Archive | March, 2012

Labour fears “another Bradford”

Posted on 31 March 2012 by eln

Abjol Miah: facing calls to stand in Weavers

East London News: The shadow of George Galloway’s by-election victory in Bradford West is hanging over the Weavers by-election in Tower Hamlets.

There is now a concerted community campaign to persuade former Respect councillor Abjol Miah to put himself forwards as a candidate.  The factors which inspired electors in Bradford West are coming into play.  Tired with Labour’s lacklustre performance in the Council, activists and opinion formers are calling for a candidate whose first priority will be to speak out on behalf of Weavers residents – against the austerity measures and war-mongering of the Con-Dem Coalition.  Labour is seen as obsessed with mounting petty, vindictive attacks on Mayor Lutfur Rahman rather than offering support for his popular anti-poverty measures such as funding EMA and refusing to put rents up to 80% of market levels.  “If the people of Bradford can have a choice,” one activist told ELN, “why can’t we? Why should we have to put up with Labour?”

Labour itself has been thrown into turmoil by the Bradford West result.  With too few activists to run a campaign in both wards, Labour appears to have thrown in the towel in Spitalfields & Banglatown and is now concentrating on campaigning in Weavers ward. Labour’s Spitalfields candidate will find this very frustrating: this could be the third time the Labour establishment has undermined his attempts to return to the Council chamber.

Labour’s efforts in Weavers are being hampered by the fact that they do not yet have a candidate to promote.  ELN previously reported on Labour’s procedural difficulties (http://www.eastlondonnews.com/what-a-tangled-web-we-weavers) but they are now in further disarray over finding a candidate who can beat the “Galloway effect”.  Local party bosses, who see Michael Keith as “yesterday’s man”, now have the upper hand over the selection process and it seems that the Nutty Professor’s hopes of fighting the seat are to be dashed.  That leaves Labour a narrow panel of candidates to choose from – a problem it will deal with by re-opening the panel to new applicants.  As it refused, just weeks ago, to re-open the panel in the selection of a candidate for Spitalfields – ruling out local favourites – the Party is risking disaffection from Spitalfields members who will be asking why they were treated differently.

The different treatment comes, apparently, because local Labour leaders have found a woman who is prepared to stand but who did not want to stand in 2010 and is therefore not on the panel.  She has not stood before and has little experience of public speaking or community activism, but would be a loyal supporter of current Labour Group Leader Josh Peck – who will be one of the small group of party bigwigs selecting the candidate.

Labour’s problems in Bradford are said to stem from its habit of taking local voters for granted – a habit which is alive and well in Tower Hamlets.

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First reactions – the others

Posted on 30 March 2012 by eln

George Galloway MP

Reaction to Galloway’s election from
Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield

Appearing on Sky News immediately after the declaration of the vote, Toby Perkins MP was asked what had gone wrong for the Labour Party.  He replied that the people of Bradford obviously wanted George Galloway as their MP, having seen him on Big Brother.  He said that he hoped that Galloway would live up to the promises he had given the people of Bradford, because Galloway living up to his promises had not been the experience of Galloways’ former constituents.

Perkins was asked if he really believed the people of Bradford had backed Galloway because they had seen him on Big Brother.  Perkins replied that Galloway’s celebrity had been a significant factor.  At the General Election 18 months ago, huge numbers had voted for the Labour Party and very few had voted for the Respect Party.  Since then, the Labour Party’s popularity had grown in national polls, but in just three weeks [of the election campaign in Bradford West] George Galloway had captured the mood of voters.  Perkins said that the impression he had got on the doorsteps was that people had wanted George Galloway [as a person] as their MP [rather than supporting the Respect Party].

Perkins was asked whether he thought that Blair supporters were now plotting to remove Ed Miliband as Labour Leader.  Perkins said that George Galloway had GG talked nonsense for 25 years and will continue to do so.  He said that the reality was that Ed Miliband had led the Labour Party to a strong position in the polls and to victory in previous by-elections and he would lead the Party to a good result in the elections this May.  He said that until three weeks ago [when Galloway began campaigning in Bradford West], the Labour Party had been ahead in Bradford.  He said that the Labour Party respected the choice of the people of Bradford but it would fight hard to win the seat back in 2015.

 

Reaction from Kris Hopkins, Tory MP for Keighley (former Leader of Bradford Council)

It was put to Kris Hopkins that this was a poor result for the Tories, who had been in second place at the General Election.  Hopkins replied that the Tories had been realistic.  The last time the Tories had won Bradford West was 42 years ago and at the General Election, when there had been a swing to the Tories nationally, there had been a swing to Labour in Bradford West.  It had been a difficult last ten days for the Government.  However, for Galloway to get a 10,000+ majority out of Labour Bradford West, in Bradford with its Labour Council, was overall a disaster for Labour.

Hopkins as asked whether the vote reflected a “budget backlash”, with voters protesting at the Granny Tax, the Pasty Tax, the cosy dinners for donors at no. 10 and over the mess the Government was making over the fuel crisis.  Hopkins replied that when the Coalition Government had been formed, it had had to address an immense deficit left by the Labour Party.  It had had to make difficult decisions and difficult choices, and the Prime Minister and his team were doing just that.  Hopkins said that the Bradford vote was not a reflection of national politics but was a protest vote, as by election votes often are.  However, in by-elections it was usually the opposition party which won, and this is the first time in over a decade that the official opposition party has been wiped out, has been obliterated.

Hopkins was asked whether David Cameron would be smiling tonight over the Labour Party’s “bloody nose”.  Hopkins said that it was important that political parties engage with the young, on the ground.  He said that the Tories would do this and would build towards the next General Election in Bradford.

Hopkins was asked whether the by-election vote had shown that Bradford voters think that the Tories are too posh and out of touch.  Hopkins replied that neither he, nor Eric Pickles (another former Leader of Bradford Council) were too posh.  He said that there needed to be a broad range of people in the Party which led the country, and the Tories had that in their Government.

 

•See our report of George Galloway’s interview with Sky News immediately after the declaration of the election result on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/first-reactions-george-galloway.

•See our report of George Galloway’s victory speech at the count on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/galloway-trounces-labour-again.

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First reactions – George Galloway

Posted on 30 March 2012 by eln

Speaking to Sky News immediately after the declaration of the result, George Galloway MP confirmed that he had secured a majority of over 10,000 votes.  He was asked to explain what he meant in his victory speech by referring to the election result as a “Bradford Spring”.  Galloway said that the result was like the spring which saw an uprising of ordinary Arabs across the middle east in that it was peaceful and democratic and also because it was not finished but had only just begun.

Galloway was asked why he had spoken about the Labour Party in his victory speech, as he had left it.  Galloway pointed out that he left the Labour Party because Tony Blair had opposed him because he had opposed the war.  He confirmed that he does care about the Labour Party and he wants a Labour Government to succeed the Coalition Government, but he is worried that unless the Labour Party changes direction, this may not happen.  He pointed out that Respect, like the Labour Party, is part of the labour movement.

Galloway was asked whether his victory in Bradford had not, in fact, made a Labour General Election victory more difficult for Ed Miliband. He denied this was the case, adding that the Labour leaders Ed Miliband had sent to campaign in Bradford were not truly Labour, and Labour needs to be Labour again.

Galloway was asked what he would be doing when he returned to Westminster.  He replied that he would fight on behalf of the people of Bradford who suffer from mass unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and have a run down city centre.  He would also speak out on national issues, such as the economy and society in general, and on international issues, and in particularly he would try to stop the disastrous drift towards war with Iran.

Galloway was asked whether he would try to form alliances in the House of Commons, perhaps with the one Green Party MP or with anti-war left Labour MPs.  He replied that the House of Commons would be interesting now because it was now not clear that the Coalition Government could survive until 2015.  He said that he would be happy to work with Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP.  He said that he did have friends in the Labour Party, but he also had enemies in the Labour Party – who had turned out to be wrong.

Galloway said that he had told Tony Blair that he would rue the day he expelled him, and he thought Blair had now come to rue this on two occasions [Galloway’s two successful parliamentary elections].  Galloway was asked if he really thought Tony Blair was worried about the Bradford election result.  Galloway insisted that Tony Blair was ruing his actions towards him.  He added that Blair’s accolytes remained at the top of the Labour Party and were probably, even that night, plotting to replace Ed Miliband.  Galloway added that he had no grudge against the Labour Party.  He said that he cared about it and he cared about ordinary people who need a Labour Party to stand up for working people, the marginalised and the poor.  He said that Britain doesn’t have a Labour Party, which is why Respect had had to reinvent one.

See our report of George Galloway’s victory speech at the count on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/galloway-trounces-labour-again.

•See our report of Labour and Tory interviews with Sky News immediately after the declaration of the election result on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/first-reactions-the-others.

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Galloway trounces Labour again

Posted on 30 March 2012 by eln

George Galloway

George Galloway has done it again.  The man who beat Oona King in Bethnal Green at the 2005 General Election has won a spectacular by-election victory in Bradford West.  As well as knocking back Labour’s attempt to keep the seat – vacated by sitting Labour MP Marsha Singh on health grounds – Galloway’s challenge also left the Tories and Lib-Dems reeling as their vote melted away.

What accounts for Galloway’s success?  Is Respect set for a resurgence?  Are the major political parties finished?

•ELN’s election analysis follows shortly.

George Galloway’s victory speech

Speaking at the Count, after the result had been declared, George Galloway MP departed from the convention of thanking the Returning Officer.  Instead, he reminded the Returning Officer that he had outstanding issues with him and thanked the Returning Officer’s staff for their work running the election.  He thanked the police for keeping order which had allowed electors to cast their votes in safety.  He thanked the other candidates (not for anything in particular) and wished them well on other occasions.

Galloway said that this was the most sensational result in British by-election history: he declared it a “Bradford Spring”.  It was a “Bradford Spring” in the sense that it was an uprising among thousands of people, especially among young people, many of whom had not been involved in the political process before.  He said that the mammoth vote, and the mammoth majority was a rejection of all three major political parties.

Galloway went on to say that he cared nothing for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and wished them political perdition.  He said he did, however, care about the Labour Party, of which he had been a member for many years, having also been a Labour MP.  Through this result, he said, he appealed to the Labour Party to turn away and break decisively from the path of treason set for them by Tony Blair.  They must stop taking their supporters for granted.  They must stop imagining that working and the poor people have no option but to vote Labour if they oppose the Tories and their Coalition partners.

Galloway also said that Labour must stop its support for illegal and costly foreign wars.  He said that this was because they must realise that one reason for Labour’s decisive defeat that night was because the public doesn’t believe that Labour has attoned for being part of an occupation of other countries and drowning its people in blood.

Galloway called on the Labour Party to be a Labour Party again and to recreate the Labour coalition they used to be and of which he had once been part.  That, he said, was the way to defeat the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Galloway thanked his team.  He said that Respect would not go away.  They would fight to win the Council elections in May, in Bradford and elsewhere.  Respect, he said, was there to stay in Bradford, because the people of Bradford deserved respect and needed someone to fight for them.

Finally George Galloway dedicated his victory to Abu-Bakr Rauf, a Respect campaigner who had died during the campaign and who, Galloway promised, would never be forgotten.

•See our report of George Galloway’s interview with Sky News immediately after the declaration of the election result on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/first-reactions-george-galloway.

•See our report of Labour and Tory interviews with Sky News immediately after the declaration of the election result on http://www.eastlondonnews.com/first-reactions-the-others.

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Inspiring the next generation…

Posted on 30 March 2012 by eln

 

Sir Steve Redgrave (left) chats with Emdad Rahman.

Emdad Rahman interviews Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave.

Sir Steve Redgrave: “I hope that the London 2012 Olympics will inspire the next generation of youngsters to take the leap and represent Great Britain in sporting events all over the world.”

Sir Steve Redgrave, five times Olympic gold medallist, was in Central London for a School Sports Day with a difference. More than 100 children from across the capital gathered to demonstrate some of the sports they have been enjoying at school as part of Matalan Sporting Promise – including Street Cheer, Jump Rope, Ultimate Frisbee, Dodgeball and Parkour.

Children from St Mary’s and Marlborough primary schools, Langdon Park secondary school, Stepney Green College and Westminster Academy were joined by a number of leading UK stars of Parkour, Ultimate Frisbee and Jump Rope. These included French free running founder Sébastien Foucan; Si Hill and Liam Kelly, who are representing Great Britain at this summer’s Ultimate Frisbee World Championships in Japan; and Beci and Rachel Dale, who are part of “Get Tricky”, an elite group of international performers showcasing Jump Rope at the 2012 London Olympics.

I asked the greatest Olympian of all time about his involvement with Matalan Sporting Promise. He said: “I’m an Ambassador for Matalan Sporting Promise and part of my commitment and role is to promote sporting activities in both primary and secondary schools.

“We also help teachers add ideas and activities within their teaching timetables. This support is necessary as trainee teachers get very little support and coaching that enables them to organise and facilitate sporting activities and an ethos within their respective educational areas.”

Sir Steve has learnt to cope with retirement, especially when the Olympics come round: “It will be very tough, but it is the third Games since I retired properly and it’s getting easier with time.”

I asked him his opinion on how we get the nation more involved in sports and especially get young people off the couches and onto the green fields. “Through initiatives like this,” he said. “It is essential that future generations are educated on the absolute benefits of sports, health and fitness.

“We need more initiatives like this and the great support of the likes of Matalan. We need to encourage a collective working spirit between young people and schools.

“Matalan Sporting Promise is all about encouraging children to take part in a variety of activities – not just the traditional sports – so it was fantastic for them to demonstrate what they’ve learned at Trafalgar Square today. Sport is such an important part of children’s wellbeing, so it’s vital we continue to support the teachers who are running PE lessons across the country.

“Coupled with good coaches and positive attitudes towards sport, this can only benefit the nation.”

Sir Steve is not thinking too much about future plans at the moment: “I don’t really know. I have been gearing up to 2012 for so long that there hasn’t been time for much else. I’m involved with the BBC as part of their Olympics rowing coverage and I am an Ambassador for Team GB. I will make future plans after the Olympics are over.”

He has a sound vision for the Olympic legacy of London 2012. “The biggest and best legacy would be if sport was successfully thrust into the minds of all people. I hope that the London 2012 Olympics will inspire the next generation of youngsters to take the leap and represent Great Britain in sporting events all over the world.”

Matalan Sporting Promise supports sport and PE activity in schools, working in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, with 3,500 schools already benefitting from the programme.

There are two parts to the programme. Matalan TOP Sport is designed for primary education, providing training and resources for teachers with 3,600 teachers trained under this programme already. The second part of the programme – Matalan YoUR Activity – concentrates on secondary schools and young people who may not want to take up traditional mainstream sports. The aspiration is for the programme to be in more than 10,000 schools by the end of 2013. There are currently more than 260 schools involved in London.

Baroness Sue Campbell, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “We are really pleased to be celebrating the huge success of Matalan Sporting Promise and the impact it has had on young people across the nation. We know that sport changes lives and through our partnership with Matalan we can reach thousands of young people and encourage them to get involved in sport, in a fun and energetic way.”

Matthew Needham, a PE teacher at Marlborough Primary School, Isleworth, was there to oversee the day’s activity. He said: “Matalan Sporting Promise is a fun and exciting way to engage young people in a whole range of sports and physical activity. It is very important that sport is made as appealing as possible to our pupils so that it encourages them to become far more fit and active.”

Janet Hogan-Dawkins, Matalan Store Manager in Dalston, said: “Matalan is committed to getting more young people taking part in more sport and I’m delighted to see the Matalan Sporting Promise programme working so well here in London. We really want to strengthen our relationships with the local schools and it’s not just for the children either, their parents will receive great offers in their local store!”

•More information on Matalan Sporting Promise is available in Matalan stores and online. Matalan and the Youth Sport Trust are now planning the 2013 programme and teachers and parents who would like to register their interest in having Matalan Sporting Promise at their school should visit www.sportingpromise.co.uk.

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The Prince of track runners

Posted on 29 March 2012 by eln

Roger Bannister (left) meets up with Emdad Rahman.

Emdad Rahman goes long distance with running icon Sir Roger Bannister, CBE.

As a youngster Sebastian Coe was always my favourite athlete and like countless youngsters I was in awe of the likes of Ed Moses, Sunderland fan Steve Cram and the great Michael Johnson.

But it was reading about the exploits of the valiant Sir Roger Bannister that proved to be the most inspiring for me. His historic breaking of the four minute mile galvanised me to take up running and complete three London marathons.

Sir Roger spoke to me about that great day: “Sport was something I enjoyed and I was a student of medicine who liked sport. I fully intended to retire after completing my medical studies.”

The distinguished Oxford neurologist was mindful of the wind dictating the tone of the race but delayed his decision: “Because of the unsure wind levels I nearly pulled out of the race twice.

“There was a St George’s flag on the church steeple and I used this to keep a check on how strong the wind levels were. Twenty minutes before the race was to start I confirmed my decision to run.” 
The rest is history and the exploits of the indomitable knight will astound the masses for years.  On 6th May 1954, the spirited athlete took on the elements. Cheered on by a rousing 3,000-strong crowd at the Iffley Road track, the 25 year old medical student completed the mile run in 3:59.4.

Bannister continued: “There was support from Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway, and days earlier I had prepared by training in high winds at Paddington Green.”

Chataway took over from Brasher as the final pacemaker and with 200 yards left the plucky Bannister took centre stage, digging deep with a final burst of raw energy. It culminated with the runner breaking the record and being embraced by his friend the Rev. Nicholas Stacey.

Thereafter ensued a period of bedlam as it was confirmed that the four minute mile had been officially broken.

There is a glint in the eye of one of Britain’s greatest runners as he recollected one of his career highlights: “I was generally calm but there was adrenaline pumping throughout my system. I had not been running for almost a week and my energy levels were very high.

“Brasher led and I exhorted him to run faster. It was more like an order than a request. When Chataway took over he passed three quarters of a mile in three minutes. We had planned accordingly. This left the final lap to be run in under 60 seconds. As I overtook Chataway at the last bend I just knew I had to run the fastest I had ever done in my entire life.”

Norris McWhirter (later with the Guinness Book of Records and the BBC ‘s Record Breakers) – backed up by Harold Abrahams, the 1924 Olympic champion (Chariots of Fire) – proclaimed and confirmed the amazing feat that had just been achieved at the track on Iffley Road, Oxford.

The accomplishment lasted just six weeks as great rival John Landy beat the record by a second, clocking 3:58. The scene was now set for one of the greatest races of all time, and the final of the One Mile at the Empire Games in Vancouver became the host venue for the clash of the titans. The date was 7th August 1954 and the proceedings did not disappoint. Coming into the final straight Landy glanced over his shoulder to check the position of his fearsome foe. At that precise instant Bannister overtook him on the right and powered through to clinch the race. It was a monumental moment. Landy recalled the triumph; “When Lot’s wife looked back she was turned into a pillar of salt. When I looked back I was turned into a pillar of bronze!”

The epic race between the two biggest names in middle distance running has been commemorated by a statue in the Empire Stadium, Vancouver and is remembered as the “miracle mile.”

Hicham El Guerrouj from Morocco (3:43:13) holds today’s mile record – but it will take an awful long time to erase the adventures of Sir Roger from the memory.

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Urgent appeal for Shaker Aamer

Posted on 29 March 2012 by eln

 

Shaker Aamer and two of his children.

To sign this petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29410.

 From the London Guantánamo Campaign: 14th February marked the tenth anniversary of the detention without charge or trial of Shaker Aamer, the last Londoner held in Guantánamo Bay. To mark this anniversary, Shaker’s family and his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, launched an e-petition to the Foreign Office. If 100,000 signatures are collected on this e-petition by 14th May, it will trigger a debate in Parliament on this issue. Please add your name to the petition and ask your friends and family to do so as well.

Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national, is a British resident from south London. He has a British wife and children, the youngest of whom he has never met. An aid worker in Afghanistan, he was picked up by US forces in the country. He was tortured there and in Pakistan before being taken to Guantánamo Bay. He alleges that British intelligence agents were present on one occasion when he was tortured in Afghanistan: this claim is currently subject to a police investigation.

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Pentagon in 2007 and his return to the UK was formally sought by the British Government in August that year. Four other men whose return was sought at the same time have since returned. Both the British and US Governments claim to be making their best efforts to release Mr Aamer, the most recent being made during talks between William Hague and Hillary Clinton during David Cameron’s visit to the US in March. No reasons have been given, however, for why Shaker Aamer remains there. In the meantime, his health is reported to have deteriorated seriously (according to his lawyers from Reprieve) and his family continue to suffer without him in London. Ten years is enough! Please sign the petition today.

The text of the e-petition is:
“Shaker Aamer is a British resident with a British wife and children who has been imprisoned without trial by the US in Bagram Airforce Base and Guantanamo Bay for over ten years.  The Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office must undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay.”
(Saeed Siddique, Shaker Aamer’s father-in-law).

•To sign this petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29410.  To sign the petition, you need to be a British national or resident. Age is irrelevant, so those below voting age can sign too. An email address is necessary.

•For more information, visit:

http://www.reprieve.org.uk/blog/2012_03_27_free_shaker_petition/

http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/03/07/return-shaker-aamer-to-the-uk-from-guantanamo-major-publicity-campaign-launched-to-secure-100000-signatures-on-uk-e-petition/

•Contact the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign on ssac.contact@gmail.com, tel. 07756-493 877.  They can send you flyers about the e-petition to distribute to friends, colleagues, local groups, etc.  They also welcome donations to cover the cost of leaflets.

•Contact the London Guantánamo Campaign on london.gtmo@gmail.com.

STOP PRESS FROM ELN:  As we post this appeal, there are just under 5,000 signatures on the petition.  Come on, folks: Tower Hamlets can double that if we put our minds to it – and there’s no better borough to help with this campaign.  Please get this message round all your family and friends and take a couple of minutes to sign up.

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CSL Launch Project Superstar

Posted on 26 March 2012 by admin

The Canon Support Link in Tower Hamlets have recently initiated a scheme to promote empowering activities to help the local young adults in the community.

Project Superstar was launched to reach out to the locals within the Canon Street area and empower them to find work, receive specialist training and become more actively involved in finding employment.With the country heading towards another recession, Project Superstar aims to bring hope and motivate the local community.

The organisation is working towards creating leaders in the community and help them to be successful in their personal life and local community.

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What a tangled web we Weavers…

Posted on 24 March 2012 by eln

Abjol Miah: facing a local clamour to stand in the Weavers by-election

ELN: The surprise news that Labour councillor Anna Lynch has resigned her seat in Weavers ward leaves Tower Hamlets having to organise a second by-election in the Borough.

Cllr Lynch’s public reason for her resignation is that she works in the NHS and as a result of the Tory-led Government’s cuts she is has had to move out of London (to Somerset) for work – wording which has left observers puzzled.  Cllr Lynch was previously a nurse at the London Chest Hospital, and it is hard to believe that nursing jobs are impossible to obtain in the capital – or that they are easier to obtain in Somerset. Surely a committed local politician could have found enough paid work somewhere in London to top up her councillor allowances. Is Cllr Lynch alleging that Tory cuts have axed her job (possible) or that because of general cuts she is leaving London and she has obtained work in Somerset (what her statement actually says)?

The timing of Cllr Lynch’s resignation allows the Weavers ward by-election to be held on 3rd May, the same day as the election for London Mayor.  This is welcome, as it will save the Borough some costs.  However, it will be especially welcome for Labour, which will be hoping to benefit from the increased turnout expected for the mayoral election on that day.  Labour will hope that voters going to the polls to vote for Ken Livingstone (and not many in the ward will be voting for Boris Johnson) and for Labour’s John Biggs will also vote Labour on their third ballot paper – rather than switch allegiance in the middle of their voting action. This would give Labour an advantage over other candidates: in a lower turnout, where Labour voters may stay at home and local support for a good candidate from an alternative party may  motivate more voters to go to the polls, Labour would face a harder battle.

As Labour must have timed the resignation to facilitate the by-election being held on 3rd May, obvious questions arise. How long have they known that Cllr Lynch wanted to resign?  When, for that matter, did Cllr Lynch actually move out of London?

Much as the timing of the by-election may help Labour, it will be hampered by its own internal procedures for selecting a candidate.

First, the Labour candidate must be chosen from a “panel” drawn up before the May 2010 elections, barring many competent newer members from putting their hats in the ring.  Although Labour has the power to vary this and admit further members to the panel, it refused to do so when the candidate for the Spitalfields & Banglatown was chosen (keeping out popular local members who had not wanted to stand in the May 2010 elections and therefore were not on the panel). Any Labour about-face to admit new members to the panel for the Weavers selection would leave it open to accusations of manipulating local choices.

Second, although Labour nationally has procedures which require local members to chose its election candidates, this process has not operated (for local government elections) in Tower Hamlets for several years.  The recent Spitalfields & Banglatown selection was made by local party officials and Cllr Josh Peck (Leader of the Labour Group): which leaves the local party in a “lose-lose” situation.  Either the process of local bigwigs chosing the Labour candidate over the head of local members is repeated (which implies Labour members in Weavers cannot be trusted) or it is changed (in which case, Spitalfields members can ask why the local Labour bigwigs trust Weavers members, but not them). If, as seems likely, Labour retains its top-down approach, the candidate will be seen as a safe pair of hands who will support the local leadership’s line and not as someone with a local mandate.

Third, in May 2010 Labour had an inflexible policy of standing one woman in each ward.  It has already varied this policy by chosing a male candidate to stand to replace the woman it stood in Spitalfields in 2010 and whose disqualification caused the by-election there.  Standing a male candidate in Weavers would be a second reversal of this policy, leaving Labour open to accusations that its support for equal opportunities for women can easily be discarded when it wants to.  However, there are very few women candidates on the panel from whom Labour could chose a female candidate for this by-election.

Weavers is no safe ward for any political party: it has changed hands several times in recent years.  The Tories have never been popular locally and their performance in government won’t win them votes, so a paper candidate is to be expected to avoid the Party further embarrassment.  Similarly, the Lib-Dems have been so tarnished by their support for the Government that they cannot be counted as serious contenders.  The Greens, if they stand, may pick up some of the Lib Dem vote and also mop up some disenchanted Labour votes.

Labour’s chances of retaining the seat will be affected by their difficulties in choosing a credible candidate but also by the two sitting councillors in the ward.  Cllr Abdul Mukit, elected as a Labour councillor in May 2010, is regarded as a lacklustre performer who has been consistent in his support for the current leadership and their divisive policy of non-co-operation with the Mayor and is unlikely to convince many voters to come out for Labour again.  The winsome Cllr Kabir Ahmed is much more of a local dynamo, but he has been virtually disowned by Labour.  Labour has refused to allow its councillors to serve in Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Cabinet or become mayoral advisors: as Mayor Rahman stood on, and was elected on, the Labour Party manifesto, this has widely been seen as local Labour leaders being personally vindictive as there are no political differences.  Cllr Ahmed, who has always tried to work with everyone, became a mayoral adviser and was suspended by Labour.  He remains suspended and written out of contemporary history as he does not appear on local Labour leaflets.  Labour has not, however, given him a hearing.  In effect, local bureaucrats have imposed a sentence before a hearing has taken place – a practice Labour is quick to criticise in foreign governments but happy to embrace when it suits it.  Were Labour to hold a hearing and proceed to expel Cllr Ahmed (and those who took places in Mayor Rahman’s Cabinet), it could lose seats on the few remaining Council committees: democracy is subservient to political expediency, leaving Labour unable to crawl back to the popular Cllr Ahmed and invite him to assist their candidate.

Who will Labour bureaucrats chose to fly the red flag in Weavers?  Rumours suggest that Professor Michael Keith, keen though he is to return to frontline politics in the Borough, has ruled himself out of this difficult contest: apparently there is a limit to the amount of egg one face can take [but see our STOP PRESS below].  On the other hand, local bureaucrats Graham Taylor and Chris Weavers are reported to be “gagging for it”.  Former party Chair Graham Taylor had to leave office when he argued for Bethnal Green Technology College to apply for academy status, contrary to local Labour policy.  However, he has long had his eye on a Council seat in Weavers, where he lives. After a period of purdah over the academy issue, Taylor has recently returned to frontline politics in the Borough – possibly in preparation for stepping into Cllr Lynch’s shoes.

Chris Weavers, whose usual answer to any problem arising is to suggest that he organise a solution, is thought to be attracted to the notion of styling himself “Cllr Weavers of Weavers”. However, Taylor’s resignation enabled Weavers to become Chair of the local Party, realising a long-held dream.  Having finally got his bottom on the seat of power, he is in a quandary about whether to seek a boot upstairs so soon into his reign over party structures.

Faced with this uninspiring choice to replace a relatively uninspiring councillor – who, while a staunch supporter of the NHS, never seemed fully to embrace Labour policies as a whole –  local opinion formers have approached former councillor Abjol Miah and asked him to put his name forward.  Miah’s reputation for competence, community activism and charisma are thought to be the attraction.  If Miah responds to local calls, he will be a hard act to beat – leaving any Labour candidate with a very daunting battle.

 

STOP PRESS:

“Nutty professor” comes out of his shell

East London News understands that Michael Keith has, after all, been unable to resist the temptation to return to the Town Hall and is risking a split in the local Labour Party in order to realise his personal ambition.

News of Keith’s interest comes as bad news to current Labour leader Josh Peck who was already facing rumblings in the ranks after just one year in control – a year in which he has been able to articulate what Labour is against (the Mayor) but not inspire about what Labour is for (perhaps not surprising in a generation which has not been in opposition before).

Peck had been hoping to be the leader of Labour’s Next Generation and to stay in charge for years to come.  His close working relationship with local party bosses and his position as Leader, which would have given him a say in who Labour’s candidates will be for the next scheduled elections in May 2014, should have seen him set for at least a two term reign.  But Keith is no one’s second fiddle.  He comes from the Blair generation of the Labour Party, which disowned public ownership and welcomed private ownership but most especially embraced the third way: using the public sector to commission services from the voluntary sector.  That Labour experiment never proved itself in practice for many reasons – but there are no signs that Keith has abandoned his faith in it.

In a Labour Group which has haemorrhaged Bangladeshi members since the last election and which appears to have given up on its aim that a third of its members will be women, it seems that the focus may turn once more to which white man will lead them.  If Keith can persuade Labour bosses he is their future, the scene will be set for a battle between yesterday’s man, as he tries to resuscitate his theories, and the next generation, with their policy vacuum.  Before we know whether that’s what’s ahead for Labour, the voters in Weavers will have to decide if they will embrace the “nutty professor”.

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Kasam is unveiled as Tower Hamlets Olympic torchbearer

Posted on 23 March 2012 by eln

Emdad Rahman: Redlands Primary School was the venue as the Olympic Torchbearers were unveiled in front of the world’s media. The children all gathered to cheer on the torchbearers with hand-made shakers and flame hats.  The torchbearers wore a simple yet elegant all white uniform with gold trim to complement the Olympic Torch.

Mayor Boris Johnson and Triple Jump World Record Holder and Olympic Champion Jonathan Edwards were on hand to introduce the five specially selected torchbearers.  Among them was local man Abul Kasam.  Born and raised in Tower Hamlets,  Kasam said he was “absolutely humbled and delighted” to be representing his home borough of Tower Hamlets, a Host Borough for the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.  Kasam was selected out of over 70,000 nominations and is one of just 13 torchbearers from Tower Hamlets.  He believes he was nominated for the various volunteering work he does.

Kasam has been involved in charity work for many years: from doing bucket collections on Whitechapel Road, to climbing up mountains for charity.  He is also a School Governor at Kobi Nazrul Primary School.  Like many residents in Tower Hamlets, his parents left everything behind in Bangladesh to come to London for a fresh opportunity for their families. 

Kasam feels he has achieved well, excelling in his education and career due to the sacrifices his parents made for the next generation.  He said: “They instilled in us the strong values of hard work, education and caring for those around you.”

Kasam has always worked for the betterment of his community and it is entirely apt that he has been selected as a torchbearer for the greatest sporting show on earth.

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