The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, rather conspicuously failed an early test of leadership last month. He refused to take any action against his London mayoral candidate, Ken Livingstone, for openly campaigning against the Labour candidate, Helal Abbas, and for an extremist-backed independent, Lutfur Rahman, in the recent Tower Hamlets mayor election. (Livingstone appeared on television three days before the election with his hand around Rahman’s shoulder, describing Abbas as not a “credible candidate.” This would normally be an expulsion offence.)
Rahman was sacked by the Labour Party amid deep concerns over his links with the Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), and with a number of powerful local businessmen. The IFE has hosted the radical terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki (star of much of last week’s airline bomb plot coverage) and believes, in its own words, in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”
Now Ken – the single most important supporter of radical Islam in British politics – has pushed home his advantage. According to the Labour Uncut website, he has met Mr Miliband to press for Rahman’s early readmission to the party – and will propose a motion to that effect at the party’s National Executive Committee, of which he is a member, on 30 November. Team Miliband has apparently given the plea a sympathetic hearing.
The horror this has caused in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party – still furious at the way Livingstone sabotaged their campaign – cannot be underestimated. A senior Tower Hamlets Labour Party source said: “We would be totally against this. For somebody who chose to leave the Labour Party and run as an independent only a few weeks ago to be readmitted would be outrageous.” Only two weeks ago, the Tower Hamlets Labour group of councillors – still the largest on the council – voted to have nothing to do with Rahman and even several councillors who were expected to help him have refused to do so.
I can see the advantages for Livingstone in Lutfur’s readmission. It would wipe away some of the stain of Ken’s having campaigned against his own party. It would also be a huge thank you for the very special favours the IFE and radical Islamists did him in the 2008 mayoral election, when they were able to magic (out of thin air, some say!) thousands of previously elusive Ken Livingstone votes.
The advantages for the Labour Party, however, are much less clear. If anyone from Mr Miliband’s office comes across this blog, Lutfur:
2. appointed a man closely connected to the IFE. Lutfur Ali, as assistant chief executive of the council (even though he was unqualified for the job and was dismissed as a candidate by the council’s own headhunters), then effectively sacked the council’s secular, white chief executive. Lutfur Ali was present at Rahman’s mayoral campaign launch and is now expected to return to the council.
3. handed large and growing sums of council money to IFE front organisations.
4. moved council funding from secular, multicultural organisations to groups closely connected to the IFE.
5. presided over the stocking of Tower Hamlets libraries with extremist literature, including hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by Awlaki.
6. proposed to “Islamically brand” the multicultural Brick Lane with “hijab arches.”
7. signed up entire families of sham “paper” members to ensure his nomination as Labour mayoral candidate, several of whom told us they do not even support the Labour Party.
8. enjoyed the backing of prominent local racists and anti-Semites, one of whom organised meetings for his campaign and appears to have signed his nomination papers as mayoral candidate.
9. benefited from the close support and patronage of a local millionaire businessman, Shiraj Haque, who has openly stated: “I needed someone to fix [Tower Hamlets politics], so I thought let’s try him [Lutfur].”
10. is currently under police investigation (interviews are currently under way with witnesses) for allegedly failing to declare substantial donations by Mr Haque and others to his campaign, as electoral law requires;
11. won the election after his supporters distributed smear literature falsely claiming that Mr Abbas was a racist, a wife-beater and an enemy of Islam.
I should stress that despite reporting all this repeatedly here, on Channel 4’s Dispatches and in the newspaper over the last nine months, we have received no complaint or challenge from Rahman. Complaints made by others against us to Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission have without exception been dismissed.
Among Tower Hamlets council’s first actions since Lutfur became its head is to hand out CDs in its Town Hall of sermons by an extremist preacher who has said that “Islam is incompatible with democracy” and that men should have the right to beat their wives – the first controversy in a mayoralty which is likely to become a political and media car-crash.
These are the reasons why Lutfur Rahman should not be readmitted to the Labour Party.