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Michael Keith keeps himself in the frame

PUBLISHED: 18:30 06 December 2007 | UPDATED: 11:07 13 July 2010

Left: Labour's Michael Keith (see below)... Right: Tory trio Mrs T with Shirley Houghton and Phil Briscoe (see 3rd story)

Left: Labour's Michael Keith (see below)... Right: Tory trio Mrs T with Shirley Houghton and Phil Briscoe (see 3rd story)

Ted Jeory puts our politicians in the dock

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WELL, they say you can t keep a good man down. And so it seems with that apparently ever-present figure of Tower Hamlets politics, Michael Keith

Ted Jeory puts East End politicians in the dock

WELL, they say you can't keep a 'good' man down. And so it seems with that apparently ever-present figure of Tower Hamlets politics, Michael Keith (pictured left).

He may have been twice rejected by the voters of Shadwell ward in the last two years, but rumours have persisted that he still pulls the strings at the Town Hall.

Most of us had thought that meant him quietly working behind the scenes with the occasional whisper in leader Denise Jones's ear.

But what's this? We discover this week he's also been spending his time on the board of Tower Hamlets Partnership.

As council leader, he was chair of this strange, slightly shadowy and unaccountable body.

But it seems that when he was democratically evicted from the Town Hall, partnership bosses decided they could no longer work without him.

Like the MP who loses his seat and later returns to Government as a peer, dear old Michael was summoned back to the Partnership Management Group as a 'co-opted member.'

For those unfamiliar with the partnership, it's a joint strategic body comprising the police, Tower Hamlets council and various health bodies.

It claims to be an open organisation that exists for the public good, and I'm sure it is to a degree, but then it is a bit odd that it forbids mere residents and the press from attending its management meetings where targets are set for its constituent bodies.

Incidentally, the council refuses to send us agendas and discussion papers for any partnership meetings... instead, they tell us to look at the partnership's terrible website, which even former chief executive Christine Gilbert admitted was a joke.

As a result of this secrecy, we have to rely on 'minutes' of the meetings to get even a minute flavour of what was discussed.

Hence, no one was there to question why, at the last meeting on November 15, Michael was listed as the Government's "Commissioner for Integration and Cohesion" when that commission was disbanded five months' earlier in June.

Coincidentally, that was also the time when Lainya Offside-Keivani was recruited at great expense to become the partnership's highly paid director.

Last week, she quit "by mutual agreement... for personal reasons to pursue other opportunities."

The council has refused to say whether she was given a pay-off.

But the saga confirms what one senior Labour figure confided in me recently that the partnership is not only in a bit of a mess but also a law unto itself, both financially and democratically.

During the last couple of years, Tower Hamlets council has undoubtedly become more open in its communications and information.

Just a pity the partnership, which should be a real force for good, has remained stuck in the Stalinist era.

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COVER STORY BRINGS A LAUGH

CONGRATULATIONS to Labour's Abdal Ullah and Tory Opposition chief Peter Golds for providing the only interesting moments of what was an otherwise below-par and slightly poisonous council meeting on November 28.

While Peter, in congratulating the council and "bravery" of the Muslim schoolkids who visited Auschwitz last month, delivered one of the most moving speeches I've heard in the council chamber (talking about how his own family suffered during the Holocaust), Abdal fired the wittiest remark of the night.

After Lib Dem leader Stephanie Eaton publicly described her ongoing undercover trading standards work in Tower Hamlets (hunting out dodgy cigarette sellers), mischievous Abdal looked around the room and replied: "Don't worry, your cover is safe with us..."

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WILL THE REAL MRS T STAND UP?

BACK to the Tories' dynamic married duo that is Phil Briscoe and Shirley Houghton. Earlier this year, a cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher greeted guests at their wedding in central London.

Last week, they met the real thing at a reception at Michael Portillo's house.

Although she does look a bit like cardboard these days (pictured above), Lady T apparently told cheeky Shirley: "She's got my spirit."

Whether at that point Shirley handed back her whisky glass I'm not sure...

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Advertiser Chief Reporter Ted Jeory

ted.jeory@archant.co.uk

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