About this time two years ago, I wrote this:
My own view, as outlined here, is that the EDL should be banned as an organisation. I’ve seen them for myself on marches and they’re little more than a bunch of football hooligans who give both football and free speech a bad name. They go out to provoke and they glory in trying to outwit the likes of Anjem Choudary and the police when it comes to the former’s demonstrations.
So the Met’s decision yesterday to ask Theresa May to ban the EDL marching through Tower Hamlets last week is a good thing. Well done to Mayor Lutfur Rahman and all the other politicians and grass roots activists who helped persuade Scotland Yard. It was an easy win-win for Lutfur, but he grabbed the opportunity.
Plus ca change.
Credit must again go to Mayor Lutfur and his advisers for seizing yet another gift on a plate from the thickies of the EDL. How he must secretly love them.
And how his people must be laughing at Labour on this: he’s run rings around them.
Last year, Labour’s then group leader Josh Peck and many of his councillors decided to abstain from attending the counter-EDL rally. Josh’s view was that the UAF (Unite Against Fascism) was staging a demo as a precursor to a punch-up with the EDL. As it happens, he was right on that point of fact. But politically, even some of his allies think that was a mistake.
I’m told John Biggs thinks it was an error, which is why he was there in Altab Ali Park yesterday. Yet even under his leadership, Labour has allowed itself to be the object of ridicule and on the back foot. Their long-planned summer barbecue scheduled for yesterday was unfortunate timing, but how anyone failed to spot much earlier that it would be politically problematic is really quite odd.
If they are to beat Lutfur next May, they need to sharpen up their PR act big time…and quickly.
But let’s look at Lutfur’s tactics. His strategy for more than three years now has been to present himself to the Bengali community (via the press, satellite Bangladeshi TV channels and The Guardian) as the martyred Muslim victim of an evil racist plot by the Right-wing media, the institutionally racist decision-making bodies of Labour’s NEC and the anti-Muslim Peter Golds-led Tower Hamlets Tory party.
So when the English Defence League threaten to march this way, he becomes not just the martyr but also the hero leader: a modern-day Boudicca of the East End (in a Mercedes, not a chariot). He’s been telling his friendly uncritical TV channels (including the ones he now so generously helps to fund with council money) that it’s all Labour’s fault the EDL are coming.
He tells them that Andrew Gilligan’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme in March 2010 (disclosure: I appeared in it) was the main inspiration for the EDL. He says because Labour also played a part in that documentary (Jim Fitzpatrick was another interviewee), and because the accusations he was linked to Islamic fundamentalism were a big factor in his expulsion from Labour in summer 2010), Labour is thus responsible for the arrival of Stella-swigging monsters on the borough’s doorstep.
He then gleefully adds: “Look at what Labour are doing to stop them coming: they’re having a barbecue!” He has skewered them.
A classier group of politicians would then have let their actions do the talking; if you have the moral high ground, keep quiet and stay there. But Lutfur’s people can’t help themselves: they say any political leader not at yesterday’s rally cannot be in favour of Lutfur’s One Tower Hamlets mantra. The irony of this rally fascism is undoubtedly lost on them.
So where were the borough’s two MPs yesterday, they ask? Where was Peter Golds? I had a Twitter conversation about this with Lutfurite councillor Kabir Ahmed this morning.
@TedJeory what do you think about Tory Cllrs not attending today? Are you gonna hold Golds and gang to account?
— Kabir Ahmed (@CllrKabirAhmed) September 7, 2013
There seemed to be some underlying implication that Peter is not as opposed to the EDL and fascism as Kabir is. Which given the sufferings of Peter’s family in the Holocaust is more than unfortunate. I then asked Kabir if he condemned the homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse that I’ve witnessed aimed at Peter by Lutfur’s supporters in the council chamber.
He was among the first Tower Hamlets councillors to sign the Hope not Hate pledge, he told me; he was a Hope not Hate champion…but repeatedly, Kabir refused to condemn those specific incidents by his own supporters. Such leadership.
There were probably other factors in the decision by some to stay away yesterday. They probably didn’t want to be associated with two of the rally’s predominant contingents: those strange bed-fellows, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Islamic Forum of Europe.
I’m told the IFE had a 1,000 stewards out on the streets of Whitechapel yesterday. They were everywhere, even guarding the main stage in Altab Ali Park where speakers couldn’t help talking about the need not to strike Syria (the EDL would have applauded that). It was also the same stage onto which John Biggs was apparently initially declined entry.
I also saw a couple of IFE stewards standing guard opposite the Yummy Yummy sweet shop in New Road. I thought that might have been a coincidence, but it probably wasn’t. That sweet shop was no doubt highlighted as a potential EDL target…because, as I revealed earlier this year, it’s run by Anjem Choudary and his crowd.
You see, although the East London Mosque hasn’t exactly helped itself by failing to prevent homophobic and hate-fuelled sermons from the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki in the past, Anjem is the EDL’s biggest enemy. They follow him and his helpers everywhere. They’re on the same intellectual level.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the United East End umbrella group of community groups etc etc take a stance on Anjem’s presence in the borough? Perhaps Lutfur and Kabir should organise a rally against him and his gang of terror groupies. I doubt we’d ever see the EDL again if he did that.
(And by the way, I hear that the Black Bloc anti-fascist group, many of whose members were arrested trying to attack the EDL yesterday, have started taking an interest in the Islamofascist tendencies of some Jamaat e Islami groups in the borough: that could be very interesting…).