Islamophobia,  Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets Update

h/t Imran Khan

There have been several developments in this fascinating corner of East London which seems a world far removed from the rest of the country. Apsana Begum the  MP for Poplar and Limehouse, who was accused of and cleared for housing fraud remains in the  limelight based on her activism for Palestine and anti-racism. She has her own poorly subscribed youtube channel where she showcases her activist credentials and she seems to be quite successful at getting on the telly.


However she still doesnt seem to have much support within her constituency. There is an amusing  photo  taken in Altab Ali park of a “mass” demo in support of Ms Begum less than two years ago when exactly 5 people showed up and her support is considered to have decreased even further since.

Selection for the 2024 General Election is due to start soon and there are concerns among constituency members that she could be imposed  as the candidate by Labour despite her unpopularity and open mistrust of her due to her close connections to Lutfur Rahman, whom she once campaigned for (against the Labour Party which is a sackable offence for lesser mortals).

In the East End the pressure is now on Keir Starmer not to impose her but to allow an open selection. Opinions with Labour vary but the majority feeling is that Starmer doesn’t want to be seen as getting rid of a woman who constantly claims she has been the victim of Islamophobia and misogny . He is confident that his majority will be so big as to ignore her and relegate her permanently to the back benches. Starmer is on the wire due to his stance on the war in Gaza which is already considered to have alienated the muslim community. It is interesting that he may now impose a deeply unpopular candidate on a constituency that has so many muslims. Of course there is no guarantee that an open selection will throw up a better candidate than Ms Begum but that’s just me being cynical about Labour.

On the Lutfur Rahman front, a concerning development is what seems to be an organised campaign against Sir John Jenkins, the ex-diplomat who has been tasked to investigate Tower Hamlets council. He has been accused of being too rightwing and islamophobic! If you remember, the Bismarck of Banglatown  is accused of financial mismanagement and dodgy hiring practices and the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) had recently launched an investigation. “Community elders” have sent a letter to Michael Gove accusing Sir Jenkins of bias and urging his removal as an inspector in the team auditing Tower Hamlets. Media such as Middle East Eye and The Socialist worker are fanning the flames against Sir Jenkins. Here is the letter, see how many of its signatories are familiar names you recognise!