Tower Hamlets elections always turn nasty. But the campaign to install the fundamentalist sympathiser, Lutfur Rahman, as mayor of the borough on Thursday has entered whole new continents of squalor.
Yesterday thousands of copies of a free newspaper called the “London Bangla” were delivered to every house in Shadwell, part of the borough. Its extraordinary parade of defamatory fantasies about Labour’s candidate, Helal Abbas, and its baroque brown-nosing of Lutfur, makes even the efforts of Channel S and the other Rahman propaganda outlets look small-time.
The page 1 headline: “A right mayoral punch-up: Councillor Abbas makes racist TV slur as supporters get physical.” The story opens: “Mayoral candidate Councillor Helal Abbas and his canvassing team have stooped to a new low after initiating a physical attack on their political rivals….If this is what they do to people like [Lutfur] and his supporters in broad daylight, imagine what else they are capable of.” One of Lutfur’s supporters, Oli Rahman, is described as having been “traumatised” by the “loutish behaviour.”
A more reliable account of this incident, as reported on Ted Jeory’s blog with contributions from both sides, makes clear that London Bangla’s version is a complete twisting of the truth. The idea that Oli Rahman was “traumatised,” given his actual role in events, is particularly amusing.
On page 4: “Scholars pledge support to Lutfur Rahman.” (According to one of them: “Honesty, courage and truth cannot be defeated, and that is why the people are supporting Lutfur.”) Interestingly, some of the scholars appear to be some of my favourite extremist clerics.
On page 6: “Scholars condemn Helal Abbas” (for supposedly making an “obnoxious…slander” on the imam of Mecca – another falsehood.)
On page 8, perhaps the most extraordinary smear of all: “Stop wife-beating Mayoral candidate Helal Abbas. Rally against domestic violence in Tower Hamlets.” Perhaps the next issue of London Bangla will accuse him of killing Shergar?
Also on page 8: “Noyon,” a “Tower Hamlets resident,” attacking the “Grand Theft Auto style politics” of – guess who – Helal Abbas. “Abbas can do no wrong, what with his corrupt political friends presenting him garlands for his every lie and gaffe. Mr Abbas would be better off in charge of Sin City.”
Another “local voter,” “Rukiya,” opines: “He is breaking under the pressure. You’d think Abbas has no conscience, but his lies and his own chequered past may be leading to cracks in his person.” London Bangla isn’t taking any chances with these “residents.” As well as leaving out their surnames, it coyly admits at the end of the article that “some names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.”
Page 11 is an “open letter to Labour members of Tower Hamlets” by one of Lutfur’s ex-Labour dupes, Stephen Beckett. Page 12: a full-page article by Lutfur’s supporter Abjol Miah of the Islamic Forum of Europe headlined: “Who will stand up for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable?” (you won’t need three guesses!)
And that’s just the English-language articles. God knows what the Bengali ones in the same newspaper are saying.
The executive editor of London Bangla, Emdad Rahman, contacted me yesterday to complain about being associated on this blog with the Channel S anti-Lutfur campaign. I told him I thought he had a nerve, given the filth appearing in his own newspaper. He’s not the overall editor – that is a gentleman called Shah Yousuf. Remember that name in case Mr Yousuf ever tries to present himself as a serious journalist in the future.
Abbas is now being advised to take legal action against London Bangla and its publishers – but the beauty of it is that the smears are on every doorstep, and any legal redress could not happen until after the election.
Still, I have a feeling that the paper’s Private Eye parody hatchet job is so blatant that it may, for many voters, prove counter-productive. The problem, however, is that it’s still sinking in to the background noise in parts of the community. So much for Lutfur as the candidate of “honesty, courage and truth.”