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Mother of all rows over learning languages goes on

PUBLISHED: 11:39 07 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:04 05 October 2010

AHMED Hussain made his first appearance at the Town Hall as a Tory on February 27. He might have signed his own political death warrant.

Tory numbers supremo Simon Rouse suggested 'ending' the popular Mother Tongue service, which in Tower Hamlets is used by the Bangladeshi community to learn Bengali/Bangla, to save Tower Hamlets council £719,000 a year. To the disgust and political delight of every other Bangladeshi councillor, Ahmed voted for Simon's motion

Ted Jeory puts East End politicians in the dock

AHMED Hussain made his first appearance at the Town Hall as a Tory councillor on February 27. He might well have signed his own political death warrant.

As part of his alternative budget, Tory numbers supremo Simon Rouse, as he had last year, suggested 'ending' the popular Mother Tongue service, which in Tower Hamlets is generally used by the Bangladeshi community to learn Bengali/Bangla.

The Tories said it would save Tower Hamlets council £719,000 a year.

To the disgust, and political delight, of every other Bangladeshi councillor in the chamber, Ahmed voted for Simon's motion (although slightly disingenuously he tried to say that in "ending" it, Simon actually meant "transferring" the service to another council department). The rest of Simon's budget echoed much of what he was proposing last year.

Hmm. Time to revisit my notepad from 12 months ago. When Simon proposed scrapping Mother Tongue funding last year, Respect councillor Oli Rahman leapt up to say the Tories should be "ashamed of themselves."

Pointing the figure, jeering and agreeing alongside him was another Respect councillor...

Yes, you've guessed it, Ahmed Hussain.

He then stood up and said: "Mother tongue classes are one of the good services that we do have in this borough. They help all round education."

But his anger with the Tories didn't stop there this time last year. My notes tell me he then launched with gusto into an attack on the rest of Simon's plans, saying: "This is not an alternative budget, this is chaos."

And in what appeared to be a dig at New Labour for 'adopting' Tory policies, he added: "All these years, we've had a Tory budget, a Lib Dem budget and Labour budgets.

"You Simon, you don't ever listen to us. When are you going to listen to the residents and learn?"

When indeed?

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COULD THIS BE AHMED'S MOMENT

IN A couple of months, Labour councillors will sit down to propose their candidate to be the next mayor of Tower Hamlets.

The job of 'first citizen' is largely ceremonial and requires good communication skills, particularly when presiding over full council meetings and citizenship ceremonies.

Incumbent Ann Jackson has been brilliant.

Her deputy and presumed successor is Mohammed Shahid Ali, a man notable for saying practically nothing at all the Town Hall meetings I've been to... he even sat with his eyes closed for a lengthy period during one meeting, claiming he had a headache.

I'm sure in time he'd be a very good mayor. But wouldn't it be nice for our largely forgotten Somali community to be given attention?

Wouldn't it be fantastic for everyone if Labour graced the borough with the first Somali mayor?

Cllr Ahmed Omer... has his time has come?

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PECK'S PROVING A REAL TOWN HALL CHARMER

SO MANY complimentary words were said about Josh Peck's (admittedly half-decent) budget last week, the chorus of coos in the council chamber was almost retch-worthy.

But, oh how he inspires such envy in opponents!

In the space of just two years, the Tories have nicknamed him Cllr "Hen Pecked" (because he was thought to simply take orders from gentle Denise Jones), then he was the "baby faced assassin" (because he allegedly raided social services budgets 12 months ago).

Last Wednesday he earned himself another feather in his cap.

After Josh's 10-minute speech about how wonderful things were becoming in Tower Hamlets, the council's king of the one-liner, Tory boss Peter Golds, said: "When he leaps into political hyperbole like that, he reminds me of an indignant budgerigar." Children!

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Advertiser Chief Reporter Ted Jeory

ted.jeory@archant.co.uk

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