Tag Archives: personal vendettas

Let’s Talk About: Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Town Hall was built while the Lib Dems were in power.

This is a new series in which I will talk about a topic that takes my fancy. Yesterday, Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary and pie-eater extraordinaire, sent a government hit squad into Tower Hamlets. This is unprecedented and given the level corruption in other councils (some of them Tory-run), this latest government move is suspicious and smacks of the centralizing tendencies of the current Tory-led government. It also reeks of racism and class disgust. Read on.

The Tories and their knuckledragging chums in The Telegraph have been running a vendetta against Tower Hamlets Council and, in particular, its mayor, Lutfur Rahman for the last four years. What upsets the Tories and their pals is that Tower Hamlets Council reflects the ethnic composition of the borough. But it’s the fact that a Bangladeshi is the twice-elected mayor of the borough is what upsets them even more.  This excellent article by Chris Nineham, in the Socialist Review reminds us what Tower Hamlets used to be like:

From the moment of taking office the Liberals not only discriminated against the local Bengali population, but actively scapegoated them in a series of high profile publicity stunts. In 1987 they made national news by claiming that 52 Bangladeshi families living in bed and breakfast accommodation had made themselves intentionally homeless, simply by coming to Britain. They were therefore not entitled to benefit. This was too much even for the Tories, and the council was eventually beaten in the courts, but the damage had been done. The vile message had already gone out, ‘Immigrants are scroungers, they are taking our homes’.

That message was reinforced a year or so later when Tower Hamlets mayor Jeremy Shaw travelled to Bangladesh to tell the government there that immigrants were no longer welcome because the borough was full up. Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth. Apart from the 900 empty yuppie flats on the Isle of Dogs, the council was sitting on 3000 empty properties, rotting from neglect. But the truth did not matter, the trip was a stunt for home consumption, and the local paper quoted Shaw’s claim in a banner headline.

When Derek Beackon won the Isle of Dogs by-election in 1993 for the BNP, there was shock and dismay. Beackon was elected towards the end of the Lib Dems’ eight year spell of running Tower Hamlets, and on the back of their blatantly racist “Sons and Daughters” housing scheme. After Beackon’s election there was a fear that the BNP would take more seats in the 1994 local government elections. Paul Anderson writing for The New Statesman said:

It is without a doubt the Lib Dems who have most explaining to do when it comes to last September’s debacle. As their national party’s inquiry into Tower Hamlets, chaired by Lord Lester, QC, made clear just before Christmas, their propaganda in the borough, particularly in the Isle of Dogs, has systematically pandered to racism, especially on housing.

What then styled itself the Liberal Focus Team took control of the council from Labour in 1986 after more than a decade of “community politics” characterised by populist anti-Labour rhetoric and assiduous wooing of tenants’ associations – a major force in a borough in which three-quarters of the population lives in council housing even after years of right-to-buy. Despite having a tiny majority, the Liberals implemented their decentralisation and council house-sales policies with missionary zeal. From the start, they courted controversy over race with their tough line on the council’s legal obligation to house the homeless (mostly Bangladeshi) and their “sons and daughters scheme”, giving priority in housing allocation to the offspring of people born in the borough, most of whom were white.

In 1994, I was one of a large group of comedians (along with with Lee Hurst, formerly of Red Action) who doorstepped and leafleted the Isle of Dogs in an effort to get the residents to turn their backs on Beackon and the BNP. You probably wouldn’t get a group of comedians doing that now, but in those days there was still a sizeable contingent of politically active comedians on the circuit. In any case, Beackon lost his seat and the BNP dogs went home with their tails between their legs.

What strikes me as odd is that when Lib Dem controlled Tower Hamlets engaged in blatant corruption, not a single Tory said anything. No hit squads were mobilized to assume control of the council’s operations and no one even suggested that the council be taken into special measures. As for the press, they were strangely quiet.  These days, the likes of Ted Jeory and his partner-in-crime, Andrew Gilligan make a big deal out of the sizeable Bangladeshi population. They would, of course, deny that there’s a racial dimension to their interest in the borough. Gilligan, for example, often prefaces the name of Lutfur Rahman with the phrase “extremist-linked” or similar. It doesn’t take a Barthesian scholar in semiotics to work out what he’s trying to say. It’s pretty bloody obvious. Indeed, anyone who takes issue with Kennite’s sensationalist drivel is accused of supporting “terror”. Charming. The trick that Jeory uses to counter any Bangladeshi claims of racism is to accuse them of “cheapening the word”. It’s not as though Jeory ever faces racism on a daily basis though, is it?

Jeory and Gilligan have both accused Rahman of vote-rigging and electoral fraud for years. Even after investigations have concluded there were no irregularities, they persisted with this accusation. After this year’s local elections, there were similar accusations and two people were arrested. Curiously, there are no updates on this story and it may well be the case that the accusations were baseless. We shall see.

This whole episode began when Rahman was originally selected then deselected by Tower Hamlets Labour Party as their mayoral candidate. The whole selection issue was a messy business that was covered extensively by The Guardian’s Dave Hill. On 21 September 2010, Hill wrote:

There is a view in local Labour circles, one shared even by some strong opponents of Rahman, that had everyone seeking the nomination been allowed to enter the contest from the start – which is what eventually occurred – the quality of debate would have been both higher and more honest and the battle less divisive. More than one unsuccessful candidate takes the view that the publicity generated around Rahman helped him win by persuading some party members to rally round a man they considered to be a victim of smear campaigns and dsicrimination

The party then expelled Rahman from Labour for standing as an independent mayoral candidate against the wishes of the party, which preferred to impose candidates on the electorate rather than allow local parties to decide on their own candidates.  As an independent, Rahman had the support of RESPECT and the former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who attempted without success to have Rahman readmitted into the party.  Since then, there has been a steady drip feed of anti-Rahman stories from Gilligoon and Jeory.

I think we all need to remember that the PWC report did not find any evidence of fraud. That will piss off Gilligoon and Jeory, who were hoping for a scalp. From The Guardian Live Politics blog

The council, which is run by the independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said PWC did not find any evidence of fraud. In a statement to the Commons, Pickles said he did not know whether or not the PWC report amounted to evidence of fraud, but that he was sending it to the police anyway. He said the report exposed cronyism “risking the corrupt spending of public funds”. His decision to intervene was backed by Labour, and Tower Hamlets was strongly criticised by MPs from all sides.

My bold. As for “cronyism”, there was plenty of that in Hammersmith and Fulham when the Tories were running the council. Yet, Gilligan said nothing and nor did Pickles, who described Hammersmith and Fulham as his “favourite council”. That says an awful lot about The Sontaran’s judgement and Gilligan’s character.

 

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Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 45)

Kennite is back from his break.  He must have exhausted himself so much that his bosses made him take a holiday. As you will recall, Kennite wrote at least two anti-Livingstone blogs a day. Even his Number One fan, the similarly obsessed  “imrankhan” is back, chipping in with his extra long comments (there’s one that comes to 701 words) in which he repeats the same tired old clichés and libellous drivel about Ken Livingstone, Tower Hamlets, trots, postal vote fraud (a favourite of the right) and so forth as he’s done before.

Yesterday’s blog follows from the news that the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan is to take up a position with Huffington Post as their political editor. Naturally, Kennite is beside himself with a mixture of bitterness and bitchiness. The blog, titled, “Mehdi Hasan: liar leaves job” is nothing less than a window into the mind of a deeply embittered man. “imran” thinks he knows why Hasan has left the New Statesman but, like his idol, he’s just being bitchy.

Wishful thinking.

Desperate to impress his readership of extreme nationalists, racists and those who continue to pine for the demise of Empire (We should never have left Injah!), he writes,

Mehdi is an effective polemicist, increasingly beloved of BBC discussion programmes – but the job needed more reporting scruples than he possessed, and his temper sometimes get the better of him. My own experience with this came in November 2010. I’d done something to annoy Mehdi – not that hard – so he accused me (in his New Statesman blog) of a long list of crimes including working for the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, Press TV. “Sources at Press TV tell me Gilligan is among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, employee at the channel,” wrote Mehdi, asking: “So, Andrew, when will you quit your lucrative job at Press TV?”

Gilligan is trying to claim or, rather, feign innocence.  He adds,

I did present a fortnightly discussion show on Press TV, in which the policies of the Iranian government were often debated and challenged. But I stopped in December 2009. I have not worked for Press TV since, with the exception of two one-off shows in the week of the general election in May 2010, almost six months before Mehdi’s “sources” told him I was its highest paid employee.

As I pointed out in a previous blog, Kennite left Press TV, then he was back in. Who’s to say that he won’t work for Press TV again in the future? It’s all money after all and he showed no scruples when he joined the channel the first time. If he went back so soon after leaving, then surely there is the possibility that he could return.

It seems to us at Nowhere Towers that Kennite is desperate for a story and it shows. He’s also still grinding an axe for his former employer whom he has never forgiven. Hell hath no fury like a Gilligan scorned!

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Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 40)

Today, Kennite writes,

As a convinced Ken-hater, perhaps I, like so many of my media colleagues, should be hyping up the independent mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita. She’s clearly on the left and will thus take more votes from Livingstone than from anyone else. But I object to the note of entitlement which runs through her candidacy.

Finally, at long last, some honesty. It took a while but there it is in black and white: Kennite is a “convinced Ken-hater”. Of course we all knew that he “hated” Ken. I mean, most of his blogs for the last couple of months have all been about one thing.

To adapt a phrase from Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Gilligan “detests Ken with the detestation of a thwarted lover”. How true that is.

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Life On Gilligan’s Island (Part 20) or Join the Dots with Gilly

Britain's premier investigative journalist or a figure of fun?

Today, Kennite turns his attention away from his favourite twin obsessions and focuses on a group called iEngage whom he describes as “an organisation of Islamist sympathisers”. Why? Because they challenge Islamophobia? or is it the fact that they have met with some parliamentarians that concerns Gilligoon. Turns out, that’s exactly the case. Kennite blasts,

A body called iEngage (also known as Engage) states in a press releasethat it will be acting as the secretariat to a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, whose inaugural meeting was held yesterday in the Commons. The group is chaired by a Tory MP, Kris Hopkins. The Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes and the Labour peer Lord Janner are vice-chairs. Sources say that the inaugural meeting was attended by the Tory MPs Angie Bray and Eric Ollerenshaw, and the Labour MP Lisa Nandy, among others.

Then he says,

I’m quite certain all these people are sincere individuals who would have no truck with Islamism or extremism. Indeed, at least one of them is Jewish. But they are being used. They need to look much more closely at who they are getting into bed with.

Do you expect me to take this stuff seriously? I have actually had a good look around iEngage’s website and nowhere on that site is there any praise for ‘Islamism’, ‘terrorism’ or any other ‘ism’ for that matter. I think what irks Silly Gilly is the fact that Mohammad Sawalha recently won a libel case against Mad Mel Phillips and Kennite’s other employer, The Spectator. The reason for his blog therefore is obvious: it’s an attempt to smear iEngage because they had the ‘temerity’ to take on a libel suit against a right wing journalist and a right wing magazine and win. There’s a smell of hubris about Gilligan. I wonder if he realizes this?

Once again, it appears that Gilligan has produced a story (for that is what it is) without leaving the comfort of his home. He says that iEngage,

It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools – showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments – as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism – faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet.

They have a right to their opinions. Indeed I only saw part of the programme and I thought it was sensationalist tosh. Panorama has really gone down the pan since it returned to our screens. Anyone who has studied Media Studies will tell you that there is a disappointing lack of hard news on television these days. Sensationalism is no substitute for real  news.

It doesn’t end there.

It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009.

And,

It peddled the straightforward lietold by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage. In fact, Awlaki had been identified by the US government two months before as a spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers – and the mosque knew this.

Really? You’re going to have to produce some evidence and not the usual fact-free nonsense that you spew out to your audience. This is all personal. It’s all about him. He’s hurt. Tough shit.

He produces this red herring,

There is no question that Muslims face substantial bigotry and discrimination in this country – although the claim, often made by Islamists, that it is “rising” flies in the face of all the empirical evidence. Hate crimes against Muslims have fallen, often dramatically (in Tower Hamlets, for instance, London’s main Muslim area, hate crimes are down by 50% in seven years.)

He appears to offer the hand of friendship to Muslims, then swiftly kicks them in the teeth. It’s the way he says that “Muslims face substantial bigotry” without a trace of irony that’s the kicker. His contribution to Islamophobia in Britain is well-documented.

The rest of the blog is muddled, directionless and vague. I won’t bother quoting all of  it here but it is safe to say that Kennite is looking increasingly desperate. He talks about the BNP being “Britain’s main anti-Muslim party” and how they lost spectacularly at the last general election. He suggests that because of this drubbing, Islamophobia has gone away. I’ve got news for you, it hasn’t. Joining the dots is easy. Anyone can do it. Anyone with half a brain that is.

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Life On Gilligan’s Island (Part 15)

East India with Tower Hamlets Town Hall

In a blog dated 9 November, Kennite said,

Two weeks after the extremist-backed politician, Lutfur Rahman, became mayor of Tower Hamlets, his council has placed CDs of sermons by an extremist Islamic preacher in its Town Hall.

He goes on,

The CDs are being handed out to council workers and visitors as part of an official council-sanctioned display mounted in the Town Hall reception area from last week by an organisation called One Reason.

He says that,

Two councillors have been given them and have passed them to me.

Not being one to take Gilligan’s word at face value, I decided to take a trip to Tower Hamlets Town Hall and guess what? I saw no CDs of any description in the Town Hall foyer. All I could find was the local council newsletter (incidentally it is not as perniciously propagandizing as H&F News) and some local cycling and public transport guides. Someone is telling lies.

I would like to know who these two mysterious councillors are but I suspect that we will never know.

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Gilligan grinds his axe (again).

Two years after Ken Livingstone lost the mayoralty to Boris Johnson, former BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan is preparing an early propaganda campaign in earnest against Livingstone. There’s nothing like getting the boot in before all the others, eh Andrew? Anyone would think that you were taking Ken’s candidature a little too personally.

Gilligan’s personal vendetta against Livingstone began as soon as he took office in 2000. It’s come to the point where anything Gilligan says about Ken just goes in one ear and out the other.  In this article he demands that Ken move to the ‘centre ground’. I thought he had already done this by rejoining the Labour Party?  Sure I agree that his choice of Lee Jasper as an aide was poor and I’d be a fool not to admit that.  But Johnson’s judgement hasn’t been too great either.  I noticed that Gilligan has never once mentioned Boris’s poor choices…like the fact that he lost his deputy mayor, Ray Lewis in his first year after it was revealed that he was being investigated for financial ‘irregularities’. A year later his other deputy mayor, Ian Clement, was forced to resign after it was revealed that he used his GLA credit card for private expenditure. Johnson never hid his dislike of Sir Ian Blair who was forced to resign once he took office. This was the act of a man who is convinced he is a Roman emperor who was born too late. But Gilligan isn’t interested.

Boris Johnson has done nothing but take the credit for the projects Livingstone started while in office – the cycle superhighway is now Boris’s idea. Johnson hasn’t come up with one single original idea. I guess that doesn’t concern Gilligan either.

But he likes Oona King.

Well, how about Oona King, the other declared candidate, currently on the same odds as Ken (6/1) to win the mayoralty come 2012? London could take to someone who’s not old, white, or a man. If she can make it a contest with Ken, she can win: he seems to prefer coronations to contests. And there is still time for Labour to find someone else

I’m surprised that you haven’t suggested Tony Blair,  Andrew.

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