Sunday, 11 April 2010

Can Abjol Miah and Respect hold Bethnal Green and Bow?

George Galloway has always depicted Tower Hamlets as the home grounds of Respect, the party he co-founded just before the last general election and then going on to famously win the Bethnal Green & Bow seat from the Blair babe Oona King, with a respectable 823 vote majority on a 26.2% swing from Labour. At this election Galloway is contesting the other Tower Hamlets seat of Poplar and Limehouse, but more about that latter in the week.

Just before I consider the runners and riders, which I suppose sounds a bit like Saturdays line up for the Grand National, a little history or rather a bit of reminiscence on my part may help to project a localised view.

Oona King replaced the long-standing Peter Shore in 1997. She won the seat and did so again in 2001.

In the 1980s I was the treasurer of that constituency party and got to know Peter very well, he was a leading figure in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and a much respected local MP, a former Cabinet Minister, noted in part for his opposition and resistance to the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community. He was described in an obituary by the Conservative journalist Patrick Cosgrave as "Between Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. Peter was the main author of the 1964 Labour Party manifesto. Despite our many differences, I got on with Peter very well and I was very sad when he passed away in 2001.

East London has been both a cradle and birthplace of Labour movement history, and the area we know today as Tower Hamlets has played such a big part in that development that I suppose quite easily of workers' associations and political organisations, I could rattle on about the history it has been witness too. But time and space, plus it would divert me from the main object of this post and that’s the consideration of what will be a hotly contested fight for this seat, and we can expect to see some real fireworks as the campaign rolls on in the weeks that lie ahead.

As I have said this inner-city constituency was a Labour seat from 1945 to 2005, the question is will Labour regain it on May 6 or will Respect hold on to it?

Following British involvement in the invasion of Iraq, an action deeply unpopular with the Muslim community in the constituency but nevertheless supported by Oona King, the newly formed Respect coalition gained ground and support. They topped the poll in Tower Hamlets in the 2004 European Parliamentary elections and subsequently won their first local council seat in a by-election. In the May 2005 general election, the seat was won by former Labour MP George Galloway, one of Respect's leading figures. Respect also won seats in the 2006 local council elections although its performance was not as strong as many observers believed it could have been.

George Galloway has attracted much criticism for his lack of attendance at Parliament, especially when he appeared in the reality TV programme Big Brother.

In September 2007, the Respect party selected Abjol Miah, the leader of the Respect Group on Tower Hamlets Council as their candidate to replace George Galloway in Bethnal Green and Bow. He has worked in the local area as a radio presenter, drugs worker and martial arts trainer. My own experience of Abjol is that I’ve found him to be a very nice guy and a hard working councillor, but my concerns are that he is supported by a cartel of Brick Lane Ruby Murray (rhyming slang for curry) business men, some of them very rich indeed.

The other candidates are as follows Rushanara Ali (Labour) Educated at Oxford University. Associate Director of the Young Foundation. Formerly worked in Home Office and as an assistant to Oona King.

Ajmal Masroor (Liberal Democrat) Broadcaster and production consultant. Selected as Lib Dem PPC for West Ham prior to the last election, but stood down shortly before the close of nominations after being criticised for posting on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee forum.

Farid Bakht (Green)

Alexander van Terheyden (independent)

Paul Davies (Communist League) factory meat cutter.

This is an East End seat dominated by poverty, unemployment and racial tension. The area has a long history of immigrant communities, racial conflict and radical politics, being home to Huguenots, Jews and now the Bangladeshi immigrant community. The West of the constituency is undergoing gentrification, with rising house prices in Spitalfields, and the galleries and artists of Whitechapel becoming increasingly fashionable. Despite this the seat remains one of the most deprived in the country, the outcome of the contest will be interesting, and I will be reporting any news when and as it happens.


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Alexander van Terheyden said...

Alexander van Terheyden is not running as an Indepedent - although he has an Independent mind. He is running for the Pirate Party.

More information can be found here:

and here:

Norbert said...

Hi Alexander van Tereyden,

First thanks for your post and second my apologies for the error my fault which I will correct in due course latter today, in addition I will draw further attention to your candidature over the weekend.

Best Wishes,

Jim Lawrie The Socialist Way

The Socialist Way

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