The 'Gandhi of Palestine' sits in a cell, awaiting deportation

Sheik Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel (Photo: AP)
Sheik Raed Salah (Photo: AP)

The British police have finally caught up with Raed Salah, the delightful gentleman I wrote about on this blog two weeks ago, after he was served with (but managed to evade) an exclusion order by the Home Secretary on the grounds of his undesirability. (Raed has also been banned by the Speaker from parliament, where he was due to address a meeting of Left-wing Labour MPs tonight.)

Salah’s British supporters blatantly lied about the revolting views which led to this action, even though they have been documented in many places over many years. They also denied he’d been excluded from Britain almost up until the moment he disappeared into police custody. They even claimed to have “served” legal proceedings against me last Friday for my disgraceful slurs on the “Gandhi of Palestine,” as the “Middle East Monitor” website hilariously calls him. I’ve received nothing at all so far, alas – maybe it’s lost in the post?

The Salah story illustrates two problems for Islamists. Firstly, though lying is of course one of their principal techniques, they really do need some better liars. And secondly, more importantly, the idea that someone like this could seriously be described as “the Gandhi of Palestine” illustrates the terrible mess the Palestinian cause has got itself into.

It is a noble cause. The Palestinians are an oppressed people. But I’ve always thought the road of bigotry (as with Salah) and violence (with others) has been a complete dead end for them. Not only is it wrong in principle, it is mistaken tactically. It dooms them to play in a game they can never win. The amount of violence the Palestinians can bring to bear against Israel is always going to be less than the amount of violence that Israel can bring to bear against them. Killing civilians also significantly reduces the advantage which the Palestinians should have, the moral advantage.

Perhaps if they really had had a Gandhi – peaceful, non-hating and above all a builder, not a spender, of moral authority – the Palestinians might have got more of what they want and deserve by now. Instead, they’ve got Raed Salah.

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East London Mosque: the lies go on

Salman Farsi, the East London Mosque’s less than silver-tongued PR, has been in action after my story yesterday about the mosque’s meeting tomorrow with the homophobe Yusuf Patel of SREIslamic (the mosque’s own director will share the platform.) “Many other faith groups also hold similar views, but are not singled out in the same manner or with the same vituperative response,” he pleads.

This isn’t about a faith. It’s about a mosque. No doubt some Christians do hold homophobic views – but I am quite certain that you would never find them being openly and repeatedly expressed, with official approval, from the pulpit of, say, Southwark Cathedral, or for that matter the smallest parish church in this country. Still less would you find active hatred being incited against people on the grounds of their sexuality. The East London Mosque, Britain’s largest, is British Islam’s equivalent of Southwark Cathedral.

The other reason this mosque is being “singled out” is because it is in breach of its own specific promise to mend its ways. Less than three weeks ago, older readers will remember, the same Salman Farsi who is now justifying the Patel meeting pledged: “Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises, whether that is us organising an event or someone else.”

Just to help Mr Farsi out, here is a handy link to some YouTube video of Yusuf Patel speaking – at the East London Mosque, in fact! – in 2009. “We believe homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle,” he says. “It may be unfashionable to believe it. We may be branded extremists if we believe that homosexuality is a sin against Allah. But we believe it!”

Let’s just remind Mr Farsi of his promise again, in case he’s forgotten it in the last two paragraphs: “Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises.”

Update – Someone’s just pointed out that the mosque has managed to rope in dear old Sunny Hundal, who can always be relied on to argue for the selective application of progressive values. The response above applies equally to you, Sunny.

Lutfur Rahman used staff paid for by taxpayers to campaign for the Labour Party

Here’s my piece from yesterday’s paper:

A LONDON council leader used staff paid by the taxpayer to campaign for the Labour Party in a recent parliamentary by–election.

Lutfur Rahman, the controversial directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, took a coachload of people, including a number working for the council, to canvass for Labour at the Leicester South by–election. The visit took place during working hours on a weekday. Asked by The Daily Telegraph, the council refused repeatedly to deny that the staff were on duty at the time.

Mr Rahman was elected as an independent after being expelled from the Labour Party for his alleged links to an extremist Muslim group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which has been accused by the local Labour MP of infiltrating his party. The April 27 visit to support Labour’s candidate, Jon Ashworth, was part of Mr Rahman’s so far unsuccessful attempt to win readmission to the party.

In emails to Peter Golds, the Tory opposition leader in Tower Hamlets, the council’s head of democratic services, John Williams, admitted that “staff from the youth service did attend in Leicester, but did so in their private capacity”. The staff were from the “rapid response” team, a community–based outreach service.

However, Isobel Cattermole, the council’s director of children, schools and families, stated in a further letter to Mr Golds that “no staff were on leave” on that day. Another council officer told The Daily Telegraph: “The staff attended the event as paid staff and did not take leave.”

Mr Golds said: “It is a blatant abuse of public money for party political purposes. If a minister had taken civil servants in a coach to campaign for a political party during working hours, we would never hear the last of it.

“We will be sending our full dossier to the District Auditor.”

Footage of the visit broadcast by a local television channel shows people working for Tower Hamlets council among a group wearing red Labour rosettes and campaigning for Mr Ashworth.

A spokesman for the council said the staff present were “not necessarily” working at the time of the event because they might have been part–time or rostered to work outside normal hours. He insisted that “no staff due to be working on that day were absent from their ordinary duties”.

But he refused to respond to questions about how the council monitored whether community–based staff were performing their “ordinary duties.” Invited to deny that any staff from Tower Hamlets were in Leicester during their duty hours, he three times refused to do so.

East London Mosque breaks its promise on homophobic speakers after just eight days

Earlier this month, reporting the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre’s latest pledge to ban homophobic preachers, I described how the mosque has repeatedly lied and broken such promises before: waiting a couple of months until the coast is clear, then bringing the extremists back.

This time, however, it has only taken just over a week for the mosque’s bad faith to emerge. The day after tomorrow, 29 June, it welcomes to its premises an organisation called Sex and Relationship Education Islamic (SRE Islamic), one of whose main purposes is to campaign for “the unacceptability of homosexuality which is often portrayed as a lifestyle choice.” That’s a quote from the first sentence of SRE Islamic’s statement of values.

SRE Islamic is founded by members of Hizb ut Tahrir, a racist and extremist group which believes that Muslims should not mix with non-Muslims. Hizb ut Tahrir says that Muslims who believe in democracy are “kafir,” or unbelievers. Hizb ut Tahrir works for a worldwide Islamic superstate, or caliphate (as does the Islamic Forum of Europe, which runs the mosque.)

SRE Islamic’s director and Hizb ut Tahrir member, Yusuf Patel, will be speaking at Wednesday’s event, alongside the director of the East London Mosque himself, Dilowar Khan: a clear official endorsement by the mosque. Indeed, the meeting is co-sponsored by the mosque.

Let us remind ourselves what Salman Farsi, the mosque’s PR, said on 9 June, exactly 18 days ago: “Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises.”

Wednesday’s meeting is not just with someone who has “said something homophobic,” but is organised by a campaign explicitly dedicated to promoting the “unacceptability of homosexuality.” The meeting was first advertised on 17 June, precisely eight days after Mr Farsi’s ringing pledge.

Could there be a clearer indication of just how much an East London Mosque promise is worth?

Ken Livingstone: Lib Dems are 'a venal sub-species'

Ken’s potty mouth is in action again, less than a month after the last time. Not content with comparing Boris Johnson’s chief of staff to a mass-murderer, Labour’s twinkly-eyed old charmer has now called the Lib Dems a “venal sub-species.” That’s according to Donal OHanlon, a Lib Dem councillor who was at a talk last week where Ken made the remark and thought it “crass and insulting.”

Oh dear. How the Lib-Dem vote breaks has always been of considerable importance in London mayoral elections. In 2004, the Lib Dem-leaning boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton cast their first preferences for Livingstone (presumably having concluded that their own candidate, Simon Hughes, stood no chance.) Ken won. In 2008, the same people voted for Boris, a significant factor in his victory. The mayor’s seven-point lead over Ken in the latest poll is also due, in part, to the support he attracts from Lib Dem voters.

For 2012, the Kenster has been trying to woo the two main potential Lib Dem mayoral nominees, in one of his elaborate attempts to do a deal for second preferences.  “I welcome both Lembit Opik and Mike Tuffrey entering the race, alongside the Green candidate Jenny Jones,” he said the other week. “Whatever is happening nationally, Lib Dems in London have the opportunity to be part of a progressive vision for London.”

These deals – remember Ken’s 2008 pact with the Greens? – always seemed a bit silly to me, and rather typical of the great man’s machine approach. Ken’s share of second-preference votes actually fell in 2008, even though his first-preference share rose slightly. The idea that the Greens’ 2008 candidate, Sian Berry, could somehow order her voters how to cast their second preferences was fanciful, and doing so may have cost her votes. She looked like, and was, an appendage of the Labour campaign.

I’m sure neither Tuffrey nor Opik will make that mistake, not least because the Lib Dems are not – whatever Ken likes to think – a left-wing party. They are a centre party, whose voters come from both left and right, which is currently in coalition with a right-wing party. But Livingstone’s latest outburst will probably set the seal on it.

As Labour talks about crime, Boris Johnson talks about bees

“DON’T TAKE OUR COPS BORIS” was the splash headline and full-page inside story in last week’s South London Press. It was based on a call by Steve Reed, Labour leader of Lambeth council, who said: “People living in Lambeth are very worried about the recent upsurge in violent, gang-related crime.

“We are calling on London’s Mayor to get real about what’s going on…we need to stop police being taken away from Lambeth to carry out duties in other parts of London. We need you to stop the cuts in civilian staff that mean uniformed officers are left sitting on reception desks instead of patrolling the streets.”

The claim of an “upsurge” in violent crime doesn’t entirely stack up. Over the last year in Lambeth, rapes and murders have risen, but there has been a 6 per cent fall in violent crime and a 24 per cent drop in gun crime. Nor does the claim of a more “recent” rise quite hold water. There were 598 crimes of violence in Lambeth in May 2011, compared with 555 in April and 600 in March. But that is not the point.

Ken is trying to do in 2012 what Boris managed in 2008 – undermine his opponent’s broadly positive record on crime. It’s a totally legitimate tactic, and the smartness of this particular attack is that the words “Ken” and “Livingstone” are nowhere to be seen. Ken is still a turn-off for many voters and using his name would look like electioneering.

Of course, the idea that small changes in police numbers – plus or minus a few per cent – have any effect on crime is facile. Crime started falling in the mid-90s, a time when police numbers were also falling. The rise in police in the last decade didn’t affect the trend much – it carried on
falling at a similar, sometimes actually lower, rate.

But the argument that the Mayor was somehow responsible for the outbreak of kids killing each other (Boris’s 2008 equivalent of “police numbers”) was just as phony – and it worked. We’re talking politics here, not rational debate.

Oddly, if Ken has done a Boris, Boris has sometimes seemed to be doing a Ken. Livingstone failed, fatally, to focus on crime in 2008, instead majoring on what for most voters were second-order issues, like the environment. In the last three weeks, as Labour campaigns hard on police numbers, Boris has been…er…”meeting Peter Andre to help recruit Reading Ambassadors” and…well…”joining his Street Party Ambassador, Barbara Windsor, at the ‘Big Lunch’ festivities on the South Bank.

The top item on the front page of the mayor’s website was, at the time of writing: “London’s bees are in trouble. Find out how you can help them.” I know all this stuff builds the cuddly brand, mate, but it can look, well, gimmicky.

Fortunately, Boris did do something this week that was not the usual microscopic City Hall PR initiative or forgettable B-list photo-op. He wrote a piece about crime for the Sun. It was significant not just because it is the kind of thing he should be talking about, but because it demonstrates his most important and unusual political skill – the ability to craft a message pleasing both right and left.

He targeted his Tory core vote by attacking Ken Clarke’s now-dumped plans for “soft” justice, “short sentences and get-out clauses.” But in the same piece he appealed to liberals with a stress on rehabilitation. “I’ve taken a different approach to the revolving door of offending with the prison wing – Heron – I opened at Feltham Young Offenders Institute,” he wrote.

“On the wing we’ve managed to halve that national youth re-offending rate of 78 per cent by allocating each prisoner an individual “motivational” member of staff who helps them sort out their lives during their jail term, then works with them for a year after their release.”

The Feltham project only started in September 2009, so it seems a little early to make claims about reoffending rates; an interim assessment published by the GLA this month made no such sweeping claims, and the number of offenders so far released – a few dozen – is surely too few to draw such conclusions. It is also a little cheeky of Boris to take entire credit for this scheme – his London Development Agency (soon to be scrapped) is funding the rehab counsellors, but there are lots of other partners too. Again, however, none of that is the point. Politics, not rational debate, remember?

Politically, Boris’s Sun argument on crime is actually quite clever, and more sophisticated than Ken’s one about police numbers. The slogan with which he ends his piece – “No rehab, no release” – has clear and doubtless intentional echoes of the highly effective Blair/Brown triangulation, “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.”

That kind of skill is one reason why the latest poll puts Boris 7 points ahead. But to be sure of winning, Boris needs to spend more time exercising it on the big issues, and rather less time meeting the Bee-List.

Ken Livingstone seven points behind in latest poll

Labour’s ghastly mistake in choosing Ken Livingstone as its mayoral candidate was again underlined in the latest YouGov London poll yesterday. Since the last one, Labour has widened its London lead over the Tories, for a Westminster election, from 16 to 19 points. But in the mayoral race, Boris is seven points ahead on first-preference votes, the biggest lead he has yet scored with the pollster.

Ken has been on the stump for nine months now. By polling day, his campaign for this middle-ranking municipal office will have lasted longer than a US presidential election. But the more people see of him, bloviating about the genocidal Boris Johnson regime, the further backwards he seems to go. His share has actually fallen by 3 points since he started campaigning.

Here are the trends in the YouGov polling series.

Westminster

Fieldwork                  Lab     Con     Lab lead

6-8 Oct 2010             42        38        +4

8-10 Feb 2011          50       34        +16

7-9 Jun 2011             51        32        +19

City Hall

Fieldwork                    Boris    Ken    Boris lead (lead after 2nd prefs*)

6-8 Oct 2010             48        44        +4 (Boris + 7)

8-10 Feb 2011          43        45        -2 (Boris + 3)

7-9 Jun 2011             48        41        +7 (Boris + 8)

*The result of a “forced choice” question – “if you had to choose, which of Boris or Ken would you prefer” – aiming to measure people’s second-preferences.

Even the number of don’t knows, in the forced-choice question, has steadily diminished, suggesting that people are making up their minds. The Lib Dem candidate is yet to declare, but one of the key reasons Boris is ahead is that the Lib Dem vote is breaking for him.

The only slight crumbs of comfort for Ken are two. First, the Evening Standard, which I think commissioned the poll, didn’t even mention it in its print edition which I saw yesterday. The Standard wants to be nice to everyone, even poor old Ken, these days. Second, Boris’s people think the race is closer than this poll says.

I’ve said from the beginning that I think a Ken victory is very unlikely. But I don’t think it’s impossible – I’ll explain why later on.