A Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets, Kosru Uddin, 45, has been arrested following allegations that he made a death threat to female fellow councillor, Rania Khan, who is a supporter of independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman. Cllr Uddin was held in custody overnight for questioning today and has now been released on bail. Sources report that abuse, violence and intimidation took place in the council chamber after the conclusion of the council meeting involving Cllr Uddin, Cllr Khan, her mother, Lutfa Begum, and even female Labour councillor, Shiria Khatun, in the act of trying to restrain Cllr Uddin who is, ironically, the Labour spokesperson on Police and Community Safety.
This is the latest episode in what seems to be an escalating display of hatred between each side of Labour’s divided family in the East End. It took place at the conclusion of a typically ill-tempered council meeting in which Labour united with the Tories not only to reject the appointment of a chief executive but also to prevent the interviewing panel’s preferred nominee from continuing to serve as acting chief executive. This was in spite of the fact that both Labour members on the interviewing panel reported to the Labour group that he was “appointable”. Thanks to their action, one of London’s Olympic boroughs will therefore spend the run up to the Olympics without any head of paid service. A local commentator‘s comment on this situation was:
Tower Hamlets is once again not only in disarray, but also in total chaos.
One unexplained aspect of the row about the chief executive appointment concerns Cllr Josh Peck, leader of the Labour group. He absented himself both from the appointment panel of which he was supposed to be a member and the council chamber when the full council considered it in a session closed to the public. We understand this was because he had been advised that he had a prejudicial interest in the matter, having previously made it clear to the Acting Chief Executive that he was opposed to his appointment. However, we understand that this did not stop him leading the debate at the Labour group meeting and persuading them to agree a procedural basis for rejecting the panel’s majority view. All Labour councillors were then instructed to vote for that motion.
Normally, decisions on appointments are not subject to the whip since individual councillors are supposed to use their personal judgement. Cllr Peck’s procedural motion appears to have been a device to attempt to force Labour councillors to act in accordance with Cllr Peck’s wishes. Whilst a number of Labour councillors reluctantly voted in accordance with these wishes, three councillors nevertheless did break the whip.