While I was away, Lutfur Rahman’s voting bloc on Tower Hamlets council – the councillors who defected from Labour to support him, together with the two Respect councillors – proposed and voted for a motion committing the council to “do everything in its power to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the pariah state of Israel.”
The motion was passed, with the Conservatives voting against and Labour, the largest group on the council, abstaining. It’s another small sign of the direction the council is taking under Lutfur – thrown out of the Labour Party for his links with the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, but elected as mayor anyway last October with the IFE’s “strategic” support.
One might think that Tower Hamlets should perhaps concern itself with the East End, rather than the West Bank – but this would be to misunderstand the nature of Lutfur’s supporters. According to Islamist ideology, you should consider yourself a member of the global Muslim community, the Ummah, first, and British (if at all) second; and you have more in common with Palestinians or Afghans than with your non-Muslim next-door neighbours. Of course, most Tower Hamlets Muslims are not Islamists: but Lutfur’s backers are. And they don’t like Jews much.
There were more little signs at last week’s council meeting to set the 2011/12 budget. Lutfur, who is treated as a pariah by the mainstream parties, couldn’t get the votes he needed to pass his proposals – he’ll have to try again on March 8. But that was almost overshadowed by the public gallery being cleared after the leader of the opposition, Cllr Peter Golds, who is gay, was allegedly subjected to homophobic abuse from the spectators and another councillor, Anna Lynch, reported that she had been verbally threatened by a young man.
The council chamber at Tower Hamlets is a small, low-ceilinged room inside an office block with councillors and public all on the same level and few, if any, barriers between them. I wasn’t there last week, but the atmosphere at the last meeting I attended, in October, was fairly unpleasant with lots of aggressive heckling of the mainstream parties from Lutfur’s army of young Bengali men.
Still, not to worry. Finger as firmly on the pulse as ever, the Guardian’s Dave Hill has pronounced that everything’s going great!