Come on you reds!

This week’s council meeting was a hot event, rammed with evangelical Labour supporters hooting and applauding the end of sentences. Anyone who didn’t know the context of this scene, would likely think they were bearing witness to a phenomenon of group hysteria.

Before the revelry was dialled up to full power, an instruction from Mayor John Biggs was made for the five Conservative councillors to sit at the front bench, a place previously held by the largest opposition, the Independent Group (THF).

This public display of alliance between Labour and Conservatives continued as the nominations came in for the chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Cllr John Pierce, from Labour, and Oliur Rahman, from the Independent Group, were the nominees. The hired in help from the public gallery – the ex-Labour councillors and failed Labour candidates – turned what should have been a democratic process into a farcical spectacle. Bringing a new definition to the term political football, they cheered on their team who made disparaging remarks of Cllr Oliur Rahman, an all-in-all uncivilised performance. Cllr Oliur Rahman made a case for himself as a member of the leading opposition, to chair the OSC, acknowledging the conflict of interest that would be imposed on Cllr John Pierce. Or at least he tried to, over the cries from the public gallery and also from councillors in the chamber. The votes ruled in favour of the Labour councillor, following a crowd pleasing speech by honorary Labour pet, Cllr Peter Golds.

Mayor John Biggs tried to distance himself from the behaviours, meekly saying at one point that the council ought to “find a way to work as a council”, apparently incapable of condemning his agents’s disregard to the democratic process.

Meanwhile, away from the giddy cries of the Labour group, figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government, indicate that Tower Hamlets created more affordable homes since 2010 than anywhere else in the country. A write up in the Wharf said: “In spring, the council secured £24.8million from the Government’s New Homes Bonus.” Whatever the reasons are for not mentioning that the success of this is down to the Independent Group and more specifically, Cllr Rabina Khan – taking a quote from a four-day-old mayor is simply at odds with reality.

In the election court, Lutfur Rahman was ladened with the responsibility of the actions from his supporters, no matter how tenuous his relationship with them. Perhaps the same standards should also apply to Mayor John Biggs, to bear the responsibility of the actions and behaviours from his councillors and invited public.

What is open and transparent is that Mayor John Biggs is leaving scrutiny to his Labour councillor and an impotent Conservative front bench, whilst his agents single-mindedly obstruct the opposition.

To the victor belong the spoils

This is the first post for the Battle of Tower Hamlets, a blog set-up to provide a service for the loony-left.

So while Ted Jeory posts pictures of an office with a desk in it and Love Wapping looks for a new hole to crawl into, let’s delve into some of the more pressing issues.

The week commenced with the newly elected mayor, John Biggs, and his councillors, officially taking over Mulberry Place Town Hall. Reports have emerged that John Biggs will be continuing with his remaining nine months as a London Assembly Member, and announced that he will be taking what looks like half his wages for his role as mayor of Tower Hamlets. One can conjecture that this is a reflection of the time he is able to commit to the position – half the time – and perhaps gives an explanation for the highly unusual allocation of three deputy mayors.

With the future of the country in the hands of an austerity-crazed government, our attention should be drawn to where these cuts will fall for Tower Hamlets, especially when our local Labour government are already suspected of doing back-room deals with the Tories.

Articles printed in Tory newspapers with titles such as “End Austerity Now? What Austerity?”, and a tabloid press obsessed with vilifying and shaming those who receive welfare, it could be said that not only are the political left and right not on the same page, but are not even reading the same book.

A local and recent example of the press distorting the facts, can be seen in the coverage of the run-up to the mayoral elections in Tower Hamlets by the Evening Standard. A dubious video emerged on the Love Wapping blog, filmed by blogger Mark Baynes himself, showing a man posting housing leaflets with Rabina Khan campaign leaflets wrapped up inside. In the video he approaches the leafleter and asks for a leaflet, then cuts to him pulling the leaflet through a letterbox (confusing continuity, I know) and then cuts to him going through recycling bins where there exist more of the same leaflets, already packed diligently away inside. Ignoring the question of “why go through bins when you can just ask your neighbours?” I contacted a journalist at the source verification service, Storyful, to ask what he made of it. His response was that the agenda of the person who posted the video would be the first thing to consider. Almost a month later the story was run in the Evening Standard titled “Police investigate ‘abuses’ in re-run of Lutfur Rahman election vote in Tower Hamlets”. While no one was quoted in the report using the word ‘abuses’, even more misleading was how there was no indication that the so-called police investigation was based solely on accusations made by the very individual who made the video. An individual with a blog that is a polemic against those he accused, where he muses the possibility that the leafleter is from the Islamic Forum of Europe. To his credit, the leafleter does have a beard.

The Evening Standard article was echoed throughout the mainstream news media and Mark Baynes even made an appearance on the Sunday Politics Show. Meanwhile no one was interviewed by the police and a counter-report to the authorities was made by Rabina Khan’s campaign team who claimed they were being framed.

Remarkably, despite the defamatory exposure, Rabina Khan received an impressive 26,000 votes, moving the count into second preferences. Which is even more impressive when considering the money and influence behind the Labour machine that marched through the borough, parading their most well-known London MPs at the vanguard of their walk-abouts. The sort of posturing that turned a lot of voters off during the general election and had the potential of being intimidating, were it not merely an army of nerds with clipboards.

After Labour winning the battle, what remains of Tower Hamlets First is the Independent Group, in the form of 17 councillors. They leave behind a record that resisted austerity cuts, the only borough in the country with Education Maintenance Allowance and one of the first boroughs to introduce the London Living Wage. With some boroughs in London failing to build one home for social housing, Tower Hamlets delivered 3980 affordable homes and 1262 affordable/social rented homes.

While Tower Hamlets Labour group celebrate this week, the people of Tower Hamlets will wait for their futures to be fought over in council chamber meetings and hope to not be the next victims of a Labour victory.  A lot depends on what flavour of Labour John Biggs is, fingers-crossed, it’s not Conservative-Lite.