Tower Hamlets Labour Party is like nowhere else. Throughout London, every constituency party campaign team is doing its best to get the vote out for Ken. They recognise that for the party nationally and in London, that is Labour’s political priority. But here the local vendetta takes priority. Against Lutfur Rahman, independent Mayor overwhelmingly selected by Labour members and then elected by the public after being dumped as Labour’s candidate without investigation and replaced by his accuser.
Here hatred drives priorities:
Hate George Galloway? Help us fight his party and his friends in East London. We campaign every day.”
So tweeted Tower Hamlets Labour Party within minutes of the Bradford West result.
Whilst much of the rest of Tower Hamlets is left uncanvassed and piles of Livingstone leaflets sit undelivered, everyone is encouraged to work in just two out of seventeen wards — those where there are council by-elections. Last night, Labour’s candidate in Spitalfields & Banglatown lost what was, at the last borough election, a safe Labour seat:
Kirsty Blake (Green) 99
Richard MacMillan (Lib Dem) 39
Gulam Robbani (Independent) 1030
Matthew Smith (Conservative) 140
Ala Uddin (Labour) 987
On 3 May, Labour’s candidate in Weavers, where Labour ousted three Lib Dems at the last election, faces a serious challenge from local Respect leading light Abjol Miah. The Lib Dems previously enjoyed significant Bangladeshi support in the ward but this time, as they did in Spitalfields, they are standing a paper candidate. I don’t know if they favour one side over the other — they are probably happy just to see the Labour family tear itself apart. On this occasion, the Bangladeshi community leaders seem to be united behind the Respect candidate who is also backed by Lutfur Rahman and his supporters.
Until last night, my expectation was that Respect would win. However, the Spitalfields result was surprisingly close. That was undoubtedly the result of a last minute poison-packed leaflet distributed anonymously (see side 1 and side 2), which appears highly defamatory, and is certainly grossly misleading in some respects.
Hatred runs deep on both sides. Lutfur Rahman and his supporters feel they have been denied justice, that charges were made against them maliciously and see themselves as true Labour. There are no significant political differences between the two sides. The Labour group on the council, now in opposition, would have been making essentially the same cuts and protecting the same services as Lutfur Rahman is now.
Every councillor that is full of hatred, whether Labour or independent, whether hard-working or idle, whether they’ve always been in Labour or spent some time in Respect or any other party, whether they’ve led a blameless life or have the odd skeleton in their past, every one of them was elected as a Labour councillor in 2010. Every one of them was vetted by Labour officials and imposed as a Labour candidate. Some of them were still in primary school when Labour Party members were last allowed to select their council candidates.
The person chosen from the ward membership to help choose the Labour candidate in Weavers was the former CLP Chair, who resigned when he backed the academy bid of a school whose governing body he chaired, against the policy of both party and council Labour group. When I texted him to ask if he would join a doorstep session for Ken in Weavers, his response was:
I’d rather stick hot needles in my eyes.”
The text is still on my phone. Hatred runs deep.
The losers are the people of Tower Hamlets. And possibly Ken. And, if Ken loses as a result, the people of London. And the Labour Party.