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Today is International Mother Language Day, which according to Wikipedia “is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism”.

Wikipedia adds: “International Mother Language Day has been being observed since 2000 to promote peace and multilingualism. The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of DhakaJagannath University and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bengali as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were shot dead by police near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh.”

So in Tower Hamlets in particular in the UK it is a significant day, one that is celebrated by several events such as the laying of flowers in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel.

I’m only into my third lesson learning Bengali and all I can do so far is offer a few basic greetings, say ‘I don’t understand’, and count to 30…which at my pace is long enough to utter the kind of sigh we all thought was disappearing from Tower Hamlets.

One of the songs people sing on this day is…well, instead of me explaining, let’s refer to the council’s own ‘cultural walk’ leaflet for ‘Banglatown and the Bengali East End‘, which states:

In February 1999 the United Nations declared February 21 World Mother Language Day. At midnight on 20 February (Shahid Dibosh) the Language Movement is remembered in a solemn ceremony in the Park – to which the Bengali community comes to lay wreaths. Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, journalist and freeman of Tower Hamlets, wrote the well-known Martyr’s Day song Amar bhaier rokte rangano Ekushe February which is sung at the ceremony.

Abdul_Gaffar_ChoudhuryAbdul Gaffar Choudhury, 81, as might be expected of someone  honoured as a Freeman of the Borough, is famous and highly respected.

He also has a Wikipedia entry, which outlines his long career as a journalist and columnist, the last 41 years of which have been based here in the UK.

Today, he was due to appear at the Whitechapel Idea Store for a panel discussion on the Language Movement alongside a couple of academics and Mayor John Biggs.

This was the advert put out by the council ahead of the event:

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But when we arrived, visitors were met by this:

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The extremely courteous Idea Store manager told me that council bosses had cancelled the event after a “reassessment”. He explained that senior managers had at the last minute decided Choudhury’s presence on council property for such an event was not consistent with council booking policies and procedures.

People could sing his song but not hear his words.

Why? Because a complaint had been made by some in the Tower Hamlets community that he had made “defamatory remarks” about Sylhetis (who form by far the vast majority of Bangladeshis in the East End), including Lutfur Rahman and twice convicted insurance fraudster Mahee Jalil Ferdous. And that were the Idea Store event to go ahead there would be “violence”.

Seriously. A threat of violence was made and the council kowtowed.

At this point, I declare an interest. My brother-in-law, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, a man I respect deeply, had been one of the people organising another event in honour of Gaffar Choudhury, for yesterday at the council owned Brady Centre. That was also cancelled. I would normally stay clear of the often problematic politics of Bangladesh on this blog but this episode has broader implications and lessons for everyone to digest.

The row centres on an interview Gaffar Choudhury gave during a chat show on the British Bengali television station Channel i some weeks ago.

According to his enemies, Choudhury, regarded as a Dhaka intellectual, is supposed to have deeply insulted Sylhetis in London by implying they were illiterate and uneducated. He is supposed to have used the phrase “from langol to London”.

One councillor who had no axe to grind on either side told me: “A langol is what farmers use to cut the rice harvest, a knife-like object. So people interpreted his comments as him trying to say Sylhetis are uneducated rural peasant farmers who have suddenly been lifted from their rice fields and dropped into civilised London and don’t know how to behave.”

Gaffar Choudhury and his allies insist he meant no such thing. They say that throughout his life he’s been supportive of Sylhetis and they have always been there for him in times of trouble. They say he was actually praising Sylhetis by saying it was they  who have been upholding the traditions and heritage of Bangladeshis in Britain, and not the educated classes who should have done so.

I understand he was particularly critical of Lutfur (guilty electoral offences) and Mahee Jalil (twice convicted of insurance fraud and founder of Channel S TV) and one or two other self-described unelected “community leaders”. Which is possibly why a great fuss then made.

Even hardened Tower Hamlets politicos have been taken aback by the reaction. They have told me there is politics at play, not just the usual Swami League/Bangladesh National Party spats, but also among those seeking a mayoral power play in Tower Hamlets.

So out came the Tower Hamlets Activist Handbook and a long and angry rally was booked last month at the Water Lily to whip up the masses in Mile End. Former Labour councillor Motin Uz-Zaman was there, as was Ohid Ahmed, Oli Rahman, the latter two apparently appealing for a reasonable response. Others demanded boycotts of Gaffar Choudhury.

Then word got out that the council had invited their Freeman to the Whitechapel Idea Store for Language Day.

So the Greater Sylhet Council UK, one of Lutfur’s favourite rabble rousers, decided to tell Tower Hamlets council what a mistake they were making.

Here’s an email they sent to the council to warn of a violent reaction if the event went ahead.

Dear Judith,

I got an information from the authentic sources that you have organised a programme for the International Mother Language Day at the White Chapel Idea Store on Sunday 21st February.

You have invited Abdul Gaffar Choudhury as a panel member for this event. I would like to inform you that Mr Abdul Gaffar choudhury made a defamatory remarks about our Sylheti Bangladeshi community, founder of chanel S & other community leaders on live TV talk shaw on 12th December.

He also made anti religion remarks in Newyork. Few weeks ago 700 people attended to a protest meeting at the Water Lily,Mile End Road,London E1 against Abdul Gaffar Choudhury.

In this meeting Journalists,community leaders,religious leaders including ex councillor Matinuzzaman,Cllr oliur Rahman,cllr Ohid Ahmed delivered the speeches.

They have called to boycott Abdul Gaffar Choudhury from all events of the community.

we are going to take a legal action against him. Our community are so upset and furious against him. If you allow him to come at the Idea Store, there will be a public disorder, protest and could violence.

so our humble request to you please do not allow him to come at the Idea Store.

please let me know your decision regarding this matter.

Nurul Islam Mahbub,Chairperson,Greater Sylhet Council UK

Kalam M A T Choudhury,Secretary,Voice For Justice UK

I’m not quite clear what Gaffar Choudhury is supposed to have said in New York but apparently it was something scholarly to do with the literal derivation of the word Allah.

However, some people allowed themselves to get upset by it. The Jamaat-e-Islami party, which has links to Tower Hamlets of course, put out a press release at the time saying this.

..his comments and remarks have emanated question whether he is a Muslim or not. It is the duty and obligation of every Muslim to raise voice against his derogatory statement about Islam and religious features.

According to the Daily New Nation paper in Bangladesh, another fundamentalist organisation there went further by calling for his execution. Here:

The Secretary General of Hefazat-e-Islam Allama Zunaid Babunagari in a statement said: “Gaffar Chowdhury has turned out to be an atheist. He can’t bear the identity of Muslim anymore if he does not repent and accept Islam again.”

He also demanded capital punishment of the expatriate Bangladeshi writer. He warned that a tougher movement would be launched against the government if it does not take punitive action against the atheists like ex-Minister Abdul Latif Siddique and columnist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury.

I’m not sure if Tower Hamlets council was aware of these death threats hanging over him when it originally invited him to speak at the Idea Store for today’s event. I’d like to think they were: it would show they were championing free speech in the face of religious fascism.

But instead, after they received another threat of violence, they kicked their Freeman into touch. They told his supporters that his presence on a council property would not be conducive to community cohesion.

Here’s an email sent by new chief executive Will Tuckley to Ansar Ahmed Ullah, the organiser of yesterday’s cancelled Brady Centre event:

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your request to book the Brady Centre on 20th February. I am writing to inform you that the council will not accept the booking for the proposed event.

The decision has been taken after careful consideration, and was guided by our terms and conditions of hire. This document makes clear that the council has complete discretion to determine whether to accept a booking and  includes a criterion that, “as a general rule, premises will not be available for public meetings with political, religious or any other content where the matters for discussion are…..controversial or sensitive in anyway or which may breach community cohesion”.

In making its decision, the council does not make a judgement on any individual.  The decision was informed by an assessment of risk that the proposed event, taking place in a council building, may have become controversial or impacted on community cohesion.

I would like to apologise for the way this matter has been managed.  In particular, I  am  aware that a staff member at the Brady Centre incorrectly advised you, prior to this booking request being considered in accordance with the council’s procedures.

I think Will Tuckley, who I’m told has been impressing everyone he deals with, was in more than a tricky position on this. But I don’t think he was well-advised or fully informed.

And once he’d taken that decision, it would have been difficult for Biggs (even if he had been so inclined) to overrule his new chief exec.

It’s quite likely they were advised by people with vested interests, politically and/or religiously. Perhaps the standing and credibility of those who whispered in their ears might now be lower as a result.

No chief exec or mayor wants to be known for banning free speech, especially after threats of violence.

Meanwhile, here’s Abdul Gaffar Choudhury’s song for Language Day.

This is a guess post by Independent councillor Shahed Ali

UnknownI attended John Biggs’s first Mayoral Assembly held at Swanlea School on January 21 2016.  Although a step in the right direction, it soon became obvious to me it was nothing more than a ‘talking shop’ which would achieve nothing more to deliver our greatest need – building affordable rented housing.

The Whitechapel Vision aspires to deliver 3,500 new homes over several sites identified for private development. Our local plan, which clearly dictates our planning policies, requires developers to provide a minimum of 35% affordable housing on-site, or 50% affordable housing off-site. Of this, a ratio split of 70/30 must be affordable rent/intermediate housing.  

The latest developer to submit plans for development is ‘Sainsbury’s Whitechapel Square’.  This proposes a mixed development including residential housing to provide 608 new homes including a now revised towering 28 storey building, originally pitched at 33 storeys in height.  

However, if approved, it will only delivery 60 affordable rented homes [Note: Sainsbury’s has sent me the following comment: We are proposing to bring forward 89 social rent units, not 60 affordable rent units as Cllr Ali states. As I’m sure you’re aware, socially rented units are rented out at a cheaper level than affordable rent units.] So if we apply the same calculation to the total new homes Whitechapel Vision seeks to deliver, residents will get only 345 affordable rented homes of the total of 3500 new homes.  If our local plan housing target of 35% was to be met, residents could get 1225 new affordable homes, of which 856 could be affordable rent.

Mayor John Biggs response to concerned residents’ questions about the Sainsbury’s site was: “Our hands are tied by planning policy, but we try our best to get a better deal.  For example we managed to negotiate a reduction in height of the tower block from 33 storeys, down to 28 storeys.”

This is my view is a weak and defeatist response. For me, it raises serious questions as to the entire planning process and Tower Hamlets Labour group’s inability to challenge and get a much better deal for our community.

The question from John Biggs should be: “Is a viable development able to be built on this site?” And not: “Is this specific scheme viable?”

Anything can be made to look unviable, but it does not mean viable alternatives are not possible. Developers come with the attitude of: “How much could we get out of this site? How much profit are we losing as a result of following planning policies?”

So they start with packing as much as possible on to any given site and work back from there, instead of starting off with the local plan in the first place! Developers can still make a perfectly respectable profit by following the plan – because the plans themselves are viability tested.

I believe if developers feel they cannot do it according to our local plan, then they should not buy the land in the first place. Let someone else develop the site who will respect and follow the rules.

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Whitechapel Vision

So how do developers get away with it? Developers claim their schemes are not commercially viable, and must submit a financial viability assessment explaining why the figures do not stack up. In simple terms, this assessment takes the total costs of a project, and subtracts them from the total projected revenue from sales, based on current property values.

What’s left over is called the “residual land value”.  The value of the site once development has completed, must be high enough to represent a decent return to the landowner. It is therefore in the developer’s interest to maximise its projected costs and minimise the projected sales values to make its plans appear less profitable.

With figures that generate a residual value not much higher than the building’s current value, the developer can wave “evidence” before the council that the project cannot be delivered if it has to meet our affordable housing targets.

A crucial failure of Tower Hamlets council is that developers’ viability assessments are hidden even from councillors and protected from public scrutiny on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”.

Developers argue revealing the figures would compromise sensitive trade secrets. But I believe these reports do not tend to be scrutinised effectively by our planning officers either, and the confidentiality argument makes no sense because build costs are well-established in the public domain via the BCIS database, the industry standard tool everyone relies on.

Sales values are easily obtainable yet developers and local councils spend huge resources fighting to keep the figures in these viability assessments secret. I have requested viability assessment reports from the council myself, and it makes me wonder exactly what they are trying to hide?

Consultants know how to fiddle the figures in their client’s interest and planning departments are simply not resourced to scrutinise against the likes of specialist consultants such as BNP Paribas who have dedicated full-time teams working upon specific developments.

Many consultants are now paid bonuses for successfully reducing the number of affordable housing units on a scheme.

Local councils have lost the plot on this. All the things that are supposed to determine the best use of land – mix of uses, massing, density, social mix – have been trumped by finance.  It’s a form of financial modelling that’s hidden from view, entirely determined by the developers themselves.

Southwark and Greenwich councils were recently forced to disclose viability assessments after the determination of local residents’ battle that ended in tribunals awarding landmark decisions in favour of releasing the documents for public scrutiny.

Greenwich council, to its credit, has recently proposed introducing a policy that would require all viability assessments to be open to public scrutiny following calls for transparency.

It is a step in the right direction but simply making the information public so people know why the council is conceding its policy on affordable housing levels is not good enough. The fundamental basis of viability itself has to be challenged effectively. It is not simply an issue of transparency.

Braeburn Estates is a consortium led by Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar, developing a scheme known as the Shell Centre. That council’s planning policy aims for 50% affordable housing, but the Shell Centre will provide just 20%. It is the result of another viability assessment that pleads poverty to the council, while trumpeting the scheme as a lucrative opportunity to potential investors in the same breath?

This viability assessment was only disclosed when the project went to public inquiry.  To the council, flats were listed with an average sales value of £1,330 per sq ft, while a presentation aimed at investors suggested they would sell at an average of £1,641 per sq ft, representing a disparity of £234m across the scheme!

I was gobsmacked to sit and watch as Tower Hamlets incumbent planning committee gave approval for the huge Wood Wharf site neighbouring the Canary Wharf estate, outline planning consent with a requirement to provide only 25% affordable housing, for a development which will only come to completion in several years’ time, if not at least a decade away?

Surely house prices will have increased significantly, especially with the arrival of Crossrail at Canary Wharf?

These viability assessments conclusively prove that we cannot rely on developers to build affordable housing, and they are standing in the way of other groups who want to build it – the community land trusts, housing associations, co-housing groups – by preventing them from getting access to the land.

Instead the industry is wilfully inflating land values and forcing ill-resourced local council planning officers to recommend permission for schemes that fail to meet our local plan.

I get astonished by either the absolute silence, or silly questions that some of the committee members come up with at planning meetings.

It is obvious some do not bother reading the committee reports, nor has the knowledge or experience of being in a position to make such important decisions which will affect our generations to come.

It is a complete mockery.

These failures are actively contributing to the pace of ‘social cleansing’ being accelerated to the point of no return.  As a parent of two young girls, I am seriously worried about their future inability to remain living in Tower Hamlets.  However instead of allowing opposition members to actively contribute to these committees, the Labour group pitifully chooses to use its majority to effectively reduce and ‘take-out’ members who challenge such planning applications. I myself have become such a victim.

Coming back to the Sainsbury’s scheme, it seems likely that Barrett’s will be the development partner as they have worked in partnership with Sainsbury’s on other schemes.

The Mayor has set-up what he calls the ‘Housing Policy and Affordability Commission’.  Opposition councillors are excluded from this forum. However developers are most welcome, including Barrett’s’ Regional Managing Director, Alastair Baird.

Clearly this is a conflict of interest as I cannot imagine Barrett’s would be pro-active in championing the demonstrated flaws contained within viability assessments?

The Mayor needs to seriously take immediate action and engage the expertise required to comb through the viability assessment figures in detail when developers argue they cannot meet our policy requirement on affordable housing provision.

Viability is completely destroying the ability to build mixed communities, all on the grounds of spurious financial models, a legalised practice of fiddling figures that represents “a wholesale fraud on the public purse”.

It is critical that Tower Hamlets council develop the expertise in-house to tackle it now.

(I am now an excluded member of the Strategic Development Committee.  Due to changes to the political composition of group members, the council’s proportionality reduced a committee member.  However instead of affording the Independent Group the (good practice) opportunity to choose and decide which committee they would like to reduce a member within, the Labour group leader decided that the SDC committee should lose a IG member, which now gives Labour members an increased two-member majority on the SDC.  Never has the SDC had a political group with a 2 member majority on the SDC.)

Ahead of Wednesday’s full council meeting, this is a guest post by Cllr Oliur Rahman, leader of the 12-strong Tower Hamlets Independent Group (formerly known as Tower Hamlets First). Discuss…

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Much has been made of the dawn of a new kind of politics.

With the bitterness of last year behind us, it is our hope that we can work constructively across parties to put Tower Hamlets first.

Our group would be the first to admit that Mayor Biggs’ administration has had some successes, based on the Mayor’s ability to look beyond party politics and continue to implement much of former Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s progressive agenda. Mayor Biggs is not the only one to admit that Tower Hamlets was generally a “well-run borough”, as he put it, under his opponent.

The Municipal Journal, the National Association of Care Catering, Keep Britain Tidy and a range of professional bodies have celebrated the former Mayor’s legacy – while figures across the spectrum as diverse as an Anglican canon, the Conservative former political editor of the Spectator and centre-left Guardian writer Zoe Williams have cast doubt on the merit of the court judgment that saw Lutfur barred from office.

We must now move forward and this new age of conciliation has seen some big wins for the people of Tower Hamlets. Mayor Biggs has defended our administration’s landmark education grants for young people. After some regrettably costly delays, he has gone ahead with our plans for the regeneration of Whitechapel, the creation of a new civic centre and a multi-faith burial ground that between them will create 3,500 new homes and 5,000 jobs while preserving dedicated space for culture and small business.

Biggs is pushing ahead with plans for landlord licensing, school places and new social and affordable housing developed by our previous administration, along with our proposed policy of mayoral question times. The current administration have developed our plans with an Affordability Commission to investigate what kind of genuinely affordable housing we should provide – which we welcome, but believe should not have property developers and social landlords with poor service records sitting on it while no opposition spokespeople are invited onto the panel.

Mayor Biggs’ drive for transparency is also an important one, which can now progress freely in a less contentious environment. His Transparency Protocol and whistleblowing procedure will facilitate a more open culture at senior management level – but he would be well advised to go further. The lack of transparency over a grant to the Rich Mix of nearly a million pounds, made by executive order behind closed doors with little real rationale rings dangerously of patronage politics.

 

His decision to scrap East End Life, again by a secretive executive order and in spite of overwhelming support from members of the public for the paper, is also questionable. There seems little other way currently for Tower Hamlets to communicate with vulnerable and digitally excluded residents about the services they should be aware of. Setting up a Transparency Commission chaired by his own aide John Pierce was also questionable.

In the Mayor’s defence, he, like all politicians, has powerful interests pressuring him – in his own party, in Town Hall politics, and in the form of Eric Pickles’ commissioners who were recently accused of a complete lack of transparency by a leading voluntary sector organisation. We hope that in spite of all that he is able to stick to the pledges he was elected on: getting tough on waste, creating a more open council, delivering decent housing and strengthening our communities. There are many things we disagree on, but those aims we can get behind.

Looking ahead, the first budget by Mayor John Biggs is imminent. The Independent Group has consistently opposed cuts to the most vulnerable, particularly those which affect frontline services and increase charges for critical services or to succumb to “false” savings just to balance the books without considering the overall impact and wider picture.

Mayor’s budget proposals include cuts in funding for incontinence laundry service for the most vulnerable and elderly, youth services, free home care for the elderly, voluntary sector grants, children’s school history trips to Gorsefield, bursaries for university students and PGCE training for BAME teachers, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), East End Life, introducing new charges for adult care and deleting the posts of 10 THEOs (environment/waste cleaning), as part of the Mayor’s £18m of cuts now, with £63m cuts over three years. We feel this approach lacks a vision and is simply managerial.

Independent Group highlighted this, by way of just one example, at the Scrutiny meeting on January 4, that to get rid of 10 THEOs would not contribute to the cleaner streets that were among the Mayor’s top priorities. The large volume of food outlets, small businesses and markets that are a core part of the local economy generate a considerable deal of waste, which coupled with fly-tipping, graffiti and other associated issues present a considerable challenge to delivering cleaner and greener streets.

If the Mayor and his colleagues decide to cut Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) services, alongside cuts to youth services, it is likely to both exacerbate the situation and create issues. Deprivation is often linked to poor mental health, and in Tower Hamlets, one in two children live in poverty, so it is vital to provide safety and therefore continuity with CAMH services. Speaking to people who work in youth services we know they provide support and safe spaces, which contribute to a young person’s sense of wellbeing and provides the opportunity to have the life-skills needed to prosper.

Unemployment is another burgeoning problem in Tower Hamlets. Canary Wharf provides thousands of jobs but predominantly filled by finance specialists from outside the borough. Therefore we believe that any cuts to the current system of paying wages to those on internships and bursaries for teacher training courses from BAME groups is following the Tory government suit by forcing the poor to disproportionally shoulder the cuts. Public sector jobs, such as teaching, provides a sixth of the borough’s jobs and therefore a system that provides opportunities for citizens to be a part of the workforce is worth protecting.

It is well documented that cuts to youth services, as proposed by Mayor Biggs, coincides with a rise in crime and antisocial behaviour – coupled with this administration’s proposal to remove the safety net for the police budget – will undoubtedly create disastrous results. Safety in the community is not a privilege but a necessity, and a child lost to the criminal justice system is both costly and tragic.

miliband-2.jpgIt would be remiss of me not to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. Many have speculated we are simply looking for a route back into a renewed Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. This is nothing new: most of our group were Labour people exiled from the party either by the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq, or by the rigging of a mayoral selection in Labour that even election judge Richard Mawrey agreed was indefensible. We were drawn from all ranks of Labour – Lutfur was a Progress member and David Miliband supporter at the time of his expulsion!

But we are here first and foremost to serve the people of this borough – and when the current administration is considering weathering austerity with cuts to teaching bursaries, library closures and the sacking of council staff who keep our streets clean (following a pledge to get tough on waste), it is our duty to stand up for residents’ interests. We have a crippling housing crisis, severe pockets of poverty and a range of social problems that we have a responsibility to help fix. That’s what we were elected for – and in 2016, we hope to be able to perform that duty constructively and positively across civil society organisations, political parties and communities.

May I take this opportunity to wish your readers and residents a peaceful, prosperous and happy 2016.

Slightly off topic but…

At 11.09pm last night, 23 Labour MPs, including Poplar and Limehouse’s Jim Fitzpatrick, were sent the below email by that well known branch of the Unite union, the Retired Members’ Association (Colchester and District).

The others who received it were:

Dan Jarvis, Wayne David, Jim Dowd, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Emma Reynolds, Frank Field, George Howarth, Gloria de Piero, Graham Jones, Harriet Harman, Heidi Alexander, Margaret Hodge, Holly Lynch, Tom Blenkinsop, Jenny Chapman, Joan Ryan, Alan Johnson, John Spellar, John Woodcock, Helen Jones, and Kevan Jones.

They all voted with the Government to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The branch chairman Mike Le Cornu wrote (I’ve highlighted a couple of pars in bold):

Dear Colleagues

We believe it is high time to remind you that Jeremy Corbyn was democratically elected Labour leader with almost 60% majority, the highest ever recorded for a leadership contest.

While we understand that some of you will have been disappointed at the final result, we would expect that all of you should have the grace to accept that this was clearly a demand for a change of policy direction towards the desires and aspirations of the overall majority of working people.

We have to say that we find it distasteful that some of you indulged in, what can only be described as a ‘Judas’ congratulations to Jeremy when his overwhelming victory was announced.

Subsequent actions and statements and involvement of the media by some of you, indicate that even during the election campaign, steps were already afoot to undermine him.

It is our view that those of you engaged in disruptive tactics would be better engaged in analysing why such a huge majority have chosen Jeremy as the new Labour leader and that his success has resulted in a three fold increase in membership of the party in contrast to the 5 million votes lost by the previous Labour administration.

It might be pertinent to remind you that New Labour in office was the first Labour government in our history to preside over the gap between the rich and poor increasing, leaving illegal anti union laws on the statute book placed there by the Tories in violation ILO standards, extending privatisation rather than advance the public sector and, most shocking of all, abandoning the principles of peace and international law and lining up with a reckless, aggressive reactionary US administration.

Clearly the majority of the membership believe it is time to reclaim our party for the values of working men and women, the values of socialism.

Clearly supporting the Tories to unlawfully bomb Syria indicates that you have learnt nothing. 

Did you feel comfortable going into the voting lobby with the Tories whose leader has, in effect, insulted millions of British people who have doubts about the bombing by implying that they are supporters of terrorism?

It is becoming abundantly clear that the idea that air-strikes will destroy ISIS while they are selling to oil to Turkey and are funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar is ludicrous, and to exploit the memory of those who gave their lives to fight fascism in Spain and in WW2 is a misinterpretation of both events and an insult to those involved in both conflicts.

As veterans of the recent conflicts have stated ‘these invasions, occupations and attacks have caused great devastation, killed hundreds of thousands of people and have led to the destruction of societies’.

This irresponsible action has now placed Britain to the fore front and rather that make our country safe has exposed the British people as principle targets for the terrorists. 

With the rampant behaviour of some of you, we can be forgiven for concluding that maybe it’s not ISIS or Assad that you are interested to remove but Jeremy Corbyn whose success, you feel, is a threat to your careers as politicians and to the privileges you enjoy as members of the ‘parliamentary club’. 

While we are not in favour of ‘bullying’, it should not surprise anyone that those of you in the fore front of disruptive behaviour should be the recipients of severe and emotional criticism. 

As for those of you who excuse yourselves for voting on the basis of conscience, we wish to make it clear to you that selection for MPs cannot be based on individual conscience but on strict loyal support for party policy as determined democratically by the majority of the membership. 

As for the question of selection or deselection, that is a matter for CLPs to choose who is best suited to campaign for the aims of the party as a whole. 

Our message to you all is to desist from any further divisive actions or statements and to unite behind our new leader and concentrate on getting rid of the Tories once and for all and establish a Labour government dedicated to achieve a socialist alternative to the present decadent society. 

Yours sincerely

As far as the remit of this blog goes, Jim’s constituency party backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership, while Jim doesn’t have to worry about deselection as he’s retiring at the end of this Parliamentary term.

 

Here’s a scan of the full letter, and in pdf here: Letter to Labour MPs1.

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As Mark Baynes of Love Wapping wrote in sadly his final article a few weeks ago, it takes a fair bit of time and energy to maintain a constant flow of blog posts.

The past five years of writing them have been fun and rewarding, and certainly worth the effort.

But taking a break after my last post in August was the natural and right thing to do. After all, it was summer and the new regime of Mayor John Biggs was still settling in. There wasn’t an awful lot going on and the feedback I was receiving from the town hall was that by and large it was becoming a bit normal.

I kept on watching, albeit from a little more afar than previously, but still the most interesting bits were being provided by Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First brigade, now known as the Tower Hamlets Independent Group (abbreviated here on in as THING).

In the past few weeks, Lutfur has of course – and I’m going to assume most people know this (otherwise I really would have a lot of writing to do) – declared himself bankrupt. This development came about during his attempt to avoid paying £500,000 of legal costs arising from the Election Court hearing.

The drama of that case (and I’m yet to hear whether anyone has investigated messages apparently sent by at least one supporter on social media earlier this asking people whether they would be prepared to bank transfer money to a legal fighting fund in return for the same amount given in cash…) took another twist last week when Lutfur’s wife appeared in court.

Ayesha Farid claims she, and not her husband, is the major owner of a buy-to-let property the petitioners are trying to force a sale on. And during her evidence in court, she insisted she was an independent woman who paid her own bills and had her own income. In fact, she let it be known she was so distancing herself from Lutfur that she said he had brought “shame” on her family. He quotes were so dramatic that they provided The Wharf with this current front page:

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The full story is here. The court is yet to make a decision on the matter.

In the meantime, Lutfur continues to work on the judicial review of the Election Court petition, case that could to trundle on for months and possibly years if appeals on human rights grounds reach Europe. (His team, by the way, are confident of overturning the spiritual influence verdict.)

So in reality, Lutfur is now pretty much a ghost of a politician and Ken Livingstone’s Project Lutfur has now shifted lock, stock and barrel to Project Corbyn.

And without discipline of the Kennite brigade at Mulberry Place, that crazy little thing called THING is starting to fall apart at the seams.

During the time away from this blog, I was understandably criticised for not paying the same attention to the Biggs administration as I had done with Lutfur’s. I get that, but as I’ve said this is a voluntary exercise and we all have to prioritise our time.

One who implored me most to start writing again was Cllr Shahed Ali. In particular, he was exercised by the issue of Rich Mix whose future had been under threat by court case over a £850k council loan under Lutfur, but then saved when John Biggs, via a mayoral edict, dropped the proceedings. The story was covered by the Standard here. Had this been a decision by Lutfur on something else, he argued, I and others would have been all over it.

In October, Shahed also sent me an article he’d written on social housing ratios. He asked me to publish and I agreed but in all honesty I never got round to it: I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted the blog to move forward.

The article was actually pretty good. It was on a subject that had always interested him; in fact, he was the only Tower Hamlets councillor to attend an event my current employers had arranged on that particular issue in the Palace of Westminster in July.

Throughout the decade I’ve known him social housing/planning and Palestine had been the causes he’d been most passionate about.

So it was with a certain sadness to learn of the latest episode in his career.

Last Wednesday, he attended Thames Magistrates’ Court charged by Tower Hamlets Council with two counts housing fraud under Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 (failure to disclose he had a portfolio of properties whilst maintaining a council tenancy in his name).

A council spokeswoman told me he pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case has been sent to Crown Court for a further preliminary hearing later this month.

Let me stress again: he has pleaded not guilty and the case is live and likely to go before a jury. I’m going to allow comments on this thread (because it’s been a long time ‘n all, but there can be nothing written about this case).

It’s also a bit ironic that it’s Shahed’s predicament that has partly prompted me to blog again: I think I’m right in saying that no other mainstream outlet has covered it yet.

On the politics of the Shahed case (and careful comments are allowed on this), I asked THING leader Oli Rahman for a statement. Was he suspended, for example. This is what Oli sent me:

I was recently made aware of allegations involving Cllr Shahed Ali. He has pleaded not guilty and has agreed to step down while the case is ongoing. The Independent Group takes all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously and will cooperate fully with any enquiries from Council or elsewhere if necessary.
Independent Group expects all members of the council to hold the highest standard and regard for their office, their constituents and particularly we expect that from our own group.

So at the beginning of the week, THING had 15 councillors (remember Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah had quit the group earlier this year to sit as Independents). On Wednesday, after Shahed stepped down, they had 14 (although the council still lists Shahed as THING).

By Friday, they’d encountered more trouble. I’m told there have been some blazing rows in the Mulberry Place office of THING. I’m also told that Oli Rahman has been furious with his fellow former deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

After John Biggs was elected in June, Ohid apparently told colleagues he did not wish to sit on any committees. To his colleagues, that decision rendered him lazy, someone who did not wish to share the workload but still happy to accept his £10k a year count councillor allowance.

He was also, they tell me, viewed with some suspicion. Some thought him desperate to get back into the Labour party (they think he had a long meeting with Labour NEC exec member Christine Shawcroft who told him that was unlikely for the time being); others thought him desperate to run for mayor in 2018.

On December 9, the THING leadership (and that incredibly includes the twin Tweedle Dumbs of Tower Hamlets politics, Maium Miah and Mahbub Alam) sent the following email to all group members:

Independent Group Member
Independent Group
Mulberry Place
Tower Hamlets Town Hall

​​​​​​​​​9 December 2015

Dear Independent Group Member

Following the Group meeting on 8 December 2016, We have been asked by the Group to formally write to every single Member of the Group to outline some of the serious issues that were discussed.

The Group agreed in principle that all Group members must adhere to the following:

•All Members must attend their Council meetings, including Group meetings. Failure to attend three meetings will result in a warning and written explanation sought.

•The Group has agreed to open a Group bank – every member to contribute £20 per month, Councillors with additional allowance such as the Leader and O&S Lead will make additional contribution. £40 for the Leader and the O&S lead.

•The Group agreed to have the Constitution/Memorandum of Understanding, if you have any suggestion, please let our Political Adviser brother Ali – know by close of play, 20 December and copy me.

•No one should give media comments or interview about Group matters, without prior approval, except the Leader to ensure smooth running.

•The Group reserves the right to disciple any Member whose conduct brings the Group into disrepute or create disunity – avoiding collective responsibility – including the Leader or officer bearer of the Group.

•Key events and group engagements that all must attend are: 14 December at 6.30 pm (Independent Group workshop), 16 December at 6.30 pm in Watrelily (Unite against Islamophobia and Racism) and 14 January 2016 at 7 pm (People’s Budget meeting in Canary Wharf).

I look forward to professional cooperation and unity in order to move forward together.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Oliur Rahman, Leader-independent Group
Cllr Mahbub Alam, Group Publicity Officer
Cllr Maium Miah, Group Secretary

I’m told this email was aimed at Ohid. He had, I understand, recoiled at the idea of attending the Unite against Islamophobia and Racism rally at the Waterlily this coming Wednesday.

Not, of course, because Ohid doesn’t agree with such things (you’ll all remember he’s fond of using the terms), but because of who’s speaking.

Here’s the poster for it:

Image-1

Although these are exactly the same people Ohid has appeared with many times in the past five years, his colleagues say he’s worried about upsetting the new political hero in his life: London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.

So THING had a row and Ohid apparently left the group’s WhatsApp channel. This, I’m told, is a cardinal sin. They were then all under the impression he was going to quit the group proper.

But in the end, someone else did. On Friday, Shafiqul Haque, another defector from Labour in 2010, officially left THING to become an Independent. Ohid’s colleagues whisper that Ohid has bottled it.

I asked Ohid for a statement or comment, but he declined to answer. Shafiq, however, did reply. Here’s what he said:

 It was good to work with independent group some time. I am always an independent minded individual. If anything I can’t agree I always raised it even when I was part of the labour group for number of years. At the current situation I believe it would be better for me to be completely independent to work for best interest of my constituents and the residents of this borough.

By being independent I can pick and endorse the policy better for our residents from either of the political parties or group.

I can support my chosen candidates in local and national elections.

I will have the independence to make own judgement in term of the policy.

My priority would be as always was to work for the best interest of our residents.

Hope I could explain my reason to be completely independent.

I asked Shafiq if he would be supporting Sadiq next May and he said “fighting the Tories is very important and I’ll support whoever fight austerity and tackles the housing crisis and cost of living crisis”.

So THING is down to 14.

But of course, they’d all love to rejoin Labour, particularly under Jeremy Corbyn.

Ever-smiling Oli Rahman even managed to grab a selfie with Corbyn at the Finsbury Park mosque protest nine days ago.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 21.25.21.png

But say what you like about Corbyn, isn’t he brilliant at answering questions by use of road signs…

Happy Christmas, everyone.

First the politics.

bigpicSince my last post (due to time and summer priorities, I’m writing less regularly) we’ve had one more defection in the Independent Group formerly known as Tower Hamlets First (who were formerly known as Independents).

Mufti Miah (pictured) has had the courage to do what other bigger mouths have been threatening to do for quite some time.

John Williams, the busy head of ‘democratic services’ at Tower Hamlets council, wrote this to councillors on July 31:

Dear Councillors,

I have today received notice from Councillor Mohammed Mufti Miah that with immediate effect he is no longer a member of the Independent Group of councillors.

Councillor Miah has asked me to inform all Councillors of this.  He will continue to serve on the Council as an independent (ungrouped) member. 

Councillor Miah has told me that he wishes to thank everyone who he has had the honour of serving the community with, and he looks forward to serving the community in all constructive endeavours to improve the community and the lives of those who have elected the councillors.

Mohammed Mufti Miah joins Abjol Miah as the two lone defectors from the very unstable and unhappy ship of Lutfurites, who now number 15. More are sure to follow.

Now the comedy.

Here’s how that fine upstanding man of principle, Cllr Gulam Robbani responded to John’s email:

Dear Mr William,

Thank you for your email. I would be grateful if you can inform Cllr Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah if they would like to resign from the council and re-elect  as independent or labour if that what they been dreaming about? Tory will not touch them with burg pole ! They were elected on back of THF and they should follow the UKIP model?  UKIP MP resign from Tory and they were re-elected as UKIP ! Would both Miah follow the UKIP MP if they feel so confident? I would like to challenge both councillor to do that! [sic, ad nauseam]

I love the way Robbani admires the Ukip model so. Had all his honourable colleagues followed it throughout the years, by my count we would have had 11 by elections in total. Instead we have had none.

For the record, Ohid Ahmed defected from Labour to Lutfur/independent in 2010, as did Abdul Asad, Shafiqul Haque, Aminur Khan, Rabina Khan, Shahed Ali and Oliur Rahman. The latter two have defected two and three times respectively during their career (Shahed from Respect to Labour; Oli from Respect to Respect Independent, then to Labour).

And let’s not forget Maium Miah who jumped from the Tories to Lutfur in 2010 as well.

So good for Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah. They’re merely following a fine tradition in Tower Hamlets.

Now for the intrigue.

Eric_Pickles_OfficialLast week, Sir Eric Pickles again singled out Tower Hamlets for mention as he launched his first initiative as David Cameron’s corruption tsar: a nationwide investigation into vote fraud. In various interviews he compared multiculturalism,

In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote this:

In Tower Hamlets, police and council staff failed to tackle intimidation – often in foreign languages – both inside and outside polling stations. Just as we have seen with child sexual exploitation in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham, institutionalised political correctness can lead to the state turning a blind eye to criminal conduct. But the law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to do so.

And in an interview with Sebastian Payne at the Spectator, he said this:

‘What appears to have happened in Tower Hamlets is similar to what happened in Rotherham, in the sense that as with sexual exploitation, people just turned a blind eye because they were worried about community cohesion and the same seems to have happened in Tower Hamlets’. To clarify, I ask does he believe that politicians and officials were too concerned about multiculturalism and ignored the years of warning signs from Tower Hamlets? ‘Yes, of course’.

This is dangerous territory for it risks feeding a racist narrative that [electoral] corruption exists only in non-white communities. There is enough corruption/fraud in the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall with MP/Lords expenses and government contracts to know that’s certainly not the case.

I suspect that in Tower Hamlets, the Met failed to do its job principally because it was wary of getting involved with murky local politics. That’s not to excuse them by the way: I think they’ve been useless over the years and as Sir Eric also points out in the Spectator, corrupt behaviour in one sphere can be symptomatic of rottenness elsewhere:

‘Tower Hamlets is a warning,’ Pickles says. ‘If you are willing to bend the rules and to break the law with regard to elections, you are willing to bend the rules and break the law with regard to the proper running of an authority’. 

Which brings us to the ongoing court saga involving Lutfur Rahman. Love Wapping has been doing a great job in reporting, e.g. here and here.

6716_Andrew_EdisOn August 3, Mr Justice Edis (pictured) delivered his ruling on the injunction freezing Lutfur’s assets, a decision made by an earlier judge after an application by the election petitioners who are seeking to recover their legal costs.

The full judgment, extending the injunction until Jan 31 2016, is here. I also recommend bookmarking it: it is characterised by a certain degree of scepticism regarding the origin of Lutfur’s legal fund.

Some of you will not be aware just how much money he managed to accumulate by way of what he says were loans before, during and after the Election Court hearing. If not, take a deep breath: £750,000.

As part of the court process, Lutfur was forced to disclose his list of donors/lenders, which included young nieces and nephews lending more than £100,000.

Having highlighted and uncovered so much corruption during the election court hearing, Francis Hoar, the petitioners’ barrister who was described as a “tour de force” by Richard Mawrey QC in April, quite clearly senses a certain back-of-the-envelope/cash-under-the-table modus operandi when it comes to those involved with Tower Hamlets First. He said the list of donors suggested “money laundering”.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Edis delivers a mild rebuke to Francis, but asks whether the loans were “designed to conceal” Lutfur’s “true wealth”:

There controversy during the hearing before me on 3rd August about Mr. Hoar’s description of this evidence as showing “money laundering”. This was, in my judgment, an unnecessarily inflammatory expression. Mr. Hoar made it immediately clear that he did not mean that any of this money was the proceeds of crime. To my mind that makes the use of the term inapt. What he actually meant was that this evidence casts grave doubt on the suggested source of the sum of £749,500. If it was not loans from the 52 named people or companies was it actually the defendant’s money? If so, was the arrangement designed to conceal this fact so that his true wealth remained hidden from the claimant?

Dynamite stuff.

Following Lutfur’s ‘Defend Democracy’ rally at the Waterlily at the end of April, Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft volunteered to become a trustee for a properly constituted legal fund; she even wrote a cheque for the grand sum of £100. As a result, she was suspended by the party.

It seems as though she was the only Trot to put her money where her mouth was when it came to backing Lutfur. But that fund never even got off the ground. In the background, there was a move by Lutfur’s supporters to boost the coffers of the existing fund. Lutfur’s lawyers were due to lodge the details of his loan arrangements with the court on Friday.

If suspicions remain, it won’t just be lawyers asking serious questions.

For the fund, there 123 transactions listed from 53 separate people or organisations.

Thanks to the excellent technical work of Love Wapping here, we can see a summary below:

From Subtotal (£)
Foujiya Sultana 82,500
CLR Sullik Ahmed 60,000
Mohammed Abdul Munim 60,000
Muzirul Haque 42,000
All Seasons Lettings 40,000
Amirul Choudhury 35,000
Rafla Munni 31,000
Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 24,500
Shamsun Noor 24,000
London Training Centre 22,000
A Chowdhury 20,000
Anuwar Ali 20,000
Shenaly Miah 20,000
Lutfur Rahman 17,700
CLR Aminur Khan 14,500
Rafia Munni 11,730
Mamunur Rahman 11,500
Rina Begum 11,000
Ahfaz Miah 10,000
Ashadur Rahman 10,000
CLR G Rabbani 10,000
Jayed Khan 10,000
M lslam 10,000
Roseina Yasmin 10,000
Saif Uddin Moni 8,000
Masuma Sultana 7,000
Rujina Yasmin 7,000
Nanu Miah 6,000
Salik Zahid 6,000
Zuber Ahmed 6,000
Afia Farid 5,000
Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
Baig Ahmed 5,000
Fateha Ahmed 5,000
Mornotaz Begum 5,000
Nafisa Nargis Robbani 5,000
Sanjid Sarni 5,000
CLR Maium Miah 4,500
Jabir Miah 4,000
Shahed 4,000
Dipa Begum 3,000
Mazharul Alom 3,000
Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
Razia Salique 3,000
Saleh Abed 3,000
Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
Syed Shahriar 3,000
Suma Rahman 2,000
Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,300
Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Ayesha Farid 270
Total £749,500

 

Top of the chart is Lutfur’s niece, Foujiya Sultana, who lives with him in Old Monatgue Street. She’s aged 23. Here is what Mr Justice Edis had to say about this in his judgment:

The “loans” identified…total £749,500 and were made by 53 different donors. Ms. Turner, the claimant’s solicitor has filed evidence to show that some of these individuals are not likely to have been able to afford such sums. I will not set it out in full, but an example is Foujiya Sultana. She is said to have lent the defendant £80,000 between September and December 2014 and a further £2,500 since. The defendant said in his evidence at the trial that Foujiya Sultana was his niece aged 23 or 24 years. She has a job which is not likely to enable her to acquire large capital sums.

Rafia Munni is said to have paid £8,000 directly to K&L Gates [Lutfur’s solicitors] on 17th July 2014. This is the only payment so described and I infer that the rest of the payments (amounting to £741,500) were made to the defendant who paid them onwards to K&L Gates. This inference is supported by the payments out to that firm from the defendant’s Natwest account to which I will come shortly. In addition to that payment Rafia Munni paid further sums amounting to £34,730 in September and November 2014. Again, the evidence suggests that her employment is unlikely to generate such sums.

Limehouse.com is said to have lent £25,000 and the London Training Centre £22,000. The financial circumstances of these companies, so far as the evidence reveals, do not permit the making of such loans. Therefore, the suggested sources of these payments into the defendant’s bank accounts are questionable.

Where did the money come from? A further question is this: why did all these people lend the defendant money? A donation to a political cause is one thing, but a loan implies an expectation of repayment. Why did anyone think that the defendant would be able to repay £749,500 in loans? According to him, he has a 26% share in one property in London and £12,659.62 in the Bank. It is reasonable to infer that some of these lenders must have a different view of the creditworthiness of the defendant than this. How has this come about?

Other notable names on the list include Cllr Sullik (aka Suluk) Ahmed, who is said to have lent £60,000. According to his current register of interests he has no employment or declarable income. He is said to be reasonably wealthy from a house renovations company he used to run.

Other councillors include Maium Miah with £4,500. According to his register of interests as of August 2015, his employment is as a Community Development Worker at the Island Neighbourhood Project, Methodist Church (although according to this statement dated October 2014, that project has since closed down). Cllr Aminur Khan, Rabina’s husband, lent £14,500, while Cllr Ghulam Robbani seems to have had a spare £10,000.

Quite possibly the wealthiest name on the list is Amirul Choudhury, who gave/lent £30k. He owns and runs successful ChyTel Communications a mobile phone shop on Mile End Road and which forever advertises in East End Life.

A former council employee, Mazharul Alom, who used to work for not a great deal of money in Lutfur’s mayoral office before suddenly walking out rather abruptly on John Biggs last month, is also on the list. He appears to have had £3,500 spare. He gave that money to Lutfur by cheque on May 8, a few days after the Waterlily when the calls for help were at their most intense. How very generous.

The full list of transactions disclosed to the court is below.

A number of people are now examining each and every one. Anyone who has solid evidence or credible information and not mere speculation, please get in touch.

Lutfur’s lawyers have stressed throughout there is no wrongdoing in any of this.

No Date From Amount (£)
1 17/07/2014 Rafia Munni 8,000
2 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 5,000
3 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 15,000
4 03/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
5 03/09/2014 Rafia Munni 1,730
6 03/09/2014 Rafla Munni 7,500
7 04/09/2014 Shenaly Miah 15,000
8 05/09/2014 Rujina Yasmin 5,000
9 08/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
10 08/09/2014 Ayesha Farid 270
11 08/09/2014 Rafla Munni 5,500
12 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 5,000
13 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
14 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
15 19/09/2014 Nanu Miah 6,000
16 24/10/2014 All Seasons Lettings 10,000
17 31/10/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,000
18 Nov/2014 Afia Farid 1,000
19 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 2,000
20 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
21 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 3,500
22 Nov/2014 Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
23 Nov/2014 Syed Shahriar 3,000
24 Nov/2014 Rafia Munni 2,000
25 Nov/2014 Shenaly Miah 5,000
26 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
27 Nov/2014 Foujiya Sultana 15,000
28 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 10,000
29 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
30 Nov/2014 Mamunur Rahman 5,000
31 Nov/2014 Saif Uddin Moni 1,000
32 Nov/2014 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
33 Nov/2014 Rujina Yasmin 2,000
34 Nov/2014 Dipa Begum 3,000
35 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 5,000
36 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 7,000
37 Nov/2014 CLR Aminur Khan 2,000
38 Nov/2014 All Seasons Lettings 10,000
39 Nov/2014 CLR G Rabbani 5,000
40 Nov/2014 Nafisa Nargis Robbani 5,000
41 03/11/2014 Roseina Yasmin 10,000
42 06/11/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
43 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
44 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
45 18/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
46 20/11/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
47 21/11/2014 Afia Farid 2,000
48 Dec-2014 Fateha Ahmed 5,000
49 Dec/2014 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
50 03/12/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
51 09/12/2014 Foujiya Sultana 40,000
52 19/12/2014 CLR Aminur Khan 10,000
53 19/12/2014 Anuwar Ali 10,000
54 29/12/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 10,000
55 29/12/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
56 29/12/2014 Jayed Khan 10,000
57 29/12/2014 Mornotaz Begum 5,000
58 30/12/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
59 30/12/2014 Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
60 30/12/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,500
61 Jan/2015 Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
62 02/01/2015 CLR Aminur Khan 2,500
63 05/01/2015 Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
64 21/01/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
65 23/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 25,000
66 26/01/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 1,000
67 30/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 8,000
68 Feb/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
69 Feb/2015 Amirul Choudhury 5,000
70 02/02/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 4,000
71 03/02/2015 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
72 04/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
73 06/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
74 06/02/2015 Muzirul Haque 9,000
75 06/02/2015 London Training Centre 7,000
76 06/02/2015 Anuwar Ali 10,000
77 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
78 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
79 27/02/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
80 02/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
81 03/03/2015 Salik Zahid 5,000
82 09/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
83 09/03/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
84 09/03/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
85 09/03/2015 Razia Salique 3,000
86 09/03/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
87 09/03/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 2,000
88 09/03/2015 Suma Rahman 2,000
89 09/03/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,000
90 10/03/2015 Sanjid Sarni 5,000
91 10/03/2015 Saleh Abed 3,000
92 10/03/2015 Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
93 10/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
94 11/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 1,000
95 11/03/2015 Masuma Sultana 2,000
96 16/03/2015 Salik Zahid 1,000
97 16/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
98 30/03/2015 Ashadur Rahman 10,000
99 07/04/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 1,000
100 10/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 15,000
101 13/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 15,000
102 16/04/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,700
103 16/04/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 300
104 24/04/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
105 28/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 10,000
106 30/04/2015 CLR G Rabbani 5,000
107 30/04/2015 Rina Begum 11,000
108 30/04/2015 Jabir Miah 4,000
109 05/05/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 20,000
110 08/05/2015 Mazharul Alom 3,000
111 13/05/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
112 13/05/2015 Shamsun Noor 2,000
113 13/05/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
114 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 9,000
115 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 1,000
116 14/05/2015 Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
117 14/05/2015 Masuma Sultana 5,000
118 14/05/2015 Foujiya Sultana 2,500
119 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
120 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
121 15/05/2015 Mohammed Abdul Munim 10,000
122 15/05/2015 Mamunur Rahman 500
123 18/05/2015 Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Total £749,500

This is not the most earth shattering post, but I have something of a tradition of publishing legal threats and other warnings against this blog.

Four days ago in a post about Lutfur Rahman’s latest legal developments I mentioned that he had hired eminent QC Ben Emmerson to fight his proposed judicial review against the Election Court judgment.

In the following two paragraphs I wrote this:

He has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Alongside those paragraphs I published this photograph:

Saghir HussainThat’s Saghir Hussain.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Cage:

Dear Sirs
We are writing in relation to a blog post recently uploaded to your site, the post in question can be seen here.

We note that you have used an image from our site, which contains our logo on it, without seeking permission prior to posting. Furthermore, the source of the image has not been adequately referenced, if at all. In any event, we have not and do not authorise the use of said image on your site.

We therefore request that you immediately take down the image and refrain from using our images in the future without seeking our express written permission beforehand.

We hope that this matter can be resolved amicably, without further escalation.

Kind regards

CAGE

I emailed back to ask which image they were referring. I followed this up a few minutes later with this:

Further to the below, I presume you’re referring to the image of Saghir Hussain.

If so, that’s a screen grab I took personally from a video already posted/published on YouTube. I’m not aware of any permissions I need from you for that.

If I hear no more from you, I’ll consider that the end of the matter.

Many thanks.
Ted Jeory

There was a clue to the source of the image in the URL for the photo (https://trialbyjeory.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/screen-shot-2015-07-19-at-21-58-55.png) but for Cage’s benefit, it was from this YouTube video published last year of a public event at which they had unfurled their banner.

I haven’t heard back. Perhaps they have more important things to do.

As they were busy writing to me yesterday, they were also reportedly considering defamation action against David Cameron for branding them ‘extremist’ in his speech on Monday.

Bigger fish to fry.

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