One of the most grimly amusing parts of last night’s expose of the Islamic Forum Europe’s takeover of Tower Hamlets Labour Party. was the interview with Lutfur Rahman, Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council.
Faced with the clear evidence of what was going on – including the decision to put the Council in “special measures” – what could the poor chap do but bluster? I mean, given that Labour has, in fact, now confirmed as candidates a number of individuals who are IFE entryists, he could hardly do anything else.
Andrew Gilligan has put on his blog a full transcript of the interview with the unfortunate Cllr Rahman:
Q: Lutfur, why is the local Labour Party in special measures?
Cllr Rahman: It has been in special measures since 2001, it’s a question you should direct to the regional office.
Q: But you are the leader of the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets.
Cllr Rahman: The London region could give you that answer.
Q: We’re quoting a Labour Party spokesman [from the local Tower Hamlets newspaper] in our film, as saying they are ‘trying to prevent organisations filtering in who may try taking over the party.’ Is that something you’re worried about?
Cllr Rahman: I’m not concerned with that. I haven’t seen any signs of that. However if the London regional party have concerns, they will no doubt would have raised it, and would raise it with Tower Hamlets Labour Party.
Q: They haven’t raised it with you at all?
Cllr Rahman: That’s something you need to seek further clarification from London region.
Q: Have they raised it with you?
Cllr Rahman: They’ve raised various concerns with me, but those concerns have been around since 2001, way before I’ve been the leader, in fact before I’ve been a councillor.
Q: But they’ve raised concerns quite recently, is my understanding.
Cllr Rahman: There are some concerns that the region have raised, with London, erm Tower Hamlets Labour party, erm.
Q: What are those concerns?
Cllr Rahman: Those are internal matters, party matters.
Q: What are the concerns that they have raised?
Cllr Rahman: They are internal party matters that I’m not at liberty to discuss on TV, or with you, the internal workings of the Labour party.
Q: Are they concerns of the nature I’ve just described to you?
Cllr Rahman: There are various concerns Andrew, you have a quote from the London region, what I suggest with the greatest of respect to you, that you raise and seek further clarification from the London region.
Q: But it’s relevant to you, it’s relevant to the council, because it’s specifically related to the council, that’s what they’re telling us.
Cllr Rahman: I tell you what’s relevant to me. I’m leading a council which is high performing. I’ve been the leader for the last two years, I’ve been a councillor for eight years. What matters to me is more social housing, what matters to me are kids going to school, doing well, achieving, fantastic GCSEs. What matters to me is the worklessness in the borough being addressed. What matters to me is having a borough where people feel safe to live in, to visit, a borough where the crime rate is falling. That’s what matters to me.
Q: Of course, but we’re talking here about an Islamist organisation, an organisation that believes, in its own words, in changing this country from a secular state to an Islamic state. Isn’t that something you should be concerned about?
Cllr Rahman: What organisation are you referring to?
Q: The Islamic Forum of Europe [IFE].
Cllr Rahman: Right. I think you should talk to them about their ideologies. I work in this organisation [the council]. This council works with some 1700 organisations as an authority.
Q: But you’ve admitted to me that the Labour Party has raised concerns with you.
Cllr Rahman: They’ve raised concerns with Tower Hamlets Labour Party.
Q: Of which you’re the leader.
Cllr Rahman: I am the leader of the Labour Group of this council, I’m not the leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party – we have a chair, we have a secretary. But what matters to me Andrew, as I said, is doing well for this borough, serving all the communities, that’s important to me. We have some 1700 organisations in the borough. And we will work with every one of them, as long as they aspire to our principles of delivering high quality services for all our communities, that’s what matters to me.
Q: At the last Labour Group annual general meeting, the previous leader, Helal Abbas, said that the IFE controlled the council. Do you agree with that?
Cllr Rahman: You’ll have to ask Mr Helal Abbas on his comments, I cannot –
Q: What do you make of his comments?
Cllr Rahman: I cannot comment on the comments that he’s made. What matters to me is this. That the Labour group is run by Labour councillors, of which I am the leader.
Q: Do you agree with that comment that he made?
Cllr Rahman: The Labour group runs this council.
Q: But you’re not denying that comment?
Cllr Rahman: I am denying that no other external organisation influences the Labour Group. I’m denying that; I as a Labour member, as the Labour leader of the Labour Group, I together with my other 32 Labour councillors, we run the Labour Group.
Q: Okay. Your own party colleague, Jim Fitzpatrick, has said that the IFE are quote ‘acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties.’
Cllr Rahman: I have a lot of respect for Jim. The comments he makes, they are his views. I’m working away very hard to make sure –
Q: Is he wrong?
Cllr Rahman: – he gets re-elected. The comments he’s made are his comments, I’m not going to comment on those comments. What matters to me –
Q: He’s the MP, he’s the MP for this area, for the seat we’re sitting in right now.
Cllr Rahman: I cannot comment on what Jim has said. I have a lot of respect for Jim, I’m working away very hard with my Labour colleagues –
Q: But you’re not denying that that’s the case.
Cllr Rahman: I cannot comment on what Jim has said in private to you. I can’t comment on that.
Q: It’s not in private, it’s in our film.
Cllr Rahman: Andrew, I have not seen that film, I wish I had seen that film.
Q: I’ve quoted you what he’s said, that’s a fair comment on what he’s said.
Cllr Rahman: Sure, sure.
Q: Do you disagree with that? I mean, I haven’t heard, yet, a denial.
Cllr Rahman: Andrew, thank you very much, I’m not going to be drawn into those sort of arguments. All that I can say is that I have a lot of respect for Jim, we are working away hard for him to be elected as a Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse. And what matters to me, Jim and I, together with our other Labour colleagues, [is] to continue to deliver excellent services for the people of Tower Hamlets, that’s what matters to me.
Q: Mr Fitzpatrick also says quote ‘ there is a suggestion that there are a number of Tower Hamlets councillors who are very close,’ to the IFE. ‘It is difficult to believe that to be other than the case.’
Cllr Rahman: Sure. This concerns me. This suggestion concerns me.
Q: Is it wrong?
Cllr Rahman: This suggestion concerns me, whether it’s right or wrong. I mean only he’s told –
Q: You’re not saying it’s wrong?
Cllr Rahman : Can I just finish, please, Andrew. What matters to me is this, and I’m concerned that this suggestion has been made. If any of my Labour councillors belong to an organisation which they have not declared, give us the evidence. Give us the evidence, and we will ask the legal officer to investigate such allegations. But without such allegations being put forward to us, I cannot comment on those comments.
It is both high comedy and high tragedy.