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At first sight, this one is straight from Comedy Central. Greece is in a bit of a pickle. It’s had a bit of a problem with corruption, and with how its politicians spend public money.

So who better to call in for a bit of advice than a special hit squad from Tower Hamlets?

Here’s a tweet from Stepney’s Tower Hamlets First councillor Mahbub Alam.

Yes, that’s Deputy Mayor Oli Rahman, two of his cabinet colleagues, Shahed Ali and Shafiqul Haque, as well as Mahbub, sitting there facing Greek MPs in Athens two days ago. Thanks to Alam, here are some other photos from their trip: CBBS0BmWQAAgzYe CBCwM2UWQAA-hr0   CBB0OnlWAAAXolu       CBDX7FOUQAAqWe-

CBGAlNMW4AAvkXj   CBGAlNQWwAEbUns

Where to start? As Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs editor Tim Minogue remarked on Twitter last night….wtf. First, the hat. In the first picture above, it’s resting on the head of the deputy mayor, Oli Rahman. He says it was a gift from George Galloway. George_galloway_011 Indeed, he does look like a mini-George and Oli was once upon a time one of his Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets. In fact I’m told that Oli, like George, has also taken to cigars. I’m not sure if he’s started wearing leotards yet, but you never know. galloway-big-brother There are other links to Galloway with this trip as well. In that fourth picture above, showing a tasty meal in Athens on Thursday night, you can see sitting at the far end of the table on the left hand side as we look at it, Kevin Ovenden. A socialist philosopher mathematician, he was for very many years the left hand side of Galloway’s brain (the right being the slightly more creative Rob Hoveman).

Kevin has been in Greece for some time and is no doubt excited by the rise of the Syriza party there, but I’m assured this Tower Hamlets delegation was not his doing. It was all Oli Rahman’s idea, Oli told me this morning. He called me from a Greek train slightly distressed after one of their wider group had just been robbed of their wallet.

So why are they out there and who’s paying for it? When asked about the latter on Twitter last night, Mahbub (who has a fondness for travel, especially if it’s supported by public money..), had this to say:

HaringeyThey flew out on Thursday and are due back tomorrow. Also with the four Tower Hamlets councillors is Haringey’s Labour councillor, Isidoros Diakides (left), who is co-chair of the London-based Greek Solidarity Campaign. There are also officials from the NUT and Unison with them, including the Tower Hamlets council branch secretary John McLaughlin

Yesterday, they all met a group of Syriza MPs in Athens, the party’s head of international affairs, a local mayor and a member of the Greens. As one Tower Hamlets politico said to me yesterday, it’s difficult to understand who exactly is advising who.

However, while it’s easy and perfectly reasonable to mock and laugh, there is a serious side to this. Greece has a serious problem with racism and a growing one with fascism. Golden Dawn are neo-Nazis.

Last year, there were cries of “scandal” after a Greek court acquitted two farmers of shooting 28 Bangladeshi migrants who had been claiming back pay for their strawberry picking work. Very good accounts of the story are here and here.

Oli told me this morning there are some 700 Bengali businesses in Athens alone, many of which are struggling with the austerity measures. Oli thought that most of the Bengalis in Greece did not have Greek passports, merely indefinite leave to remain there. I asked whether any those he had met there wanted to come to the UK. He said if some were “given the possibility to, they would come”. However, he added many others simply wanted to pursue a life in Greece.

He said the Greek MPs and the Greek Bangladeshi Chambers of Commerce wanted to hear about how the racism of the Seventies and Eighties in the UK had been defeated. Oli said the MPs were amazed and impressed that people of an Asian immigrant background had conquered such prejudice and were now running a major London authority. “They were fascinated about that,” Oli said.

I asked Oli what he’d been most impressed with so far and he highlighted a movement set up by Syriza MPs called ‘Solidarity for All’. Each Syriza MP donates 20 per cent of their salary to it for humanitarian causes such as food distribution.

That’s wonderful, I said. I asked him whether he and other councillors in Tower Hamlets would do that, ie donate 20 per cent of their allowances to such causes. At first he said the deprivation in Tower Hamlets was nowhere near the scale of Greece. I pointed out there were food banks crying out for money. I said he’d be setting a fine example.

And then I think he got it. He said he would add a line to a motion he’s already submitted on the issues in Greece for the next council meeting. That should be an interesting vote.

So something good might well come from their diplomatic efforts. Overall, good on them for going.

On a lighter note, I asked Oli if he’d heard anyone using the word “malaka” around him. “I don’t speak Greek, mate,” he said, “but I think so, yeah.”

This is what it means.

Bless.

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There is an argument that the presence of Ukip on the mayoral ballot paper in May helped secure a victory for Lutfur Rahman. Their candidate, Nick McQueen polled some 4,400 votes, a significant proportion of which might otherwise have gone to Labour’s John Biggs.

I don’t really buy that argument but I think even Lutfur’s camp are glad he ran.

What I do think is more likely is that Ukip’s presence in yesterday’s by-election cost the Tories two of their three seats in Blackwall & Cubitt Town.

Here are the results:

LBTH BCT results

The turnout was low and some remarked there were more police and observers from the Electoral Commission than voters at the polling stations yesterday. The count at Anchorage House was, by all accounts, far more controlled than last time, which isn’t saying much.

And it finished at 3am, after two recounts. After a fair amount of confident boasting by some in Lutfur’s camp, his Tower Hamlets First candidates came nowhere close.

The recounts centred on two of Labour’s candidates and Chris Chapman from the Tories. As you can see, only five votes separated second from fourth. At various points, Labour’s Candida Ronald was ahead of party colleague Anisur Rahman, then fortunes switched and finally settled on Candida.

Congratulations to the three winners and particular commiserations to Gloria Thienel who was regarded well as a councillor in the last term. I’m fairly sure that the 200 odd votes picked up each by the Ukip slate cost her a seat.

But that’s democracy. Whether Ukip continue to challenge and engage in council meetings from the public gallery remains to be seen.

And this is how the chamber now looks: Labour 22 seats; Tower Hamlets First 18; Tories 5.

Labour needed 23 for a controlling majority in the chamber and that would have been significant. As things stand, unless Labour are able to persuade Tory boss Peter Golds to defect., we’re probably in for four more years of dysfunctional politics and council business.

I think it’s unlikely Lutfur will be able to entice five Labour councillors to defect. And I think it’s likely that the Tories will join Labour on various votes, but probably not as many as the last time.

Significant matters to resolve include what to do about the vacant chief executive’s position. That’s down to vote of the full council. Team Lutfur will not have their way on that.

And as I’ve said before, having a strong chief executive in place is going to be key in stabilising the council. I think Eric Pickles and co also believe this. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what PwC recommend.

 

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I can’t decide if this is clever or whether it makes me slightly uncomfortable. It has the feel of one of those dodgy email scams about it.

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This is a guest post by Anonymous

We know there will be 204 candidates standing in Tower Hamlets for the 45 seats on the council.

Of these 90 will be from the Labour and Conservatives parties who are contesting every seat in every ward and 44 for Tower Hamlets First, which is, to all intents, the Lutfur Rahman Party. The 45th pro-Rahman candidate will be Anwar Ahmed Khan, who is contesting Bow West as an Independent. There is, in Bow West just one Tower Hamlets First candidate, Jainal Chowdhury.

Anwar Ahmed Khan was elected in Bow West in 2010 as just Anwar Khan. However his expanded name will ensure that he is first on the ballot, two places above his sister in law who was chosen by the Labour party as his successor.

One record that will enter the record books even in the ever changing world of Tower Hamlets will be Cllrs Shahid Ali and Oliur Rahman: they’re standing in their third successive borough election, but for a different party each time; Respect in 2006, Labour in 2010 and Tower Hamlets First in 2014.

Will it be four for the party-hopping duo in 2018? In Tower Hamlets any political label is possible, so watch this space.

The major story of the nominations is the collapse of the Liberal Democrats in a borough they controlled as recently as 1994. In 2002, 2006 and 2010 they contested every seat. This year they are fielding just a single candidate in each of the 20 wards in the borough. In the 28-year period between 1978 and 2006 the Liberals/Liberal Democrats won every local election in Bow. They are now fielding just two candidates for five seats, despite several former Liberal Democrat councillors being resident in the area.

The Greens are fielding 19 candidates in 14 wards, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition 14 candidates in 13 wards, and Ukip 13 candidates in 13 wards.

Apart from Anwar Ahmed Khan there is a single Independent standing in Mile End, a representative of the Red-Flag Anti corruption group in Bow East and the Peace Party in St Dunstan’s.

In previous years there have often been a range of Independents, there noticeably few this time.

Labour, as the majority party, have had tried their hardest at diversity. However, Tower Hamlets being Tower Hamlets, there are just 15 women as against 30 male nominees. There are 24 Bangladeshi candidates, one Somali (woman), 18 white British and two black British nominees.

Expected to make their marks will be housing expert Rachel Blake and ultra loyalist, who is also known as Mrs Marc Francis.

Mamun Rashid from Shadwell could be interesting. He served as a Respect councillor for a period and was one of their more impressive performers.

Labour have also put up a strong team in St Peter’s against the expected Rahman onslaught, to be led by former Respect leader Abjol Miah who is fighting under his second label in his third different ward.

As expected, the Rahman team is overwhelmingly Bangladeshi. Micky Ambrose, Stephen Beckett, John Cray, Kathy McTasney and Stuart Madewell, along with one or two Somali nominees, are his attempts at diversity. The rest of the ticket is, as said, overwhelmingly Bangladeshi and male. Cllr Rania Khan is standing down, for reasons as yet unknown.

It will be interesting to see the Tower Hamlets First nomination papers. Apart from George P Wood in Bow East, Lillian Collins in Lansbury, Brenda Daley signing for Rofique Ahmed in St Dunstan’s and a friend of Kathy McTasney in Island Gardens all the other proposers have Bangladeshi names.

Micky Ambrose in Bow East is a former footballer, and he also worked in Lutfur’s office earning £25 an hour as “advisor on youth engagement”. He did, however, earn far less than Stephen Beckett, who was collecting in excess of £30,000 in Lutfur’s office.

Micky Ambrose lives in Newham, as does his fellow Bow West Tower Hamlets First candidate, Sabia Kamali. This is an interesting point as Yousuf Khan, Tower Hamlets First in Weavers ward, gives an address in Barking as his home.

There are four other Tower Hamlets First candidates who are known to have addresses outside of the borough but have given addresses within Tower Hamlets. The legal point is that there are four qualifications to stand for election. However, the address on a nomination paper, which is described as home address should be exactly that. It is an illegal practice to use an address as a home address that is not that.

This was what caused Fazlul Haque to be deselected by Labour in 2010 after it was obvious that his actual home was in Ilford. Equally Fozol Miah stood down this year when details of his home address in Barking were regularly circulated including to the police and the Electoral Commission.

Details of four other actual home addresses outside of Tower Hamlets are known to the authorities and other parties. Lutfur, as a solicitor, should have thought about that, as these matters will not go away. In any case, with the broad support that he claims, why could he not nominate 45 genuine local residents as candidates?

The Conservatives, contesting every seat, will concentrate on their stronger areas. They are losing four well known councillors: Cllr Tim Archer, one of the best debaters in the council chamber since 2006 is moving to be closer to his recently widowed mother; Cllr Emma Jones is marrying a serving; Cllr Zara Davis has a new job that requires more work commitments; and Cllr David Snowdon wants to concentrate on other things.

However, the Tories do hope to bring back former councillor Ahmed Hussain, who is standing in Canary Wharf.  Previous candidates standing include barrister Neil King in Wapping. There are several other candidates who have asked public questions at the town hall.

In terms of diversity they have eleven BME candidates including Chinese, Sinhalese and Bangladeshi nominees.

The Liberal Democrats, reflecting their withdrawal from the borough, have just two well known candidates, former councillors John Griffiths and Azizur Rahman Khan. An interesting nominee is Alex Dziedzan in Weavers ward. The Liberal Democrats and Ukip are to be congratulated in reaching out to EU citizens as potential candidates. Ferdy North, candidate in Spitalfields and Banglatown, is proposed by one Jemima Khan.

The Greens are fighting widely, with a concentration on wards in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency. Another Green proposer for the Bethnal Green candidate is Alice Livingstone Boomla, whose doctor parents have both been involved in socialist parties of differing names.

Interestingly, Ukip are not fielding a council candidate in the Shadwell ward where their Mayoral candidate lives. They also found the nomination process perhaps more complicated than they thought. However, they are also to be congratulated in fielding Lubov Zsikhotska, an EU national in Bethnal Green.

Amongst TUSC’s 14 candidates are four candidates from outside of the borough. These have addresses including Basildon and Romford. The Whitechapel candidate who lives in E10, Michael Wrack, is understood to be the son of Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, previously involved in both Militant and The Socialist Party. Obviously TUSC finds the political situation in Tower Hamlets interesting!

One thing that we know as the count grinds to a halt at The Troxy (who on earth chose that as a venue?) late on Friday night, May 23rd, Tower Hamlets will surprise. There will be recounts, split wards controversy resulting in new faces across the chamber.

In 2006, Respect, reliant on the Bangladeshi vote, was unable to elect a single councillor from amongst their white, SWP element. It is likely that this will be the same this year, hence how few Tower Hamlets First candidates are non Bangladeshi.

A John Biggs win will see any Tower Hamlets First councillors completely isolated. Labour and Biggs will want nothing to do with those that are most likely to be elected.

A Rahman victory will cause enormous tension within the Labour group, in which case sit back and watch the musical chairs.

One final thought: as Respect so famously did in 2006, ‘decapitating’ the Labour leadership including Michael Keith, so too is Tower Hamlets First this time around. They would love to defeat Carlo Gibbs, Amy Whitelock Gibbs and Josh Peck. The battles in those wards is vicious.

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Of the many odd characters who lurk in the world of Tower Hamlets politics, few are odder than Stuart Madewell, Lutfur’s candidate for St Katharine’s and Wapping.

stuart madewell

(He’s the guy on the Left.)

He used to be in charge of the Shadwell branch of the Labour party but fell out with Michael Keith a few years back. Since then, I’m not sure what he’s been up to.

I once bumped into him in Canary Wharf Waitrose where he was doing his weekly shop; he’s pleasant enough in person but when he hides behind his Twitter egg or Facebook account, it’s as if dark has descended.

So his latest outpourings on Facebook have a dollop of unintended irony about them.

Here:

Stuart_Madwell_comments_29_April

In January, Mayor Lutfur and the other party leaders signed the Tower Hamlets Local Election Protocol, which had been drawn up by the council, the Met Police and the Electoral Commission.

The protocol was an attempt to restore some dignity to election campaigns and to bring some transparency to the process.

I’ll quote from it:

Reasons for the Protocol 

2.1 It is recognised that recent elections in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets have generated a disproportionate number of issues compared to other London Boroughs. On occasion there has been a breakdown in trust between various individuals and organisations involved in the electoral process. The reputation of the Borough has been damaged and public confidence has potentially been affected

Campaign material 

8.1 Candidates and campaigners will not cause or allow to be published any material that misrepresents any person or includes slanderous or derogatory statements about another candidate at the election

Para 8.1 is pretty clear isn’t it?

So Peter Golds has today written to Lutfur to ask what he’s going to do about Stuart. Peter asks whether he will be sacked as a Tower Hamlets First candidate. But this might well make the collection compiled by journalist/Mile End resident John Rentoul: QTWAIN (Question to Which the Answer Is No).

Here’s Peter’s letter:

Dear Mr Rahman

Re: Stuart Madewell

Yesterday Stuart Madewell posted on a local blog the following:

  • “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Wapping Chapter) are supporting the edict of the Grand Imperial Wizard Peter Golds.”

 I attach a hard copy of his contribution.

 You are quoted in a leaflet circulated in St Katharine’s and Wapping ward, a leaflet in which the ward name is spelt incorrectly no fewer than five times, as saying: 

  • “I’m proud that Stuart and….are part of my Tower Hamlets First Team.”      

As the political leader and head of the party in which Stuart Madewell is seeking election are you proud of a candidate that makes statements as offensive and absurd as that made by him?

Surely even Stuart Madewell is aware than on at least two grounds I would be one of the first to be lynched by an organisation, whose hierarchy he seems to know.

This kind of behaviour was supposed to have ceased in this borough, with the unveiling of the “Local Election Protocol” which you have signed. Section 8 states:

8.1 Candidates and campaigners will not cause or allow to be published any material that misrepresents any person or includes slanderous or derogatory statements about another candidate at the election.

Stuart Madewell has done exactly what your Party has said it will not do.

Over the past week UKIP has suspended three candidates in the local elections taking place nationwide for making malign staements.

You have just forty four candidates to manage. Will you be suspending Stuart Madewell as a member of your team?

If not, does this mean that you support his disgusting comments?

As we are in an election period I am afraid that hiding behind “human rights” or taxpayer funded lawyers will not enable you to avoid the actions of your “party.” For once an answer will be required.

The electorate of Tower Hamlets deserve to know whether you will come out and condemn the actions of this person?

Will you?

 

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Mayor speaking

President Lutfur Rahman, the Boy from Bow, the community organiser who inspires the streets of Spitalfields, gave his State of the Union address at Canary Wharf earlier this month. It was so good, the whooping crowd immediately reached for their pockets and gave him £56,000.

Who says beggars can’t be choosers!

Here’s what His Martyrship had to say:

Good evening everyone. I am honoured to be here tonight to report back to you on my three years as Mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Before I do, I want to thank everyone who has been part of that journey – my councillors and colleagues; my friends and supporters from across the spectrum in Tower Hamlets; the community groups and faith organisations that are the backbone of our public life; everyone on my team who has worked so hard to deliver the change that the people of Tower Hamlets voted for and that the people of Tower Hamlets deserve.

I do not wish to talk much about what we’ve done; Instead I want to focus on what we’re going to do. But before I do there is one question I’d like to answer that I’ve been asked again and again:

How has this administration has delivered so much when everyone else is cutting services, and where do we find the money when we’ve seen £130m in cuts in just three years?

I’ll tell you:

While others have simply been slashing services, we’ve been transforming the Council from the ground up; challenging old and inefficient ways of doing things; shifting our resources to better serve our residents; working tirelessly to find out what our community truly needs; pushing the Council to respond and effectively wherever those needs are not met; either by improving existing services; or by introducing radical new policies that nobody else in the UK has the courage or the imagination to implement.

But all our achievements take place against a backdrop of massive government cuts; of welfare reforms that are throwing up huge social challenges; of a stagnant economy and a growing gap between rich and poor.

There is also the sad fact that some in the main political parties locally have refused to accept reality; by hook or by crook they seem determined to stop us from delivering; determined to take the path of opposition for its own sake; and determined to use the most divisive and destructive tactics to bring this community to a grinding halt.

But you rejected them in 2010 and they will not succeed in 2014 because they belong to the old world of factional and divisive
politics. They have nothing positive to offer the people of Tower Hamlets.

So this is the challenge:

Delivering lasting change in a time of austerity; protecting some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain; yet also unleashing the talent and aspirations of local people so that they can be active participants in the improvement of Tower Hamlets, not just onlookers.

It is a big task; but I have three core principles that have guided me throughout my time in politics:

First and foremost I believe in the talent and the ambition of our community. Our people, especially our young people, are our greatest asset.

Secondly, I believe in the unique spirit of tolerance and togetherness that characterises the East End; where hundreds of years
of immigration and the historic pressures of deprivation have forged a strong local identity.

You just need to look at the list of tonight’s speakers to see how people of every different background can be brought together by shared values and a shared love of the place we call home.

Finally, I believe that our location gives us the leverage to negotiate hard on behalf of local people. Negotiate with the developers who want to build on our land and the multi-national corporations that bring so much wealth into Canary Wharf.

With these three assets, I know that real and lasting change can be delivered; we can harness the talent in our midst; we can embrace all the creativity that diversity brings and we can make sure that big businesses and developers are delivering for the whole community.

Let them make their profit – I have no problem with that – but only if the community profits as well!

In four months you will have a clear choice:

On the one hand there are those that want to take Tower Hamlets back to the 1980s: unequal, unfair and economically stagnant; divided along lines of class and race.

On the other there is an administration with a proven track record of implementing radical policies; of coming up with solutions to emerging
problems like the welfare reforms and of successfully planning and delivering the big projects that will change the face of the borough forever.

But the mayoral model is as much about personal accountability as it is about the big vision. So I want to tell you why I went into politics and why I’ve fought so hard- and yes! I have had to fight hard.

My path in politics has not been a conventional one.

But ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades; I’m glad that I am an unconventional politician; I’m glad I’m not a careerist, an apparatchik or a party man because there are plenty of conventional politicians up for election in Tower Hamlets;

There are plenty of very ordinary candidates with very ordinary ideas; but Tower Hamlets is an extraordinary place. Over the years, the East End has produced some political giants; independent thinkers and social reformers.

These are the unconventional politicians from whom I draw my inspiration and whose example has given me the strength to fight on
for the all the people of this borough.

Why?

Quite simply, because Tower Hamlets is my home; this community is my community, it is in my blood; it is in my veins.

I’ve come to know every street and corner, every nook and cranny from Banglatown to Bow to the Island.

And everywhere, white, black or brown, I see the same huge potential and the same crushing need.

My heart bleeds when I see families living five-to-a room; when I see young people led astray by drugs and crime or our elderly people
robbed of their dignity and independence.

In the shadow of the glittering towers and untold billions of Canary Wharf, such suffering is absurd, and I’m sure it doesn’t take much to imagine a Tower Hamlets where a generation of children grow up in housing that is fit for their needs; where they attend the best schools in the world and go on to jobs that allow them to fulfil their potential; where they bring up their families in the safest, cleanest borough; and where they are not just residents, but neighbours; connected to each other by bonds of care and trust that ensure everyone’s needs are met and nobody is left behind.

That is my vision.

It has sustained me through the difficult points in my “unconventional” career because each day I know that we are working hard towards that future for our children and mine.

I have done my best over the last three years as Mayor, and before that for two years as leader, to deliver that vision. While the foundations are laid, the true transformation of Tower Hamlets needs to be driven home.

That’s why I’m running again, because the job is only half done.

I know that all of you here share the vision for a better Tower Hamlets and in a few months’ time, I hope to stand in front of you and say that we have four more years to deliver it.

Until then, lets work hard, and lets show the people of this borough that we’re on their side; and that my team and I have the passion and
dedication to keep putting Tower Hamlets First.

 

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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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