In the trail of constant vilification, smears, spurious accusations of corruption and vote rigging of postal votes, the packed highly enthused meeting on April 30th, (1000 people) at the Water Lily Centre must stand as the vindication for all that Tower Hamlets First with their constituents stood for politically. Labour’s London Assembly Member John Biggs was never to forgive Lutfur Rahman who ran on a Labour ticket in 2010, for his defeat for election to Executive Mayor of one of the poorest boroughs in in the city. As we will gather later this was not simply only about the marginalisation of the black community. Then as now the accusations were flying of malpractices, vote rigging, etc. Subsequently Lutfur Rahman was to leave the Labour Party with others to stand under the banner of Tower Hamlets First.

The next time round was qualitatively different politically Lutfur Rahman sprung back in the fresh election for Executive Mayor in 2014 again but under the Tower Hamlets First ticket. The culmination of this was to end in what turned out to be a farcical court verdict with the barring of the Mayor from office on April 23rd 2015. Whilst the incessant innuendos from the judgment formed a shrill baying with a backlash against “multi culturalism”, racist invective against members of the leading ethnic constituency in the borough with the exercising of “undue religious influence”; there were fundamentally deeper elements in the whole equation. The “piper” who called the shots was of course John Biggs (Labour), with others, through the medium of Eric Pickles (Government Minister) acting as the hatchet man to carry out the bidding of vested interests, political, media and property investors.

The “crime” of the elected Mayor with his Cabinet, was to implement measures which the inhabitants of Tower Hamlets found to be popular and sorely needed, bringing in the Education Maintenance Allowance, full council tax benefit, nursery school provision and critically in a borough of acute need, social housing, free childcare, services for the elderly, amongst other progressive acts for local people. That is provision for need – human need demanded by an electorate of some 37,000. Luftur Rahman and his fellow councillors stood up against a massive political oligarchy (besides also the dictates of the landlords and rentiers) which had known one form of corruption and another since the days of the tenure in the council of the Liberal Democrats, to be followed by that of the Labour Party.

These ills of a borough that had suffered massive unemployment as a result of the decline of the docks and other industries tied to the River Thames amongst other things. In the advent of the eighties, the area was visited upon by the massive property boom triggered off by the Isle of Dogs redevelopment soon to sweep along the south of the Commercial Road along the railway line to Wapping, Shadwell finishing in St Katherine’s Dock on the City’s doorstep. The forces behind the local political class in Tower Hamlets were the property developers and financiers nurtured by the asset boom fuelled by a debt ridden deflationary local economy.

Much of the social housing in Tower Hamlets were in poor condition through years of neglect by previous Liberal Democrat and Labour administrations, in particular the area running along Cable Street, parts of Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs for example. In the case of the Cable Street and Brick Lane areas, these formed the heartland of the Bangladeshi voters who were to give massive support to the burgeoning Tower Hamlets First which fought tremendous resistance from the developers particularly in the case of Watney Market. This was not to say that Luftur Rahman fought purely on communal lines, he also supported the Somali’s as well as the working class descendants of the Irish Dockers, the council served all the people simply doing what it was elected to do.

The 1000 people who filled two massive “haweli” rooms and an overflow prayer room on the night of April 30th indeed not only gave a rich endorsement against racism but across class lines of the political argument against their oppressors of post-colonial Britain, the uncaring political class as well as the their masters the landowners and corporate thieves. Speaker after speaker called for more social housing at realistic rents not that of the “affordable” substitutes being put up in the hideous towers mushrooming everywhere. Much of the demands centred round “parliamentary” and “electoral” processes. There were calls for more mass meetings to be replicated not only in the borough but further afield. It was clear that there exists here a huge mass electoral base for Tower Hamlets First, which if the political momentum is not sustained could evaporate fast. On a more positive note the meeting closed with the very bright ex-deputy leader of the council (chair of housing in the Cabinet) making a moving plea for support, her name was Rabina Kahn who will probably succeed Luftur Rahman in the next election in June 2015.

  • Mass assemblies in all ward areas!
  • Socialised care for the vulnerable sectors!
  • Free higher education!
  • For a continuation of council house building, employing local people!
  • Expropriation of public land!
  • Expropriation of financial institutions, banks etc.

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