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Ed Miliband visits Brick Lane and slams ‘divisive’ Mayor Lutfur Rahman

PUBLISHED: 11:43 07 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:02 07 May 2014

Ed Miliband walking through Brick Lane with John Biggs and Rushanara Ali MP

Ed Miliband walking through Brick Lane with John Biggs and Rushanara Ali MP

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has thrown his support behind Labour’s John Biggs for mayor of Tower Hamlets, slamming current mayor Lutfur Rahman as “divisive”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband enjoys a cup of tea in Pretty Cuppa Photo: David MirzoeffLabour leader Ed Miliband enjoys a cup of tea in Pretty Cuppa Photo: David Mirzoeff

Mr Miliband, who was visiting Brick Lane ahead of the local and mayoral elections on May 22, was joined by Mr Biggs and the borough’s two MPs, Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick.

He chatted with residents and visited Brick Lane Bookshop, before stopping for a cup of tea in the new cafe Pretty Cuppa.

“He was asking about how long the bookshop has been on Brick Lane,” said Kalina Dimitrova, manager of Brick Lane Bookshop.

“He also asked how much Brick Lane had changed. Then he said he was going to get a bagel.”

Labour activist Fatima Sultana outside Pretty Cuppa Photo: David MirzoeffLabour activist Fatima Sultana outside Pretty Cuppa Photo: David Mirzoeff

But it was back to stormy politics over tea when the Advertiser asked about Mr Biggs’s rival, the incumbent Mayor Lutfur Rahman, and his team’s allegations of racism against John Biggs.

Mr Miliband said: “I think it is totally disgraceful to call John, who has fought for unity, diversity, and a vision of a multi-ethnic Tower Hamlets, a racist.

“It’s a disgrace, frankly, because he has fought against racial division, he drove out the BNP 20 years ago. And I think it’s a sign of another candidate being on the defensive.

He added: “John is fighting a positive campaign about the difference he can make for people in Tower Hamlets, whether that is free school meals, or making a difference on affordable housing, or youth jobs, anti-social behaviour, all of the issues that residents are concerned about.

Labour leader Ed Miliband meets a local trader on Brick Lane
Photo: David MirzoeffLabour leader Ed Miliband meets a local trader on Brick Lane Photo: David Mirzoeff

“I think John is a unifying figure, frankly, in place of what I think is a divisive administration.”

When asked about the ongoing government audit of council finances that followed a Panorama report on the Mayor, Mr Miliband said: “That’s a matter for the proper authorities, and its right that those proper authorities do their investigations.

“But as I say, I think it’s a disgrace to try and traduce somebody like John who has fought against racial division and against racial prejudice all his political career.

“I know him well, I know his record, and I know it’s just a slur.”

Deputy Mayor Cllr Alibor Choudhury has accused Mr Biggs of racism for saying the mayor governed in the interests of Bangladeshis instead of the whole borough.

On the mayor’s alleged favouritism, Mr Miliband said: “I think a key in this is to serve all of the people of the community. And if you look at Labour’s campaign, Labour’s candidates, that is what we’re about.

“Not serving one set of people in the borough as against another set of people in the borough. It’s serving all the people right across the borough. That is the politics that John represents.”

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