Somalis launch Labour Friends group to fight next Tower Hamlets election

The Somali community is pitching to get its voice heard and be part of the East End’s mainstream life after years of being “invisible” in the political arena.

It has launched a Somali Friends of Labour organisation with a political activist mother preparing for the 2014 Tower Hamlets council elections.

Amina Ali urged the launch meeting at Bethnal Green’s St Margaret’s House community centre to be involved in the politics of the place they call home.

“People like us have been invisible too long,” she told the packed meeting.

“Now we need a voice and have to organise ourselves—no longer do I want to see Somalis as victims.”

Amina became politically aware at the age of seven, she explained, when the late Bethnal Green MP Peter Shore solved her family’s housing problem. She went on to join Labour at 17 and worked as a researcher for West Ham’s long-standing MP Tony Banks—but failed to win a seat herself on Tower Hamlets council in the 2006 local elections.

Now the mum-of-two from Limehouse, a first-generation Somali born here, is back in the fight, launching her organisation to help Labour fight the next council elections—following the footsteps of Ahmed Omer who became Britain’s first Somali mayor in 2009.

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“This organisation won’t be tribal,” Amina insists. “We are not engaged in tribal politics—there won’t be talking heads where everyone feels they’re not being served.”

She later told the Advertiser: “I feel responsible that the present generation like me should lead the older community.

“This is where we live now—we have to take part in mainstream society.”

The launch was backed by Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick and Tower Hamlets councillors.

The MP told the mainly-Somali gathering: “We need your help and support—you have determination to make your mark politically, socially and economically.”

Setting up this organisation would give them a “more-powerful voice in the months and years ahead,” he added. It was “an example of a community wanting to do it for themselves.”