The Battle for Tower Hamlets

Mark S Jobling
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Mark S Jobling
The fight for the political future of Tower Hamlets is under the media spotlight.
Photo by: Mark S Jobling

 

The man who Channel Four dubbed a “political star” in last night’s documentary: ‘Nigel Farage: who are you?’ probably won’t lead UKIP to victory in Tower Hamlets say locals – even though they admit they are sick of Labour, The Conservatives and Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Although UKIP has become a popular alternative to voters, their rapidly growing support from Labour controlled councils is not expected to reap the same results for candidate Nicholas McQueen in the forthcoming mayoral elections on May 22nd.

Some East London residents have said that despite their lack of faith in the Labour party, they’ll probably just vote for them anyway.

“I don’t like how the Labour party is nowadays but there’s not much else to choose from” said Tower Hamlet resident Dave McMann.

McMann adds: “I don’t like Rahman, but UKIP, I think, are dangerous”

The 54 year old, a part of the ‘Tower Hamlets Votes’ Facebook group, said he regards UKIP as the ‘BNP-Lite': “They seem to attract a lot of racists but hide it with a veneer of ‘quaint old England’ so I’m not voting for them; Tories, nope; Lib-Dems, nope. Labour… John Biggs is decent enough, so I will probably vote for him just to try an oust Rahman.”

UKIP Tower Hamlets candidate Nicholas McQueen has prided himself on being ‘unpolished’ and a “born and bred East-Ender”

He stated on the UKIP website: “In some ways, I go further than Labour when it comes to delivering social protection. In other ways, my policies are more conservative than those promised by the Conservatives”

McQueen’s recent campaigning to win over reluctant residents has come alongside both UKIP and the current mayor being put under the microscope by the media.

Nikki Sinclaire, a former UKIP MEP, told the BBC Daily Politics show that people need an alternative choice from the alternative itself.

She launched a backlash against the right-wing party, which has a higher proportion of working class voters than any other party, accusing UKIP of operating a poor party system.

“UKIP have blown its principles and linked itself with criminals and violence”

For university student Philippa Burton, the newsspotlight on UKIP and the heavy criticism of Mayor Rahman’s transparency and accountability are reasons why she and neighbouring residents may end up looking elsewhere for the elections.

Rahman was subject to a BBC Panorama investigation which was scheduled directly after the UKIP documentary on Channel Four last night.

The half-hour  programme, which was “much anticipated” by locals, looked into the local politics and power of the borough’s independently elected mayor.

Panorama claimed that Bangladeshi-born former Labour councillor Rahman has had more personal power over his council than ordinary leaders.

It was reported that against the budget agreed between the mayor and fellow Tower Hamlet council officers, Rahman had channelled additional millions of pounds into faith organisations who are predominantly Bangladeshi or Somali run.

Tower Hamlet resident Philippa Burton criticised the mayor’s regime claiming that it is all propaganda to get votes because other parties like the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP have a better chance of success.

“The vast majority of Rahman’s voters in the last election were of his own faith and community so it makes sense that he would pay over two and half times more than agreed in order to rally support from these organisations.”

Burton adds: “Tax payers in this borough are being misrepresented when you consider the fortunes being spent within a community which only accumulates to one third of the population: there’s no such thing as ‘one Tower Hamlets’ under Rahman.”

Chris Wilford,  Tory contender for mayor, said that being active in Stepney Green for the past five years has given him passion for the area.

“People are really fed up of with what’s going on. Parties have not been doing the case work they should be doing and locals are generally feeling shut out of a positive campaign for those who are on a long term plan for the borough.”

Wilford  is confident that the rapid growth in Conservative party membership and his more traditional method of campaigning such as door knocking and leafleting will engage more people than opposing parties UKIP and Labour.

In John Ware’s investigation of Rahman, he challenged the issues raised by residents and rival political candidates.

Rahman was asked about his accountability to his residents as well as the reasons why he has avoided mayoral Overview and Scrutiny meetings in the past claiming that he had other business to attend.

Rahman refused to answer the questions in the interview.

GLA Labour member John Biggs, who is standing in the mayoral elections next month, took to twitter in response to Rahman refusing his S&O invitation. Biggs said: “I asked – he declined.”

According to the council constitution, it is required that any elected mayor is to undertake S&Os at least four times a year.

Ware in his Panorama on Rahman said: “How can it be against human rights to force an elected mayor to answer questions?” It appears his residents agree.

Miss Burton suggests that the lack of trust in politicians goes beyond Rahman’s council: “The fact that UKIP are gaining support where the Conservatives have never been able to show that there’s a radical change of the political landscape in boroughs like Tower Hamlets.”

3 Comments on The Battle for Tower Hamlets

  1. UKIP- TOWER HAMLETS
    Re: The Battle for Tower Hamlets

    After reading your political article in the Holloway Express I felt the need to state a few facts with regards to UKIP and Nicholas McQueen the mayoral candidate.
    I would like your readers to know that you CANNOT stand for office with UKIP if you have ever been a member of BNP/NF/EDL or any other right wing organisation. It has been proven that some ex members of the BNP/NF have joined the LABOUR PARTY and been elected.

    AS for UKIP attracting racistsvI find that laughable, I happen to be BLACK and married for the past 34years to the UKIP mayoral candidate Nicholas McQueen.

    UKIP has many multicultural supporters and candidates, we are all working class people who have had enough of the main stream parties and we believe in Libertarianism.

    As for the Labour candidate John Biggs (from Bristol) he works for the GLA and earns over £200kper year (do you really think he has the time to run Tower Hamlets properly?) Labour is the reason Rahman has so much power they changed the mayoral role from a democracy into a dictatorship. As my husband says “would you give a lighter back to an arsonist”?
    Chris Wilford the Tory contender for mayor say’s that after being active in Stepney Green for five years he has developed a passion for the area! And as told in The Wharf he’s very passionate about Potholes and Padlocks. We deserve more than this! Is it not obvious that we need to address the Pothole situation.

    Nicholas may not be a polished politician but he is very passionate about Tower Hamlets. He believes in integration/honesty and transparency. His policies are relevant to Tower Hamlets .

    Tower Hamlets is where both he and I were born grew up.

    Yours sincerely
    Mrs Paula McQueen

    • This comment has some very serious errors.

      John Biggs does NOT earn £200k at the GLA – that would make the Assembly Members significantly better paid than the Prime Minister.

      He grew up in north London, in council housing. He has lived in Tower Hamlets with his family for over 30 years.

      Labour did NOT introduce the mayoral system to Tower Hamlets, that was done by referendum, Mrs McQueen may remember whether she voted for or against if she bothered to vote at all. It was in 2010.

  2. Balanced article but please “UKIP is bnp lite?” Tell that to Nicholas McQueen’s Afro Caribbean wife of 36 years!

    The truth is that only UKIP will open the “belly of the beast” as McQueen has stated. Don’t be fooled by the “unpolished” – he has spent years researching watching and listening to community members and knows Rahman’s weak points .

    Tower Hamlets UKIP is campaigning for “integration not segregation” – a stark contrast to the Bengali and Somali favouring mayor.

    Kids football clubs have been grant cut, non Bengali tenants kicked out and on it goes.

    Anyone caring about democracy decency and fair play should register to vote and vote UKIP. Tower hamlets 70% non Bangladesh community needs to wake up to what is being done with their taxes

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