the borough’s white Britons are divided between yuppies, many of whom work in the financial district of Canary Wharf, and old working-class Cockneys, the Bangladeshis hold sway.

For all that Mr Rahman brandishes his support for other groups, Bangladeshis run so many religious and charitable organisations in Tower Hamlets that spending on such outfits tends to benefit them. And money given can also be taken away. John Biggs, a Labour opponent of Mr Rahman (who is an independent), says some organisations have cancelled meetings with him for fear of losing the mayor’s support. One man, whose charity did invite Mr Biggs and whose grant was cut, says he was subsequently told at the local mosque: “If you want to live in the water, you have to be a crocodile.” Mr Rahman’s allies and aides deny the removal of funding had anything to do with the invitation.

Because Newham is more diverse and more immigrant-heavy (over half of its residents were born abroad) its political complexion is quite different. No group dominates. As a result, the mayor can eschew patchwork politics and run his borough as a melting pot.

He has critics all the same. Sir Robin’s decision to refuse planning permission for a new mosque drew protests from local Muslim groups. It also persuaded Respect, a left-wing, anti-war party with a strong Muslim following, to stage a rally in the borough—at which George Galloway, the party’s sole MP, called on the mayor to resign. Sir Robin insists that the mosque contravened planning rules and that the land was earmarked for houses and businesses. “The public has already paid for new roads and services there,” he explains. “Why should only one group get the benefit?”

Both Mr Rahman and Sir Robin go before voters next May. Opponents are stirring. Mr Biggs is confident that despite his disadvantage among Bangladeshis, a high turnout will propel him into office. Sir Robin has cross-community appeal (he won 68% of the vote in 2011, albeit on a low turnout) but Respect will challenge him. And both men are threatened by bigger forces.

London is churning, becoming ever more ethnically, religiously and linguistically diverse. Every year almost 1m people move into or out of the city, or between its boroughs. Bangladeshis are moving out of Tower Hamlets and their share of its population is falling slightly, threatening Mr Rahman’s power base. And both he and Sir Robin have ever stronger competition in Mr Johnson, who is steadily grabbing powers from the boroughs. Local politics is unlikely to produce more men like them. Which is rather a shame.

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I wrote this for last Sunday’s Express and the reaction has been very touching. Several people have suggested that although it’s not Tower Hamlets related I should publish it on my blog. (The modern photos are courtesy of Mike Gunnill.)

ON APRIL 10, 1918, 21 days into the great push by the Kaiser’s Imperial German Army, and seven months before the end of the hostilities, Private 26423 Edward Horsman Hatton, a brave member of the 8th Border Regiment based on the border of Belgium and France, became just another number of the First World War.

He was 40.

ted hatton portrait

Edward Hatton

It’s fair to say he wasn’t the most enthusiastic conscript when called up aged 38 in August 1916.

From Flixton, near Manchester, he was an educated man: a chartered company secretary and an accomplished photographer; officer material, undoubtedly.

He felt he was too old to fight, so too did his wife Amy.

And above all, he also had his “lil sweetheart” to look after, three-year-old Maimie: my grandmother.

But the honour of a British Empire stuck in the bloody mud of Belgium and France clearly had a far greater need.

What happened to her beloved father–she saw him only once more before arthritis reduced him from infantryman to stretcher-bearer cannon fodder–made her a pacifist for life.

The small leather-bound briefcase I found at the bottom of her wardrobe a few years before she died nine decades later was her treasure trove.

Packed inside, more than 100 beautiful pencil-written letters from the trenches to his wife, some from Amy to him, a few from him to Maimie…all delivered for future generations.

ted hatton letters

The box of beautiful faded yellow letters from Ted Hatton, and his wife Amy’s diary in the centre

And carefully wrapped within them, a tiny pocket diary of hope and despair kept by Amy in the agonising months he was reported missing in action.

“A very sacred little book,” my gran later wrote on its inside cover.

Together they provided a heartbreaking story that to us is quite extraordinary but which sadly would have been all too common at the time.

With Remembrance Sunday next week and the war’s centenary approaching next year, millions of other families should have similar tales to tell.

The records are all there for us to explore.

In my case, the letters revealed my great grandfather’s Army number and regiment name.

Those led me to the National Archives in Kew, south west London, and from there his regiment’s war diaries pointed me to his final fighting place.

Which is where I went not long before my gran died.

And this is how I discovered her dear Daddy’s name inscribed on a large memorial to those who went “missing” in that area.

When I showed her the photograph, she cried.

I took her daughter there this summer, my mum Christine.

She also cried.

ted jeory mother ted hatton

My mum and me at the Ploegsteert Memorial: Ted Hatton on the right

The area is Ploegsteert Wood, close to Messines in southern Belgium.

The squaddies nicknamed it Plug Street; it was where Winston Churchill served in 1916, and it was also where German and British soldiers held the famous Christmas Day truce football match in 1914.

A new visitor centre opens there on November 9.

The place is magical; peaceful and serene.

ploegsteert memorial

The Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing in southern Belgium

Ted Hatton hated it.

It wasn’t just the war, it was the separation from family, the homesickness, the pining for wife and daughter.

ploegsteert 1918

The beginnings of the Royal Berkshire Military Cemetery at Ploegsteert in 1918

Yet his simple, elegant letters–they are truly beautiful to look at—also reveal the frustrations of family.

Amy was imploring him to apply for an officer’s commission, but he was worn out and he probably knew better.

Amy’s diary of guilt after his death is almost too painful to read.

The story, from Britain to France, then hell and heaven, is all there in 35,000 words of faded yellow notepaper.

ted-hatton-letters-ploegsteert ted jeory

So, just a few days before he sails for Le Havre in December 1916: “Well Kid I was before the Dr this morning & have been passed fit.

“Am sorry to say I have also been warned for a draft to France but don’t know the date on which I shall have to go, but expect it will be about Dec 16th.

“I think we are passing through our darkest days & there will be a happy time for us when all this nasty business is over.”

In reply, Amy tells him little Maimie “is always asking about you – she says ‘I want to see ‘me’ Daddy’.

“She says every night when I put her to bed, “Goodnight and God bless Daddy and bring him safe home.”

A few days later, he’s in France. “Don’t brood lovey, I may not go anywhere near the firing line, & if I do, I stand as good a chance as anyone else of coming through.

“Teach our little girlie to say her prayers for us & then we shall be alright.

“Remember always kiddie that I love you before anyone else & God knows that if I get the chance I shall endeavour to make you happy in the future.”

Two weeks after Christmas that year, he visited the trenches for the first time as part of a working party.

“I don’t know when I shall commence my career as a real fighting soldier, but expect it will be any day now,” he reported home.

“Don’t worry dear, I think I shall come through all right & we shall spend many happy days together.

PS Could do with a pair of socks if you could manage to get them.”

Some time later during a break from the trenches, he wrote: “We are still billeted in the usual airey barn & have to put up with all kinds of discomforts, such as rain coming through the roof, rats etc.

“I often wonder what it would be like to have dry & warm feet again. The weather here is abominable, snow, sleet, frost & rain ever since we came.

“However, I am fairly well so that is something to be thankful for.”

In September 1917, we glimpse the first tension with Amy: “Now as regards my application for a commission I have thought well over the matter and have come to the conclusion that I am better off in every way in my present position.

“You see, Kid, they want young men and I am not the man I was when I joined the Army.

“There is nothing seriously the matter with me, but you can well understand that nine months of the life out here has had some effect.”

Two months later: “Glad to say I am OK but longing to get back to you again. I do wish the Bosch would throw up the sponge and let us be happy once more.”

Then after a short special spell of leave at home in February 1918, and six weeks before his death, comes this terrible letter: “I shall never forget the parting. If there was a more miserable chap on earth at that time – well, I’m sorry for him.

“I felt, and am still feeling, heartbroken. God knows, Kid, I love you with all my heart and soul and am sorry for all the worry and anxiety your love for me is causing you. “However, dearest, I shall try to be as cheerful as I can and live in the hope that this parting won’t be for long and that we are enabled to make up for all the misery we are now experiencing by a long and happy future together.”

In March 1918, he writes this: “Now, my dear girl, whatever has put you in such a bad temper with me?

“I told you I had done my best to get my name put forward for a Commission and I told you the truth.

“As I tried to make clear to you when I was at home, it will be a very hard matter for a man of my age to get a recommendation as there are scores of younger and more active men after any vacancies that arise.

“I am no longer young as soldiers go and can’t at the present time keep up the pace; as a matter of fact, I have recently been made a stretcher bearer on that account.

“I am not ill but find I can’t run and jump as of old.

“As regards the future, if God spares me to come through this awful business, my one desire is to try and make you happy and that is about all I can say on the matter.

“Please try and think a little better of me and if I have not made you very happy, it has not been because I have not tried, but perhaps because I have not had the ability.”

This was his last letter.

How Amy must have felt.

Wracked with guilt, she turns to her diary and writes on July 7 1918: “Oh my husband, how I love you, how I have suffered.

“And I deserve it too. Tonight is one of my hopeful nights. How I have prayed to God to give me just one more chance simply to be your loving wife.

“God send you back to me, Ted sweetheart. How I long to tell you how much I love you and to feel your dear arms round me, and to hear the voice I love so well.

“What will the morning bring? Oh God grant it may be news of him.

“What are king and country to me if my husband has been sacrificed? Nothing, nothing, nothing.

“In life or death, my darling, I am yours forever and ever end ever.”

On Armistice Day, November 11, 1972, five years after Amy herself died, my gran once more picked up this little book and wrote this on the inside cover: “God grant they are now re-united.”

My family remembers them.

e hatton ploegsteert memorial


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This blog post has been updated at the end of the original article with an email/legal threat sent to me this morning (Monday, Nov 4) by Takki Sulaiman, the head of communications at Tower Hamlets council. 

Further update (Friday, November 8): A sentence has been deleted from the original article (see marks in red below). This  follows a letter sent to me yesterday from the council’s chief executive’s directorate in the name of Interim Monitoring Officer Mark Norman. The full letter can be seen at the end of the first update to this post.

biggs fundraiserI was going to attend John Biggs’s mayor campaign fundraiser at Canary Wharf last Tuesday, but I couldn’t afford the £100 a head ticket price.

Apparently hundreds of others could.

There seems to have been a pretty impressive turnout by the Labour party, including several leading MPs.

John Biggs tweet

Sadiq Khan, who wants to be London Mayor, was there, as was Margaret Hodge, Rushanara Ali, Jim Fitzpatrick, David Lammy, who also wants to be London Mayor, John Spellar and Stephen Timms.

I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it. [Following a letter from the council’s chief executive’s department, a sentence has been deleted here. Please see the second update to this post at the end of this article.]

John made reference to this issue in his speech at the dinner, a speech I’m told that went down well.

Lutfur is so full of crap when it comes to his One Tower Hamlets mantra that it’s easy to be cynical of other politicians when they talk about cross-community unity.

But having seen John at work fairly closely over the past few years, I’m fairly sure he’s sincere about it.

He sent me a copy of his speech, so here it is:

Thank you for coming this evening. It is humbling to see so many people here. I know you’ve mainly come to see me. But it’s also a sign of the drive our Party has to win back Tower Hamlets.

I’m proud to be leading that fight – not for me, but for the change we all know this community desperately needs.

We need to start a new chapter in the life of Tower Hamlets – one of the most vibrant and exciting places on the planet.

This is my home. I’ve seen it ebb and flow over the years, walking with giants in its proudest moments – falling well short of its potential at its lowest.

Today, Tower Hamlets is at a crossroads. Although there is great success and achievement, for too many this isn’t happening. The people are being neglected, divided and, unless they are favoured, left behind by the very Mayor who is meant to help them.


Tower Hamlets is a story of ambition and change going back to the roots of the East End. It’s a story of people travelling here, whether from half way round the world or, like parts of my family, the English countryside because they want to improve their lives and the lives of their families. 

It’s a story of traditional communities flying the flag for and constantly, subtly, redefining our heritage, culture and values. It’s a story of new professionals, entrepreneurs, even bankers. All want to call our borough home.

The story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

Look at what is on our doorstep – the City, Canary Wharf, Tech City, the media and legal centre of the world, world beating medicine, the list is endless – our community should be using those opportunities. Many are. But for many this is not happening. A vital job for a modern council is to make people more powerful. We can do that.

Whether it’s SMEs or global giants, I know how much good business can do for the borough. Take where we sit tonight, Canary Wharf. This isn’t an island shut off from the rest of the borough. It’s part of our borough, our community. When I win I want to work with business, not for token gestures or pet projects but developing proper partnerships that benefit everyone. The best way to get jobs for local people is to work with business but Lutfur Rahman refuses unless it involves a photo-opportunity, and he doesn’t care about the detail.

Instead of making the most of the opportunities in Tower Hamlets he fails at every chance he has.

Take the Olympics – the golden example. We were at the centre of the world’s biggest festival. Yet what did Tower Hamlets get? Not a single Olympic event. No marathon. No lasting jobs. No homes. No vision.

But maybe that’s not fair – let’s not forget one achievement – the current mayor did get a VIP pass and tickets to the best events.

The world on our doorstep just waiting to be invited in and Lutfur Rahman still fails. To tweak a phrase I heard at the Labour Party Conference, Tower Hamlets can do better than this!

The problem is he believes it’s not his fault. Always someone else’s problem, always someone else’s fault. It’s wicked business, the evil Government, the McCarthyite Labour Party.

The best excuse came recently when his Cabinet suggested that families shouldn’t complain about the late night raves he packs into Victoria Park because it was their fault for choosing to live there. He just doesn’t get it!

He says people in Tower Hamlets are victims. We’re not, we’re passionate fighters.   


I know we can win next year. But let’s not kid ourselves – the challenge facing us is significant.

I and my great team of councillors and soon to be announced candidates will be working every second we have to win back control in 2014 but we do need your help. Running elections on this scale is not cheap. And our opposition is mysteriously well financed.

We on the other hand rely on you, our friends and members. Tonight’s proceeds will go towards vital materials and another new organiser to help us get our message out there, to show people they have a chance to get the borough moving forward again, not missing every chance we get for another 4 years.

Tonight I have a new pledge – I’m told you need one. It’s about stopping that cult of personality that’s more at home in North Korea than East London.

There will be some urgent cuts:

No Mayoral mug shots plastered across the borough.

No more abuse of East End Life.

No more luxury mayoral Mercedes.

No more wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on mayoral ‘advisors’.

And sadly no more driver to do the all important mayoral laundry.

Joking aside, this is an important point and an important election.  It’s about the future of our borough and our people.

Whether kids go to good schools.

Whether there are jobs for them when they leave

Whether homes are affordable and the streets safe.

A community with confidence and a sense of its place.

As Mayor I’ll work to make smart choices informed by the Labour values of fairness, equality and social justice. That’s why it’s so important to elect a Labour Mayor here in Tower Hamlets. 

This is no time to waste money – it’s a time to take important decisions that will help hard working people.  That’s why I’ve already pledged to scrap zero hour contracts in the borough and why Tower Hamlets Labour campaigning has forced the Council to blacklist the blacklisters, not working with companies who blacklist workers.

Tower Hamlets is the home of Cable Street and not one but two labour party leaders. It’s a melting pot and an economic powerhouse. The richest and poorest of places. It deserves better.

The future story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

The Future story of Tower Hamlets is about One East End – working together to build a better future.

Thank you

A bit different in tone to Lutfur, wouldn’t you agree?

UPDATE, Monday November 4

Takki Sulaiman, the council’s head of communications, sent me this email this morning:

I am writing to express concern about a line in the blog post dated Sunday 3rd November entitled: John Biggs’s speech at Labour gala dinner fundraiser.

“I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it given the way Lutfur Rahman has been raiding the grants budgets to fund his campaign.”

On reading the second phrase of the above a reader of your blog could easily conclude that funds from the Council’s Voluntary Sector Grants programme were being used to directly fund a campaign.  

This would of course be illegal and is not possible as council spending is subject to numerous statutory rules and processes plus the check and balance of audit and inspection.  

Given this, could I ask that you remove this phrase so as to avoid any potential damage to Mayor Rahman’s reputation.  

It is quite possible that this phrase is libellous.

Please let me know your intended course of action.

I’ve let him know that it’s pretty clear I don’t mean there’s been a direct bank transfer from the council’s budget to his campaign account (if I had evidence of that, I think I’d have headlined this post slightly differently…). I’m also fairly sure that this blog has made clear over the years that I think Lutfur is exploiting the grants system to buy votes for his political ends.

It’s lucky that most of my readers have the ability to understand the figurative meaning of words and phrases; most readers are intelligent to spot the subtle differences.

The last person to threaten to sue me in similar circumstances was deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

I did think Takki understood the use of language better than Ohid…

SECOND UPDATE – November 8, 2013.

Please see the following links containing a letter from Mark Norman, the interim monitoring officer for Tower Hamlets council’s chief executive’s department.

Mark Norman Mark Norman 2

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This is what you might call a holding post because I’m sure many more considered words and analysis will be filed by others on this subject.

This is from the Official Website of Chowdhury Mueen Uddin:

Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was Director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS. Since 2005, he has been advising healthcare providers on how best to provide patients spiritual care at times of need. In this capacity, he currently chairs the Multi-Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy.

 He served on the Board of a number of distinguished charities. These include, among others, Board member Labo Housing Association and Gateway Housing Association; Past board member and vice chairman – As-Shahada Housing Association; Chairman and board member – Muslim Aid; Vice Chairman – East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre).

He served as the Secretary General of the Council of Mosques UK and Eire for 2 terms (1984 – 1988) and was involved – along with many others – in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

He was formerly Deputy Director of the Islamic Foundation, Markfield, Leicestershire (1995 – 2005) and, prior to that, worked for a leading Housing Association in London.

Chowdhury Mueen Uddin is married and lives in London. He was born in Bangladesh and read Literature at the University of Dhaka. He began his career as a journalist, filing moving accounts of the Great 1970 Cyclone and interviewing the burgeoning independence leader of that country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

And today the BBC reports this about him:

A UK Muslim leader and a US citizen have been sentenced to death over crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

UK-Bangladeshi Muslim community leader Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khanwas were being tried in absentia by a special tribunal in Bangladesh.

They were found guilty on 11 charges relating to the abduction and killing of 18 independence supporters.

Verdicts in similar cases have sparked violent reactions in Bangladesh.

The proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal have come under criticism from several rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has described the trials as flawed.

The online news service BD24 has more detail:

Al Badr leaders Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin have been sentenced to death for killing top Bengali intellectuals in the last days of the 1971 Liberation War.

The two have been found guilty of torture and murder of 18 intellectuals including nine Dhaka University teachers, six journalists and three doctors during the war.

Justice Obaidul Hassan-led International Crimes Tribunal-2 said the prosecution had proven all the 11 charges against the two ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

The ICT-2 Chairman started the proceedings with his initial remarks at around 11am.

A total 41 pages of the 154-page verdict were read out.

Justice Shahinur Islam read out the first part of the 41-page summary verdict and Justice Mujibur Rahman Mia read the second part.

Justice Mia said the involvement of Ashrafuzzman and Mueen-Uddin with the killings of 18 intellectuals had been proven conclusively.

At times, they carried out the murders, sometimes they instigated and encouraged them, said the judge.

The two had complete control over the Al Badr during the Liberation War, said the verdict.

The tribunal in its verdict said Ashrafuzzaman and Mueen-Uddin will be ‘hanged until death’ for their war-time atrocities.

Other two judges — Justice Md Mujibur Rahman Mia and Judge Shahinur Islam — read out parts of the verdict.

Sunday’s verdict described how the former leaders of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, Jamaat’s student affiliate in 1971, had abducted and killed the intellectuals between Dec 11 and Dec 15 in 1971.

Ashrafuzzaman was the ‘chief planner’ and Mueen-Uddin was the ‘operation in-charge’ of the massacre.

A diary recovered from Ashrafuzzaman’s Nakhalparha residence in Dhaka after independence contained the plan for the massacre and a list of targets.

Freedom fighters waiting outside the court and the Ganajagaran Mancha supporters hailed the sentence.

 Hundreds turned out on the streets in Gopalganj and Feni — home districts of the two convicts — to celebrate the verdict.

They demanded its swift execution.

 The prosecution also expressed satisfaction.

It is the ninth verdict of the ongoing war crimes trials involving the two tribunals.

So far, six former and current Jamaat leaders and two BNP leaders have been convicted.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin was born in November, 1948 at Chanpur in Feni’s Dagonbhuiyan to Delowar Hossain.

He was a student of Bangla department at Dhaka University during the Liberation War and worked as a staff correspondent of Dainik Purbadesh.

According to case details, Mueen-Uddin was a central leader of Jamaat’s student front and member of the notorious militia outfit Al Badr.

He was given ‘important’ position in Al Badr and he spearheaded the execution of the Bengali intelligentsia towards the end of the Liberation War.

Mueen-Uddin’s family, too, had come out strongly in support of Pakistan, according to the prosecution.

He fled to Pakistan and to the UK from there, after Bangladesh gained independence. He has been residing in London since.

Apart from discharging important duties of Jamaat-affiliated ‘Dawatul Islam’ in London, he is also the executive editor of weekly Dawat.

He is one of the directors of National Health Services, a trustee of the Muslim Aid and chairman of Tottenham mosque’s executive committee.

On his website, the former Al Badr leader has admitted to his war-time role for a ‘unified Pakistan’.

In an interview to Al-Jazeera’s Jonah Hull for the program ‘Talk to Al-jazeera’ in July, he said the tribunal was a ‘joke’.

For the record, Mueen-Uddin, whom I met on the doorstep of his north London home in 2008, a couple of hours before I was sent a threatening legal letter by libel lawyers Carter Ruck, strongly denies the charges.

(And there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of him being extradited, largely due to Bangladesh’s use of the death penalty, but also because of serious concerns over the way these tribunals were conducted. If the Bangladesh National Party/Jamaat e Islami alliance win back power in the New Year, as many expect, these verdicts will be quashed anyway.)

Although he lives in Enfield, he has very strong links to Tower Hamlets, and not just through his work with the East London Mosque, the London Muslim Centre and the Royal London Hospital.

Note the name Dawatul Islam in the article above. He founded it.

It has received well in excess of £100,000–perhaps way more–over the years, both from Labour dominated Grants Panels and more recently from Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s vote buying fund grant pot.

As recently as August, Lutfur announced another £40,000 for it for a “Girl’s Talk” project. It’s aimed at preventing girls getting involved in gangs, which is kind of ironic given the history of some of Lutfur’s chief supporters..

The detail is here.

Just saying…

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