Elections: Now Apsana Begum is told by Labour’s own Rushanara Ali to ‘rebuild trust after anti-semitic remarks’

PUBLISHED: 12:38 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:46 10 December 2019

Apsana Begum... challenged over

Apsana Begum... challenged over "fast track" six-month council housing allocation. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Labour’s controversial election candidate for Poplar and Limehouse who has been caught up in issues of anti-Semitism and alleged “jumping the housing queue” has been told by a leading fellow party candidate to “rebuild trust” in the community.

Rushanara Ali... Rushanara Ali... "It's for Apsana Begum to reach out to the community she has deeply offended." Picture: Mike Brooke

Apsana Begum had been facing calls to step down over issues involving remarks about Zionism and her "fast-track" allocation of a council flat.

Now Rushanara Ali, Labour's candidate in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow constituency who has been its MP since 2010, has urged Apsana to fight any anti-Semitism.

"It's for her to rebuild trust and reach out to the community she has deeply offended," Rushanara told an election hustings in Whitechapel last night.

"I have certainly relayed my views to her in the light of those remarks, as well as others who have found themselves in this sort of territory where they've made remarks that have caused deep offence and hurt."

Rushanara, standing for her fourth term as MP, was asked if she supports her fellow Labour candidate when she appeared at the hustings organised by the Metropolitan University.

Challenging anti-Semitism... audience at Bethnal Green & Bow election hustings held at Met University in Whitechapel. Picture: Mike BrookeChallenging anti-Semitism... audience at Bethnal Green & Bow election hustings held at Met University in Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke

"I understand she's made an apology concerning remarks reported about anti-Semitism," she responded.

"I know what any form of anti-Semitism and racism is like. I worked for my Labour predecessor Oona King, a Jewish MP who experienced anti-Semitism and saw what it does to people."

She turned attention to her own Labour national leadership following condemnation from the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis last month about not dealing with racism in the party's rank-and-file.

"My party needs to do much more to rebuild trust," she added.

Rushanara, who grew up in the East End's Muslim community, had been at the receiving end of Islamophobia herself, the hustings was told.

Rushanara... Rushanara... "I worked for a Jewish MP who had anti-Semitism and saw what it does to people." Picture: Mike Brooke

"There is a great deal of solidarity between the Muslim and Jewish communities in tackling hatred," she said. "The Jewish community has made such an important contribution in the East End, going back to the 'Battle of Cable Street' (Mosley's fascist Blackshirts stopped from marching through Whitechapel in 1936).

"Everything we see and enjoy comes from the heritage contribution of the British Jewish community, which right now feels vulnerable."

Apsana Begum, a 29-year-old single woman with no children, came under fire herself the night before over allegations of "queue jumping" in getting a council flat when she appeared with five other candidates at the Poplar and Limehouse hustings, held by the Isle of Dogs Forum in Millwall where she lives.

One furious voter asked her face-to-face how she landed the flat in an area which would normally be "extraordinary difficult" to get.

All she would say was that allegations in the newspapers were untrue, that she needed housing as she was "in particular circumstances" and had requested the media to "respect the privacy of the context in which I was housed".

Six candidates for Bethal Green and Bow... Labour, Green, Brexit, Liberal Democrat Conservative and Animal Rights (excluded from panel). Picture: Mike BrookeSix candidates for Bethal Green and Bow... Labour, Green, Brexit, Liberal Democrat Conservative and Animal Rights (excluded from panel). Picture: Mike Brooke

There was no detail on how she was given her council-allocated flat in six months, while 19,000 families in need are in Tower Hamlets' housing queue.

She is an active member of the Momentum movement, some of whose members on the Isle of Dogs sent out an anti-Semitic tweet about Tower Hamlets Council's former Tory Group leader Peter Golds to try and oust him during the 2018 local elections, which failed.

Their offending tweet seen by the East London Advertiser at the time had an aerial shot of Canary Wharf and the implicit heading "For the many, not Golds". It was hurriedly taken down on orders from Labour Party HQ and condemned by Tower Hamlets' Labour mayor.

General Election list of candidates for

Bethnal Green and Bow

(alphabetical order of surnames):

Mohammad Ali (Green)

Rushanara Ali (Lab)

David Axe (Brexit)

Joshua Babirandi (Lib Dem)

Vanessa Hudson (Animal Welfare)

Nicholas Stovold (Con).

General Election list of candidates for

Poplar and Limehouse

(alphabetical order of surnames):

Apsana Begum (Lab)

Andrew Cregan (Lib Dem)

Catherine Cui (Brexit)

Andy Erlam (anti corruption)

Neil Jameson (Green)

Sheun Oke (Con).

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