In previous posts I’ve made reference to the poisonous comments and allegations made by anonymous individuals on this blog. While some have been directed against Lutfur Rahman, the target of most has been Helal Abbas. Those levelled against Lutfur have been dealt with elsewhere and denied (or not, as the case may be) by the man himself.
Until now, I’d decided not to repeat possibly the most outrageous of the lot. But a non-event tonight has helped me change my mind. And I also have Abbas’s permission to publish it.
Last week, this leaflet was handed out by supporters of Lutfur Rahman around the borough.
It was also published as a page 8 advert in the current disgraceful edition of the London Bangla newspaper, which I posted about here last week.
As you can see it alleges that Helal Abbas beat his former wife and that there would be a rally tonight outside Labour’s office in Bethnal Green to protest against domestic violence. The advert also provided a mobile number and said the organisers were a group going by the name of Domestic Violence Forum East.
Every time I tried the number, the phone was switched off. When I called Tower Hamlets council’s domestic violence support officers, they were aghast. They do have a forum, but it’s not called Domestic Violence Forum East. They’ve never heard of this supposed outfit. They were also furious that someone seemed to be passing themselves off as one. More on that later.
Abbas’s first marriage broke up a couple of decades ago. His ex-wife lives in Manchester and they have a 22-year-old son who I understand is at university. I also understand that Abbas met his ex-wife and son for lunch during the Labour party conference three weeks ago. I’m told that they get on well, that their divorce was amicable and that their relationship failed because, like many others, they married too young.
As for the allegations/smears, Abbas tells me he “totally and entirely” denies them.
I went along to see the demo at 6pm tonight, but guess what? Not only were there no speeches and “info stalls” being run by those dedicated to tackling domestic violence, but also there was not a single protester. It was all a despicable charade.
When these leaflets first appeared last week, I texted Lutfur Rahman and his aide, Cllr Oli Rahman, to ask whether they endorsed or condemned their content. Neither has replied.
Abbas said: “The people behind these kind of smears are utterly desperate. They are trying to assassinate my character. What does that say about them. They are disgusting.”
He has also found an ally on this issue in Cllr Peter Golds, the leader of the town hall’s Tory group. In fact, to his vast credit, Peter, who has been subject to homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse in this borough, seems to be sticking out his neck far more than his Labour opponents in fighting the thuggish elements of Tower Hamlets politics. Last week, he wrote to Ofcom to complain about the biased coverage and possible breach of broadcasting laws by the Bangla TV and Channel S satellite stations.
Today, he wrote to the Press Complaints Commission to report his concern over the London Bangla newspaper, which some observers also think could have breached election law. He copied his letter to Tower Hamlets Returning Officer Kevan Collins and Paul Ricketts, the Met Police’s Borough Commander.
Importantly, he makes the point that genuine victims of domestic violence could have been misled by the London Bangla advert into believing that forum and that phone number were genuine. The Advertising Standards Authority would also, no doubt, have a view.
Peter’s letter is below:
October 19th 2010
Press Complaints Commission
Dear Mr Abell
Re: Electoral concerns complaint regarding London Bangla
On October 21st voters in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets will be electing an executive Mayor. This is a high profile position that has created considerable excitement within the Bangladeshi community who make up some 33.4% of the population according to estimates published in our borough guide.
The Labour party selection process was controversial and as a result there is an official Labour candidate, Cllr Helal Abbas and an Independent candidate, Cllr Lutfur Rahman, who had been selected as Labour candidate but was deselected by the national executive of the party. This is an internal matter for the Labour Party and the 1,600 or so local members. However, it has exploded into the campaign and has become the dominant issue amongst a vociferous section of the Bengali community.
Bangla News is a free newspaper, targeted at Bengali residents and published on a Friday. It is usually found in shops and Mosques.
As a private paper it is fully entitled to an editorial stand and also the freedom to endorse whichever candidate in an election it wishes. However, it’s coverage of the Tower Mayoral election goes beyond anything that a responsible newspaper would normally do. The coverage is wholly slanted towards the candidature of Cllr Rahman and the paper repeatedly makes unsubstantiated slurs and allegations about Cllr Abbas. The three other candidates representing the Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat parties are ignored.
On page eight, the paper publishes an advertisement, purporting to be from the “Domestic Violence Forum East”. It makes extraordinary allegations regarding a candidate. It gives a (mobile) contact number and a yahoo email.
The Domestic Violence Forum is a much respected nationwide organisation. It has a proper email address and maintains confidential helplines. There is no Domestic Violence Forum East. This advertisement is a fraud and usurps the name and credence of a responsible and important organisation for pseudo electoral advantage. No credible newspaper would have accepted or published such an advertisement.
Furthermore what would happen if someone who was subject to violence used this (usually unanswered) telephone number or email address? What kind of advice or assistance could or would be offered. Certainly it there is no indication of a proper counsellor with back up.
To make matters worse this paper has been, for the first time ever, hand delivered to addresses across the borough. Hand delivered so subtly, that non Bangladeshi residents appear to have been targeted.
This paper is totally is completely irresponsible and this issue is a public scandal. I believe that a full enquiry is required.
I attach a copy of the paper for your consideration.
Councillor Peter Golds
The Returning Officer
Commander Paul Rickett, Metropolitan Police
Read Full Post »