Calls for East End Labour MP’s suspension after racism row

towerhamletslogoA Labour MP has faced calls for his suspension following remarks that allegedly breach the guidelines on racism within the Labour party set out by its recent review.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, dismissed an ongoing debate in his local party about selecting candidates as the “same old worst of Bengali politics” in a social media post on November 2nd.

The tweet referred to an ongoing party procedure that decides whether the sitting Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, has to win a vote among members of his local party before becoming the Labour candidate for the 2018-22 term. Continue reading

Rahman wins right for judicial review on “undue spiritual influence”

lutfur-rahmanBack in August 2014, the Times ran a screaming headline saying Muslims told to ‘vote for mayor or be damned’. The quote marks in the headline might have led a reader to assume that the Times were referring to someone who had actually said this, but sadly journalistic standards at the Thunderer are not what they were.

Earlier this week, Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets twice elected by the voters, but judicially removed last year, failed on appeal to get his exclusion from public office overturned. But significantly, Rahman did gain permission for a judicial review of the ruling that there had been undue “spiritual influence” due to a recommendation by a number of Muslim clerics to vote for him. Regretably, this update to the story did not make it into the Times. Continue reading

Whoever wins in Tower Hamlets, it’s time for Labour to heal the rift

United East End darkeningUntil today, I have avoided writing about the hard-fought election in Tower Hamlets in which Labour’s John Biggs, who I backed to be Labour’s candidate in this election, hoped to unseat as Mayor the incumbent, Lutfur Rahman, who I supported as Labour’s candidate four years ago. As a loyal Labour Party member who also wishes to see Lutfur Rahman readmitted to the party which I believe was responsible for a miscarriage of injustice against him, I’ve not participated in any campaigning in the borough in which I live.

It’s been a hard-fought but nasty fight (albeit not as nasty as it might have been) with accusations of racism flung by both sides, as was always going to be the case. Everyone has always known that the Bengali community would come out overwhelmingly for Rahman, and that their turnout would be what primarily gave him his victory if that was the outcome. And the Biggs path to victory depended on the white working class vote turning out, and quietly winning everyone else’s transfers.

Any such contest in solid Labour territory with such a clear racial divide will involve race cards being played. In the long run, such behaviour will undermine Labour support amongst BAME communities in and beyond Tower Hamlets. It must not be allowed to happen again, whoever wins. Continue reading

Len McCluskey & Lutfur Rahman uniting the community of East End battleground

There are two stories here. The first is that Unite the Union’s strategy of taking trade unions into the community was launched yesterday in a particularly tangible way with the opening of the first Unite Community Centre. The second is that it represents a collaborative enterprise between Len McCluskey and Lutfur Rahman, independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets, both of whom have been vilified by many on Labour’s right. Continue reading

In Tower Hamlets, now the accuser is accused

Just 2½ years ago, Lutfur Rahman was selected as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets with 433 votes compared with 251 for local London assembly member, John Biggs, and 157 for council leader, Helal Abbas. Shortly afterwards, Rahman was accused by Abbas of fraudulently recruiting members, including at fake addresses, paying their subscriptions, and winning by this alleged deception. Abbas was rewarded by becoming the Labour candidate before losing again to Rahman in the ‘real’ election.

Now Abbas and Biggs are competing again in what is seen as a much closer race to be Labour’s candidate with councillors Rachael Saunders and Sirajul Islam, and the winner will go on to challenge Rahman in the next ‘real’ election.  Rahman has since been cleared by Labour of membership irregularities and (he and his group of councillors) by the Metropolitan Police on 151 counts of electoral fraud brought by opposition councillors. However, now it is Rahman’s accuser who is himself being linked to new charges of membership irregularities and possible electoral fraud. Continue reading