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Racism row erupts ahead of election with Tower Hamlets MPs slamming 'politics of fear'

PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:29 26 February 2014

John Biggs with Lutfur Rahman

John Biggs with Lutfur Rahman

Archant

A racism row erupted between politicians this week with the borough's two MPs weighing in to defend the Labour mayoral candidate John Biggs.

Last week, Cllr Alibor Choudhury, a member of Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet, accused Mr Biggs of racism over remarks he made on the BBC and reported him to a government equality watchdog.

In a joint statement this week, Rushanara Ali MP and Jim Fitzpatrick MP attacked the mayor and his party, calling Cllr Choudhury’s comments “a baseless smear”.

They said: “We are utterly appalled by this behaviour. Tower Hamlets is, and deserves, better than these bullyboy politicians who resort to lies and character attacks.

“If Lutfur Rahman thinks Labour is standing against him because of his race then he needs to get real.”

They added: “The people of Tower Hamlets will see through these inflammatory accusations for what they are: a desperate attempt to divide based on the politics of fear.”

Cllr Choudhury’s accusations were made in a statement from the mayor’s party, Tower Hamlets First, which quoted Mr Biggs as saying: “All of the mayor’s cabinet are Bangladeshi and his primary policy focus has been the concerns of one community, the Bangladeshi community.”

Cllr Choudhury said he had no option but to report Mr Biggs to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

He said: “Biggs’s slogan is ‘Uniting the East End’, but with far-right patrols on our streets and bomb threats to the Town Hall and East London Mosque, his remarks are doing the opposite.”

John Biggs called Mr Choudhury’s allegations “typical ratbag politics from a typical ratbag politician”.

He added: “I’m proud of my record of standing up for all communities in Tower Hamlets.”

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