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