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Town Hall 'game show' politics leave nasty taste

PUBLISHED: 20:48 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:19 05 October 2010

London, UNITED KINGDOM:  Muslims bow their heads at London's Central Mosque in Regents Park during Friday's prayers, 15 July 2005. The deadly bombings on London's subway trains and a bus on the 7th of July 2005 have left over 50 people dead. The head of the Muslim Council of Great Britian Iqbal Sacranie has travelled up to Leeds after Muslims nationwide have condemned the actions of the London bombers. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA.  (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Muslims bow their heads at London's Central Mosque in Regents Park during Friday's prayers, 15 July 2005. The deadly bombings on London's subway trains and a bus on the 7th of July 2005 have left over 50 people dead. The head of the Muslim Council of Great Britian Iqbal Sacranie has travelled up to Leeds after Muslims nationwide have condemned the actions of the London bombers. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA. (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

2005 AFP

THE tectonic plates of Tower Hamlets politics are not just shifting—they’re buckling in every political direction at the moment. Labour has ousted leader Denise Jones for Lutfur Rahman, about whom many colleagues are wary. Mutterings about the influence within the Town Hall of an East London Mosque-based organisation have intensified. And Respect-George Galloway continue to search their souls over their long term futures

Ted Jeory puts East End politicians in the dock

THE tectonic plates of Tower Hamlets politics are not just shifting—they’re buckling in every political direction at the moment.

Labour has ousted leader Denise Jones for Lutfur Rahman, a man about whom many of his colleagues are wary; mutterings about the influence within the Town Hall of an East London Mosque-based organisation called Islamic Forum Europe have intensified; and Respect-George Galloway continue to search their souls over their long term futures.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all in this surreal arena of Mickey Mouse politics, along comes a week when resigned shrugs of the shoulders descend to outright despair.

Not only has Labour whored itself by accepting the defection to its ranks of the official mystery man of Tower Hamlets council—ex-Lib Dem Rajib Ahmed, a member so enthusiastic to represent his constituents that he deigned to speak up for them in the Town Hall chamber these past three years a grand total of zero times—but it has also appointed as chair of the council’s development committee a man who struggles to make himself understood in English.

Shafiqul Haque is, as I’ve written before, as decent a man you’ll likely meet.

But a master of controlling a meeting he is most certainly not. The language barrier is just that.

His stint presiding over full council meetings during his mayoralty in 2006-07 was memorable for one thing—chaos.

If there’s one committee that needs strong and eloquent leadership and the ability to communicate clearly with residents whose quality of life is often at stake, it’s the development committee.

That Labour councillors have failed to appoint someone more appropriate is quite frankly an insult.

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WHY LIB DEMS ARE LOSING OUT

JUDGING by the barrage of persistent phone calls and Ministerial visits to Opposition councillors and their homes this week, Labour bosses seem to have been more preoccupied with self-survival than worrying about trivial matters like committee appointments.

A major recruitment drive for wavering Respect councillors is under way, it appears.

This is rooted in desires both to secure MP Jim Fitzpatrick’s Westminster seat of Poplar & Limehouse by destroying Respect, and also to bolster the numbers within the different factions of the council Labour party.

Particular pressure has been applied to the Respect Independents and I understand that Jim is on the brink of hauling in Lutfa Begum and her daughter Rania Khan.

That would leave Oli Rahman, Respect’s original member—and latterly leader of the independents—on his tod.

But although George Galloway’s advisers have been trying to woo him back home’, my bet is he’ll negotiate a safe council seat with Labour.

And then there’s Shahed Ali, another target of the cold-calling machine. Though currently deputy leader of the main Respect group, he’s also unhappy and ready to jump.

I understand he’s sounded out the Tories, but rejoining his old friends in Labour is the most likely route.

By the end of the summer, Labour could well number 33 councillors, enough to persuade other members of Respect and the Lib Dems to defect.

The big losers out of all this are the Lib Dems. They’re now down to four and face obliteration in 2010.

It’s enough to make you feel sorry for their unstintingly hard-working leader Stephanie Eaton.

Well, almost (she is a politician, after all).

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Ted Jeory

ted.jeory@archant.co.uk


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