Tower Hamlets Strikes Back!

The following are my own opinions, posted on my personal blog. I am not writing on behalf of Left Unity or TUSC, the two organisations I’m representing in the general election.

Anger and resentment are rising in Tower Hamlets following the election court decision on Thursday.  Even people who didn’t previously support Lutfur Rahman recognise the ruling for what it is – a hypocritical, State-sponsored attack on local democracy, with strong racist under-currents.

Some people have said we have to ‘respect’ the legal process, as though the English law system is infallible and its judgments above criticism.  But I seem to remember it’s made one or two mistakes in the past!

Among the many damaging aspects of the decision is its potential to sow political disillusionment and apathy.   It’s an attempt to intimidate and neuter political dissent and shore-up the political establishment.  But many people in the borough are not prepared to bow down.  They’re ready to strike back!

As I understand it, various legal appeals are being considered. But there’s a more immediate opportunity to send a message to the establishment – ‘Hands Off Tower Hamlets!’

We have a rich tradition in the East End of defying the political elite.  In the 1880s, this was the birthplace of industrial trade unions and the organised labour movement.  In 1936, the people of Tower Hamlets didn’t ‘stay indoors’, they drove Mosley’s fascists out of Cable Street.  We did the same to the NF in the ’70s/80s, the BNP in the ’90s and the EDL three times in the 2010s.  In 1945 we elected a Jewish communist MP who demanded decent homes for all.  The establishment said that was a ‘religious’ stitch-up too!  In 2005 this is where a politician who voted in favour of an illegal war paid for it with her job – the only place it happened.  And this is the borough where someone who wanted to represent the Labour Party and had been democratically selected to do so, refused to accept it when they tried to block him, took them on as an independent and beat them – twice!

On May 7th the people of Tower Hamlets have another chance to tell the establishment ‘we’ll decide who to vote for and who runs our borough’.  It can be our ‘Judicial Review’!  Imagine the reactions of Judge Richard Mawrey and Eric Pickles when they open their ‘Daily Telegraph’ on Friday 8th May and find those pesky East Enders have not been cowed: they’ve voted for a trade unionist and socialist who isn’t Bangladeshi but stands against cuts, privatisation, racism and war.

Glyn Robbins

(Left Unity – TUSC candidate, Bethnal Green and Bow)


Twitter @robbins_glyn


Defend Democracy in Tower Hamlets

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10 Responses to Tower Hamlets Strikes Back!

  1. Ted Jeory says:

    Hi Glyn

    Which parts of the judgement have racist undertones?

    In what was it state sponsored?

    And which parts of the judgement would you say are wrong?

    You were in court last Thursday. Has your thinking evolved since then?

    • Glyn Robbins says:

      Hello Ted, briefly for now…

      Which parts of the judgement have racist undertones?

      As I’ve said in my public statement, in my view the entire judgment hangs on a particular characterisation of the borough and the people who live in it that I reject. Like everywhere else, people in Tower Hamlets have opinions that cannot be crudely read-off from ethnicity or religion. Contrary to the impression created in the judgment, there is no such thing as a ‘Muslim vote’, anymore that there is, or ever has been a ‘Christian vote’ or a ‘Jewish vote’. Of course, people have their politics shaped by communal and kinship networks, but that is implicit in the nature of politics it self. The undertones become much louder in the context of widespread Islamophobia.

      In what was it state sponsored?

      The legal system is part of the State. The State is not neutral in these matters. I also link the attack on Lutfur Rahman to the ‘state sponsored’ cuts agenda of the government which he and his administration have spoken out against.

      And which parts of the judgement would you say are wrong?

      It’s wrong, in general, that an unelected judge (sitting without a jury) should act to depose a politician for whom 37,395 people voted. Were all of those people subject to ‘spiritual influence’ and the other allegations upheld in the ruling? Even to the extent that the judgment ‘proved’ wrong-doing (which I am not excusing) is anybody seriously suggesting that these types of behaviour are unique to Tower Hamlets or were even unique to THF in the 2014 Mayoral election? I recall, for example, raising serious allegations of electoral malpractice with the police and other authorities in the 2006 local elections, but noone was interested. What’s changed?

      You were in court last Thursday. Has your thinking evolved since then?

      Yes. I feel more strongly that we need to challenge the decision in the ballot box on the 7th May.

  2. Dave Roberts says:

    Let me see if I have got this correct. What you are saying is that the electoral court was completely wrong about everything, that there is no substance to any of the charges, that Lutfur Rahman is the victim of an Islamophobic conspiracy, that John Biggs is a liar and that the only people who can see through all of this are you, the SWP, Giles Fraser and Operation Black Vote?

  3. Glyn Robbins says:

    What I’m saying – and this has become abundantly clear during the course of today – is that what we’re witnessing is a politically-motivated, establishment attack on local democracy and one that is heavily flavoured by a particular stereo-type of Tower Hamlets (and by implication the Bangladeshi and Muslim community). The older I get, the less I believe that anyone is ‘completely wrong’ (or right) about anything. But it’s not a conspiracy. It’s far more blatant than that!

    • Dave Roberts says:

      So we are back to my proposition. The whole case against Rahman was a fabrication. None of it is true, none of it. He is completely innocent and is the victim of a racist, Islamophobic smear campaign. Is this what you are saying because I for one don’t know what your argument is. Do let us know. And if it’s not a conspiracy what is it blatantly?

  4. Glyn Robbins says:

    I think we’re going round in circles here Dave and we’re not going to agree are we? But I’ll have another go. As I’ve said in all my statements on this subject, what’s happening has far wider implications than the ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’ of one man. I’m not part of THF so can’t give an account for its activities. I wasn’t in court (apart from the last day) so can’t give an account for what evidence was presented. What I do know something about is what’s been happening in Tower Hamlets politics for the last 20+ years that has brought us to this point. Our community has been repeatedly subject to divisive politics that has betrayed the real interests of one of the most impoverished populations in the UK. The agents for this division have been both ‘internal’ and ‘external’. In the former camp I would site the Labour Party, in the latter the threat of violent racism. Since 2001 (at the latest) these tensions have been exacerbated by a systematic, international campaign of Islamophobia engineered by Western governments as cover for their bloody imperialism. Ultimately these forces filter down to ‘the streets’ and create a very volatile mix in places like Tower Hamlets. Lutfur Rahman is a product of all this. I don’t know him, so again, I can’t say anything about his personality or motivations. What I have seen since he became Mayor is the beginning of a more progressive brand of politics and an attempt to challenge some of the neoliberal-inspired attacks on our community. Even if everything that was said in court was true, none of it is any different to what happens in politics everywhere at every time. What is different here and now is having a Mayor who has taken (albeit limited) steps to defy the establishment (in the form of the Labour Party), organised racism (in the form of the EDL) and the cuts. These are the real reasons why Lutfur Rahman has been found ‘guilty’.

  5. Dave Roberts says:

    So you’re censoring comments now Glyn. Always the sign you’ve lost the argument.

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