Some Labour Party members recently felt a tiny ray of hope in Tower Hamlets. But it has been brutally quashed in a Tammany-Hall-style surgical political strike yet again by the incumbent Mayor John Biggs and his cronies in Labour Party. Ordinary party members have been reminded how useless and untrustworthy they are to the Tower Hamlets Labour Party hierarchy and the powers that be as they continue to be treated with contempt and in an hypocritical way. Yet there is no one courageous enough to say anything in public beyond a few closely guarded groups and tea sessions in many living rooms in the borough.
Tower Hamlets Labour Party Does Not Represent Corbyn (at all!)
Let’s get this straight. Tower Hamlets Labour Party as an entity given its hierarchy and political choices in its current form does not represent the values espoused by Corbyn. Anyone who naively still believes as such needs to get their head examined. I should know I was one of them!
One must look at the political and policy choices between 2015 until now under Tower Hamlets Labour administration – save for politically convenient rhetoric due to 2018 election.
Intelligent residents and many party members know that they can’t – and won’t – treat Tower Hamlets Labour on the same wavelength as the national Labour Party and local elections are not general elections. It is not just the fact that the local Tower Hamlets Labour dynamics and policy decisions are poles apart but the leadership and personalities are totally different with dissimilar political values and political track record. However national Labour party officials can’t fully absolve themselves of horrendous acts committed locally in their name which continue to go unchallenged.
Misogyny and Sexism
There are public accusations of misogyny, sexism, and bullying from two of right-wing Labour Mayor John Biggs’s own female party members, former Cabinet Members and Deputy Mayors (both are still serving Labour councillors) – yet nothing has happened.
Islamophobia and Bullying
Then, there were public and categorical accusations of Islamophobia, bullying and ‘buying’ loyalties from a female Deputy Mayor against the right-wing Labour Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, yet there was no investigation or a public inquiry as far as public was concerned, many party members kept quiet due to the fear of victimisation, frightened of being side-lined in the local selection for 2018 or in the local party, due to personal interests or out of sheer blind tribal politics instead of what is the right thing to do.
Racism and Discrimination
A sitting Tower Hamlets Labour Councillor Khales Uddin Ahmed, whose Labour re-selection for 2018 seems to be a foregone conclusion due to his deal of mutual support with the incumbent mayor Biggs, was caught red-handed in a recorded conversation by referring to his own party’s female Black Afro-Caribbean candidate Victoria Obaze in a shocking “Get the Blackie Out” tirade while conspiring with the opposition to defeat own party’s candidate – yet nothing happened because Labour does not want to rock the boat and the councillor is, at times, very ‘useful’ to Biggs.
Loyalty to a party does not mean that one should lose morals, ethics or ability to judge right from wrong. You should be able to speak your mind according to your conscience but not in Tower Hamlets Labour.
Some in Labour party seems to be following the spirit of the interaction between the US president Roosevelt and his very senior official – the Secretary of State.
Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, once said: “Somoza’s a bastard!”
And Roosevelt replied, “Yes, but he’s our bastard.”
Brutal Record and Despite……….
Despite brutal cuts of £75m by Biggs – who is known to many as a Blairite and Anti-Corbyn politician – carefully chosen and approved by this right-wing Labour administration led by Mayor John Biggs that unfairly and disproportionately targeted the women, ethnic minorities, young people and the most vulnerable as highlighted in many petitions and motions presented to the council and Labour party meetings by left-wing party members and local Momentum supporters and officials.
Despite the 11.78% pay increase awarded to himself (extra £10,000 in his own pay pocket) approved by Biggs and his loyal Labour councillors!
Despite 40% increase awarded (more than £2000 extra in his mate’s pay packet) to local Tory Party group leader Peter Golds by Biggs!
Despite every single Labour Cllrs was ‘rewarded’ with some sort of extra money from the council (paid for by the residents and taxpayers) in a special responsibility allowance while the residents were punished with a record 9% hike in their council tax!
Despite all the horrible things – the list is exhaustive and painful – Tower Hamlets Labour Party and Biggs’s loyal councillors inflicted on residents since 2015, things were beginning to look, at least momentarily, a little better when Labour party members were told that each party ward/branch will be able to independently and democratically choose their local candidates for 2018 election without murky outside influence or a dictate by right-wing forces in the party – lifting a key part of the undemocratic, racist, unfair and discriminatory imposition of arbitrary selection and controlling process by Labour party officials as alluded to in submissions to the Chakrabarti Inquiry.
Hope Quashed – Tower Hamlets Labour Style
However, only a couple of weeks ago, members were to find out that Tower Hamlets Labour Party led by John Biggs has suspended ALL branch meetings and the General Committee of the local party.
The Tower Hamlets Labour Party Executive Committee – under the full influence of Labour Mayor John Biggs and his loyal aides in London Labour – have decided to suspend branch and General Committee meetings until the conclusion of the selection process for 2018 – meaning they will control and influence who get to become Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets in 2018, not the ordinary party members who have the democratic right to decide who should represent them.
The scheduled General Committee meeting which included the election of CLP Secretary, Fundraising Officer – as well as a session with Cat Smith about the voter engagement – were also cancelled by the local party officials.
Real concerns have been expressed about the ‘reasons’ given for the suspension of meetings and many left-wing members feel that this is an attempt to prevent the elections of executive officers taking place, and importantly to manipulate the Labour party selection process for 2018 election in Tower Hamlets by Biggs Tammany Hall clan.
Many residents feel that this means that the racist anti-democratic imposition and control is back in full swing led by London Regional Board of Labour Party and John Biggs.
Residents, left-wing members, and some local Momentum supporters have circulated the following message:
“MAYOR JOHN BIGGS CONSPIRING TO KILL DEMOCRACY AND SUPPRESS BAME COMMUNITIES IN TOWER HAMLETS
DELIBERATE SABOTAGE OF SELECTIONS TAKING PLACE BY OPENING UP SELECTIONS AGAIN FOR WOMEN
Mayors of Tower Hamlets and Newham are conspiring with white officials in the London Regional Office to suppress BAME communities in Tower Hamlets and Newham.
White regional officers are deliberately going slow on councillor selections, so to argue that there is not enough time, so they can impose candidates at the end of the year.
In Tower Hamlets, Mayor John Biggs has engineered with white Party Officers, to put in a bid to open up selections, without any consultation with BAME party members. Allowing the process to be delayed and hence the candidates are imposed by Mayor John Biggs and white officers of the Labour Party.
There are over 40 Councillor positions, and there are 20 females on the short list. Why open up the selection, unless to delay and eventually impose candidates?
BAME communities of Tower Hamlets wake up and throw off this institutional racism!”
Another message from a Labour Party member said:
“An imposition only favours those who are subservient to the decider. It is clear who will select candidates for the next election. John Biggs will decide who goes where he did the same at the last election and we are aware what happened.”
But Cllr Khales is Happy!
Cllr Khales Uddin Ahmed of the disgusting “Get the Blackie out” outburst must be enjoying a sigh of relief as he has cut a deal with John Biggs just in a nick of time despite his expulsion from the party in 2016/17 when he was under the reported investigation for harassment of his own party’s female Labour councillors but the charges were suddenly dropped and he was spotted canvassing with Biggs and was subsequently appointed as special adviser to Mayor John Biggs – securing not only a safe nomination for 2018 as a Labour councillor but also two salaries from the council on taxpayers’ expense. Cushy!
What Happens Now?
Well, Biggs-led Tower Hamlets Labour Party, in collaboration with London Region, is conducting (tightly controlled and carefully facilitated) short-listing and selections for 2018 council Labour candidates at a series of meetings during November 2017.
To be eligible to attend these meetings and vote on the selection of candidates for your ward, you must:
- have been a Labour Party member on 1st September 2016
- have had your membership in Tower Hamlets on 1st March 2017
- not be seeking selection as a candidate in your ward.
You will receive an email inviting you to the meeting, or a letter delivered to you at home if the Labour Party does not have an email address for you on record. If you believe you are eligible to vote and do not receive either a letter or an email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7729 6682.
Cough Up the Cash or Go Home
No civilised and polite reminder in advance to party members that you must also be up-to-date with your membership payments to be eligible to attend the meetings. Instead if you are in arrears, you will need to arrive almost an hour early for your own ward’s meeting and pay those arrears in “cash”, to guarantee that you will be able to attend the meeting. Nice! No doubt, Tory Universal Credit implementation gurus will be learning from this wonderful conduct.
In an exercise reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, on arrival at your ward’s meeting, you will be asked to satisfy the officials and prove yourself before you are allowed in.
Your membership must be verified. So that Tower Hamlets Tammany Hall Operation can do this, you must bring your Labour Party membership card – and – either one form of a photo ID (such as your passport or a driving license) – or – two forms of non-photo ID (such as a bill or a bank statement etc).
- Bow East – All current Labour councillors reselected again for 2018 – all are personally loyal to Biggs and serve in his Cabinet at present with a handsome pay-packet from the council as portfolio holders.
- Bow West – only change is that Val Whitehead replacing Peck who has had enough and is retiring now. Both candidates are supporters of Biggs. One of them is in Biggs’s cabinet and claims two salaries.
- Weavers – Staunch Biggs’ loyalists. Both claim two salaries from the council.
- Bromley South – Biggs’ cronies and squeaky loyalists – one of them act as a fixer for Biggs.
- Blackwall and Cubit Town – An incumbent Labour councillor Chesterton is retiring, an interesting ward with a sitting Tory councillor. Many Tories voted for Biggs in 2015 and local Tory leader Golds is a strong supporter of Biggs and has received a 40% increase in his salary, presumably for his loyal service to Biggs. Two newcomers have forced their way as candidates here because it is not seen as solid and safe Labour ward, but Labour could potentially trounce the sitting Tory councillor if they stopped colluding with them. One of a chosen Labour candidate is a highly confused but politically ambitious party member. One day he is with Lutfur Rahman, promoting and working for Team Lutfur, then he is against Biggs to put pressure as a Momentum supporter, the other days he is talking to the opposition to improve his personal chances of success, another day he is campaigning and promoting Biggs – a perfect career politician in making it seems.
One of the sitting Tower Hamlets Labour councillors frightened about local ward and branch members democratically selecting the local election candidates said, “the local BAME members will take over control and will not select us”, I so wish the answer from the Labour councillor would have been that ‘I have full confidence in my work, track-record of delivery and the constructive working relationship with my local Labour members to put their trust in me again for 2018’.
The complicated wards that can make or break local campaigns have yet to be decided but will be done swiftly amidst rumours of deals and quid pro quo approaches between various labour factions trying to outdo each other but alas this conduct and practices are not something which will benefit the people of Tower Hamlets or the national Labour party.
That’s why we have a duty to speak out even though it results in expulsion and witch-hunt by Tower Hamlets Labour Party unless you are willing to do a secret deal with Biggs but some of us feel that principles should not be crushed or conveniently forgotten to grab or cling on to personal power.
The writer is a Labour Party Member and grew up in Tower Hamlets.