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Posts Tagged ‘mizan choudhury’

I was told the Labour party selection process for next May’s Tower Hamlets council elections is currently something of a “bloodbath”.

The London region held interviews for all those who applied last weekend after which a long list was drawn up. Those who failed to make it have the right to make an appeal next weekend. After that, the party will start the tricky process of picking the 45 candidates to stand in the 20 newly drawn wards.

Labour recognise they have a problem.

I’ve been sent an internal party report that shows that of the 108 applications received, a heavily disproportionate number were from Bengali men. Only 23 women applied.

Here’s the commentary on that fact from the report (which is called ‘Equalities, Employment Status and Trade Union Analysis of the Applications received for the Tower Hamlets Panel of Local Government Candidates 2014’):

The breakdown can best be described as disappointing but not unexpected. While the membership of the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets is substantially male, the number of women applicants does not even reflect the proportion of women members, let alone the population of the borough as a whole.

The report then concludes that for LGBT and disability representation, the applications are in line with averages.

Around 60 per cent are in full time employment, some 25 per cent are part-time workers, while about seven per cent are unemployed.

Just over 50 per cent are members of trade unions, with Unite, the GMB and Unison dominating, while, according to the report:

The group with the lowest propensity to be a member of a trade union are Bangladeshi men.

On age, the majority of applicants were aged between 30 and 49, while about 20 people aged between 18 and 29 also applied.

But then we have the most interesting section of all–ethnicity.

The report first states the latest census data for the borough, that ‘whites’ comprise 53 per cent of the population; 43 per cent are classified ‘White British’. Bangladeshis are 30 per cent, Chinese 3 per cent, ‘Other Asian’ are 5 per cent, and Blacks are 7 per cent (within that Somalis are 2-3 per cent).

Here’s the breakdown of applicants:

Labour report

 

And here’s the report’s commentary:

It can therefore be seen from the above chart that the applications received from members of the Bangladeshi community far outstrips that of the population as a whole or indeed the percentage of the local Labour party membership.

Taking into account the disproportionate numbers of applicants from the Bangladeshi community the relative numbers of applications from other communities are reasonably representative of the ethnic make-up of Tower Hamlets.

It should, of course, be stressed that far from the numbers of Bangladeshi applications being unwelcome, the best way to achieve a range of applications would be to increase the number of applications from people of other ethnicities. Indeed the desire on the part of the Bangladeshi community to serve the community should be applauded.

It should be noted that there are no applications from other south Asian backgrounds despite there being established Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan communities–of which are reflected in the membership of the Labour party.

Finally, no applications were received from the Chinese community–unsurprisingly given the lack of Chinese members of the local party.

What is the significance of all this?

Well, the lack of female applicants, particularly Bengali women, has to be a real concern. The likes of Shiria Khatun have been excellent standard bearers and I know she has been working hard to encourage others to follow her lead. But while Labour has just two Bengali women (Zenith Rahman being the other), Lutfur’s much smaller group has three.

Labour’s rules mean one third of the candidates must be women, so of the 23 who applied, only eight will be disappointed. As three of the current women councillors are standing down (Carli Harper-Penman, Lesley Pavitt and Ann Jackson, as I understand it), we could well see a wave of fresh female faces in the chamber next year).

When it comes to the question of Bengali males, surely this has to be seen as a Labour success story. Their active engagement in Tower Hamlets politics has been rewarded with position and power. Those in the white and other communities have plenty to learn: those who complain about under-representation should get involved in the process.

But numbers only tell part of the story. In the past eight years I’ve covered Tower Hamlets politics, the calibre of the majority of Labour’s Bengali male councillors has been lamentable. Many have struggled to communicate in English (some of those have now been rewarded by Lutfur)–and frankly that should bar them from being a candidate.

They should be picking people who truly engage with the theme of the party’s candidate for mayor, John Biggs…One East End. When Lutfur picks his candidates for his Tower Hamlets First party, his bias towards the Bengali community will be, or should be, a source of embarrassment.

He’ll have the odd Trotskyite/SWP oddball, I’m sure, but it will be easily characterised as Tower Hamlets Bengalis First (actually, many believe that’s a vote-winner for him).

So it’s for this reason why I’m a little surprised that two of the most articulate of Labour’s Bengali councillors have failed to make the long list. I hear that Mizan Chaudhury and Anwar Khan have received rejection letters.

Mizan did make a bit of a fool of himself during his stint as Speaker, and he is a bit of a hothead, but at least he’s passionate about politics. He’d be a loss.

And Anwar, I’d have thought, is exactly the kind of councillor Labour needs: a highly educated banking accountant who is a role model of success to younger Bengalis.

I’m told both have appealed. Good luck to them.

 

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