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I asked Nick McQueen, the new Ukip candidate for Tower Hamlets mayor to write a short piece to introduce himself and to outline some of his views and how he would improve the borough. I also asked him for his views on the important second preference vote that Labour’s John Biggs is probably relying on.

Below is Nick’s piece and below that, I’m copying the short manifesto Ukip has drawn up for Tower Hamlets.

The three things that stand out for me in terms of headline grabbers are the decriminalisation of heroin in Tower Hamlets (to get rid of the dealers, but which could also have the effect of attracting every junkie in London to the borough); new “Moses” clubs in every school to help children of different faiths mix more; and the abolition of the council funded “mother tongue” classes for Bengali families (something I and many others including David Goodhart have called for).

I think this should prompt a good discussion….Here’s Nick’s piece:

Why I am Standing

I am an East Ender born and bred. My life experiences set me apart from the political class. They are trained to argue for policies that they do not believe in but in the East End we call that lying. Instead I will be honest, transparent and accountable.

Children in the borough are suffering. Some of them are being fed soup at the end of the month.

Others are being segregated due to the current mayors policies, and the funding for their clubs has been taken away. There is overcrowding in the borough I grew up in the East End but I have never known it this bad. I want to fight for the multi-cultural, multi-religious society of London’s East End.

The East End is not a colour, we all become as one. A community is assessed NOT on how well the rich live, but on how well we look after the less fortunate.

My Views of the Current Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Mr Rahman uses policies of segregation rather than integration – for example his “mother tongue” lessons. The mayor of Newham (Sir Robin Wales) has recently accused him of bringing a form of apartheid to Tower Hamlets. He rarely speaks in the council meetings. He does not have the interests of the whole community at heart. Have you ever seen him at Canary Wharf standing up for the City, one of our country’s most important industries and a major source of the tax revenue that funds our public services?

Would I like Rahman out at Any Cost?

Yes of course I want him out. But the answer is not to elect a different socialist administration under Labour. Their candidate John Biggs will keep his role on the London Assembly – we don’t need a part-time mayor. He ran the council for a number of years and the Labour Party created Rahman. Would you give a lighter back to a previous arsonist?

The Tory candidate (Chris Wilford) has been parachuted in. He has no real background in the East End and is currently talking about potholes. We need something very different for Tower Hamlets – UKIP can be that difference.

How Can UKIP Make the Borough Better?

We will breathe new life into the borough with our policies. UKIP does not have a whip in local government, which gives our councillors freedom to fight for the specific things that matter to their electors.

 We are very different to the other parties. See my views on the decriminalisation of drugs to solve the heroin problem in the borough. I will use council resources to generate more money.

See my vision for an East End Wonderland every year in Victoria Park.

I will introduce free breakfast clubs for primary school kids and after-school “Moses” clubs to bring together children from all backgrounds (Moses is a prophet to the Jews, Christians and Muslims).

I want grammar schools for the academically-gifted children and trade schools for those of a practical disposition so that they can learn the real skills they need to earn good money in the trades.

I will support small businesses in the borough by easing the bureaucracy and making the council more responsive. I have been in business for most of my life so I know what it is like. And I will always stand up for Canary Wharf and oppose EU interference. The City gave me my start in life – I started a business providing the plants for their offices.

I will support genuine civic groups as long as they are for the whole community, to promote integration rather than separation.

The conduct of the council meetings is a disgrace. UKIP will restore order and dignity to the proceedings.

I will bring in forensic accountants to go over the books and look for asset stripping and misappropriation, and I will prosecute those responsible. Those accountants will also find me millions of pounds of savings and I will be ruthless in cutting out waste.

I will support the arts in the borough and will find a permanent site for Old Flo.

Do I Have Bengali Support and Candidates?

I know a lot of Bangladeshis – some of them are my next-door neighbours. They have promised me their vote because like the rest of the community they are fed up with the current system. Why should they be any different? Their kids are also being targeted by the heroin pushers. So yes, I have Bengali support. But no, we do not yet have any Bengali candidates. If anyone from that community is interested in standing for UKIP please contact me.

We only formed the UKIP branch in December, so we are starting from behind. We do not have the local structure and activist base that the other parties have. We have set ourselves the goal of finding twenty candidates – one for each ward – so that everyone in Tower Hamlets who wants to vote for UKIP can do so. That would be a massive achievement.

Second Preference Votes

We are in this to win. I want people’s first preference votes only. If you want UKIP and the change that we will bring then you should vote only for me and my councillor candidates. If you absolutely must vote for your old party – Tory or Labour – then please lend me your second preference votes (and please give our councillors one of your votes on that ballot). We are not instructing our supporters to give their second preference votes to anyone.

I am getting the support of working class people, Conservatives, Labour, and also from people who have never voted before. Our challenge is to get enough of the people who have given up on politics to register to vote. Our first flyer simply has UKIP on it and the contact details for the voter registration department at the council.

The following is from the Tower Hamlets Ukip website:

My Plan

  • Zero tolerance on heroin to protect our youth.
  • Free breakfast clubs and school dinners for primary school children.
  • East End Wonderland at Victoria park to raise funds for open spaces.
  •  “Moses clubs” in all schools to bring the different races and religions together, with special activity programmes during the holidays.
  • Quickly create new primary schools by using existing college buildings.
  • Grammar schools for the academically gifted and trade and technical schools for those of a more practical disposition.
  • I want community integration rather than segregation.
  • My office will be fully transparent and accountable.
  • I will bring in forensic accountants to look for asset stripping and misappropriated funds, and I will prosecute those responsible.
  • I will promote culture and art in the borough and find a permanent site for Old Flo.
  • I will support businesses, for example with a late license for Brick Lane.
  • I will always stand up for Canary Wharf and oppose EU interference in our vital financial services industry.
  • I will replace the mayoral dictatorship with a fully democratic system.
  • I will cut open the belly of this beast for everyone to look inside.

Budget savings to implement my plans

My accountants will find millions of pounds in savings by cutting unnecessary spending. But the following “quick wins” can be implemented straight away.

  • Abolish unnecessary expenditure on faith buildings.
  • Abolish “mother tongue” lessons.
  • Abolish the mayoral car and highly-paid advisors.
  • Stop the translation of information into foreign languages, removing the need for council-funded translators.
  • Scrap the East End Life propaganda newspaper.

Personal message from Nicholas

Dear Voter,

I’m aware of the ups and downs of life and how difficult it is to cope with the austerity measures that we are all experiencing, be it on an individual basis or from a family or business perspective. Let me explain to you my political position. In some ways I go further than Labour when it comes to delivering social protection. In other ways my policies are more conservative than those promised by the Conservatives.

I truly believe that the basic human needs – heating, eating and housing – must be affordable to the community, especially where children are concerned. For example, children cannot learn if they are underfed and this is unfortunately happening in our borough. Hence my commitment regarding the school breakfast clubs. A community is assessed not on how well the rich live but on how well we look after the less fortunate among us.

I’ve been in business for most of my life and I understand how much we need good businesses to create jobs and pay taxes, which is why I support the growth and expansion of the business and financial districts in the borough, and I will help them above and beyond expectations.

The middle section of my politics is libertarian – the philosophy that places the highest value on personal freedom and limited government. More liberty helps us all to achieve more, to be happier and healthier, and it will make the community a better place to live in. I will integrate libertarianism with modern-day politics to confront the problems that we face today.

The national leadership of UKIP does not dictate our policy in local government but leaves us free to do what we need to in the local setting. UKIP is the fastest growing party in the UK because it is for everyone, especially the working man and woman. We believe that if you work then you should be better off. When we run the borough you will benefit. When we run the country it will be strong once again.

I was born and bred in the East End. I am old school, but my life experiences set me apart from the schoolboys that have been running the borough. My promises set out above will breathe new life into the borough, making it a better place to live and work. Our history, and our multicultural diverse community is what makes Tower Hamlets one of the most dynamic places in the world and one of the most interesting places to live and work.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you will support my campaign for the greater good of our local community.

Love East End. Vote UKIP. Vote Nicholas McQueen for Mayor. 

Every month councillors are required to submit a timesheet detailing the work they claim they’ve been doing to collect their allowances and special responsibility allowances from the public purse.

Well, let me clarify that: they’re meant to submit them and they collect their allowances regardless of the work they actually do; the timesheets and their pay are not in any way related.

So in some ways, these timesheets are meaningless.

However, they are somewhat illuminating because they shine a we light on a councillor’s character. Some take them very seriously and submit them as regularly as clockwork. Some are also completely honest about what they state on them.

For example, Labour’s excellent Bow East councillor, Marc Francis, falls into both categories. His timesheets are pretty much up to date and you can read his latest one for January 2014 here:

Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 09.23.10In fact, this probably understates the work he does.

In contrast, let’s have a look at the latest Tower Hamlets turncoat, the newly Independent Anwar Khan, who will now stand against his own sister-in-law in Bow West.

The last timesheet he appears to have submitted (and hey, as a management consultant he knows full well the importance of well kept timesheets) was in September 2011. In fact, in the 46 months since he was elected as a councillor, the council only displays records for nine months.

And in that time since he’s been a chief whip for the Labour group, one of whose duties was to ensure colleagues kept up with their timesheets.

Perhaps he was just too busy to submit them. I mean, he’s a really busy man, it seems.

Have a look at his timesheet for September 2010, the month before Lutfur was elected mayor and when he would have presumably been spending an awful lot of time on party, not council, business.

Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 09.40.59

Wow. A hugely impressive 144 hours on councillor business that month. That’s 36 hours a week–a full time job in itself. How he managed to combine that with raising a young family and a high-powered job in the City, I’ll never know. He must have understanding employers.

I wonder whether his timesheets for them include such guff as 15 hours on “community events”. In fact, he states 15 hours per month on every sheet he’s submitted. It’s a lovely catch-all phrase is ‘community events’.

But out of the various councillor records I’ve looked at, his isn’t the worst. His latest enemy and fellow Bow West councillor Ann Jackson takes that prize: she hasn’t submitted once since January 2010.

Councillors may think these timesheets futile but they are among the few scraps that their voters have to examine what they’re doing.

Here’s a little table of the records for Respect and the independents:
Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 10.02.04

I’ve put a N/A by the name of Gulam Robbani (who has had some previous difficulties with his timesheets, remember) because the council’s website has none next to his name. Shurely some mistake?

I don’t have time to go through all the other councillors, so maybe someone else can help.

However, among the group leaders, we see this:

Labour’s Sirajul Islam – Dec 2013

Tories’ Peter Golds – Sep 2013

Lib Dem Stephanie Eaton – Sep 2013.

And unless I’ve missed it, I can’t see any timesheet section for Mayor Lutfur Rahman himself. Maybe he just uses a tachometer.

 

 

 

[Watch the video of the racist row in the council chamber here].

Eric Pickles should be congratulated for insisting council meetings should be filmed. Remember that Tower Hamlets council tried to block this idea: they knew there was dirty linen to hide.

I hope he watches the web cast of last week’s full council meeting which was picked up in this edition’s of Private Eye.

Alibor Choudhury, the man in charge of the borough’s £1.2billion budget thought he had a good gag when he wanted to accuse Labour’s Bow West councillor Ann Jackson of being a racist and a fascist. Heck, she was wearing a black cardigan, so, er, wow, like Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts she must be part of John Biggs’s “black cardigan brigade”.

How tasteful.

The problem was she was wearing a black cardigan because she was in mourning for her ex-husband, whose funeral she had attended the day before.

All this is recorded in glorious Tower Hamlets Technicolor by those Pickles webcams.

As was a quite twisted rant by a rather hysterical Anwar Khan, who I once praised on this blog but who has since lived up (or down, rather) to the descriptions others gave me of him: a slightly disingenuous hissy-fitter, with an anger management problem. According to his register of interests, he works for Lloyds Bank. Good luck to them. Since his deselection from Labour he’s been accusing Labour of institutional racism. They don’t want incredibly talented Bengalis like incredibly talented he to speak out, you see.

No, they want thickos like his own sister-in-law to stand in his place instead, he believes.

Today, he quit Labour and announced he would stand as an independent in Bow West against his own sister-in-law – and in doing so won praise from the man he now himself praises, Mayor Lutfur Rahman. This is the same Lutfur about whom Anwar was until late last year scathing at every opportunity.

You can read all about that meeting and, more importantly, watch the videos of the race row on the Express website, where I and my Tower Hamlets dwelling colleague Owen Bennett wrote this piece today.

A couple of months ago the commenter ‘imran’ left these observations on this blog:

The stats are stacked against Biggs. Lutfur doesn’t need dead voters to turn up, just all the Bangladeshi uncles and unties would be enough. Based on the assumptions below for 100,000 voters in TH, I’ve worked out Rahman would get 24,790 votes and John Biggs only 13,325. 

White British make up 45% of the population of which 20% are active voters. 90% of them vote for Biggs and 1% vote for Rahman. Bangladeshi make up 35% of the population of which 80% are active voters. 15% of them vote for Biggs and 80% vote for Rahman.

Others – Non Muslim make up 15% of the population of which 10% are active voters. 60% vote for Biggs and 20% vote for Rahman. Others – Muslim make up 5% of the population of which 50% are active voters. 5% vote for Biggs and 80% vote for Rahman. 

It’s hard to see how Biggs can win, there will have to be a 50% plus turnout of the white British voters and 90% plus of them will need to vote for him. He also will needs to get at least 15% of the Bengali vote and 60% of the other non-Muslim vote.

I liked this comment and I hope Imran will be pleased to know that I regularly refer to it when people ask me whether Lutfur Rahman will win in May.

The calculations are a bit ‘back of a fag packet’ but they have some logic nonetheless.

But what Imran didn’t factor in was Nigel Farage and Ukip.

The turnout for the mayoral and council vote on May 22 will be bolstered by the European Parliament elections the same day. And the European issue is of course pretty prominent right now. Many think Ukip might even win the Euro elections in the UK.

Until last December, Ukip had no organisational presence in Tower Hamlets, but then they formed a branch in the borough. And then they started looking for candidates to stand for the council. And then they decided to go for the Big One, the mayoralty itself.

They won’t win it (although who am I to say..) but they will probably have a bearing on the overall result.

With a bit of targeted publicity in the Advertiser and the Wharf, they’ll reach the very many disillusioned who haven’t bothered to vote in previous elections.

This will boost the “white British” vote that Imran referred to.

The question then becomes how does this affect John Biggs’s chances?

Well, John does need a higher turnout than the 23 per cent in October 2010 when Lutfur won, that’s for sure. But he also needs first and second preference votes.

I suspect the Tories, who have announced Chris Wilford as their man, are probably whispering to their voters to place a second preference number 2 next to John Biggs’s name.

But will that be the same for Ukip’s voters? The ‘get Lutfur out’ strategy demands they should but will Ukip get that message out?

Maybe that’s one we should ask their candidate. And this is where it could get interesting. Because the hack and wannabe spin doctor in me thinks they’ve chosen someone who could demand attention from the national press, or at least from the Evening Standard and BBC London.

So let me introduce you to the Ukip candidate for Tower Hamlets mayor: Nicholas McQueen (or as he might soon be described, the cousin of late fashion mogul Alexander McQueen).

nicholasmcqueen_base

The Tower Hamlets Ukip site has this about him:

Nicholas McQueen has been chosen as the candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets for the UK Independence Party.  Nick is a real Eastender.   He was born and grew up in the East End, which he refers to as “his village”. He has lived a varied and interesting life. He is a self-made businessman, having started a successful flower business with his wife of 34 years – Pauline. Early in life he pursued his dream of becoming a commercial pilot and flew in Northern and Central America. He wrote a children’s book which was turned into a musical. He invented a flower vending machine.

Nick is well-known and liked across the borough.  He says of himself that he is “fighting for the multi-cultural, multi-religious society of London’s East End. A community is assessed NOT on how well the rich live, but on how well we look after the less fortunate.”

Mark Webber – Branch Secretary of Tower Hamlets UKIP – released the following statement: “We are very excited about Nick’s candidacy. Nick is so well known in his community that we already have a large number votes in the bag.  Even before the press coverage has begun word has gone out on the “tom toms” – to use Nick’s phrase – and the response has been fantastic.  Nick will be the dark horse in this election.  I want to once again emphasise to people who are not registered to vote that they must contact the council as soon as possible.”

The site also says he will be standing for the council in Stepney Green. It adds this extra information about him:

Vote UKIP Nicholas McQueen Cpl.  I will fight for YOU!

Nicholas is a family man and has been married for 34 years. He has a daughter and two grandchildren. Today he is fighting for the multi-cultural, multi-religious society of London’s East End. A community is assessed NOT on how well the rich live, but on how well we look after the less fortunate.

He was born and raised in London’s East End.  In his early years Nick boxed for St. Georges and Poplar District.  He attended Caterham boy’s boarding school, played rugby for Caterham and was a member of the ATC.

    • Nicholas is the creator of McQueen’s Florist.
    • At age 26 he became a commercial, multi-instrument pilot, flying in North & Central America.
    • On his return to London he created Carole McQueen Florists (specialists in TV sets and funerals).
    • 1996/97 he was the creator of the world’s first fresh flower vending machine.
    • 1998 he created Bulbworld the children’s book.
    • 1999 Nick co wrote and directed Bulbworld the musical at The Royal London Palladium.
    • He designed the set for his cousin Alexander McQueen at London’s Christchurch.
    • 2000 McQueen’s Publishers represented Great Britain at the Frankfurt Bookfair.

Ukip also has this clarion call for candidates:

Could you stand for election to the council as a UKIP candidate?  We need decent, ordinary people from across the borough who agree with what we stand for to put their names forward as ward candidates.  Standing for election is a form of public service.  If you are elected you must be prepared to represent your ward on the council and to work on behalf of your electors.  UKIP do not operate a party whip in local government so UKIP councillors are more like independents because they do not have to follow a party line.

We are not ashamed to make this appeal.  UKIP is growing rapidly across the country.  We are now consistently polling in third place in the national polls.  There are many thousands of people across Tower Hamlets who want to vote for UKIP.  We must give them that opportunity.  Please note that all candidates will be carefully vetted.  You may have read in the news about some trouble we have had recently with some of our candidates.  Please do not apply if you have racist or extreme views.  Former members of the BNP, EDL and similar organisations are forbidden from standing as candidates by the Party Constitution.  Contact the Secretary for more information.

I think this could be fun.

 

 

I’m a bit late with this one but it needs documenting nonetheless.

The Tories have at last selected their man (for yes, it is a man: for all the talk about racism in Tower Hamlets, is there also a problem with sexism?) to fight Lutfur Rahman and John Biggs for Tower Hamlets Mayor.

Dr Anwara Ali, the former Labour councillor who defected to the Tories after she was moved from her Bow West seat in 2010, had been a contender but it wasn’t to be. Personally, I think that’s shame. Anwara did get some stick from me many years back when I accused her of being too silent in Denise Jones’s cabinet, but after that she improved greatly. I think she’s articulate and as a GP in Brick Lane, she’s respected and widely liked.

Being a Bengali, she’d also have taken some votes from Lutfur.

On that note, there was a bit a row about who would represent the Conservatives on May 22, with opinion divided between those who thought ‘get Lutfur out at all costs’ was the most important strategy, and those who thought ‘this is an election and we’re Tories, we need to take this seriously and treat it as any other battle’. (And also whisper to people to place John Biggs as their second preference vote.)

The latter camp won out and we therefore have a very serious candidate, who (and I mean no disrespect here at all)  almost no one has ever heard of.

So let me introduce you to:

Chris_Wilford_At_Canary_Wharf

Tower Hamlets Conservatives have selected Chris Wilford as their Mayoral Candidate

Chris lives in Bow resident, and currently works in public policy for a leading international body. Previously, Chris has worked as a recruitment consultant in the financial services, placing candidates from new graduates to global directors. Before this, he worked on education projects for both the British Council and the House of Lords.

After his selection, Chris said “Like so many others from around the world I have made Tower Hamlets my home. This is a great place to live, with its history, diversity, and dynamism. We are privileged to live here as we go about our business amidst the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s great cities.

“Yet there is one shadow that looms large – Mayor Lutfur Rahman. We are all familiar with his expenses, his taxis, and not least his photograph. And I for one tired of the stories of cronyism and waste whilst our borough faces up to some of the most significant challenges in the country in areas such as child poverty and unemployment.

“There are many reasons why I want to be Mayor of this borough. I want to see more transparency; more pothole repairs; cleaner streets; proper and meaningful consultation on development; a National Centre for Islamic Finance; a jobs for growth strategy; more police on our streets; less Mayoral advisors and a lower council tax. Above all, I want to be Mayor because I want to mend our broken local politics and build a better borough.

“I am grateful to local Conservatives for choosing me as their candidates, and will be working hard to win this May.”

Tower Hamlets Conservative Association chairmen Neil King (Poplar and Limehouse) and Matt Smith (Bethnal Green and Bow), who jointly organised the selection process, said “we congratulate Chris Wilford on his selection as our Tower Hamlets Mayoral candidate. Chris came through a strong field to be selected with the overwhelming support of local Conservatives, and will make be an outstanding Mayor of this borough.”

So that was the Tory press release.

This is Chris in his own words:

Chris Wilford

Policy & Public Affairs Manager at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators




I started my career at the British Council. I left to complete a part-time MSc at the LSE, working as a recruitment consultant and parliamentary researcher during my studies. Upon completion, I joined the policy team of the professional body for the recruitment industry and have recently moved to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Career Summary:

I started my career at the British Council. I left to complete a part-time MSc at the LSE, working as a recruitment consultant and parliamentary researcher during my studies. Upon completion, I joined the policy team of the professional body for the recruitment industry. I have recently taken up the post of Policy & Public Affairs Manager at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and I wrote my Profile when working at REC.

Academic/Professional Qualifications:

MSc Media and Communications, London School of Economics 
BA (Hons) Film Studies and American Studies, King’s College London, 
Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

How did you get into Public Affairs?

I had worked as a recruitment consultant and as a parliamentary researcher in the House of Lords whilst completing a part-time postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics. With a real understanding of the recruitment industry, as well as a sound understanding of politics and research experience, I was well suited to work in the policy and public affairs function of the largest trade association for the recruitment industry. My experience on the frontline has really helped me in dealing with members and I have really developed my skills in the role.

What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?

I check my emails and phone messages before engaging members on a variety of issues. This can involve engaging journalists, civil servants and politicians to put across the view of the industry. At the moment, I am: writing a number of consultation responses; running an election for the position of Chair of one of our sector groups; and organising a number of focus groups with the Department of Health on the clinical governance of locum doctors. I am also working with the editor of our magazine on a forthcoming feature on the public sector workforce, one of the areas I am responsible for. Speaking, writing, reading in other words!

Working in a trade association, how do you engage members in public affairs and policy issues?

We engage members in public affairs and policy issues through member events, webinars, polls, focus groups and meetings. We often hit the road and a key part of our job is getting members in front of decision makers. This facilitation of engagement is an increasingly important part of our job.

Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have worked on?

The campaign I am most proud of is our on-going activity on NHS VAT schemes. This is a complex area which cuts across employment and tax legislation. I have been working on this for months and it is an area of deep concern for members. My blogs, letters I have drafted to ministers on behalf of senior REC figures, presentations at conferences, together with countless meetings with members and government figures have really built momentum which culminated in the REC contributing to a major ITV News at 10 investigation. We had literally set the news agenda and senior government ministers are actively engaging with the REC on the issue. We are close to a conclusion and continue to drive activity.

What do you enjoy about working in public affairs?

I enjoy the buzz and, as a news junkie, I relish being paid to keep abreast of current affairs. Working for a membership body, I also engage on strategic issues on behalf of our members. It does feel like the work is really important and it is great to play my part on important issues such as the future of the NHS workforce.

How important is political party involvement to a public affairs career?

It helps. There are plenty of people out there who do not have any involvement but I do think it adds a valuable extra dimension. I was Chairman of a major political society at LSE and I am currently Deputy Chairman of an Association in the East End of London. I was also the parliamentary researcher for a government Peer in the House of Lords. I have an extensive network which has come in really handy for getting the full picture of what is going on out there. It has also helped when we are in tight spots, for instance getting speakers for our events at Party Conferences.

As a former recruitment professional, what advice would you give to job seekers (at any level)?

Get yourself out there. We often hear of personal brands and profiles. These are really important but you shouldn’t be scared of advertising that brand! I would also say use a good recruiter (well, given my background, I would, wouldn’t I?!). The amount of times that I have heard people have been looking for jobs for months and then, after getting in touch with a recruitment consultancy, they secure a role in weeks is ridiculous. They have the networks and the contacts and, if you are not right for one opportunity, they will keep you in mind for another. Finally, do your research – evaluate what you want from your next role, where you want to get to and what you want to learn. Take your time, be measured and make sure you have a plan.

What value does post-graduate study provide to a public affairs career?

For me, it added real value. It allowed me to build on the cultural and historical grasp of political persuasion that I had gained through my first degree, as well as the opportunity to hone my writing and research skills further. I would say that the educational institution matters as well. The contacts I made and the activities I was exposed to at the LSE, one of the world’s leading social science institutions, really helped as I sought to get into public affairs.

What are the challenges for the public affairs industry over the next five years?

I think the industry has to adapt to the challenges of the digital world. How can you shape the agenda across a variety of different platforms all at the same time? In this environment, where everyone has a comment or can position themselves as an expert, and one tweet can destroy months of activity, demonstrating the value you can add and leveraging off line and online networks to achieve results will be vital. Those who can cut through the huge volumes of information out there to provide clear, concise analysis and drive targeted, effective campaigns amidst a diverse mediascape will be the winners.

What’s your prediction for the next General Election result?

Conservative majority (just).

Quick-Fire Round  
Favourite restaurant for a business lunch Browns Covent Garden
LinkedIN or Twitter? Twitter
Tweet your career-to-date in 140 characters or less Policy professional at the trade association for the UK’s £26 billion recruitment industry, former search & selection specialist, LSE alum
What’s your Media diet? Guido (order order), Telegraph, Spectator, Economist, Guardian, BBC
Favourite Film Badlands
Guilty pleasure House of Cards (the original)

By the way, I also hear UKIP are building a branch in Tower Hamlets ahead of the European elections on May 22 as well. They’re thinking of fielding a few people, which could make it even spicier..

Pleasing Takki

I was at the annual Private Eye/Guardian Paul Foot Awards for investigative journalism last night and naturally the conversation with some of the most celebrated names in the profession turned to Tower Hamlets.

They’re all aware of what a basket case it is and how badly served its residents have been over the years by far too many councillors and officers.

What some weren’t aware of was the culture at officer level to try and close down journalistic scrutiny.

In the same way that Labour did for so many years, Lutfur’s administration seems to have successfully muzzled the influential Bengali media (and if Alibor Choudhury is reading this, I mean the British Bangladeshi media). The grant money and other council cash he’s chucked their way has probably helped. So too has the hiring of Channel S reporter Mohammed Jubair to work as his part-time adviser on “community media” (even the job title interesting, because Jubair doesn’t have any contact at all with the East London Advertiser).

But there’s another issue. The frequency with which Takki Sulaiaman, the council’s £100k a year head of communications, rings the Advertiser to yell at impudent journalists is legendary, staff there tell me. He’s become something of a figure of fun there.

This is nothing new in Tower Hamlets. A few months after I joined the Advertiser and started investigating the council in 2005, one of Takki’s predecessors, Lorraine Langham (now the chief operating officer at Ofsted) called my editor at home and whispered to him that I was working every Saturday at the Sunday Express. She wondered whether I was in breach of my contract. My editor put her straight: I’d already got permission to do those shifts. He was furious she had tried to get me sacked.

In 2012, the council’s then chief lawyer Isabella Freeman (now at the Homes and Communities Agency) sent me a series of erratic and badly spelt emails and letters threatening to sue me because I likened her to an ostrich. She also seemed to determined to shut down this blog.

But what the hacks at last night’s do were most concerned about was a letter sent by Takki to my editor at the Sunday Express, Martin Townsend, in November 2012 in the run up to the Leveson Inquiry. They suggested I publish it here, which is what I’ll do.

Regular readers will remember this story I ran in October 2012 about a headhunter’s report that had been leaked to me on Murziline Parchment’s application to become council chief executive. The report was damning and suggested she was nowhere near able at that stage to do the job. The reason I published it in full (and after careful consideration) was because she had later been selected as the extremely important ‘head of the mayor’s office’ working directly for Lutfur Rahman. Her experience with Ken Livingstone at City Hall also probably helped her.

It was a classic case of public interest journalism, but Takki was incandescent. They had no legal case, so they very sneakily went to my editor to try and get me sacked.

The letter laid out a load of trumped up charges on the Editor’s Code (none of them remotely stood up), sinisterly raised the work of Leveson, and claimed I was blurring the lines between my job at the Sunday Express and this unpaid blog.

As our lawyer and my editor said to Takki in reply, there is no boundary. The blog is part of my journalistic toolkit (which frequently provided stories for the Sunday Express).

Takki had even gone to the length of checking the watermark on the leaked document I’d posted on this blog: he’d seen it had been created using ‘terryscanner’, which is a network name for a scanner allocated to my former Sunday Express picture editor.

The letter was received with disbelief and hilarity. There was a discussion about whether we should even reply, but we did do, telling Takki in the politest possible terms to back off, get real and stop trying to muzzle the investigative journalism that has helped several articles and news items/documentaries in the national and broadcast media.

We didn’t hear from him again. But he’s a busy man at moment and with the election coming up, I hope he keeps it together.

Here’s the letter.

One of the features of Lutfur Rahman’s divisive administration has been the readiness of his low-grade lieutenants to chuck around the word ‘racist’. I’ve documented this far too many times on this blog to list them again now.

It’s also been clear the past few months that this would be their strategy in the lead up to May’s mayoral election. And having grown up in the swamp, they know that mud can stick.

They’ll probably find some way to label me racist for even saying that, but I’m not.

You see, my wife and her family sometimes call themselves Bangladeshis; more frequently it’ll be Bengalis. All the time, of course, they also say they’re British. And at other times, when they’re describing someone who’s white, they’ll say they’re ‘English’.

All terms of common parlance. And they’re the most lovely, open-minded family I know (and yes, I would say that, but it’s true.)

Unlike the dimwitted muck-rakers who pretend they’re campaigning for a One Tower Hamlets, ie Lutfur’s Tower Hamlets First crew.

Lutfur was always described to me by those who knew him better as an empty vessel. It seems that vessel now poureth over with poison.

How so?

See this press release from Lutfur’s campaign manager Cllr Alibor Choudhury.

John Biggs: Dividing the East End

Labour Mayoral hopeful reported to Equalities and Human Rights Commission over inflammatory and divisive comments

Pressure was today mounting on Tower Hamlets Labour Mayoral hopeful John Biggs after he was referred to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission for remarks made on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme

The complaint, by Cllr. Alibor Choudhury of Tower Hamlets First, refers to a statement made by Biggs on 22 September 2013.

Attempting to refute claims of institutional racism in the Labour Party, Mr Biggs said: “All of the Mayor’s Cabinet are Bangladeshi and his primary policy focus has been the concerns of one community, the Bangladeshi community.”

Cllr. Choudhury said: “First off, the makeup of the Mayor’s cabinet is a result of Labour’s policy of non-cooperation. Secondly, John might want to think of me as a foreigner, but I was born here and am as British as he is. Thirdly, policies like free homecare, bringing back EMA and building the most affordable homes in the UK benefit everyone. John’s remarks are untrue and inflammatory and are doing lasting damage to community cohesion in the East End.”

The comments reported to the Commission are the latest in a long line of racially charged comments by the Labour Mayoral hopeful. In 1998, he campaigned against the creation of Banglatown and in 2013 his dog-whistle claims on housing were picked up and gleefully used as propaganda by the EDL who marched on the borough just a couple of months later. More recently, one of his Labour colleagues accused him of having a problem with outspoken Bangladeshis.

Cllr. Choudhury added: “Biggs’ slogan is ‘Uniting the East End’ but with far-right ‘patrols’ on our streets and bomb threats to the Town Hall and East London Mosque, his remarks are doing the opposite. Residents have tried to get him to explain his comments and have been ignored, so there’s no other option but to report him to the EHRC.”

Very kindly, Alibor also sent us the letter he’s written to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Dear Commissioners,

I have been an elected councillor in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets since 2006, and currently serve as the council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, serving alongside the directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman.

I’m proud that in Lutfur, Tower Hamlets has elected Britain’s, and Europe’s, first BAME directly-elected mayor. He is standing for re-election this coming May. Sadly, however, the local Labour Party, who are currently in opposition on the council, appear to be centring their campaign to unseat Lutfur on racial grounds.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show on 22 September 2013, the Labour mayoral candidate said, “all of the mayor’s cabinet are Bangladeshi and primary policy focus has been the concerns of one community, the Bangladeshi community.”

This is worrying on a number of levels. First, I am one of those cabinet members. I may be ethnic-Bangladeshi but I was born and brought up in Britain, I have always lived here, and I am as British as Mr Biggs is.

Second, there is a clear appeal to racial prejudice, which is deeply irresponsible, particularly given the backdrop of tensions around the EDL march that had taken place weeks before the programme, and constant negative press coverage around the local Bangladeshi community and Muslims.

On 25 September, three days after the broadcast, the East London Mosque was the subject of a bomb threat and police were called. On 26 September, a suspicious package arrived at the Town Hall. It is very possible that these sinister incidents were the work of extremists whipped up by Mr Biggs’s outburst.

Even if there is no direct link, Mr Biggs should know that his position as a London Assembly member gives him a prominent and influential public platform and that as such, he should choose his words responsibly.

Third, that there are no white members of the mayor’s cabinet is not of his own choosing. When Lutfur stood as an independent candidate following the Labour Party’s suspension of his candidacy – on the basis of allegations that were never put to him and later proved to be false – a large number of Labour councillors supported him. Those who were ethnic-Bengali were expelled from the Labour Party, whereas those who were not were permitted to remain.

On winning the mayoral election, Lutfur wrote to all Labour councillors – white and non-white – inviting them to apply for cabinet positions. But Mr Biggs’s party colleagues ordered all Labour councillors to refuse the offer or be expelled from the Labour Party. This is the reason why there are no non BAME cabinet members.

Apart from anything else, I was hoping that Mr Biggs would have something more constructive to observe about me and my fellow cabinet members, rather than crass complaints about the colour of our skin.

I truly believe that the reason for such messaging is that the Labour Party feels it has lost the ethnic minority vote to Lutfur and therefore needs to appeal to a section of the electorate who resent Bangladeshis and Muslims’ involvement in local democracy and civil society, and who do not normally vote.

Such sentiments are fuelled by hysterical newspaper articles branding this multicultural borough ‘Taliban Tower Hamlets’ and ‘Sharia Zone’, and of course the false allegations famously made by Labour Party figures that Lutfur had been ‘brainwashed by Islamic fundamentalists’.

It would not be the first time such a strategy has been adopted: you will be all too familiar with Phil Woolas MP’s racial smears against the Liberal Democrats after he lost much of his ethnic-minority support base to that party following the Iraq war.

I trust that you will share my grave concern over these deeply unappetising and irresponsible election tactics. I write to you now because my analysis of the opposition’s approach has been reaffirmed by further developments in recent days, which have seen a Far-Right racist party, British First, mount intimidating vigilante patrols outside the East London Mosque, a serving opposition councillor accuse his party leaders and Mr Biggs of racial prejudice, and the party’s election organiser telling the public that the way to remove the mayor from office is to get more non-Bangladeshis to vote. I am happy to release the evidence of these incidents to you as you require.

My foremost concern is the community cohesion in this borough. Its sure destruction should not be a price any legitimate party is willing to pay in return for winning an election.

I very much hope that you will look into this situation carefully, and I look forward to a prompt and thorough response.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Alibor Choudhury

Cabinet Member for Resources
Shadwell Ward

CC: The Labour Party National Executive Committee Chair Angela Eagle
The Labour Party BAME National Executive Committee Chair Kamaljeet Jandu
Greater London Authority Monitoring Officer

Well, this is a bit thick really. And remember, Alibor is the cabinet member for finance. And not only does he in private call himself Bengali/Bangladeshi (he has to me many times and never British Bangladeshi, because that goes without saying), but he also signs off grants galore for groups whose names suggest Bangladeshi-only.

Only last week, for example, he and the Mayor handed out a ‘Third Sector Award’ to the Bangladesh Football Association, which has also received tens of thousands of pounds in council funding under Lutfur and Alibor.

The Bangladeshi Youth Movement, seen in this document here, also received grants aplenty. There are many other examples.

Hey, and what’s this we see in the Tower Hamlets Strategic Plan for 2013/14, authored by the Mayor himself: an action point for the Deputy Mayor, Ohid Ahmed…”Implement action plan for improving drug and alcohol treatment recovery rates across the borough, including for younger adults, Bangladeshi women, people with disabilities and LGBT residents. (March 2014)

Well, perhaps Alibor has referred himself to the EHRC.

As for suggesting John Biggs has somehow sinisterly prompted bombs to arrive in Tower Hamlets…well, Alibor is no stranger to violence. Perhaps it’s time he can explain how he got that six inch scar on his neck.

Every time I’ve asked John Biggs about Alibor’s past experiences with the gang-ridden Ocean estate, John has always declined to say anything. You see, Alibor was once John’s protege: John mentored him onto a straighter path and helped him see the potential power of politics as a force for good.

Perhaps he’s forgotten those lessons.

Actually, I think he needs a bit of love, a nice big cuddle. When you see him knocking on your door next, give him a squeeze.

Alibor

In the meantime, here’s John Biggs’s response:

Lutfur Rahman’s smears are an insult to true victims of racism

Labour have today responded to a disgraceful press release which was issued by Lutfur Rahman supporter Cllr Alibor Choudhury unfoundedly accusing Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets of racism. The press release made sweeping and baseless accusations and stoking racial fear amongst voters.

At the same time another Rahman supporting councillor took to twitter falsely claiming that if elected John Biggs planned to use his powers to scrap the “Banglatown” ward name which is a point of significant pride in the Bangladeshi community. Cllr Choudhury was also promoting his statement on Facebook openly referring to John Biggs as John Bigot.

The attack was described by Labour as a “desperate tactic” and said that “baseless cries of racism for political gain are an insult to anyone who has actually suffered true racial abuse.”

Labour drew attention to positive nature of Biggs’ campaign including the cross community support it enjoys. They highlighted that whilst Rahman’s supporters were intent on spreading baseless smears and character attacks Biggs was focused on speaking with local people and announcing policies which will help all residents such as free school meals for all primary school pupils. Over the last two weeks Labour councillors and John Biggs have announced a multitude of policies including:

- Free school meals for all primary school children
- A 24h out of hours noise service at weekends
- Working towards building 1,000 new council homes after the current administration built only 15.
- New measures to tackle drug dealing on estates
- Creating a new private lettings agency to cut out rip off charges for private renters
- Bringing the popular borough fireworks display back to Victoria Park

Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said: “Let’s be clear about this, John Biggs is no racist. John Biggs has devoted his life to serving all the people of East London. This vicious character attack is nothing more than a desperate tactic from a party who know they are losing the battle of ideas.

“Whilst John Biggs is pledging to provide free school meals for all the borough’s primary school children, all Lutfur Rahman and his supporters can do is cry wolf. Their shameful and baseless cries of racism for political gain are an insult to anyone who has actually suffered true racial abuse.”

John Biggs, Labour candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “I am extremely disappointed by this misleading, divisive, and inflammatory outburst from supporters of the current Mayor. I’m going to run the type of campaign Tower Hamlets deserves – one about ideas for how to make life in our borough better.”

In a joint statement MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, MP and MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick MP said: “We are utterly appalled by this behaviour. Tower Hamlets is, and deserves, better than these bullyboy politicians who resort to lies and character attacks. Labour have been clear from day one that we want this election to be about uniting Tower Hamlets, the policies that will improve peoples lives and the best person to serve all communities. Instead with over two months to go Lutfur Rahman is resorting to baseless, divisive smears and attacks.

“If Lutfur Rahman thinks Labour is standing against him because of his race then he needs to get real. The reason John Biggs is standing is because he passionately believes in uniting all communities in Tower Hamlets and with a strong unified Labour team he can bring the change the borough needs. The current Mayor just isn’t up to the job and is clearly more interested in his own self-promotion and wasting public money than helping the people of Tower Hamlets who will see through these inflammatory accusations for what they are: a desperate attempt to divide based on the politics of fear.”

“For over 30 John Biggs has worked tirelessly, fighting the fascist BNP and EDL and uniting communities across the borough. The diversity that runs through our party is represented by the fantastic slate of council candidates that will be standing side by side with John, as we will be, throughout the campaign and onward.”

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