City & London AM John Biggs accuses Tower Hamlets council of improper use of time


- Credit: Archant

I remain busy at City Hall. There are new ideas for east London river crossings, plans for the next Crossrail line, major planning applications to dig into, budgets to manage, challenging policing matters to consider. Yet I am drawn back to comment yet again on Tower Hamlets politics. It’s not surprising – the East End is always the most raw and lively place in the UK.

I, like the overwhelming majority of Londoners of all faiths, am appalled by the loss of life and conflict in the Middle East. I am inspired by the rising assertiveness of young people, particularly in east London of young Muslims, about what is happening. I share their sense of injustice. And I want lasting peace, based on mutual respect, religious tolerance and the right of Palestinians, Kurds, but also Jews, Christians and other faiths in the Middle East, to practice their faith, free from intimidation or violence, and to enjoy freedom and a good quality of life. This is complicated and tied up with questions of history, poverty, exclusion and a lack of social justice. Changing this will be a slow, painful process.

Without changing people’s hearts we cannot impose lasting solutions. But we should, in my view, try to impose those basic requirements, of tolerance, mutual respect, and so on. And these should be underpinned by the best possible services – safety, healthcare, education – for everyone. The lack of these is the greater injustice.

And we should follow these principles in our work as community leaders. Which is why, while I welcome Mayor Rahman’s condemnation of ‘anti-semitism or any other form of hate in this borough’, I want more action to show this means something. Telling your opponents they are wrong is easy. Telling your friends is the mark of real leadership. And it is also why, while it is reasonable to have a dignified short debate at a Council meeting, about a matter where local passions are high, if this means an urgent local matter, such as threats to our local GPs surgeries, is squeezed out, it is not the proper use of our local Council’s time.