Monday 2 June 2014

Lutfur Rahman; Tower Hamlets Mayor. seems i am not alone in being libelled . Judge people on facts

 Dear Reader,

                      Whilst i was attacked by internet trolls happy to publish crap as fact, it was still amazing that so many brain dead people using the internet believe that if something is on the Internet or on Twitter it must be true.

I would always ask readers that what ever you think about me or my politics, you make a judgement based on the facts and my record not on what some brain dead troll has told you to think or believe. Sadly far to many of us community activists are attacked by people who have never joined a picket line, never been on a demo and never fought for the community they live as i have.

I like many have never met Lutfur Rahman, but this fair profile is worthy of a read, a retweet and to be spread more widely.. it is far to easy to believe what the establishment wants you to believe and think.. i hope this copy gives you balance and makes you think before you react.

You can follow me on Twitter @Raywoolford



In Defence of Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets Elections

In Defence of Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets Elections
May 31

EDL Not Welcome


If you look on Twitter or Facebook, you’d think Tower Hamlets is anything from an ‘Islamic Caliphate’, a‘rotten borough’, or simply an ‘incompetent failing authority’. The re-elected Mayor, Lutfur Rahman is depicted as a corrupt, if not evil man, who probably eats children for breakfast, and certainly in the eyes of his detractors a man who only cares about the Bangladeshi/Bengali community, and has no support from non-Bengalis. Further, those who hate Mayor Rahman depict him as an Islamic ‘extremist’, who despises whites, Christians, gays, women, and who associates with hate preaches every day of the week.
If we look a little closer (or at all!) at Mayor Rahman’s record, and the local elections in Tower Hamlets, the reality is rather different, and the motivation of his detractors clear. Yes, I’m ‘playing the race card’, as the Mayor was accused of doing (in fact he said very little about the disgusting Islamaphobia and racism he faced), because this election WAS marred by racism, simply refer to social media to see the depths of the vile hatred heaped upon Rahman and the Tower Hamlets (and wider) Muslim community.


Indeed the mainstream media and political parties, nationally (Halal meat front pages anyone? What about Iceland chicken nuggets or £1 pepperoni pizza from Costcutter’s ‘provenance’- give me halal meat from Chrisp Street Market any day) and locally, have contributed to this atmosphere, where casual, and rather determined racism came into full public view.
From John Ware’s innuendo laden BBC Panorama programme which came up with nothing on the Mayor (Ware now saying they didn’t allege any criminality, maybe because it’s been shown there is none according to the Met), but invited us to be disgusted that Bengali’s voted in a higher proportion in the 2010 Mayoral election than white residents, or be sickened that the cabinet was made up of Muslims, complete with dystopian music and distorted black and white pictures, with allegations by a young female Bengali journalist that Panorama staff instructed her to look at lists of charity trustees to tell Mr Ware who was Muslim or not, and her subsequent vile smearing, to Andrew Gilligan’s Telegraph blog (I don’t want to insult journalists by calling either of these charming men one of their number), or the Labour candidate John Biggs’ pledge to ‘clean up’ Tower Hamlets politics (there must be a problem if there needs to be a clean up) and govern in the interests of all (as opposed to Bengali’s alone), as well as directly saying the Mayor’s ‘primary policy focus’ was ‘the concerns of one community, the Bangladeshi community’, or the prominent coverage for Labour and Tories in the local paid for paper the ‘East London Advertiser’, with constant editorials & guest columns attacking and smearing the Mayor, we see Rahman has not exactly been popular with the political and media establishment. The clear implication, and often explicit claim, was that Rahman only cared about Bengali’s, that South Asian people are corrupt, that Muslims can’t be trusted to run a borough, and if they did their religion required cruel and brutal actions towards non Muslims.
This lead to a permissive environment where every racist and Islamaphobe came out of the closet (although many were never in it) with even more sickening claims insulting the Bengali community, treating fellow human beings as excess rubbish unwanted in this country, calling them hateful, naturally corrupt, and worse (I won’t do the racist’s job by repeating the more disturbing abuse). Bengali men were naturally & constantly aggressive/threatening towards non Muslims, Islam inherently oppressive (‘Nazi’ ‘fascists’), and so many of these right-wing men espoused some kind of twisted ‘feminism’, berating Lutfur Rahman for excluding women, when they had never complained about women’s rights before (many in fact being stridently sexist), and indeed have no understanding of different cultures or Islam (one young female Muslim activist I know didn’t want to be photographed with a large group of older men, it wasn’t against her religion, it was her choice).
Lutfur Rahman
Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First has teams of women canvassers, and women were always present when I was campaigning. Ayeesha Rahman (the Mayor is her husband), attended a protest against sexism after a Labour activist verbally abused women THF campaigners (no one’s talking about Labour’s sexism…). But Muslim women activists can tell you themselves about their right to do and wear what they please. It was also ‘unrepresentative’ and ‘unacceptable’ apparently for non-whites to represent white people, when I’ve never heard a right wing voice demanding black or Muslim people be represented on all white councils. How could that possible be representative!


Clearly Labour was livid at Rahman, having thrown him out of the party days before nominations closed for the first election for Mayor in 2010 (on spurious and never fully released allegations of voting irregularities in the Labour Mayoral selection race- an easy excuse which has subsequently been dismissed by the Electoral Commission), Rahman having been duly selected as the Labour candidate by a large majority. Then he had the temerity to win the election, humiliating the Labour candidate. He further angered Labour by actually doing things for the people of Tower Hamlets. Reprehensible things like fully funding council tax reduction for the poor of the Borough, which had been cut by the Government. Sickening things like funding home care for the elderly. Outrageous things like keeping the EMA for Tower Hamlets college students, after the government cut it. Abominable things like starting a programme to refurbish all council homes.
I’m sure Labour was also angry that Rahman banned firms that operated Trade Union blacklists (Labour loving to fawn over big business) and introduced the London Living Wage for all staff (an example to many a London council). The list could go on for some time. I say all this, because the vitriol offered towards Rahman over the nearly 4 years of his Mayoralty has been astonishing, with Labour refusing to join his cabinet, whilst he kept open the positions for years (of course in the smears Rahman wanted a Muslim only cabinet, which shouldn’t matter anyway). This vitriol has only worsened in the run up to the election, and indeed Labour canvassers locally have even attacked Rahman campaigners, screaming abuse in the streets. Why would Labour despise a man with a record of achieving for the most vulnerable in the Borough?
What exactly, according to Panorama et al, had the Mayor done? Increased grants to Bengali and Somali groups (8% of grant funding, compared to Bengali’s alone making up 33% of the borough)? Produced a very informative local newspaper ‘East End Life’, where the Mayor has campaigned against the bedroom tax, against fire service cuts, supporting public sector strikes, as well as featuring local news and information (anything from benefits help/info, language classes, pensioners clubs to council property listings). Sold off buildings cheap for a new local school (at a price agreed by the previous Labour administration, which Rahman honoured)? The slurs against Rahman are just so thin it beggars belief, most of them actually being very positive things the Mayor has done, but viewed through a hateful and twisted lens, you can see what you want.
Council Chambers


The policies of Mayor Rahman have benefitted the whole community, white elderly residents get free home care, Chinese resident’s kids get the free school meals, Afro Caribbean people’s council flats will be refurbished, Bengali people will benefit from the library built in Rahman’s last term and the swimming baths coming back into use after 20 years. All of us in Tower Hamlets are getting these benefits from Rahman’s Mayoralty, and quite rightly those who are most vulnerable will get the most help, that includes white disabled people needing discretionary housing payments, or Muslim University students getting £1500 bursaries from the Borough. And in our diverse borough, funding from the council goes to diverse community groups, and often the poorest sections of the community. This is right and proper, and the Mayor’s involvement (subject to full oversight by the way) as the elected head of the Borough, surely more democratic than council officers alone deciding grants. If one of Rahman’s crowning achievements, making Tower Hamlets schools some of the best in the country, from some of the worse a decade ago, hasn’t been in the interests of the whole community, I don’t know what is.


Of course all this angers the Government, because Rahman refuses to play ball with their cuts agenda and actually institutes a populist left-wing agenda protecting the elderly, those on benefits and school kids etc, with Labour Councils falling into line with the austerity agenda on the whole, Rahman really is an exception to the local government rule. Erick Pickles the ‘Communities’ and Local Government secretary says he wants local communities to have increased devolved power from the centre, basically meaning slashing the number of services Councils are required to provide or fund, without replacement (or big society nonsense failing to deliver), and allowing the vulnerable up and down the country to suffer. Pickles has sent in auditors from PriceWaterhouseCooper to audit the council, just before the election started, no doubt hoping that and Panorama, plus the phalanx of establishment attacks on Rahman, would help unseat the Mayor. Clearly Pickles has no idea of a what a community is, let alone democratic local government (if they cared so much about local accountability, would they have foisted free schools without any local elected input on us?), and I’m sure he was weeping into his morning paper when Rahman was re-elected with over 3000 majority. Indeed Pickles, Ware and co’s attacks helped greatly, local people (especially the Bengali community) saw the unfair racist victimisation of the Mayor, the untrue allegations, and weighed up their experience of the reality of living in the Borough, and convincingly reelected Rahman.
However, election win aside, the stage is now set for Pickles to get his PWC cronies to come up with anything that will give him and excuse to take control of the borough (meaning PWC or other such companies would take control of the council and cut services. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?). The auditors are due to report by 30th of June, but so far documents passed to the police have led to a clear outcome, no wrongdoing found.
Pickles and his chums also changed the law to suppress local council newspapers, of course TH’s ‘East End Life’ was number 1 on the list, despite it breaking even cost wise, and even sporadically making money for the borough. With 260+ thousand residents, and being the third poorest borough in the country, the paper is well liked by many in the area, and gives people access to otherwise opaque information. It helps people keep in touch with the council, advertises services and community events, it even profiles very interesting aspects of local history (much of that being about the white working class history of the borough). The Mayor does feature fronting stories in the paper (as TH leaders did for the full 15 year history of the publication), as do elected leaders of the council or council cabinet members across the country, and particularly Rahman’s fellow directly elected Mayors, but the opposition parties also get to have their say. It’s a thoroughly useful and valuable local resource, and at the time of writing it’s unclear what the future of the publication is, but no doubt TH will try to continue to publish information in the interests of their residents.


Hysterical screaming that the Mayor is beyond scrutiny, aloof and refuses to attend meetings also melts away on inspection, he’s attended more overview and scrutiny meetings than many of his fellow Mayors (who have faced no national scrutiny), although he has declined to answer to abuse from Labour Party Councillors. Mayor Rahman also holds several open surgeries a week, dealing directly with thousands of people, and bringing council officers to solve residents problems as quickly as possible. I’ve seen the Mayor on the campaign trail answering questions from residents, I’ve seen him on Panorama answering detailed questions, and indeed many other TV and radio programmes (including, shock horror, Bengali TV stations, which John Ware had such a problem with. Wonder why?). So the experience I, and many residents have of the Mayor is direct communication with him. He has no party leader to answer to, he answers to me, and all the other voters in Tower Hamlets, and that shows in the policies he has been pursuing.


The election that Mayor Rahman clearly won, was described as a farce, a festival of corrupt Bengali politics, with thousands of percent of the electorate voting, dead people voting, aggressive Bengali gangs roaming the streets pressing people to vote the right way. Of course the reality was rather different, being a more or less ordinary electoral process, albeit delayed massively by the extraordinary scrutiny the borough, and its elections, were under. But you get the message from those making these claims, that they are deeply uncomfortable with Muslims exercising the right to vote, or even to carryout routine political campaigning, like handing out leaflets, standing outside the polling stations or giving voters a lift to the polls. When it came to Muslims these actions, no doubt seen from Brighton to Glasgow in election after election, were dangerous, they were undemocratic, they were scary.
There is even a petition calling for Mayor Rahman’s removal due to electoral fraud, the fraud being giving people lifts and campaigners standing outside polling stations. Only an issue when the people doing this are Muslim. In fact Tower Hamlets elections were undertaken with extreme scrutiny, people wanting to register to vote were canvassed by council employees or had to send in bank statements of the like to register.
On polling day police were dramatically deployed across the Borough, with vans of coppers driving in circles around the estates, and many positioned outside polling stations. What exactly did they think was going to happen? Polling staff were observed sealing the ballot boxes by a variety of candidates representatives, the ballot boxes were taken to the count site, The Troxy, securely, often followed by candidate representatives. The ballot boxes were guarded by police at the Troxy and counted by council staff, in front of representatives of all candidates. The turnout of nearly 50% increased the time of counting, as did multiple recounts in close councillor races, all ballot boxes were meticulously tallied before counting was even able to begin, a process in itself taking hours. And of course Labour and the other opponents of Rahman (who were also desperate for Biggs to win), pulled every trick in the book to delay and frustrate the result, perhaps with the very intention of discrediting the counting process. Actually these elections were undertaken with unprecedented scrutiny, and we should be unapologetic that the Borough did what was needed to correctly count the votes.
Of course the backlash to the count taking a rather long time, was a storm of allegations that this somehow proved fraud at the polls, so the Electoral Commission has now said it will investigate the Tower Hamlets elections. Again another exceptional Tower Hamlet’s only course of action forced by detractors of Rahman. I’m more than confident that the EC’s report into TH elections will prove that the actions on the ground on 22nd May were perfectly legal, and normal, if under exceptional scrutiny.


I was outside the Troxy for some of Friday 23rd May, awaiting the results with thousands of other Rahman supporters. Muslim, black, white, young, old, male, female, gay and straight and many others were present, it was a good natured celebration, with people talking amiably amongst each other, there was no threat, no menace. Well actually there was a menace from the Metropolitan Police, who decided that hundreds of officers were needed outside the venue for some reason, and inexplicably put the Troxy on ‘lock down’ because they ‘couldn’t guarantee the safety of people inside’. This beyond ridiculous PR by the Met was absolutely out of all proportion, we were interested in seeing the reelected Mayor, not some sad Labour candidates. Once again the police and sections of the public react in a troubling & racist way to a crowd comprising of mostly South Asian faces (I doubt the same would have been done for white Labour supporters outside Croydon Town Hall).


Whilst we can debate the merits of a council provided car, the volume of his work, and the effects on policy, show that is Mayoralty is working. Of course the Mayor is constrained in his actions by law and funding, and I certainly wouldn’t like to see any cuts or reductions whatsoever, and I’d like to see the Mayor even more visible and determined in his work for the community and in standing up to the Government and Labour Party. Let’s hear Rahman more on racism and immigration, where he could be a national voice showing a different direction than the increasingly nationalist and racist mainstream political parties. Rahman can also show how other councils should be protecting their most vulnerable residents, as, I think, the best elected politician in power in this country, I’m sure his example would be seen as a radical success if he was in the Labour party and white.
I certainly hope any suggestion that Rahman rejoin the Labour Party is firmly squashed, we didn’t elect a Labour Mayor, we elected Rahman. The way the LP have treated him, their conduct in this election and their continual veer rightwards especially on immigration make a return impossible I hope, despite the understandable desires from some more left elements in the Labour Party.
Instead of celebrating Rahman as a principled local politician, able to help the needy in the face of cuts, an immigrant who had risen to achieve high office, representing the diversity of this great Borough, and very much in the political tradition of the East End, he has been written off as hateful and unrepresentative. It’s a sad indictment of our political culture that racism and Islamaphobia is so ingrained we can turn the world upside down to demonise Rahman, my only hope is he keeps on doing what he’s been doing, and remembers his bosses the voters here need him to deliver.
You can follow me on twitter: @seanrr1982


Sean Rillo Raczka


Sean is a Tower Hamlets resident, a Mayor Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets First supporter, and a community activist.

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