Politicians hate it when their propaganda and lies are called out and exposed.
Anti-Corbyn mayor Biggs and Tory (far-right within his own party) Tower Hamlets leader Cllr Golds continue to scratch each other’s backs with own shocking salary increases, mutually beneficial political statements and moves – ironically at the expense and detriment of some of their own party members in Tower Hamlets.
Unfortunately, Tower Hamlets politics, in the last few years, has seen far too many of these lies go unchallenged due to the dearth of effective scrutiny by media and a personally convenient nexus of mayor John Biggs (seen by many as an Anti-Corbyn Blairite and traditionally on the right-wing of the party) and Cllr Peter Golds (local Tory Party leader, seen by many on the far right of Tory party and with dogmatic and vindictive views based on personalities/faith/colour according to a variety of sources who have dealt with him but he can act as if butter would not melt in his mouth when it politically suits him).
Mostly, it is well crafted spin operation or being economical with truth but in recent months the outright lies by John Biggs and his Labour administration have increased at a shocking rate. The failure, incompetence and cherry picking of ‘Biggs-friendly’ Cllr Peter Golds (local Tory leader who has 4 other conservative councillors in the Town Hall, none of them as vindictive as Golds) to hold Mayor John Biggs to account provide further damning evidence that ‘a vote for Biggs, was a vote for Tories‘ in Tower Hamlets when, in 2015, many Tories voted for John Biggs in a secret deal. Tory Cllr Golds coincidentally received 40% (more than £2,000 extra) increase in his pay packet – put forward and approved by Tower Hamlets Labour Mayor John Biggs who also took the opportunity to give himself 11.78% pay increase as he punished residents with 9% council tax increase and £75m cuts despite inheriting £409m reserves from the previous administration to protect services and help residents.
Because of the well documented political and social history of Tower Hamlets, many residents have been forced to analyse the recent political discourse through the lens of ‘Orientalism’ with an acute feeling of haplessness and what they perceive to be hypocrisy and whataboutery of the sections of the media and the elements within the professional political class – especially local Tories, those within the Tower Hamlets Labour party and the local Liberal Democrats.
In our opinion pieces and articles at the WTP, we try our best to look at the facts and information that others, by and large, choose to ignore.
Let’s look at three examples in recent months.
Lie No 1 | Watts Grove Affordable Council Homes
Blairite Mayor John Biggs and his loyal Cllrs claimed, in 2017, it was Biggs administration that delivered almost 150 affordable council homes here – it was a lie. The fact is that it was Lutfur Rahman, assisted by his cabinet members Cllrs Alibor Choudhury and Ohid Ahmed that fought hard to secure funding and approved the project on 5 November 2014 according to Council’s own official cabinet record but facts don’t matter. In fact, Rahman administration slightly delayed the project to provide the best value for money and more affordable housing as Cllr Ohid Ahmed and then Cllr Alibor Choudhury wanted to secure additional funding from the GLA, and duly succeeded. Watts Grove is a fantastic example of what local authorities can achieve under a real leadership at the very top – someone who has a passion to deal with housing crisis and residents issues at a local level.
Lie No 2 | Education and Children Services Scandal under John Biggs
Everyone who has any interest in Tower Hamlets knows that nationally-recognised education and youth achievements, under The Rahman-led administration, remain one of the key moments of pride and joy for residents and the various cabinet members – Cllrs Ohid Ahmed, Oli Rahman, Gulam Robbani and Alibor Choudhury – who helped deliver such a remarkable turnaround. It is a matter of record that Tower Hamlets schools outperformed the more affluent schools across the country, achieved their best-ever success in the history with 5th best improvements in the United Kingdom under Lutfur Rahman. In 2013, Tower Hamlets schools were rated as “among the best urban schools in the world” according to independent educational academics, Professor David Woods, Dr. Chris Husbands and Dr. Chris Brown, all under ‘very bad’ Lutfur.
Lutfur Rahman administration was ‘so bad’ and ‘corrupt’ that Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited Blue Gate Fields Junior School in Tower Hamlets and said after visiting this Tower Hamlets school that “Scotland can learn lessons from London schools on how to tackle the attainment gap.” Even to the most biased commentator, it would have been clear that the borough’s sterling educational achievements under the former Mayor Lutfur Rahman, assisted by invaluable contributions from Cllrs Alibor Choudhury, Gulam Robbani, Rahman and former Deputy Mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed, were remarkably positive.
OFSTED – an independent Government education watchdog – judged Tower Hamlets schools under Team Lutfur to be “good” with ‘outstanding’ provisions. In 2017, shockingly, under Blairite Labour Mayor John Biggs, the OFSTED says that Tower Hamlets Council Children Services are “inadequate” – the lowest possible rating in the country. The commentary in the OFSTED report is damning about the lack of leadership, and the catalogue of failures under John Biggs is truly shocking.
Here is the crux. Despite the facts and information provided above, in his official annual report, Labour Mayor John Biggs – the one who came to fix things in Tower Hamlets, the one who claims to be holier than thou, the one who self-confessed to bring Tower Hamlets into his personally beneficial version of “mainstream” as if standing up for the residents before party politics is a bad thing – stated basically…. ‘the children services failure was because of the former mayor Lutfur Rahman administration’. Another lie by John Biggs. Based on this, yet another, evidence, it is safe to assume that John Biggs does not know not the truth if it hit him in the face, or is deliberately lying in his report to the residents. Yes, it is a deliberate and carefully constructed lie, to mislead voters and others. Perhaps Biggs loyalist and party agent Graham Taylor whose job could be on the line if someone raised this with the Election Commission needs to take an urgent notice and act before it is too late.
Lie 3 | Henry Moore’s Statue of a draped Women | ‘Old Flo’
Old Flo, is back on public display in Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets but the statue is now sited on private land under the shadows of Canary Wharf towers mainly occupied by corporate banks looking after the hedge funds for the rich and the multinationals – symbol of unfair distribution of wealth in society. #ParadisePapers anyone?
“Old Flo has an important place in our borough’s history and heritage,” said John Biggs, the mayor of Tower Hamlets. “I am delighted to have her back in the East End where she belongs.” – Sounds nice!
The deliberate propaganda peddled out by Labour Biggs and his Tory mates like Peter Golds against the former mayor Lutfur Rahman is that Lutfur was determined to sell the sculpture through an auction for an estimated £18-20m to raise cash for the residents council. The Biggs and Tory spin operation claims that Lutfur said the council could not afford to pay for its security and insurance and needed the money to help plug a yawning budget deficit. One of Biggs’s first decisions was to cancel the sale. Another lie. It was actually to bung at least £850,000 to a local company who is controlled by Biggs’ party mates.
This ‘Old Flo’ operation is carefully spun lie by Biggs and Co because it deliberately withholds many important facts, like:
Former Mayor Rahman and Team Lutfur battled in courts to claim the ownership of the ‘Old Flo’ – when others stated it was theirs, like Bromley council. For almost 20 years, before Lutfur and Ohid, no Labour administration in Tower Hamlets had the courage and leadership to do so.
For almost 20 years, until Lutfur came to prominence in Tower Hamlets, Tories cynically, did not have the gumption to make this an issue – a brown Muslim Mayor in Lutfur Rahman – who Tower Hamlets Tory leader Cllr Golds seems to hate at a personal level, under the cloak of fighting corruption and promoting transparency, provided a perfect opportunity to hide his prejudices behind a campaign that carefully accentuated a divisive “us” Vs “them” narrative.
The ‘Old Flo’ has survived vandalism, the demolition of her original setting, a custody battle in the courts – thanks to Team Lutfur who fought in the courts to battle and won the ownership – something no one else had done before.
Lutfur Rahman administration explored the option of auctioning ‘Old Flo’ to raise £20m cash to ‘build council homes’ in a borough where nearly half of children live in poverty in extremely overcrowded conditions, a borough with one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the country and stark inequalities. Was that such a bad thing to consider ‘an option’ to provide many affordable council homes to residents by selling a statue that was suddenly used by political opponents to whip up a frenzy. A statue that does not probably change much for 95% of the working class and poverty-stricken people of this borough?
Yes, ‘Old Flo’ has an important place in our borough’s history and heritage and we are glad that it is back in Tower Hamlets where she belongs, thanks to Lutfur Rahman, but if John Biggs and Peter Golds can be honest for once they will address the following simple point:
‘Old Flo’ was originally intended by the artist ‘to bring a little joy into the heart of a council estate’ not in the private land that belongs to people with privileges with the charity of public access.
We are waiting to see if Labour and Tories in Tower Hamlets will now campaign to ensure that ‘Old Flo’ is moved to a council estate in Stepney as intended by Henry Moore.
Don’t hold your breath.