Lutfur Rahman adviser: there will be street violence unless people stop complaining about Tower Hamlets election

Lutfur Rahman

You may not be familiar with Kazim Zaidi. He is the man who cost Exeter University substantial amounts in costs and damages after writing a chapter in a book it published which comprehensively libelled many people in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party. (Read the university’s grovelling apology to them here.)

Mr Zaidi is now, as he was then, political adviser (a council appointee and publicly funded post) to the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. Now his unique communication skills are going to land him in further difficulty.

Desperate to stop the widespread concerns about voter intimidation which have completely ruined his boss’s great re-election triumph, Mr Zaidi has today written a quite extraordinary post on the Trial by Jeory blog saying: “If those who still seem unable to accept the result continue as they are, it will spill out onto the streets where even the cleverest machine politicians will not be able to manage it.”

He will no doubt say that this is not a threat, but a prediction. The truth is that whatever his intentions it will be read as a threat.

We saw Lutfur Rahman’s ability to mobilise a crowd at the count on Friday, when a huge group of 2,000 Rahman supporters gathered outside the count centre, effectively barricading Rahman’s opponents inside.

As the count dragged endlessly on late into the night, Labour’s London campaign director, Sadiq Khan MP, and many others were told by police that they could not leave the building. The returning officer pleaded with those inside not to pass count details to the crowd for fear of them invading the premises.

We saw Rahman’s ability to mobilise a crowd at the polling stations on Thursday, when despite the promises of police many stations were picketed by groups of Rahman supporters, through whom voters had to push to reach the ballot box. There are disturbing stories of these crowds following some voters right into the ballot booth to insist that they marked their vote in the correct box.

Most of Mr Zaidi’s article is a cunningly worded pitch for Labour to readmit Rahman. That is, of course, the mayor’s great hope of redemption – and there are a few in the Labour group who actually believe it would be sensible to join up with him. There are many reasons why it would not be.

It would be a betrayal of all those voters who only last week put their trust in Labour as a force for non-racial, clean and democratic politics. It would place Labour locally in a position of enormous weakness, signalling that they were prepared to accept Rahman and his cronies running the show and signalling their consent to the council’s dodgy practices.

The fatal weakness of some in Tower Hamlets Labour is to believe that the Rahman camp are essentially decent people with whom it is possible to compromise. As Team Rahman have surely shown in the last four years, they are vicious and ruthless people who treat compromise as surrender.

It would also be highly damaging for the party nationally. At the moment Rahman is a problem only for Tower Hamlets, not the Labour Party. If Rahman were allowed to rejoin, or any Labour councillors allowed to serve under him, every act of his administration would become Labour’s problem.

The mayor is a man whose council is under police and Government investigation for corruption and misuse of funds. The manner of his election win has actually further tarnished him, shaming Tower Hamlets before the country and bringing its extraordinary political culture to much wider national attention than before.

And if any more proof were needed of Rahman’s unsuitability for readmission to the political mainstream, today’s words from Mr Zaidi ought to provide it.

For a summary of the case against Rahman, click here.

For a detailed account of his Muslim favouritism, click here.

For a full transcript of my 2010 Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Rahman and his extremist backers, click here.

For a chronological account of his career to 2013, click here.

Lutfur Rahman: an election Labour chose to lose

He’s back

Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, narrowly won re-election last night – by 52 per cent to 48 after second preferences – with the help of a repertoire of tactics for which the borough has become notorious.

Promises of a police presence at every polling station were not kept, at least for the whole of the day, and even where police were present they were often ineffectual. Large and intimidating groups of Rahman supporters picketed the entrances to many polling stations, remonstrating with some voters who refused to take Rahman leaflets. Other non-Rahman voters may well have decided not to run the gauntlet.

Some polling stations were moved to new, unfamiliar, and harder-to-reach locations. One, in the not very pro-Rahman territory of Canary Wharf, was placed on a traffic island, at the bottom of a ramp, in the middle of a busy four-lane road!

Some dramatic and highly unexpected changes in vote share took place in wards which Rahman’s Labour opponents had thought completely safe for them. I will be looking more closely at some of these numbers in the days ahead.

Above all, of course, Rahman has been working for literally years to buy votes with council money. Including his personal weekly newspaper, East End Life, and countless items of direct mail, he has sent out millions of copies of what is essentially campaign literature at public expense. He paid tens of thousands in council funds to the Bengali media, which in return gives him fawning coverage. He has passed gigantic sums to his political and religious allies for often ill-defined projects, while cutting grants to many established, secular and non-Muslim organisations. Power gave him formidable advantages. (For a summary of the case against Rahman, see here.)

But the fact that Labour did come pretty close – within 3,250 votes on the final tally – shows that, despite all that, this was an election they could probably have won. Instead, they chose to lose it.

Just as the national party failed to take the fight to Ukip, so Labour in Tower Hamlets failed to take the fight to Rahman’s equally chauvinistic, populist and cynical Bangladeshi version. They fought the election almost entirely on conventional local-government issues. When they talked about “cleaning up Tower Hamlets” they meant collecting more rubbish bags from the streets.

But Tower Hamlets’ refuse collection is no different than that of many other councils (except, of course, for the large pictures of Mayor Rahman carried on the sides of the dustcarts). Council services are not what is wrong with the borough and were never going to be a strong enough issue to defeat Rahman’s vast bloc vote.

As with Ukip, the only attack that could have worked was the direct one – on Rahman’s nastiness, on his indulgent car, office and taxi expenses, on his troubling links with extremists and bigots and on his blatant and unashamed favouritism towards only one of Tower Hamlets’ diverse skin colours. This is a man who has evidenced little more than token interest in anyone who is not Bangladeshi. This is a man whose council is under two separate investigations for corruption and misuse of funds.

Yet we heard scarcely a word about that gigantic open goal from Labour’s candidate, John Biggs – he seemed scared to mention it. Rahman, like Ukip, talked directly to his core voters in language they understood – though he had literally nothing to say to anyone else. Biggs, like Ed Miliband, talked in cautious, over-calculated political-speak that didn’t really get the point across.

Biggs’s devastating rapier thrust on the grants investigation was: “The council should be about providing services to people without favour. I think [Rahman’s] got a case to answer.” He even tried to make friends with the IFE, Rahman’s extremist ally, pooh-poohing its absolutely clear Islamist agenda and soft-soaping it as “a forum where people can share ideas and understand the relationship between their faith and their role in society.”

But as the result last night shows, the forces supporting Rahman chose their side long ago and were never going to be won over by clumsy appeals of this sort. They could, however, have been outnumbered and out-organised. Only 32 per cent of Tower Hamlets is Bangladeshi. Not all Bangladeshis, and hardly any non-Bangladeshis, support Rahman. Labour knew that the key to victory was getting the 68 per cent, plus the non-Rahman Bangladeshis, to turn out in numbers approaching the Rahman crowd. The party did raise turnout, greatly. But it didn’t have a strong enough message to raise it by enough.

Labour may have calculated – or over-calculated – that direct attacks on Rahman would have allowed him to play the victim and race cards. But he did that anyway, and always was going to. The fact is that Labour, too, had a race card to play. It is a party which represents and draws support from all races. Rahman, by contrast, is a perpetrator, not a victim, of racial favouritism.

One of the most disturbing aspects of last night was that, in the council elections happening alongside the mayoralty, the Rahman camp appears to have organised heavily against white Labour councillors but not against (most) Bangladeshi Labour councillors. People who have seen the councillor ballot papers say there is an unusual amount of split-ticket voting, with Bangladeshi councillors of both Labour and Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party doing far better in several wards than white Labour councillors (and the handful of white Tower Hamlets First candidates) in the same wards.

It seems likely, when the council results are announced today, that the council will become even more Bangladeshi-dominated than it already is. As we have noted, only 32 per cent of the population of Tower Hamlets is Bangladeshi. But even in the old council, 60 per cent of councillors were. That could rise even further, to 70 or 75 per cent, today.

Round One, the election, has been won by Rahman. Now comes Round Two, the Government investigation, due to report by the end of next month. The narrowness of Rahman’s victory helps here, making it less difficult for ministers, if sufficient evidence is found, to remove him. But it would have been far better if it had been done last night.

PS: The Guardian’s London blogger, Dave Hill, polished his reputation as the capital’s sharpest political brain when he tweeted, within about ten minutes of the polls closing: “Think it’s true and now OK for me to say that Labour confident of Mayoral triumph in Tower Hamlets, possibly by a good margin.” Dave has annoyed plenty of people in Labour with his credulous coverage of Rahman – I do hope no one was trying to make him look silly.


Lutfur Rahman: 30 things you need to know about the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets

https://i1.wp.com/blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/files/2011/12/extremist-linked-mayor-rahman.jpg

Tomorrow thousands of real voters – plus, if past Tower Hamlets elections are any guide, quite a few fake ones – will deliver their verdicts on the borough’s extremist-linked executive mayor, Lutfur Rahman. Rahman’s council is currently under investigation by both the police and an official inquiry ordered by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles.

In case anyone’s still wondering why, here (in no particular order) are my Top Thirty facts about this great democrat, socialist and human being:

1) In 2008 Rahman (then a Labour councillor) won the leadership of Tower Hamlets council with the close help of an Islamic extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which which works to create a sharia state and an “Islamic social, economic and political order” in Britain. In secret filming, IFE activists described how they exercised “consolidated… influence and power” over the council.

2) Rahman channelled millions of pounds in council grants to IFE front organisations and appointed a senior IFE figure as assistant chief executive of the council, though he was wholly unqualified for this senior post. Both the assistant chief executive and Rahman were subsequently removed from their jobs.

3) An extremist preacher was invited to speak in the council chamber and extremist literature, including audio tapes by the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was stocked in Tower Hamlets libraries.

4) In 2010, after a campaign including large numbers of fake signatures led by the IFE, Tower Hamlets was changed from having a conventional council leader to a far more personally powerful, directly-elected mayor. In secret filming, senior IFE activists described how they would “get one of our brothers” into the new post.

5) Rahman personally signed up entire families as sham members of the Labour Party to win selection as the Labour mayoral candidate. He was selected, but was then removed by Labour’s National Executive Committee, and subsequently expelled from the party.

6) Rahman won election anyway as an independent, on a tiny turnout, after his (Muslim) Labour opponent was smeared as a wife-beater and enemy of Islam in thousands of newsletters produced with Rahman’s full knowledge. The new mayor was said by his campaign manager to have a “strategic relationship” with the IFE, with “most” of his campaigners being “either Respect or IFE activists.”

7) Even though Tower Hamlets is only 34 per cent Muslim, Rahman appointed a 100 per cent Bangladeshi and Muslim cabinet. He has never appointed any non-Muslim to any cabinet post and has no non-Muslim councillors.

8) Rahman has given control over the council’s finances to Alibor Choudhury, a former employee of an IFE front organisation with a long track record of encounters with the police. Rahman has himself taken personal control of all grants over £1000.

9) Under Rahman and Choudhury, council grants have been diverted away from secular bodies serving the whole community to IFE fronts and to other groups serving largely the Muslim community. Several of these groups, the council’s scrutiny committee found, are new and without any track record. Several appear to be based in people’s private homes. Several involve individuals with close personal connections to Rahman. (For a full account of Rahman’s Muslim grants favouritism, see here.)

10) Rahman has, in the words of the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, transferred council property, Poplar Old Town Hall, to “a company involving a person [Mujibul Islam] who had helped the Mayor with his election campaign, against internal advice, and the winning bid was submitted after other bids had been opened. A number of other property transactions similarly had dubious processes.”

11) Key Rahman allies have been witnessed, and have not denied, engaging in a practice known as “vote-harvesting,” registering people for postal votes and then collecting their blank ballot papers.

12) Some of the supposed voters do not appear to exist. “Ghost” voters registered to empty properties or huge numbers of voters registered to small flats have been regular features of Tower Hamlets elections.

13) Rahman has presided over an atmosphere of menace and intimidation at council meetings. Phalanxes of Rahman supporters drafted in to the public galleries shout homophobic abuse at several key opponents of the mayor, who are gay. Rahman’s cabinet members, such as Alibor Choudhury, abuse their opponents as fascists.

14) Rahman has used council officers to hound and bully opposition councillors, spending tens of thousands of pounds of public money to make spurious, but time-consuming, legal attacks on them.

15) At council meetings, Rahman refuses to answer questions about any of these or most other issues, with officers saying that to do so would breach his human rights.

16) Rahman also refuses to engage with most other questioning. He has made almost no public appearances in this election campaign at any event where he would be required to answer questions.

17) Rahman largely ignores the non-Bengali media but pays tens of thousands of pounds of public money to UK-based Bengali-language TV stations – including £50,000 a year personally to one TV channel’s chief reporter. In return, they give him fawning coverage. The channels have been repeatedly censured by Ofcom, but it appears to make no difference.

18) Rahman has channelled further millions of taxpayers’ money into an extensive cult of personality. He has a weekly newspaper delivered to all households at public expense, containing often as many as a dozen pictures or mentions of himself.

19) Rahman has had hundreds of copies of his own picture displayed at public expense on billboards, lampposts, and even council dustcarts (to comply with election law, most have recently been removed.)

20) Rahman has used public funds to send thousands of personal letters, again with his picture on them, to residents claiming credit for things which are not his doing, such as the Government-funded council housing refurbishment programme.

21) Rahman has been hostile or indifferent to the borough’s non-Muslim heritage, threatening to close the local history library (reversed only after a storm of protest), selling off pubs and threatening them with closure, and attempting to dispose of a Henry Moore artwork whose form offended Islamic sensibilities. At the same time, he has created a new programme to channel hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to (mainly Muslim) faith buildings.

22) Rahman’s cabinet member for education, Oliur Rahman, appeared on a public platform with a group campaigning for the “unacceptability of homosexuality.”

23) Rahman’s cabinet member for the environment, Shahed Ali, avoided £25,000 in tax by liquidating his restaurant business, then immediately reopening the restaurant under a new name. He boasts that he used the proceeds to buy a Porsche.

24) Rahman’s cabinet member for culture, Rania Khan, mocked gay people and published pictures of knives on her social networking site, saying: I know it’s not ladylike, but I luv my weapons.”

25) Rahman’s key funder, Shiraj Haque, a restaurateur, has a criminal caution for selling counterfeit wine. He was sacked from his chairmanship of a council-sponsored festival after suspicions that it was being used as a front for illegal immigration, but was reappointed by Rahman. Despite being a millionaire who owns at least seven properties, Haque has been given subsidised social housing by the council.

26) Rahman has repeatedly given character references for convicted criminals, including a sex attacker.

27) Rahman charges taxpayers up to £60,000 a year for a Mercedes car and chauffeur, which he has used, among other purposes, to collect his dry cleaning. No other elected mayor, including Boris Johnson, has a limousine. He claims he has now given it up, but this appears to be only for the election period.

28) Rahman has also spent large sums of public money on taxis for himself, including one purported fare of £71 to travel a distance of 400 metres and another £28 fare from a local McDonald’s to his office.

29) Rahman is accused by the Government of practising divisive community politics” and the “mismanagement of council staff and resources.”

30) Neither of the neighbouring boroughs, Hackney and Newham, will work with Rahman.  The Labour mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, describes Rahman as “very bad news” and as creating a form of apartheid in his area.

For a full chronological account of Rahman’s career to last year, click here.

For the transcript of my 2010 Dispatches programme on the IFE and Rahman, click here.

For detailed analysis of Lutfur’s Muslim favouritism, click here.

Read the Telegraph’s biggest names on the issues of the day

Get the latest from our news and politics bloggers

//

Islamism in Birmingham schools: how the BBC is selectively reporting the 'Trojan horse' plot

The BBC are uncomfortable with this story

The Trojan Horse plotters and their allies on Twitter have been getting touchingly excited about a BBC report into a secret meeting on Wednesday between officials of Birmingham City Council and the heads of the 21 schools involved. Alas, their claims that it “proved” the plot was a “hoax” don’t stand up to scrutiny.

It’s true that one of the council officials at the meeting claimed they’d seen “no evidence” of extremism in the schools, a line seized on by the Beeb. That claim, however, is clearly false, the latest of many attempts by Birmingham City Council to ignore or downplay the problems and its own role in creating them. There is, in fact, clear evidence of extremism, both religious and political, in some of these schools.

One for instance, Park View, openly advertised a talk by an al-Qaeda sympathising preacher in its own newsletter (p17). The man who is now Park View’s headteacher, Mozz Hussain, preached “mind-blowing anti-American propaganda” to pupils at assemblies, according to Nigel Sloan, a former teacher who witnessed it. A senior teacher at Park View also praised the al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki at assemblies, according to current and former staff who have spoken to both me and another part of the BBC.

At another school, Oldknow, the Arabic teacher, Asif Khan, led children in anti-Christian chanting in assembly, according to other staff members present and Mohammed Zabar, a parent, who witnessed him admitting it last month.

More broadly, I too was leaked the recording of Wednesday’s meeting between the heads and the council and I can only say that the BBC’s account of it, at least in the online piece I’ve linked to, was selective. As you can see from my own report, the council did concede at the meeting that there were “very significant” issues in the schools and that it expected the official reports to have “serious implications for us all, the council as well as schools.” The chief executive, Mark Rogers, predicted a “bloody firestorm” when the reports were published; his director for children’s services, Peter Hay, feared a “knockout blow.”

Mr Rogers also made the distinction, not captured by the Beeb, between problems of “radicalisation and extremism,” which he disputes, and what he described as “where Trojan Horse starts, which is whether there’s undue influence in the ethos, curriculum and practices of schools in relation to Islam.”

And for sure, as well as the evidence of extremism, there’s even more copious evidence of the latter at these schools. An official report leaked to the Telegraph (extracts here) described how girls were made to sit at the back of the class at Park View; at Golden Hillock, another school, non-Muslim pupils “had to teach themselves” in one subject; at Nansen, there is compulsory Arabic (in a primary school!) and no teaching of the arts for one entire year group.

Nansen’s deputy head, Razwan Faraz, is administrator of a group called “Educational Activists” which pursues, in Mr Faraz’s words, an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham’s schools. Park View’s chair of governors, Tahir Alam, is co-author of a document which calls for the teaching of art, drama and dance to Muslims to be restricted and Muslim girls to be veiled in school.

Non-Muslim heads at five schools in a tiny area of Birmingham have left their jobs in the last six months. The general secretary of the headteachers’ union, Russell Hobby, says the union has found “concerted efforts” by hardliners to infiltrate Birmingham schools, is working with 30 of its members in 12 schools and has “serious concerns” about six of them. One of the schools concerned, Adderley, has released an official statement confirming that its head, a moderate Muslim, and other heads have been subjected to “malicious and targeted campaigns to remove them.” Given all this, there can’t really now be any dispute that a plot exists.

But the Beeb’s record on the story has been mixed. It has done some real reporting on it – that is, making the effort, like us, to gather actual evidence of its own. But on other occasions it’s been too ready to take at face value the obviously self-serving denials of obviously interested parties – such as governors of the schools concerned, or in this case Birmingham City Council.