Tower Hamlets has a brand new political party to vote for.
Lucky us. It’s called Tower Hamlets First.
It was registered with the Electoral Commission on September 19, with Lutfur Rahman as party leader (missed that party election vote), and Cllr Alibor Choudhury nominated as Treasurer and nominating officer.
They’ve also registered a few catchy tag lines to use alongside Tower Hamlets First.
Thus we have ‘Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Team’, ‘Lutfur Rahman’s Team’, Lutfur Rahman’s Progressive Alliance’, ‘The Mayor’s Team’, “Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Independents’, ‘Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Community Alliance’ [note the use of the word 'community'], and ‘East End Independents’.
I’m not sure he’ll be able to use the word Mayor in any official tag line during an election, but let’s see.
But what’s also interesting about this is that he’s now on an official footing as as far as declaring donations go. Until now, there’s been no trace of how he’s been funded, or who his backers have been.
For example, I asked his people who funded his huge iftar party to celebrate Eid in August, but answer there came none. Ditto the various leaflets and newsletters he sends out en masse.
I suppose the truth is that ever since he was elected that dark night in October 2010, he’s been gearing up for re-election. And why not?
We’ve already seen his (ab)use of the Localism Act to dish out grants to friends at the borough’s many mosques and monocultural community groups. Today, another £242,000 was handed out. It includes another £18,000 to the Osmani Trust.
The Osmani Trust is a major “youth” organisation in Whitechapel with links to the IFE. And it was a large group of mainly excitable young men from that organisation who turned up at the town hall for the last full council meeting in September when they spent the evening whooping, hollering and hurling insults in Bengali at Labour and Tory councillors.
That was also the same evening Tory councillor Gloria Thienel was insulted as “Susan Boyle” by an angry, glaring man sitting next to me.
And it was also the same meeting that at long last the cameras were allowed to roll during the debate.
You can watch it all for free here. At 50 minutes in you can even watch the single time the Mayor spoke throughout the entire three hour meeting.
But was memorable was the laying on the table of Lutfur’s IFE card. (The Islamic Forum of Europe is based at the East London Mosque and is considered a Jamaat e Islami group which favours an Islamic Republic of Bangladesh. It was this group which was the focus of the Channel 4 Dispatches programme in 2010 when accusations were made by Jim Fitzpatrick and others – I appeared in to substantiate claims made to me to this effectby serving councillors – that they had infiltrated the council and the Labour party. Ultimately these claims led Lutfur’s expulsion from Labour.)
At 1hr 25mins in, you’ll see during a motion on the recent trip to the Tower Hamlets border by the English Defence League, Lutfur’s main man Alibor rise to speak.
He proposes an amendment to the main motion, thus:
I propose that we accept the IFE as a progressive organisation that we will aim to engage.
Well, Labour weren’t expecting that.
Deputy Mayor Ohid Ahmed then spoke:
We praise the East London Mosque stewards and we know that their organisation is the IFE.
Labour’s Rachael Saunders is a little taken aback. She can see the elephant-trap, so she says she has “no idea whether the IFE is progressive” (when she clearly believes they’re not).
Lutfurite Kabir Ahmed adds his tuppence, saying “it’s important that we thank the IFE”. He then blames Jim Fitzpatrick for portraying them as anti-Tower Hamlets Islamists. He adds:
The EDL have picked up on this and they repeatedly reference it so it’s important to state such messages were incorrect and the council hasn’t been taken over and infiltrated.
Hmm. Let’s rewind.
In 2009, I interviewed Habibur Rahman, the then president of the IFE. He confirmed Alibor was an IFE member/activist.
But Alibor failed to mention or declare that when setting out his amendment. You see, the IFE already have a man at the top of the council. We now have conformation that Dispatches and JIm were right. thanks, guys.
And then at 1hour 35mins, the wonderfully colourful Lutfa Begum (another Lutfurite) jumps out of her seat to give us more revelations:
IFE do lots of jobs for Tower Hamlets local people. They are working with local GPs, local NHS, local schools. They are working with teachers.
Working with Tower Hamlets school teachers, are they?
Remind yourself of what Andrew Gilligan wrote after his Channel 4 Dispatches:
In fact, our reporters found, the IFE is a secretive, fundamentalist political network, dedicated, in its own words, to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”
Back to Alibor. A bit later on, after some goading from Labour, he also said the SWP and Unite Against Fascism were “progressive organisations that we should aim to engage”.
Respect to him. He’s come out and said what we all knew.
But they’ve now shown their election strategy. This is what they are saying repeatedly to the Bengali press and TV channels: Labour and Jim Fitzpatrick brought the EDL to Tower Hamlets and it is only the Mayor Lutfur the Martyr who is standing up to them, with much thanks to the dear IFE.
They are trying to shift the goalposts and make the IFE appear mainstream.
And it’s a strategy that’s currently working among the Bengali population.
Labour, which managed to water down the amendment to thank all groups who helped block the EDL (including the police: in Lutfur’s version they weren’t mentioned – it was if they believed the IFE stewards were the police) and John Biggs need to shape up.