IERA: watchdog slates extremists for “misconduct,” falsification, “reckless misleading” and “unauthorised payments”

I’ve several times covered the deeply troubling work of a body called IERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, which specialises in sending non-violent extremist speakers around British universities, sometimes in gender-segregated meetings. They are one of many extremist groups who have taken me to Ipso, and lost (three times, in their case: see here, here and here).

IERA is run by Abdurraheem Green, who says that a husband has the right to administer “some type of physical force… a very light beating” to his wife and advises that if a Muslim passes a Jew or a Christian in the street, he should “push them to the side.

IERA’s roll-call of stars includes, or has included, Khalid Yasin, who describes Christian and Jewish beliefs as “filth;” Haitham al-Haddad, who has described Jews and Christians as the “enemies of Allah;” plus two people banned from the UK, Zakir Naik, who has said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist,” and Bilal Philips, described by the US government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the World Trade Center bombing. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain describes IERA as a “hate group.

IERA is also linked to the “Pompey lads,” a group of young men from Portsmouth (most or all now dead) who travelled to fight for Isis in Syria. At least two, Mehdi Hassan and Ifthekar Jaman, and possibly as many as five, were members of the Portsmouth Dawah Team, described by IERA’s Mission Dawah unit as “our team in Portsmouth.” Hassan and Jaman were pictured in Portsmouth wearing IERA T-shirts.

Astonishingly, IERA is a registered charity, giving it a taxpayer subsidy in the form of Gift Aid (which allows it to reclaim tax on donations from the Government) and several other advantages. That wasn’t enough for some of the IERA trustees, however, who also paid themselves tens of thousands of pounds from charity funds, against the charity’s own rules.

This, and their extremism, exposed in media reports including my own, led to a regulatory case review by the Charity Commission, then a formal statutory inquiry, which finally concluded on Friday. The verdict is damning.

As so often with Islamist groups, IERA lied and falsified documents to head off scrutiny. A risk assessment for an extremist event

had not been carried out prior to the event to which it related, as indicated, and as it should have been. Instead it appeared to have been completed in response to the Commission’s pending records inspection.

IERA, the inspectors found, had made conflicting statements which the Commission was “unable to reconcile.” IERA had

recklessly provided misleading information to the Commission which is evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

What the trustees were trying to conceal was two things. First, they were

putting the charity at risk in sharing or being perceived to be sharing, a platform for the expression of promotion of extremist views.

On the link with Phillips, the Commission

could not see how the trustees could show they were complying with their legal duties under charity law.

Second,

approximately £44,704 was made in payments to trustees which could not have been properly authorised… A number of the charity’s trustees had received payments from the charity which were considered more than reasonable costs for travelling expenses for trustee meetings and for fulfilment of trustee duties…in breach of the charity’s governing document and legal duties.

Pretty comprehensive, then. But it could have been better. First, this verdict has taken three years and eight months to deliver; the initial case was opened in March 2013. That is at least three years too long; three years in which IERA has been able to spread its poison.

Second, it hasn’t really put a stop to that even now. The Commission appears to have treated IERA as a legitimate charity which just needed to improve its financial management and “risk assessment” to avoid being a platform for extremism. But being a platform for extremism is, in fact, one of IERA’s main purposes. The real remedy for this organisation is to have its charitable status, and taxpayer subsidy, taken away.

To that extent, IERA got off lightly and should be very grateful. Instead, predictably enough, it has been using the report to bang the Islamophobia drum, decrying the “unjustified and disproportionate” nature of the criticism. For Islamists, every cloud has a silver lining.

Ifhat Smith and Prevent Watch: the facts

I wrote in the Sunday Telegraph at the end of January about something called Prevent Watch, an organisation of Islamist activists linked to the terror-sympathising group Cage (famously supportive of “Jihadi John”) who promote inflammatory stories about the Government’s anti-terrorism policy, Prevent. I discovered that not only were many of the stories false or exaggerated, but that several of the supposedly ordinary victims in them were in fact activists in Prevent Watch.

Among this number was a lady called Ifhat Smith, also known as Ifhat Shaheen or Ifhat Shaheen-Smith, who won copious newsprint and airtime with a claim that her schoolboy son had been “interrogated” and “treated as a criminal” because he had used the phrase “eco-terrorism” in class. It was, she told the BBC, the act of a “police state.”

I discovered that when Mrs Smith took the school (and the Government) to court over the matter, her claim had been dismissed in scathing terms as “bound to fail” and “totally without merit” and she had even been ordered to pay £1000 for wasting the court’s time.

It turned out that the supposed “interrogation” of the teenager using “police state” and “criminal” methods had been conducted by school staff on school premises, had nothing to do with the criminal justice system or police, and lasted ten minutes. No further action was taken and the boy returned to classes normally.

Mrs Smith understandably neglected to mention all this when briefing journalists about the Islamophobic outrage visited on her son; I was the first reporter to learn about the outcome of the court case.

I also discovered that Mrs Smith was or had been the manager of the London office of Ennadha, the Tunisian Islamist party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – in which capacity she had hired an American PR company, Burston-Marsteller, to promote Ennadha’s image in the States. Her role is shown in official US government documents which the PRs had to file under Washington’s Foreign Agents Registration Act. (In May this year, four months after the article was published, Ennadha claimed to move away from Islamism – but many other sources have documented the party’s links, and those of its leader, with Islamism and the Brotherhood, see for instance here, here and here.)

Mrs Smith has a record of, shall we say, hardline activity on social media, describing the future London mayor, Sadiq Khan, as a “house nigger,” see here and here (you need to read the posts in order) and tweeting her support for Cage.

Prevent Watch complained that Mrs Smith “was not and never had been” an activist in Prevent Watch, or an Islamist, or connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, or an activist of any kind, and had not promoted false or exaggerated stories about Prevent. We referred them to the evidence above, and were also able to point out that at the time of publication Mrs Smith was already booked to speak at least four Prevent Watch or anti-Prevent public meetings in the following few weeks (see here, here, here and here.)

They lost their complaint to Ipso, which ruled:

It was not in dispute that the mother in the “ecoterrorism” case had spoken against Prevent at a number events open to the public. The newspaper had provided promotional material for some events she was scheduled to speak at, in which she had been described as a “campaigner against Prevent”, and the complainant accepted that she had spoken at one of the events it had organised….The complainant accepted that both [Smith and Haras Ahmad, another Prevent Watch activist] were affiliated with Prevent Watch, and it was not in dispute that they were already affiliated with the organisation at the time they had approached the media with their respective stories… it was not significantly misleading for the article to describe these individuals as Prevent Watch “activists.”

Neither was it significantly misleading in the full circumstances for the article to suggest that their stories were “false or exaggerated”, where the court had dismissed the claim of the mother in the “ecoterrorism” case as “totally without merit”…Further, the newspaper was entitled to report the comments of the think-tank researcher who characterised their media approaches as a “campaign of lies”. There was no breach of Clause 1 in respect of these points.

Ipso added that Prevent Watch

had published comments on their website in defence of a person convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000, [and] it was not significantly misleading to characterise Prevent Watch as having “sympathised” with terrorists. Further, it was not significantly misleading to state that some of those involved in the campaign were “Islamist activists”  in circumstances where the complainant did not dispute the allegation that one of the people identified as a Prevent Watch “activist” was involved with a group which allegedly believes in replacing a secular government with an Islamic government.

As for the links to those fine people, Cage:

The newspaper had been able to demonstrate that Cage and Mend [another Islamist front group] had used Prevent Watch material in their own presentations, that Cage and Prevent Watch had promoted each other’s work on Twitter, and that they had each presented case studies with identical wording. The newspaper therefore had sufficient grounds on which to report that there were links between Prevent Watch and the organisations Cage and Mend.

So I admit I was rather surprised when yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph published an apology to Mrs Smith. Either she must have very good lawyers, or the Telegraph – which got rid of many of its excellent and robust legal team at the same time as it got rid of many of its journalists – must now have very bad ones. Either way, the forces trying to undermine this country’s fight against terror had a result yesterday.

I set out this evidence about the good Mrs Smith so you can make up your own minds – and if she wants to sue me, she knows where to come.

Mark Rogers: the stupidest Trojan Horse response yet?

Photo: JOE GIDDENS/PA

On his official council blog, under the headline “Birmingham bites back”, the city council’s chief executive, Mark Rogers, has penned an extraordinary and inflammatory attack on Ofsted and the Government for pursuing a “contrived” agenda that “mislabels decent, upright, devout and loyal Muslim communities as ‘extremists’ and, as a corollary, terrorists in the making … we cannot allow whole communities to be pilloried for the misdemeanours of a few.”

It’s hard to overstate the stupidity and irresponsibility of this from someone in Mr Rogers’ high office. First, of course, it is simply a lie. No one, let alone “whole communities,” has been mislabelled as “extremist” or a “terrorist in the making” by Ofsted or anyone else.

A handful of individuals have been correctly labelled as extremists by journalists (me included) but none by Ofsted or the Government. No one has been labelled as a would-be terrorist by anyone, ever. Most importantly, of course, no statements whatsoever have been made by the Government or anyone else that the whole Muslim community in Birmingham is extremist or terrorist.

Indeed, most of the coverage, mine included, has made clear that large sections of the community in Alum Rock opposed the hardline agenda pursued in the schools. Not all Muslims are “devout,” as Mr Rogers seems to think. It is significant that he defines Muslim people, unlike any other people, through the prism of their faith.

The claim that a whole community has been accused of proto-terrorism is a straw man that even the worst Socialist Workers’ Party frothers in the Hands off Birmingham Schools campaign haven’t yet tried. But Mr Rogers is chief executive of the city council, and one of the duties of that council is presumably to promote community cohesion. His words can only harm community cohesion by giving succour to those who want to persuade the whole Muslim community that they are under attack by a racist establishment. And if anyone has associated Birmingham Muslims with terrorism, it’s now him.

Mr Rogers’ other straw man – which the council leader, Sir Albert Bore, and various equally dim luminaries also tried in some of the papers at the weekend – is to claim that any attack on the city council as a despicable slander on Birmingham itself. The chief executive of the city’s chamber of commerce, Jerry Blackett, accused the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, of making a “full-on attack on the city of Birmingham” over the affair. No he didn’t – he attacked the council (in fairly careful terms). And he was right to.

The fact is that the city council has long been recognised as part of Birmingham’s problem. As the former Labour Education Minister and Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis (one of many critics) put it long before Trojan Horse in his seminal lecture to the Birmingham Lunar Society in 2011, it “needs to raise its game significantly in terms of leadership, performance and strategy”.

Adonis described the council’s strategic leadership as “weak” and its education department as “inward-looking,” qualities which have been on full display over Trojan Horse. The council has only itself to blame for that debacle. The fact that it blew up was due not to nasty journalists or conniving neo-con Ofsted inspectors (have I got that right Mark?), but to the council’s total refusal over many years to listen to the increasingly desperate complaints of its own staff. (And it’s no good complaining that the schools in question are academies – most were under council control until less than a year ago.)

If the council had acted on their complaints, they wouldn’t have needed to come to the press. Even when they did, the public response of Mr Rogers and others continued to be complete denial (there was no plot, he said in April, merely “new communities” demanding changes to the “liberal educational system”. For Mr Rogers’ information, the Pakistani community has been in Birmingham for the last 45 years.)

As I’ve said before, it’s really telling when people have to create straw man charges to defend themselves. It means that they have no defence to the real charges. Look forward to a similar exercise from the council’s Kershaw review this month.

More strategically, I can’t help wondering whether the council’s latest burst of denial is sensible when there is serious talk of taking some of its functions away. Does it actually want to be emasculated?

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Trojan Horse: schools erect a straw man

One of the oldest tactics by wrongdoers and their allies is to ignore the actual allegations made against them and instead misrepresent the charges as ones they can truthfully deny. With grinding obviousness, that’s precisely what the “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham are doing now.

In a letter published in (where else) the Guardian, a group of the schools’ supporters announce the launch of the “Putting Birmingham Schoolkids First” campaign to “challenge the false and divisive allegation that [Trojan Horse] is a problem of systematic radicalisation, extremism or terrorism.”

The latter is a particularly brazen straw man. I think we can all agree that none of the schools ever taught their pupils how to make bombs and that no one in Birmingham became a terrorist as a result of a segregated biology lesson. But these were, of course, things which no one ever alleged for a second. Nor, in fact, did the Government reports which will result next month in the removal of the schools’ leadership accuse them of systematically promoting radicalisation or extremism.

The letter continues: “The central allegation, that there was an organised plot to radicalise schoolchildren in a handful of Birmingham schools, remains unproven.” Hold on – you said it was “false” only the previous sentence! And it wasn’t the “central allegation” either.

As we have documented, there is clear evidence of extremism at some of the Trojan Horse schools. According to on-the-record testimony, the man who is now (until next month, anyway) head of Park View, Mozz Hussain, described the US in assemblies as the “evil in the world” and the “cause of all famine.” The Arabic teacher at Oldknow, Asif Khan, led children in anti-Christian chanting. An al-Qaeda-sympathising preacher, Shady al-Suleiman, was invited to Park View on November 28 2013. (The school’s assistant head, Lee Donaghy, told MPs that they did not know of his extremist views, something which takes about thirty seconds to find on Google.)

But extremism is not the same as terrorism; and as we’ve also said, extremism was only one strand of what went on at Park View, Oldknow and the rest. The real central finding, in the words of Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, was of an “organised campaign” targeting schools in Birmingham to impose a “narrow, faith-based ideology”, with the same people “highly influential across several of the schools”.

A “culture of fear and intimidation” had developed in several of the schools, with “headteachers, including those with a proud record of raising standards… marginalised or forced out of their jobs”. There had been a “breakdown in trust” between staff and governors, who had “sought to make changes to the curriculum on the basis of their own personal beliefs”, with girls and boys “not treated equally”, music in one school removed from the curriculum against pupils’ wishes, and the children’s experiences “restricted”, making them “vulnerable to segregation and emotional dislocation from wider society”.

No reference whatever is made to these charges in the “putting Birmingham schoolkids first” letter, presumably because they are rather harder to refute.

The campaign held a public meeting last week at which, by all accounts, a number of even sillier straw men were erected. Sir Tim Brighouse, the former Birmingham education chief on whose watch the problems started, sent a video message saying that “we are in the middle of a fever that equates being a Muslim with extremism.” Who outside the ranks of the far right has said this?

There were also the routine charges of “Islamophobia,” an “anti-Muslim agenda” and the “victimisation of the Muslim community.” This last was made by a councillor called Jess Phillips who fights for the rights of women – except, it seems, the right of women not to be made to “sit at the back of the class or round the sides” at these schools.

A number of other Birmingham councillors were at the meeting and the straw man tactic has also been much favoured by Birmingham council. Its initial response to the Trojan Horse letter was to refer it to the police anti-terrorist squad, even though it contained no allegation of terrorism – again presumably so it could be dismissed. Watch out for a similar tactic in the report of the council’s Kershaw inquiry into the affair.

“Communities across Birmingham now believe that their children’s educational potential and wellbeing is being threatened by politicians, who wish to be seen as ‘tough’ on Muslims,” says Hands off Birmingham Schools. How, I wonder, do the signatories know what “communities across Birmingham” now believe? Have they asked them – or has the assumption been made, as it was by the schools, that Muslim parents, unlike any other sorts of parents, “must” want a narrowly conservative, religious education for their children?

The more anyone has to play these kinds of games, the clearer it becomes that their cause is in deep trouble.

PS: Perhaps the most nauseating part of the meeting last week was when even a five-year-old boy called Ben was lifted up to the rostrum to read out yet another straw-man argument (see video above). “Some people come from different countries to this country, and that’s OK,” he said. “And whatever they want to eat, and whatever they want to wear, and whether they want to play or not, that’s OK as well. But it’s not OK for mean governments to stop them from doing all that stuff.” It went down a storm with the crowd – but nobody’s ever suggested stopping people from wearing or eating anything, or forcing them to play. More importantly, it risked looking like a textbook example of the kind of child manipulation that this whole saga has been about. How many 5-year-olds do you know that spontaneously talk about “mean governments?”

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Trojan Horse: how The Guardian ignored and misrepresented evidence of Islamism in schools

Why did this happen?

There’s a lot of bad journalism about Muslims in this country, but not all of it is at the tabloid “Islamic-only toilets” end of the market. On the subject of the hardline takeover of Birmingham schools, I think The Guardian may be Britain’s most dishonest newspaper.

It’s a very good paper in some ways – but it has a complete blind spot about any story involving Islamists. Its coverage of Tower Hamlets has been spectacularly misleading. And the reporting on Trojan Horse by its education editor, Richard Adams, has been execrable.

Mr Adams now pronounces the entire saga a “crude witch-hunt” based on “not much evidence of anything,” claiming that “most” of the allegations of “segregated classes, compulsory prayers and incendiary preachers at school assemblies … have crumbled under examination.”

The evidence of “incendiary preachers at school assemblies” – Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an al-Qaeda sympathiser, at Park View School on November 28 2013 – in fact comes from one of the school’s official newsletters, still available on its own website (see photo above, from page 17 of this PDF).

At another of the schools, Oldknow, an official Education Funding Agency report finds that the Arabic teacher, Asif Khan, led anti-Christian chanting in assemblies (though also records his denial). I too have been told about Mr Khan’s anti-Christian assembly by four separate sources, one of them on the record. There is other on-the-record testimony that Park View’s head, Mozz Hussain, preached “mind-blowing” anti-American assemblies.

The evidence of “segregated classes” comes from both this EFA report and another one, into Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock schools, leaked to me, which states that “teachers gave [students] seats in which to sit in class by gender to avoid having to mix” and that “students told us that they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers,” often with “boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides.” The relevant sections of the report are published on this blog.

At Golden Hillock, according to the EFA, 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 also includes key staff and governors from several of the other schools and 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 – the same six being placed into special measures. Another of the schools targeted, 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.

Now I have no problem with taking a position on a story. I’ve taken a clear position on this one. By definition, all investigative journalism does that – whether it’s saying that Richard Nixon was a crook, or that News International hacked people’s phones. I accept, too, that different people can honestly hold different views.

But whatever you say has to be true to the best of your knowledge and belief. It has to be backed up by evidence. And it has to take proper account of any evidence against what you are reporting. You have to be sure that it does not outweigh the evidence in favour.

Over the last few months, I’ve carefully read all the “evidence against” that Mr Adams has produced in his exhaustive investigative researches. It appears to consist largely of making escorted trips to the schools concerned during which he spoke only to pupils and staff chosen by the management – an exercise summed up by one of the commenters under his own article as “Everyone was happy on our state guided tour of North Korea.

Another Guardian effort was the letter, splashed on by the paper, from what it described as 20 “educational experts” attacking Ofsted for changing its judgment on the schools since they were last inspected. “It is beyond belief,” said the experts, “that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be ‘outstanding’ are now widely reported as ‘inadequate,’ despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body.”

Beyond belief indeed: in fact, only two of the schools, Park View and Oldknow, were previously judged “oustanding,” and neither of them have the same leadership team as when previously inspected. As we have reported, Oldknow’s head, Bhupinder Kondal, was driven out earlier this year, and three of her five assistant or deputy heads have also left. At Park View, the executive head, Lindsey Clark, has retired, telling Ofsted that she was marginalised. Nor is it “less than a year” since these schools were previously inspected. Park View was previously inspected in January 2012 and Oldknow in January 2013.

The letter’s signatories, incidentally, include Ibrahim Hewitt, who (as you wouldn’t know from The Guardian) has written a book calling for adulterers to be stoned to death and gays to be given a hundred lashes – and in his spare time chairs a charity, Interpal, branded a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US Treasury. (Interpal’s ever-vigilant lawyers always insist we add that in the UK, the Charity Commission did not find against Interpal.)

Then there are those well-known educational experts Massoud Shadjareh, a political activist who criticised the “demonisation” of Abu Hamza; Arzu Merali, who is expecting a new “Spanish Inquisition” against Muslims; Farooq Murad, head of the Islamist-dominated leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain and ex-chair of a charity, Muslim Aid, which has funded terrorist groups; and Salma Yaqoob, former leader of the Respect party and a pyschotherapist by profession.

There are some signatories without Islamist sympathies and with actual educational credentials, but the main one, Professor Tim Brighouse, is perhaps a tiny bit tainted by the fact that he used to run Birmingham education authority at the time the Trojan Horse plot was grinding into gear in his schools. (There’s also a man, M G Khan, who, though The Guardian coyly neglects to mention this, is a governor of one of the schools being put into special measures!)

The other problem with the argument that “Ofsted used to like us” is that it feels a little bit like, say, Lehman Brothers protesting that the Financial Services Authority didn’t raise any concerns in the years before it went bust. Regulators often miss the great scandals. That’s partly why they become scandals. Several of these inspections were conducted in the halcyon days when Ofsted gave schools 48 hours’ notice – easily long enough for them to put on a show, as they did for Mr Adams. In short, none of the “evidence against” the story presented by the schools or The Guardian carries anything like enough weight to overcome the mass of evidence in the story’s favour.

I’d like to say it’s nice that the cynical old trade of news still has room for people like Richard Adams, prepared to think the best of everyone and take at face value whatever he’s told. But I think he’s done more than that – he’s ignored evidence, or misrepresented it as “crumbling” if it doesn’t fit his version of events. That’s not just bad journalism, but a betrayal of the liberal and progressive values The Guardian is supposed to fight for.

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Lutfur Rahman: a defence based on lies

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I’ve been marvelling at last week’s Guardian article by Richard Seymour and Ashok Kumar defending Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets. Ashok is the man who celebrated Rahman’s election victory under the headline: “The last outpost of the Raj falls.” There are also interesting things online about Richard which open, shall we say, new windows into his views on racism. With friends like these, etc, etc.

Even by the standards of the Guardian’s reporting of Tower Hamlets – most unlikely to win another Pulitzer! – this is an amazingly dishonest piece. Its 950 words contain by my count at least 18 separate falsehoods, many of them copied directly from council press releases and Rahman leaflets (see above.)

It’s worth going through the claims from the leaflet (and – where different – the article) to deconstruct some of the things we’ll be hearing endlessly from Rahman and his defenders in the weeks ahead. “Judge me by my record,” he keeps saying. Not, presumably, his and his supporters’ cronyism, favouritism, links with extremism, bullying, intimidation, unscrupulousness and general political sleaze but his many alleged policy accomplishments to help the people of Tower Hamlets.

Even some of his opponents half-buy the line that Rahman’s success is due as much to his populist policies as to vote-buying, ethnic bloc favouritism and so on. See what you think once you’ve read this.

Claim: A racist smear campaign has been launched against Rahman.

Reality: This is presumably a reference to my and other people’s reporting. In fact Rahman and his supporters have lost countless complaints to the PCC and Ofcom about my reporting, which has been upheld on every substantive point. In particular, the PCC ruled that it was not inaccurate to describe Rahman as extremist-linked.

The claim of racism is the standard charge made by Rahman against all who question him. But a majority of my sources, including three of those quoted in my latest article, are themselves Bangladeshi.

Claim: Tower Hamlets has “built more council housing than any other council in England or Wales.”

Reality: Tower Hamlets did not build a single new council home last year, according to DCLG figures. Nearly all new social housing in England is built not by councils, but by private developers as part of bigger schemes or by housing associations. Nearly all public funding for newbuild social housing comes not from councils but from Whitehall (or, in London, the Mayor of London.)

Claim: Tower Hamlets “introduced [the] Decent Homes programme to refurbish every council home.”

Reality: Decent Homes is a national programme introduced by the last Government in 2000, two years before Rahman even became a councillor and ten years before he became mayor. It is also paid for by the Government – though that hasn’t stopped Rahman sending thousands of publicly-funded direct mail letters to council tenants, claiming the credit.

Claim: Tower Hamlets is the “only council in the UK to replace the full Educational Maintenance Allowance.”

Reality: When abolished in 2011, the full EMA was worth £30 a week, or £1170 per academic year (39 weeks). Tower Hamlets’ scheme pays a maximum of £400 a year and is in any case due to end this summer (p4 of this PDF).

Claim: Tower Hamlets provides a “£1500 bursary for students attending university.”

Reality: Only 400 bursaries were available – although 800 students from the borough start university each year – and even these were a one-off, given only to students starting in the 2013/14 academic year (p4 of this PDF).

Claim: Tower Hamlets has “introduced free school meals for every primary school child.”

Reality: Free school meals have in fact only been introduced in two of the seven primary years – reception and Year 1.

Free school meals will be introduced for the other primary years only in September. The cost for the the three infant years will actually be met by the Government under its new national scheme, not by the council. The free meals for junior school children (years 3-6) will be funded by the council, but only for twelve months. It is not clear what happens after that.

Claim: Tower Hamlets has “kept full council tax benefit for every recipient.”

Reality: This actually applies only to “most” recipients, according to the council website. And even that is only guaranteed until April 2015, after which it will be “reviewed on an annual basis taking into account the needs of residents, the cost of provision and the funding available.”

Claim: Tower Hamlets was the “first in the UK to introduce the London Living Wage for all contractors.”

Reality: Untrue. Tower Hamlets does not pay the London Living Wage to all contractors, as this officer report (para 8.2) makes clear. A number of authorities, including Tory-controlled City Hall, do pay it to all contractors. Nor was Tower Hamlets even the first in London to extend the LLW to contractors.

Claim: Tower Hamlets is the “only council not to charge for elderly personal care. All provision remains free.”

Reality: Untrue – 32 other UK councils do not charge for elderly personal care.

Claim: “All children’s centres, libraries, leisure centres and youth services remain open.”

Reality: Untrue. In youth services, Tower Hamlets has cut its budget by 65 per cent – double the national average. It is one of only 12 authorities in England to receive an official Government warning about its failure to track young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

Children’s centres were restructured in 2011 and the service offered from fewer main sites. According to a quarter-on-quarter comparison by the council’s scrutiny committee, the restructuring resulted in 153 fewer classes, 715 fewer hours’ service provided and 3,372 fewer children using the service.

Claim: Tower Hamlets was the “first council to ban contracts with firms that blacklist trade unionists.”

Reality: The ban in fact applies only to construction firms which blacklist trade unionists. Tower Hamlets was not the first council to ban such contracts – Hull, for instance, acted sooner. The ban appears to have only symbolic effect because the companies involved in the blacklisting say they have stopped doing it.

Claim: An investigation following allegations by the BBC’s Panorama “turned up no credible evidence of wrongdoing.”

Reality: Both a police investigation and a separate Government investigation remain ongoing. See my earlier blogpost for an account of the wholly misleading statement issued (and later corrected) by the Met on this issue.

Claim: The Electoral Commission found “insufficient evidence to prove an offence” of voting fraud in 2012.

Reality: As my detailed post on the issue describes, many of the allegations of fraud were investigated and dismissed not by the Electoral Commission or by the police, but by Tower Hamlets Council – in other words, by people working for Lutfur Rahman. Where the police did investigate, they found “evidence to suggest that offences may have been committed” for at least five – possibly more – allegations. However, their investigation was desultory and made little effort to gather sufficient evidence for prosecution.

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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.