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Archive for December, 2010

Bodrul Islam, the community activist who ran into the arms of Respect after Jim Fitzpatrick walked out of his wedding last year, has a wonderful way with his soap box oratory. He really holds nothing back. Last month, he used his Facebook page to voice his fury at Lutfur Rahman for not singing the praises of the organisation that Bodrul claimed propelled him into office: the Islamic Forum of Europe.

In that outburst, he also promised to spill the beans on the full extent of the IFE’s work in Lutfur’s campaign. Bodrul said he had intimate knowledge because he was there all the way. Tonight, again on Facebook, he has started to paint a fuller picture of what he says went on.

Here it is (as at 12am, Dec 28):

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    Here goes guys, the truth about the mayor’s camp, his supporters and the organisations. As a polling agent and co-ordinator for the elections, I had an insider status in his camp.

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      3 people like this.
    • 50 of 59
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        Bodrul Islam  

        Lads steady I haven’t even started yet. Continuing on Abdullah ali is simply a liar.
        Now lets go to the jugular. Has lutfur explicit links with the ife? Absolutely, we were at a meeting where lutfur was with a senior member of the ife, named x who I know from childhood, who was co-ordinating his campaign. If this is dispusted, I am willing to give names. The mayor’s campaign was co-ordinated from greatorex street where the office was directed exclusively by ife members who many I know personally. If this is challenged I am willing to give names. The mayor’s campaign manager was himself an ife member, by the name x. What is absolutely ridiculous is the way the mayor lies when he is asked whether he has direct links with the ife. I believe strongly that ife are in general a very competent organisation who do excellent grass-root work. Why the denial? Why the lie? The strongest criticism of mine is of some members of the ife. Why lie point blank with the denial when one is actually an islamic organisation and gives naseeha to people. I will comeback later with more examples of this and emails, and how involved london bangla were and other organisations. Allah is witness whether I am telling the truth or not.
        about an hour ago via Facebook Mobile ·  1 person
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        Azmol Hussain Abdullah Ali and Muhammad Khan: This is Bodrul’s Facebook page; he is free to criticise anyone who he wishes. If you don’t want to engage with his arguements; and instead resort to ad hominem, than perhaps it would be wiser you kept your opinions to yourself. He has never asked you for your medical “diagnosis”, nor for you to respond to his post. You do so out of your free will; so don’t make it out like he is imposing his ideas and values on you! 

        54 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam Let me just mention that I will be downloading an email from one of lutfur’s advisor and polling agent which clearly states that it would be suicide for the mayor’s camp if they are seen to be co-ordinating their campaign with ife and working with respect. The question, why is it political suicide? 

        44 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam Lets talk about the role the london bangla has in this. Their journalists were embedded with the mayor’s camp. How do I know this, I was campaigning with them. I am willing to give names and witnesses if there are disputes. The infamous wife-beating report of abbas was known to the mayor’s camp which included me, one week in advance. Is this responsible journalism? 

        43 minutes ago
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        Excellency Alex Kuye Bodrul I wAS told that ure father is a member of IFE is that true. 

        27 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam Let’s talk about tactics. As a key campaigner I was told to focus more on the bengali voters since we were unlikely tn get the white vote. Is tha really going for a community approach? 

        21 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam Yes he is alex but doesn’t occupy any position of responsibility. As I have stated earlier ife are in general a competent organisation who do excellent grassroot work. If you go through ted jeory’s blog you will realise that I vigorously defended the ife, ted didn’t seem too happy with that. The question my friend is why does the mayor’s camp continue to lie about the connection and why doesn’t the mayor defend the ife? 

        21 minutes ago via Facebook Mobile
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        Excellency Alex Kuye I have nothing wrong with it i wanted to see if the info someone told me was true 

        20 minutes ago
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        Shahaveer Shubo Hussain Brother Mohammad, I think it’s wrong when they have hidden motives especially if it means gaining political power to influence policys. 

        19 minutes ago
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        Daniel Pasha Shubo, they were not spreading propaganda, they were printing absolute rubbish. Absolutely filthy stuff were printed by that paper. 

        18 minutes ago
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        Muhammad Khan So u believe in Gilligans rant… u r utterly ignorant… 

        15 minutes ago
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        Daniel Pasha Surely everyone’s entitled to an opinion. That doesn’t make him believe in Gilligan. 

        14 minutes ago
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        Muhammad Khan Yes but thats a lie though is it not Daniel? 

        13 minutes ago
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        Muhammad Khan if everything is ‘opinion’, than tell me why cant anyones ‘opinion’ be that the holocaust never happened? 

        12 minutes ago
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        Daniel Pasha What kind of an analogy is that?!?! 

        11 minutes ago ·  1 person
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        Muhammad Khan Well, differentiate between FACT and OPINION my friend- its a FACT that IFE has nothing to do with taking control of territory or the gov, thats too good, or too bad to be true my friend- ur obviously a bit deluded- cos i can form a lot of baseless opinion about u, could i not? 

        10 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam I was personally asked by lutfur and ohid if respect can help them get 10,000 out of the 17,000 respect received in the general election. Why the lie that the mayor’s camp didn’t seek to co-operate with respect? After the election, the mayor’s camp suddenly didn’t want to have anything to do with respect. Machiavellian and self-interested politics at its finest. 

        10 minutes ago via Facebook Mobile
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        Daniel Pasha  

        Muhammad Khan, you fool, no one said that the IFE are taking hold of the Government. What people are saying is that without the lobbying power of the IFE, Lutfur Rahman would not have achieved what he has achieved so far. 

        And it seems you think you’re some kind of a psychiatrist, diagnosing Bodrul bhai and now me.

        Fool, get yourself checked out first.

        8 minutes ago
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        Shahaveer Shubo Hussain Don’t you think your comments abit petty. It would of been great if you talked about the organisation instead of accusing me of being ignorant. 

        7 minutes ago
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        Muhammad Khan Daniel and Shahveer- If u r going to accuse anyone (in this case IFE) who are in ur deluded minds are trying to take over the world- than at least try to give evidence… if u cant prove it, than that would prove that ur quite deluded… 

        6 minutes ago
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        5 minutes ago
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        Bodrul Islam I have once and for all finished anything to do with tower hamlets politics. What we need is fresh young talent coming in, uniting the community and taking it forward. We do not need anymore dinosaurs who are fighting for their egos. Imran this insha-Allah is my last post ever on tower hamlets politics. I will let others do the politics. 

        5 minutes ago via Facebook Mobile
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        Daniel Pasha You’re pathetic, you fool. Again, Shubo or I have neither said the IFE are taking over the world. If you read carefully, I agree completely with Bodrul bhai and think the IFE are a great organisation working at the grassroots level in the community. It’s CERTAIN individuals that tarnish the organisation’s name and reputation. 


So, we now have Bodrul’s word that IFE effectively ran Lutfur’s campaign. Did they? If you’re reading this Bodrul, let’s see the email you’ve been promising us all and which you mention above.
What I’m also intrigued about is the suggestion that Lutfur’s camp knew one a week in advance about the the disgraceful “Abbas is a wife-beater” ad that appeared in the London Bangla which I revealed here in the latter stages of the campaign. Bodrul says that the newspaper’s journalists were an integral part of the campaign team. If so, did they work for free? Bodrul, please provide more proof: this is potentially serious stuff.

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Remember this post? Remember how Labour peer Lord Nazir Ahmed openly declared his support for Lutfur Rahman during October’s election campaign? This is what he said:

“I’m a Labour peer and for a Labour peer to come and support someone like Lutfur Rahman, I know that I could get into trouble, but…I’ve no hesitation in supporting Lutfur Rahman because he is the best candidate.”

Here’s the proof again:

Remember the Labour Party Rules? Chapter 2, Rule A(4)(b) states:

“A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member….”

Here’s what a Labour Party spokesman said at the time:

“Our focus is getting Labour’s excellent candidate Helal Abbas elected as Tower Hamlets’ Mayor. We will look into the allegations made in due course after the election.”

And two months later, here’s the official outcome from Labour’s deliberations:

“The National Executive Committee considered a number of issues arising from the Tower Hamlets mayoral election. No further action on this issue is considered necessary at this time.”

No action on Ken Livingstone, no action on Lord Ahmed. If I were Lutfur and his gang of rebels, I’d be feeling fairly hopeful that the party door remains well and truly open. Maybe Labour needs to revise its rule book.

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Well, now we know what Mayor Lutfur Rahman is going to use his £599 iPhone 4 for (you can see him holding his new toy in the picture on the left).

He’s just set up a Twitter account. It’s here http://twitter.com/MayorLutfur.

So far, he’s tweeted just the once (at 2pm today): “snow receding, ice melting but work continuing…all the excitement is in Tower Hamlets!”

Watching snow melt is exciting, undoubtedly. We look forward to more of these observations.

At the time of writing he is following an eclectic group of 20 people, including Ken Livingstone (of course), Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, the Drudge Report, Queen Rania of Jordan and the Dalai Lama.

Twitter is an ideal way to get in touch with him directly, so it will also be interesting to see how often he is able to reply. If he’s not careful, our first Twitter mayor could end up spending all day answering people’s queries.

Or upsetting those he ignores. The choppy of waters of Twitter await…

PS. The following his is his current Twitter account biography:

Bio A father; a community activist; a social democrat and here to serve the residents of Tower Hamlets as it’s first Directly Elected Mayor.

Anyone spot the grammar mistake? Tut tut! What an example to set the children of Tower Hamlets…

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In a previous post, an anonymous commenter made some remarks about impending cuts at Tower Hamlets Homes, the arm’s length management organisation that now runs the borough’s publicly owned housing stock. THH was set up by Labour after a wave of Housing Choice stock transfers. The thinking at the time was that having an organisation separated from the town hall would allow for a leaner outfit.

THH certainly picked up a poisoned chalice. I can speak from personal experience on this: the freehold on my flat is owned by the council/THH and the issues I’ve had with the various leaseholder services personnel over the years quite frankly defy belief. I think even THH staff would recognise the mess they have to deal with and to be fair, since they took over, there has been a determination to sort it out.

The comment made about THH was this:

Ted, not sure if you have heard Tower Hamlets Homes is axing 80 jobs after it privatised a number of its services, Repairs, Major Works and Decent Homes. They are also getting rid of all the Resident Engagement staff as well as staff in leasehold services, caretakers and rents. I’m surprised you haven’t covered that and neither have any of the other local press.

Wonder why there is this silence from the press in what is a major shake-up of one of the biggest housing association in the borough.

That comment has attracted the attention of Gavin Cansfield, the chief executive of THH, who, in the dealings I’ve had with him, seems to be extremely attentive, approachable and determined to run a better operation. His job is a tough one, though. He has just posted a reply and clarification on the situation on the “Dead Sheep Mauled” thread. However, I’m going to use it here, both to keep that thread on topic and to allow for a more focused discussion under its own title.

Here’s his reply:

Following the comments by ‘Anon1′ about Tower Hamlets Homes, I thought it would be helpful to set the record straight about what we are proposing.

Like all public sector organisations, we are having to make cuts and do the same or more for less. We need to find £4.424m of savings over the next three years, of which £3.458m needs to be found for next year – there is no way of making these savings without employing fewer staff.

Our top priority is protecting frontline services, which is why we have committed that there will be no job losses among front-line caretakers, Neighbourhood Housing Officers or in the Rents Team and minimal job losses in the Leasehold Team. Instead, we are proposing to cut senior manager posts, by moving from four directors to three, and from 17 Heads of Service to 12.

However, we still need to make further savings, and have offered staff in certain areas of the organisation the opportunity to apply for a voluntary severance package.

No staff have yet been made redundant. We have not privatised our Repairs or Major Works section, or indeed any other part of the organisation. We are not ‘getting rid of all the Resident Engagement staff’.

Our proposals are just that – proposals, and are currently out to consultation with staff and trade unions. If any Tower Hamlets Homes resident wants more information about what we are proposing, they should feel free to contact me directly.

Gavin Cansfield
Chief Executive
Tower Hamlets Homes

It’s commendable that Gavin has wanted to set the record straight. Let’s please have an informed and sensible discussion about tenant and leaseholder issues in the borough and make constructive suggestions to him about how things could be improved.

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You’ll remember that back in November, I wrote this post which revealed that one of the first edicts of new Mayor Lutfur Rahman was to order town hall minions traipse over to the Apple Store in Covent Garden to buy a top of the range iPhone4.

You’ll also remember in that post, I detailed the helpful response of the council’s expensively assembled press office to my query asking for confirmation of the purchase. It was this: “We aren’t going to be issuing any information about phones for members.” I’d heard that this decision had been made by Takki Sulaiman, the council’s £100,000 a year head of communications who was hired last March by moonlighting Lutfur Ali.

Well, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we now have proof. In this series of emails, chief press officer Kelly Powell tells senior officers in the democratic services department: “Takki’s advised me to let Ted know we won’t be responding to the enquiry re: the phones so to alert you, this may come through as an FoI in due course.” Bingo. So they deliberately withheld information from a simple press query in the full knowledge that they would have to disclose it under FoI.

Now, as that FoI cost the council money to collate and investigate, is it not a touch irresponsible for a £100,000 a year bureaucrat to be so cavalier with public cash? Not only that, it’s just simply bad PR for the Mayor. It makes him look evasive and deceitful. It also undermines the work of his press officers who are currently going through a redundancy process: if they’re not allowed to do their jobs by answering simple press queries, what are they actually doing. Our money is being used to pay Mr Sulaiman’s hefty salary. He is nowhere near worth it.

I also urge you to read this series of emails surrounding the iPhone order; you’ll see that Lutfur considered the iPhone 4 so essential to his work that he couldn’t wait a week for one to be ordered under the council’s procurement contract and that’s why one was bought from Covent Garden.

And for those who need the proof of its £599 cost, here’s the receipt. Private Eye has also discovered the FoI responses: all the above, and my post here about Mr Sulaiman’s decision to remove the press desk from the council chamber, is in the current edition. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Takki becomes an Eye regular.

 

 

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Dead sheep mauled

Following Lutfur Rahman’s election as mayor, former Labour cabinet members were offered the chance of continuing in their former portfolios as Opposition mouthpieces.

That was always going to prove problematic for some who privately supported Lutfur. The problem was always going to be greatest for Marc Francis, who many, with some credence, believe helped Lutfur’s winning campaign.

Two days ago, Marc, who last month agonised about whether to join Lutfur’s administration, had what he hopes will prove his Tower Hamlets-style Geoffrey Howe moment. It’s just ironic that he delivered it against someone whose charisma is closer to Howe’s than his.

Thus, this is email he sent to party colleagues at 6.15pm on Friday night:

Abbas

It is no secret that I was critical of a number of the decisions taken by Tower Hamlets Council during your previous four years as Labour’s Leader and sceptical when you became Group Leader again in May. However, at the encouragement of colleagues, I was willing to put those reservations to one side to serve in your interim administration and ensure Labour’s policies in the Housing, Heritage and Planning portfolio continued to be driven through to implementation.

Like many others, I was deeply concerned at the methods you used to secure Labour’s candidacy for the Mayoralty and the nature of that campaign. But I was even more disappointed by your lack of interest in housing issues during the five months you were the interim Council Leader, especially on the reforms we were introducing to leasehold services and the Choice Based Lettings scheme to help overcrowded families. I also very strongly disagree with the decision to put £2 million into the Rich Mix Centre and the way this was done.

However, it is actually the general sense of drift and negativity under your Leadership that I believe is even more damaging to the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets than individual actions. With the Coalition Government cutting the Council’s budget and our residents’ rights, it is essential Labour’s leaders in Tower Hamlets stand up and be counted. Instead of doing that, you and some of those around you seem incapable of focusing on anything other than your personal dispute with the Mayor.

This is borne out by yesterday’s disastrous result in the Spitalfields & Banglatown by-election. Our candidate, Abdul Alim, worked hard to win and the loss of this council seato to Respect is certainly no refection on him or the ordinary Labour party members who put so much into the campaign. but sometimes working hard is not enough, especially when polling on a bitterly cold day. We have to inspire people with a reason to go out and vote too.

From the residents I spoke to on the doorstep, there is clearly lingering unhappiness about the approach you have taken as Labour’s Leader locally. No doubt you will dispute this fact. But the result was unequivocal. And the responsibility to inspire any more than the 553 people (6.3 per cent of the electorate) to vote Labour in the ward you represent and which was one of our safest, must lie squarely with you. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but leaders have to take the rough with the smooth and the electorate has given Labour’s its clear message.

Labour Group decided last month to retain the previous Cabinet Members as spokespeople until other arrangements are agreed. I’m afraid, however, that I have completely lost confidence in your Leadership and cannot continue to serve in your “Shadow Cabinet”. I have waited until now to notify you because I did not want my resignation to become an issue in the election. Given yesterday’s dreadful result and that a decision how Labour Group will determine spokespeople appears to be some way off, I am resigning with immediate effect.

I am copying this email to members of Labour Group so there is no misunderstanding of the reasons for my decision.

Yours sincerely,

Marc

Abbas has dismissed it as “Marc making mischief”, but surely he must feel mauled by something more vicious than a dead sheep.

Marc’s comments about a lack of interest in housing are probably disingenuous, but there is little doubt that while Abbas is a good muckraker – a quality needed in Opposition – his days as Labour leader are numbered.

As one disgruntled Labour member said tonight, he is probably “toast”.

So who next? Abdal Ullah seems ready to declare himself and he would likely be more conciliatory towards Lutfur; Siraj Islam resembles a dead sheep more than Abbas; Motin uz-Zaman harmed his chances badly with his inept chairmanship of the last full council meeting; deputy leader Josh Peck would be the most effective opponent to Lutfur in the town hall chamber, but does he have broad support?; and Rachael Saunders also fancies her chances, but it is probably a move too soon?

Marc would, some believe, be the best of the lot…but he who wields the dagger….

UPDATE – Monday, December 20, 1.30pm

Forget not the name of the original “Housing Choice hate figure” David Edgar in the leadership bid: he’s a real heavyweight in Tower Hamlets Labour circles and although he was (still is?) close to Michael Keith before both lost their seats in 2006, he is largely untainted by recent factional politics. He could well be the calming and incisive influence Labour need.

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I’ve just received a call from defeated Spitalfields candidate who lost Thursday’s by-election after first failing to come clean about his violent criminal past and then upsetting local Labour colleagues by being a relatively unknown.

He told me he had just read my post from yesterday about alleged vote fraud and asked if his name could be “withdrawn” from the article. I said that was not possible and that I had already made it clear there was no suggestion he had been involved in any way. He reaffirmed that he knew nothing about the alleged actions of his supporters.

Instead, he said it was in fact Respect, not Labour, which was guilty of vote fraud. He said: “This is what they always do. They thought they were going to lose and they set these allegations up. I believe that they did a lot of stuff. I saw them running up and down with a lot of people. In the centres, my people stopped a lot of their voters – these people didn’t live at the addresses they said they did.”

When I asked whether those alleged serious incidents had been reported to the police or to the Returning Officer, he said: “I don’t know. I will have to talk to my people.” I told him that given the serious nature of the allegations I was surprised that he, the candidate, wasn’t aware if they had been reported to the police. His answer was: “It’s Respect who generates these things.”

As Tower Hamlets council’s Returning Officer has now referred two of Respect’s allegations (Christ Church and Arthur Deakin House) to the police, Alim can be confident that any meaty evidence he supplies will be taken similarly seriously.

PS…will post on the Marc Francis situation later.

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Vote fraud in Spitalfields

There is a long tradition in Tower Hamlets that any election held here is accompanied by allegations of vote fraud. And so it is the case with yesterday’s events in Spitalfields and Banglatown.

While nothing can match the comedy of the general election when a large burkha-clad person with a suspiciously deep voice quickly legged it after being challenged as (s)he tried to vote in Poplar, there were still a couple of moments of high farce yesterday.

They have all been reported to the police and/or Returning Officer Kevan Collins. And all allegations are being made by Respect, which won the by-election, and against Labour supporters.

Concerned that Labour supporters might get up to dirty tricks, Respect placed polling agents with deep knowledge of the local area at the various polling stations. It was their job to spot suspected malpractice.

The first was at a polling station at Christ Church Primary School. There, according to Respect, a Bengali man giving the correct name for a someone registered at a flat in Chicksand House was challenged by a polling agent who knew that the named property was actually let to white students. The presiding officer then asked the man to name the other occupants of the flat. He could not and not only that, he admitted he did not live there himself! However, because he had already marked his ballot paper and because his name was on the electoral register, the presiding officer felt unable to invalidate his vote. I’m not clear whether the presiding officer asked for verification of the man’s name.

The second incident was described by Respect’s Rob Hoveman in an email sent to Mr Collins yesterday:

We are very concerned about attempted personation at Osmani polling station where an individual gave an address as XXX Arthur Deakin House. Fortunately, [Respect's winning candidate] Fozol Miah was aware that this is the address of his niece and challenged the individual. He was not given a ballot paper and left the area with some others quickly. Our concern is obviously that this may not be an isolated incident and that there may be a concerted attempt to corrupt the election. Is there anything that can be done to deter this?

The third incident at Canon Barnett Primary School polling station had a Keystone Cops flavour to it. When a man purporting to be a Mr Uddin of Brune House came to collect his ballot paper, the Respect polling agent looked at him and said, “I know Mr Uddin; you’re not him.” The imposter tried to scarper, but was detained under a “citizen’s arrest” by some Respect supporters. They then “escorted” him back to the party’s HQ and took a statement from him while they waited for the police to arrive. When the police did finally turn up – some 30 minutes later, I’m told – their concern was not whether the man had breached election law, but whether he had been unlawfully detained and kidnapped!

Respect’s supporters should, of course, have allowed the presiding officer handle the matter, but I suppose that in Tower Hamlets we’re used to the law of the jungle and their reaction was perhaps understandable. When the situation calmed, Respect say they offered the police the man’s statement, but the officers declined to take it. I expect it will now be passed on to the police through more formal channels. I understand that the statement names the man who put him up to the attempted fraud and that he was going to vote for Labour’s Abdul Alim. For the avoidance of doubt, Alim was not named in the statement.

Clearly, if Tower Hamlets council and the Met Police are serious about clamping down on electoral fraud, they will want to fully investigate these incidents. If they don’t – and the suspicion is that they won’t because such fraud is considered a “victimless crime” that costs money to examine – what message does that send out?

As an aside, there were also some interesting developments on the postal voting front in this by-election. As of Tuesday, according to Respect, some 500 postal ballots had been sent in and of those the council’s new electronic signature checking systems had rejected a huge 20 per cent. Another 137 postal votes came in after Tuesday, but the council has so far been unable to say how many of those were rejected.

Now, either the system itself needs examining, or people need to remember what signatures they actually use, or there was attempted electoral fraud on a relatively large scale. Remember that the turnout was barely 1,500…

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In what was probably one of the most underwhelming by-elections ever held in Tower Hamlets, Respect has regained a foothold in Spitalfields and Banglatown.

Its candidate, the former councillor Fozol Miah, won by 113 votes from Labour’s Abdul Alim. The turnout was a mesmerising 16.8 per cent.

Fozol was a Respect councillor between 2006 and 2010 and while he seemed to be a genuinely decent bloke he hardly set the council chamber on fire. I imagine he will now join the queue for jobs in Mayor Lutfur’s administration, which is already looking decidedly threadbare.

As for Labour’s loss… . Spitalfields and Banglatown is a law unto itself and Fozol only just missed out on re-election back in May does have a large personal support there. However, it is the back yard for both Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman. I’m sure that if Lutfur had really put his heart and soul into a pro-Labour campaign, Alim would now be a councillor.

I suppose it’s also interesting that Abbas’s currency there seems to be on the wane. This result will inevitably add momentum to moves to oust him at Labour’s April AGM.

The following is taken from the Tower Hamlets council website:

An election was held for a vacant council seat in the Tower Hamlets Borough ward of Spitalfields and Banglatown on Thursday, 16 December 2010.

The result of the election was as follows:

  • Abdul Alim, Labour Party – 553 votes
  • Jewel Chowdhury, Independent  – 28 votes
  • Magaret Ann Crosbie, The Green Party  - 52 votes
  • Fozol Miah, Respect – 666 votes (elected)
  • Ferdy North, Liberal Democrats – 33 votes
  • Matthew James Smith, Conservative Party  - 135 votes

Number of ballot papers spoilt: 19

Electorate for Spitalfields and Bangaltown Ward: 8,827

Votes polled: 1,486

Turnout: 16.83 per cent

16 December 2010

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Councillor waste

A kind reader has sent me this link to an FoI request that’s just been disclosed by Tower Hamlets council. Actually, there was no need to FoI it as it is a public document, but all the same, I think it will make interesting reading for most people.

It’s a list of the Special Responsibility Allowances paid to Mayor Lutfur Rahman and 24 councillors. That means almost half our 52 elected representatives are being paid over and above the £10,065 they get as basic councillor pay. And that’s before Lutfur, if he finally manages it, fills another few members of his cabinet at £13,325 a go.

Some of these positions, such as the chairs of the Development Committee (Cllr Carli Harper-Penman) and Overview and Scrutiny (Cllr Ann Jackson), do involve a fair amount of work, but whether an extra £10,710 is the right amount, I don’t know.

Other positions attracting serious pocket money defy belief. Take the General Purposes Committee, for example. Its chair, Cllr Helal Uddin of Bromley-by-Bow, trousers almost an extra annual £8,000 for presiding over a few hours extra work a year, if that. Check out this link and you’ll see there has only been three meetings this financial year. In total, there have been four agenda items, all of which were simple rubber stamp reports such as agreeing the terribly crucial appointments to the Billingsgate Market Consultative Advisory Committee. I once sat in one of these meetings to see exactly what went on and the answer was pretty much nothing. The councillors usually arrive late, the officers (who claim the evening sessions as lieu time) sip tea and nibble biscuits, and then the meeting is usually over within a matter of minutes.

Then there is Mizanur Chaudhury who get £5,800 for being an “Olympics Ambassador”. What?? Why?? Shouldn’t he be doing whatever he does for free, just for the pure privilege?

That there are so many paid positions is a corruption of our system. They are the paid vote. Some 500 council staff will soon lose their jobs. Many of these payments should also go. Given that most of the recipients are Labour members, Mayor Rahman, who while council leader was the worst offender for paying his mates, might well propose such a move.

Councillors wouldn’t dare squeal if that happened. Not even Tower Hamlets councillors…or would they?

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