Ed Miliband and Lutfur Rahman are the “new generation”
by Abjol Miah:
I am giving my wholehearted support to Lutfur Rahman to become the first directly elected executive mayor of Tower Hamlets. This was my position and the position of the Respect Party when Lutfur won the selection contest in the Labour Party by an overwhelming majority. I will support him even more strongly now that he has been entirely unjustly deselected by Labour’s bosses on the National Executive Committee and is standing as an independent.
There are three reasons why Respect originally chose not to stand a candidate against Lutfur but instead to give him our support.
The first is that he has been subject to a terrible witch hunt stretching back at least to Andrew Gilligan’s fictional programme “Britain’s First Islamic Republic” more than six months ago. This is a witch hunt stained by anti-Muslim racism.
Secondly, Lutfur has a track record as leader of Tower Hamlets council which demonstrated that he understands that some of Labour’s policies in the past have been bad for the majority of the residents of Tower Hamlets and needed changing.
Thirdly, Lutfur has set his face firmly against any cuts to services and jobs in Tower Hamlets which the Condem Coalition intends to inflict on us and has declared he will lead a broad coalition of the trade unions and community groups not only to fight but to stop those cuts.
Everything that has happened in the last few extraordinary days since Lutfur was deselected by Labour has proved he is by far the best candidate with a realistic chance of winning the election. In particular, the revelation of the charges which Helal Abbas presented to the National Executive Committee of the Labour party show both how groundless the charges were and how prejudiced and unjust his deselection was. The Labour bosses’ actions are an insult to the Labour Party members of Tower Hamlets and to the wider electorate.
Amongst the charges against Lutfur is that he met with the Imam of the Grand Mosque at Makah. I would have thought this was something that Lutfur should be praised for as the Imam is a respected religious figure.
Also in the charge sheet is the claim that a number of individuals should not have voted in the selection process because they no longer live in the borough or at the address at which their membership is registered. I have no idea whether this is true and nor does anyone else.
Even more bizarrely none of these allegations now going to be investigated. Nor is there any reason to suppose that Lutfur was the beneficiary of these minor irregularities, if such they are; they could have had no bearing on the outcome of the selection process because Lutfur won by such a large majority.
If the charges had been so grave that they justified administrative deselection, the candidate who should have been selected in Lutfur’s place was John Biggs. Helal Abbas received less than a third of the votes given to Lutfur by Labour members and less than one sixth of the total votes cast. He came third in the selection process! The charge sheet he brought before Labour’s NEC is a disgrace and is enough to show him as unsuitable to be Tower Hamlets mayor.
One of the first things I think Ed Miliband needs to do is to launch a proper investigation into Tower Hamlets Labour Party. He needs to get to the truth about the conspiracy against Lutfur Rahman and the co-operation there has been between some members of the Labour Party and botht he Conservatives and the right wing press to denigrate both Lutfur and a large section of the Muslim community here. Without that the Miliband Labour party will never hope to restore the confidence that has been lost over this disgraceful affair.
As for Helal Abbas, he has never admitted that some of Labour’s policies in the past which he carried out were very damaging to people in Tower Hamlets. Helal Abbas is the “old generation” whereas Ed Miliband and Lutfur Rahman are the “new generation”.
This is very important. I have my disagreements with Ed Miliband and the jury is out on how good a leader he may ultimately be. But there were important things in his maiden speech as leader to Labour Party conference that most people can agree with.
Firstly, Miliband stated what has been obvious to most people and to most Labour Party members – the Iraq War was a mistake that should never have been made. There were alternatives and going to war undermined the United Nations. He might have added that the consequences of this mistake were the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, hundreds of British soldiers and a massive boost to Al Qaeda and extremist terrorism.
Secondly, he made it clear that Labour had made a massive error in pursuing its free market ideology to the point where deregulation of the banks produced the financial crisis we are now being asked to pay for.
I have no doubt that Lutfur would agree with both these self-evident propositions. Lutfur also demonstrated in office that he understood the profound housing problems that had been caused by New Labour’s determination not to build council houses but instead to seek to transfer the housing responsibility to the private sector.
He ended stock transfer in this borough and, within the modest means afforded to council’s by the previous Labour government, sought to boost the council housing stock by buying back large homes that had been sold off under right to buy.
There were many things that I disagreed with during Lutfur’s time as council leader but his regime showed a capacity to learn and change that was never there under his predecessors, Helal Abbas, Michael Keith and Denise Jones.
Lutfur has been subject to smears and vilification in a cynical campaign orchestrated by a small number of people in Tower Hamlets Labour. One of the most shocking things in all of this is the fact that there has clearly been a conspiracy to denigrate Lutfur involving co-operation between senior Labour Party members and the Conservatives. They have been aided and abetted by journalists who are either deeply ignorant or pandering to Islamophobia or both.
To give an idea of the cynicism of this campaign let me take the example of Andrew Gilligan who now proclaims he is the London editor of the very right wing pro-Conservative Telegraph. Gilligan conducted a long campaign to vilify Ken Livingstone, who is once again, I’m pleased to see, the official Labour candidate for 2012, having crushed Oona King in the London-wide selection.
Amongst other things, Gilligan has repeatedly claimed I am a senior activist in the Islamic Forum of Europe. He has also absurdly repeatedly described the IFE as “fundamentalist” which is an appalling misuse of the English language.
I have great admiration for the IFE and in particular for the work it has done in the community to combat anti-social behaviour, drug use and so on. But I am not and never have been a member of the IFE never mind a “senior IFE activist”. I told Gilligan this.
Despite that fact and the fact the Press Complaints Commission ruled he had breached their code on accuracy grounds, he claimed I lost my PCC complaint and has continued to repeat his untruths about me ad nauseam on his blog. His blog incidentally seems to have attracted the support and admiration of a highly unsavoury bunch of Islamophobes whose ignorance and prejudice suggest many of them are supporters of the English Defence League and the British National Party. The PCC will be hearing from me again.
This shows the kinds of forces ranged against Lutfur. That’s why we need to do everything we can over the next three weeks until the election on 21st October to show that Tower Hamlets is not going to be dictated to by a prejudiced and out of touch Labour hierarchy or the extreme right wing.
Ken Livingstone was elected as an independent to be mayor of London in 2000 in not dissimilar circumstances.
In fact the parallels go further. The same band of senior Labour people in Tower Hamlets who have opposed Lutfur so strongly – Jim Fitzpatrick, Rushanara Ali, Josh Peck – also encouraged Oona King to stand against Ken and backed her all the way.
They were overwhelmingly rejected by London Labour and Ken can now look forward to becoming London mayor again in 2012. We must make sure in the same way that Lutfur is elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.