First of a series of analyses of work that Cllrs do (or not!) in advance of the elections in May
Why elect people who won't work hard for you?
As Cllrs we can ask questions of the Council or housing associations, these are called Members Enquiry (ME). Most ME's are done on behalf of residents, helping them get information, help or answers.
The table below is just of the Cllrs standing for election again showing Members Enquiries from May 2018 to February 2022
From lowest Abdul Ullah to best Rabina Khan.
The detailed backup is in this Excel file here, from an ME I asked the Council.
48 Cllrs in total as 3 Cllrs started after the May 2018 elections due to a resignation, a Councillor being jailed, or sadly a Councillor passing away.
So this is a crude measure of who does work on behalf of residents
This is not perfect record of work as won't include answering questions, Councillor surgery sessions etc but should be a guide as to who to vote for this May
Another useful measure is how many LYN reports they have submitted
This is a picture of my reports as an example but there is no central list by Cllr
Another key measure is who attends most Council meetings will do later & then do combined analysis
What do Councillors actually do?
On the 5th May you will be electing a new set of Councillors so this is the 1st of a series about the skill sets required, what your elected Councillors might have to do, if you do not think a person is able or willing to do this kind of work then you should not elect them.
I am currently helping three active Police investigations - one is going to trial this summer, one is underway, and I am hoping the Police will arrest somebody soon, and one investigation has just started - as a result, I cannot say very much for now.
In all three I have had to provide the Police with evidence and background information. In one of them, I was the 1st to spot something odd which later led to an investigation. In the other 2, I am following up on other complaints.
And as a reminder three Tower Hamlets Councillors have gone to jail for fraud in the last 10 years although the 3 cases above do not directly involve other politicians (although 2 are political).
We also had a high-profile court case last year where it was clear fraud had taken place just not by whom.
Over the years Cllr Peter Golds and I have received a number of tip-offs about issues and have had to investigate. For example, why was a Cllr able to buy a new 2nd/3rd/4th? property for £850k in cash for example? (I believe legally)
But why do we investigate?, it is not our job to do this.
Because if we don't often nobody else will, so we often have to collate evidence or ask questions in order to get a case to a state where somebody else will investigate it.
Generally, the Police / Council won't investigate unless the evidence is really solid (which it rarely is).
And by the way, all of these cases are after Lutfur Rahman was removed (except the 1st jailing of a Cllr).
Brown paper bags?
For years I have downplayed accusations that planning permissions are bought via cash contributions to Cllrs, Tower Hamlets Council is so pro-development that it would be pointless for a developer to take the risk. The Council grant nearly every permission because as a Council they make so much money from development.
But given what happened after the 2017 Sunday Times story about alleged corruption at Alpha Square and recent events. I am no longer so sure. I do think there is something happening and we have received a number of allegations about planning applications on the Isle of Dogs. That the Councillors making the decisions do not make the decisions with an open mind but may enter the room already being supportive of the developer, why is unclear unless they benefit in some way.
And we also have Westferry Printworks, I do not think that was direct corruption in terms of a paper bag full of cash, but I do think Robert Jenrick was keen to develop a good relationship with Richard Desmond, to have him owe Jenrick a favour. Influence peddling that started at a dinner table.
And in 2017 a developer told Mayor John Biggs that somebody had approached him offering to buy the votes of 4 Councillors for £0.5 million each, the Alpha Square case, reported by the Sunday Times
What happened as a result? nothing, the Council and the Mayor sat on the story until told 8 months later that they had to report it to the Police.
The Police then never investigated it as far as I know.
We would never have known about it unless somebody involved leaked the story to the press. But because nothing happened I think others think they can get away with it now.
We then had the very mysterious ASDA funfair, the biggest mistake I have made in recent years was to tell the Council in advance about the allegations about ASDA, it meant Cllrs were warned off and no investigation resulted.
And more recently allegations about collusion at another development, that two Councillors were involved with an agent of the developer and were being paid. But although we have circumstantial evidence to support the allegation we have no proof.
The Council were informed after the meeting.
And again we have decision-makers attending events with multiple developers where there is little transparency about who is paying for what
But if you have more information then let Peter and I know
My email is
Tower Hamlets Council has no foreign policy responsibilities, we elect Members of Parliament to undertake that role.
As a result, no local political party has any mandate to discuss foreign policy (although that did not stop the majority of Tower Hamlets Councillors voting to recognise Somaliland a few years ago!) and there are more than enough local issues and concerns to keep us busy.
But inevitably there are three foreign issues that do get mentioned a lot in Tower Hamlets, so I wanted to express my personal opinions on them and what I would do if elected Mayor (where relevant).
Because one of them (Palestine) creates internal divisions within Tower Hamlets.
Which is really odd because the foreign policy issue where people in Tower Hamlets could be most active is China, the Chinese occupy Tibet illegally and they are destroying democracy in Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party is destroying the culture and religion of the Uighurs in Xinjiang (they are Muslim), they have been locked up in camps by the millions and are made to do forced labour. The Chinese government owns an important site here IN Tower Hamlets, to be their future Embassy, they give gifts of wine to local politicians HERE. There has already been a protest outside the embassy site but by people from outside of Tower Hamlets. Only Cllrs Rabina Khan, Peter Golds, and I have made any real effort on this. It is barely mentioned on social media here. Why no regular protests outside the Chinese Embassy here?
Why are people so passive about China despite its abuses when they could do something here by making clear their position on the Chinese Embassy, where are the protests outside the Embassy? I thought I was taking a political risk by supporting the principal of the Embassy of the people of China moving here but making clear my opposition to the Chinese Communist Party by renaming a road in front of the embassy, see below, but very few seem to be interested. Why?
But if you decide to base your local election vote on international issues – please do not vote for me. Local government is also important and should be decided on local issues.
This conflict is an ideological struggle between those who have chosen Europe, peace and democracy, and a dictator, Putin who believes in neither, who wants to reverse their democratic choice through force because of his warped sense of history. Democracies need to support each other, and this is why we are also directly involved in this conflict as well. It is also geographically in our neighbourhood. As British people, we are also combatants in this struggle even if our weapons are mostly economic and diplomatic. It is precisely why NATO is so essential, only by acting together are we strong enough to deter Putin, Ukraine would not have been invaded had it been in NATO, which is precisely why they wanted to join.
It is what makes it different to many other conflicts – where often two other peoples compete with each for control of land and where as a result we are not involved even if we have sympathy with one or both of the combatants.
But this crisis may also have a direct impact on life in the UK in terms of refugees, government spending, and our food and energy bills. If sanctions are to hurt Russia, they will also hurt us as well. But we have no choice.
And it is scary how history repeats itself. In the 1930’s we had apologists for Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, two of the three greatest butchers of the 20th century (Mao was the 3rd). Like the British Union of Fascists. We now have people in the UK repeating some of the Russian propaganda points, more on this later and below (but who don’t also comment on China).
But increasingly I wonder how many ‘people’ on social media here are actually here, we know the Russian government pays people to create fake profiles on social media, pretending to be somebody else in order to spread disinformation and confusion. It is called hybrid war, destabilise your opponent by creating internal division. They seem to be more successful at that than on their conventional military.
People seem to have forgotten that for all of their fault’s democracies are far superior to dictatorships. And I will talk about one of those faults, race later.
What would I do as Mayor?
I will welcome people from Ukraine moving here with practical help, we already have a Ukrainian community here in London.
And make clear that the blame for this conflict solely resides with Putin and not the Russian people, some of whom live with us here in Tower Hamlets and are very welcome. We need to encourage a brain drain out of Russia, so we need Russians to feel safe and welcome. The oligarchs who work with Putin are different.
But the main impact on Tower Hamlets may be an economic one especially those suffering from fuel poverty and 20% of global wheat production is in Ukraine & Russia. So we need to make sure people are prepared for those food cost rises.
China – Hong Kong, Tibet, and the Uighurs
My views on the Chinese Communist Party are:
• I strongly object to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control of China, they have kept China poor isolated, and backward for 70 years. Compare Taiwan, free, rich, and democratic on a per person basis to mainland China to see how unsuccessful the CCP has been by comparison.
• The Communist party since before the founding of the Republic has been directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese people – see the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
• That if threatened they will kill, silence, or imprison you
• There is limited freedom of religion, and they see all religions but especially Islam as a threat
• They do not respect the individual nor the rule of law
• They treat the Chinese people like children who cannot be trusted with any responsibility
• They are colonial occupiers of Tibet, they have destroyed democracy in Hong Kong, they are trying to erase a whole people in the Uighurs by removing their culture and religion
• I worry that after Ukraine Taiwan is next (but the Western response to Ukraine has I think greatly reduced that chance)
What I would do as Mayor
Because the Chinese Embassy is moving to Tower Hamlets, we have some involvement as a result:
1. I welcome the Embassy moving here – I do want good relations with the Chinese people, my disagreements are with the CCP, and the embassy building should last much longer than the CCPs control of China – I want the embassy staff to see how a democratic multi-cultural, multi-national, free Tower Hamlets actually works
2. But there are a number of serious planning issues to resolve first related to security in particular
3. I will add a new name to the short section of road in front of the embassy with no current name – personally, I like ‘Tiananmen Square’ (because of the massacre of 1989) but which the Chinese government cannot object to as it is an important landmark in Beijing but am happy to consult on the name
4. I won’t accept any gifts from the Chinese government and will return any sent in the post
5. I will welcome people from Hong Kong moving here with practical help (the government has announced a programme of support, but I am unclear what is happening here)
Is the most dangerous conflict for us here in Tower Hamlets because of the internal divisions it can create here. It is not the worst, biggest nor most dangerous conflict in the world but it is the only one that is able to create real division here in Tower Hamlets because for some Tower Hamlets residents it is a part of their political identity even though they are not Palestinians.
Some British people have chosen to wholeheartedly support one side, Palestine. Since the invasion of Ukraine, what they mainly want to talk about, is Palestine. They are suggesting we should all respond to Palestine and Ukraine in the same way. I would suggest there are some differences.
And as a British person, I do not have to pick a side, I support both Israelis and Palestinians equally, Jews and Muslims equally. It is not possible to do that in Ukraine (because the conflict is between a dictator Putin and the people of Ukraine (not Russia versus Ukraine)).
But for a small number of people that is not possible, this is black and white, good versus evil and if you won’t support the Palestinians, then you are on the other side, a Zionist. There can be no middle course, of being compassionate to both sides in Palestine.
As we live in a democracy, you can of course pick whichever side you want to support or to believe in.
AS LONG AS:
1. It does not affect your personal relationships with your neighbours who may have different views or support another side in a foreign conflict – in this country we need to live in peace and harmony with each other
2. It does not result in direct action nor violence here
3. It does not bring into the UK the ugly stain of anti-Semitism (and after the Ukraine invasion that was again very evident on some social media channels)
For example in May 2021 the cars with Palestinian flags that drove through areas of London with many Jewish residents while honking their car horns and screaming “F*** their mothers, rape their daughters.”
What I personally think about Israel and Palestine
• I support a two-state solution based on the borders approved in 1947 by the United Nations
• Both peoples deserve to live in peace, but that can only happen when both peoples are free from fear, Israeli security therefore depends on Palestinian security
• As a result Israel is illegally occupying land that it will have to hand back or swap one day in negotiations
• Israeli Arabs are in an odd situation, while having many more rights than their neighbours (for example in Syria) they often have worse outcomes and fewer opportunities than Israeli Jews, but with an Arab Muslim party (United Arab List) supporting the current Israeli government I am not sure that the term apartheid state fits but unless Israel does more to improve the life of its Arab citizens then that title may become to be deserved
• Gaza is blockaded by Egypt (which never gets mentioned) and Israel because both do not trust Hamas, they control what is allowed to enter
• There are opponents of peace on both sides – Hamas does not want peace and the Israeli settlers want land that is stolen from others
• Israeli armed forces know that their tactics will result in many more Palestinian than Israeli deaths (which is one reason why Hamas launches rockets) and as a result, their tactics at times are borderline war crimes (and some individual Israelis have committed serious crimes against Palestinians knowing they will get away with it)
• So, yes it is possible to be very critical of Israel, I do not buy any goods from Israel until I can be sure they are not from any occupied territory.
BUT this is also true
• Jews have been killed for thousands of years because of who they are, in many countries across Europe and IN the Middle East.
• The Jews were expelled from England in 1290, it is now the home for some, but no Jew should ever fear living in this country
• My German grandparents lived in a country that tried to murder every Jew in Europe (& almost succeeded) – it makes me very conscious about anti-Semitism today
• There used to be large and vibrant Jewish communities across the Middle East, who had been there for thousands of years (Iraq) now they are almost all gone, forced out (some of this happened before the foundation of Israel i.e. the Farhud in Baghdad 1941), so it is not just the Palestinians who lost their lands. The Jews forced out of other parts of the Middle East are now the largest Jewish group in Israel, why should they leave the Middle East?
As a result, I cannot argue against the need for a Jewish homeland as long as it is democratic and gives all of its citizens equal opportunities and treatment.
Israel will have to give up some of the lands it controls, Palestinians need to hold new elections, they need their own state, Hamas needs to change or be replaced, the settlers need to accept that they will be living in a Palestinian state or leave. How this will be achieved has to be led by the two people involved with support from us. And yes, some pressure.
But violence is not the answer, both sides have tried violence for 80 plus years and failed to resolve the principle of how to share land.
People may have different and completely acceptable views on other solutions. But there is, unfortunately, a casual or sometimes deliberate strain of anti-Semitism in some of the objections to Israel (& why is it the most important issue here for many but not China?).
So I think the key question to ask people who focus on Israel so much is whether or not they have any Empathy and Sympathy for both sides in this conflict but especially:
1. Has that individual made clear they are supportive of the local Jewish community? That in their criticism of the actions of a foreign government they have made clear that it is separate and unconnected from what happens here?
2. Are they conscious of the unique history of the Jewish people including the many pogroms in different countries and the holocaust, where Jews were slaughtered over who they are, that there are good reasons why Israeli Jews act the way they do, even if like me you think their methods maybe counterproductive?
3. Do they support a two-state solution as mandated by the UN in 1947?
4. Do they think Jews have the right to live in the Middle East or not?
If the answer is no to the majority of these questions, then I would suggest their motivations are not pure, but that they are partisans in this conflict and not really interested in finding peace.
BUT I do worry that Palestine gets mentioned so often given that it is not the worst, longest or biggest foreign policy problem we have
• Ethiopia – until Ukraine, was far and away the worst conflict underway in the last two years as measured by the number of refugees and the number of dead. But it never gets mentioned in Tower Hamlets.
• Bashar al-Assad has killed many more people in his bid to stay in power in Syria – but I rarely see him mentioned let alone condemned, the same with ISIS
• Kashmir is also disputed territory with similar issues to Palestine but is mentioned less often than Palestine
• Venezuela has seen huge refugees’ outflow almost comparable to Syria but never gets mentioned here
• Rohinga Muslims displaced by Myanmar
• Tibet – occupied by China since 1950
• Xinjiang – an attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to remove the Islamic faith from millions of people
• North Korea – a nuclear armed state run by 3 generations of one family
• Muslims in Crimea (Tatars) – the original inhabitants of the Crimea did not support the takeover by Russia in 2015 and are being oppressed but never get mentioned here
• And there are many more occupations and conflicts I have not mentioned
What I would do as Mayor
Make sure that we do not bring the hatred and division of the Middle East into Tower Hamlets.
Make sure schools are educating children about the complex history of Palestine and the Jews.
Ukraine 2022, Finland 1939, Grozny 1994, the fifth column of the 1930s & UK in the future
As a child of the cold war and a student of military history I wanted to comment about what the Ukraine conflict means for Britain in the coming years because the changes maybe profound.
The only way of stopping those changes from happening is to go ‘nuclear’ on the economic sanctions side especially by targeting some of the oligarchs still active in Russia. They may not be responsible, but they cannot be allowed to prosper anymore from riding two horses. We also need their money to pay to help look after Ukrainian refugees. It may not be fair, but they won’t be poor, they will become millionaires rather then billionaires. But I worry that it won’t work because Putin will believe that we won’t sustain those sanctions against Russia for long and the oligarchs are not as influential as we hope they are.
We also need to keep the Ukrainians supplied as best as we can, to allow them to fight on if that is their choice. But what happens if they lose militarily?
How should the UK respond to a Russian occupation of Ukraine? we will need to take our share of refugees in, we will need to re-arm, rebuild relationships with the EU and be a more effective and liberal democratic state. We need to be a beacon of freedom and also prepare our economy for a less connected world. Both the Conservative and Labour parties will need to grow up by removing the ‘useful idiots’ in their ranks. We need to root out the misinformation or poor knowledge of history that allows some residents to believe this invasion is the Wests or NATOs fault. It was not. We will be starting a new form of Cold War; Russia is smaller than the Soviet Union, but it is more dangerous because under Putin it is more willing to use force. And we can no longer assume that Putin won’t move against a NATO state unless we make very clear that he has no chance of winning such a war.
As the ancient saying goes “If you want peace, prepare for war” that means reversing the decline in the British army’s ability to fight a conventional war in Europe.
We were complacent about the danger that Putin created despite a wealth of evidence about his intentions. We now need to over-react in some areas as we are playing catchup.
What is happening in Ukraine?
War is now fought in the physical, financial, political, and public relations spheres.
Ukraine has won the first political battle in the sense that there can be no doubt that Ukraine is a democratic state that deserves the right to be free and will probably win the war in the long run. Russia has lost the public relations battle except among the small proportion of the UK population who blame the west for everything and anything that goes wrong anywhere in the world. Ukraine also won the humour war, their tax office saying that anybody taking away abandoned Russian tanks won’t have to declare them on their tax returns .
Russia has lost the financial war. This makes this war different to 1939, the weaponization of finance. But Putin hopes to wait out the West, he believes that within a year Apple will start selling iPhones again and that Europe will always buy his oil and gas. If that is the case, then we will fail, and Ukraine is lost.
And it is still possible that Ukraine will survive militarily – they have more armed men and women in the country then Russia has. But Russia has the heavy equipment and air forces to decimate lightly armed foot soldiers unless they are in cities, but cities full of civilians are terrible places to fight a war.
We only have to look at how the Russian Army acted when they invaded Chechnya and ‘liberated’ Grozny in 1994. I wonder whether the Russian Army remembers its early defeats in that battle? And it is possible that the Russian Army decides it does not really want to fight, there are many examples of poorly led, poorly motivated but well-armed armies being defeated by highly motivated local forces that know the terrain. The great fear though is that like Grozny, the Russian Army will need to destroy cities and towns in order to liberate them.
And what happened to Finland in 1939-1940 maybe a good example of what happens to Ukraine and Russia today but why we need to re-arm if as appears likely Putin wins round one.
In 1939-1940 Finland a small democratic state with a small standing army but large citizenship army (like Ukraine) fighting almost alone fought the Red (Soviet) Army to a standstill, with the help of General Winter, inflicted enormous casualties on the Red Army, and further encouraged the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union the next year by showing how inept the Russian Army was. But in the end Finland had to concede large amounts of territory (still held by Russia today) because in the end the Red Army could not be stopped, once it had time to re-organise and learn from its mistakes. The Russian military has in the first seven days made many mistakes, that does not mean it cannot learn from them. If it, does it become more dangerous in the way that the Germans became after invading Poland in 1939, they learned how to fight, and the next year conquered much of western Europe.
But Finland survived as a democratic state simply because even Stalin had had enough and was unwilling to incur further losses having achieved his objective of moving the border further away from Leningrad (St Petersburg). That has to be our objective with Putin today, the only problem is that he started this war wanting to destroy Ukraine as an independent democratic state. But if we think back to 1945 many Poles were unable to return to a Communist Poland, stayed in the UK and kept alive the idea of an independent Poland.
And eventually Poles in England built the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith to keep alive Polish culture and history. We may need to help Ukrainians do the same.
But something has changed in Europe. Our lack of a reaction to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, and the 1stoccupation of Ukraine in 2014, the murder of Litvinenko etc etc etc we now regret.
This is a very rare war where the moral responsibility is so clear. Where good (Ukraine) is opposed to bad (Putin) are so clear cut. That is not to say Ukraine is perfect, it is not. But it does not deserve this.
Unfortunately Russian propaganda has been very effective in creating division and misinformation here in the UK (and I am now curious how active the Russian troll farms are here in Tower Hamlets) helped by the useful idiots that we have seen before in the 1930’s. I have twice seen a video about a climate protest with moving dead bodies in Vienna being presented as from Ukraine on local WhatsApp groups.
So what do we need to do?