Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman: compare and contrast


11:05 am - November 12th 2010

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contribution by Jon Lansman

The two former Labour elected representatives, Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman, have something in common. Both are from areas with histories of BNP activity fomenting racial strife.

Both find themselves prevented from being a Labour candidate and excluded from the Labour Party, as a result of accusations of association with Islamic extremists.

Both have supporters in the party who believe they have been treated harshly, as well as detractors who support their exclusion. And yet one is the accuser and the other the accused. One has been found guilty as charged and one has not, because no investigation has taken place.

Phil Woolas, in the opinion of Mr Justice Teare and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, accused his Lib Dem opponent of wooing the votes of “extremist Muslims who advocated violence” and suggested that he was “willing to condone threats of violence“, including alleged death threats against the Labour candidate.

But he was judged by the Labour Party, as Harriet Harman said, on the basis of:

the facts that were found by the election court, which was that he said things that were untrue knowing it, and that is what we are taking action on – because it is not part of Labour’s politics for somebody to be telling lies to get themselves elected.

It is more difficult to analyse the accusations that were the basis of the Labour Party’s action against Lutfur Rahman, because they were not made public nor even disclosed to the accused.

Labour’s national executive had no notice of them when it took its decision, had only 15 minutes to read them (although they had been received at least several days before) before voting on recommendations which were presented only verbally. However, even Rahman’s sternest critics admit the so-called “Abbas dossier” might be pretty weak.

According to NEC member, Christine Shawcroft, they amounted to allegations made months earlier by Andrew Gilligan and allegations about membership application and voting irregularities (in spite of the fact that Regional Officers had been been responsible for scrutinising these).

The most serious allegations are therefore likely to be those made by Andrew Gilligan in his various columns or in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme that he made. Mr Gilligan is no friend of the Labour Party, having run a vituperative campaign against Labour in London.

His allegations have also become increasingly extreme of late, like his suggestion , described by the Guardian as “irresponsible”, that Tower Hamlets has become an “Islamic Republic” since Rahman’s election, inspiring American right-wing blogger, Pamela Geller, to describe Rahman as a “vile Islamic supremacist”.

The point about the accusations against Lutfur Rahman is that they have not been properly investigated by an independent person.

Whether or not he has excluded himself from membership of the party, he is entitled to have those accusations investigated. And if they are rejected, he, and those of his supporters who have also been excluded, are entitled to a pathway back to the Labour Party. That is the way to reunite the party and the community in Tower Hamlets.

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Reader comments


Putting it about that your opponent beats his wife seems at least as unacceptable to me as putting it about that he consorts with mad mullahs. On the substantive, it looks a lot like this is Gilligan’s moment as the proverbial stopped clock.

Anyway, apples and oranges. Rahman was removed as a candidate by the party, not suspended from it. Woolas was suspended from the party, not removed as a candidate.

You are making the typical lefty mistake of assuming that an extremist like Rahman actually represents the “community”.

This is the Gilligan charge sheet, that Rahman

1. achieved the leadership of Tower Hamlets council in 2008 with the help of the IFE, who councillors say threatened them on Lutfur’s behalf.
2. appointed a man closely connected to the IFE. Lutfur Ali, as assistant chief executive of the council (even though he was unqualified for the job and was dismissed as a candidate by the council’s own headhunters), then effectively sacked the council’s secular, white chief executive. Lutfur Ali was present at Rahman’s mayoral campaign launch and is now expected to return to the council.
3. handed large and growing sums of council money to IFE front organisations.
4. moved council funding from secular, multicultural organisations to groups closely connected to the IFE.
5. presided over the stocking of Tower Hamlets libraries with extremist literature, including hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by Awlaki.
6. proposed to “Islamically brand” the multicultural Brick Lane with “hijab arches.”
7. signed up entire families of sham “paper” members to ensure his nomination as Labour mayoral candidate, several of whom told us they do not even support the Labour Party.
8. enjoyed the backing of prominent local racists and anti-Semites, one of whom organised meetings for his campaign and appears to have signed his nomination papers as mayoral candidate.
9. benefited from the close support and patronage of a local millionaire businessman, Shiraj Haque, who has openly stated: “I needed someone to fix [Tower Hamlets politics], so I thought let’s try him [Lutfur].”
10. is currently under police investigation (interviews are currently under way with witnesses) for allegedly failing to declare substantial donations by Mr Haque and others to his campaign, as electoral law requires;
11. won the election after his supporters distributed smear literature falsely claiming that Mr Abbas was a racist, a wife-beater and an enemy of Islam.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100063101/lutfur-rahman-ken-livingstone-says-bring-him-back-into-labour/

You guys really are on a roll, aren’t you?

The ‘compare and contrast’ is that the sanction against Rahman was removal of his candidature, whereas Woolas has been suspended from the party.

So they are different, just not in the way you imagined.

When does Freddie Starr get to write his guest post?

When does Freddie Starr get to write his guest post?

When he stops consuming people’s hamsters.

Forget about it, cjcjc. All you need to know around here is “Mr Gilligan is no friend of the Labour Party”. Evidence? Pah, who cares.

I love how Andrew Gilligan has gone from fork-tongued, left wing extremist back when he was reporting the David Kelly bullshit war of choice thing, to valiant crusader for truth and justice now.

What changed, do we think?

Yes, one is a political decision made by a political party, the other is a political decision made by a judge.

I suppose there are those who believe that judges make the best political decisions. Do they also think they make the best historical, commercial or scientific ones, and perhaps can be relied on for a hot tip for the 3:30?

FR,

Check out every comment I’ve ever made about GIlligan on HP. Not all of us have forgotten.

But if a guy is right, he’s right.

To be fair, for all that Mr Rahman appears to be rather an unpleasant character (or a pleasant character with unpleasant religious-political views, possibly), it does appear his suspension lacked what most people would call due process. Apart from anything else, was there an opportunity for him to defend himself?

But if Labour party rules allow this sort of lack of process in its rule, that is a matter for them – they are a free association.

It should not be confused with breach of electoral law (please note, this is only a political decision in that it affects a political post – it was a question of whether statements were factually correct), which is likely to get you thrown out of any political party pretty rapidly, rightly or wrongly (but by due process – I suspect every party has a disrepute clause).

“To be fair, for all that Mr Rahman appears to be rather an unpleasant character (or a pleasant character with unpleasant religious-political views, possibly), it does appear his suspension lacked what most people would call due process”

That would be because he wasn’t suspended.

I suppose there are those who believe that judges make the best political decisions. Do they also think they make the best historical, commercial or scientific ones,

When it comes to interpreting how laws should be applied to political, scientific and commercial questions, yes. Allow me to introduce you to the thousand-year history of the English legal process.

soru,

I suppose there are those who believe that judges make the best political decisions. Do they also think they make the best historical, commercial or scientific ones, and perhaps can be relied on for a hot tip for the 3:30?

Following on from Tim, judges don’t answer historical questions (albeit some notable early historians and more recent legal historians have sat on the bench), merely questions of law.

But those who gamble might well be good for a hot tip on the 3:30.

I am not a fan of Gilligan, per Brownie, but why not deal with his substantive points? They are the reason Rahman was kicked out of the party, along with his Islamist entryist supporters. The way to unite the community is for Labour to stand up for secular, liberal and civic-patriotic values against reactionary communalist nonsense.

This piece is logically fallacious in that it makes a basic category error in suggesting there are any relevant similarities between the two cases. I have no particular axe to grind with respect to Woolas, but I would point out that the fact that he has never stood against or campaigned against the Labour Party makes these two cases entirely distinct.

There’s some good stuff that gets written here sometimes, but why does the sensible stuff on economics and welfare etc get obscured by this kind of crap? This isn’t “left wing”; this is half-baked.

By the way, Mr Lansman, anyone who links to a blog by Michael Meacher – a man who is on record as thinking that the US government knew about 9/11 in advance and covered it up – a) has no credibility and b) is no progressive.

When it comes to interpreting how laws should be applied to political, scientific and commercial questions, yes.

So you would agree that if it does so end up that a judge is actually making, not supporting, such decisions, i.e. personally applying non-trivial amounts of scientific, commercial or political thinking in reaching a binding decision, then something is wrong?

This could be the judge’s mistake, or it could be the fault of a misguided law that obliges the judge to try to make such a decision.

But either way, that’s not how things should be.

Is Rahman denying that he stood against Labour? Bizarre.

If you want a more interesting comparison, it is between the harsh (although in my view correct) manner in which Woolas was treated with the blind eye approach taken to Ken Livingstone.

Jimmy – quite. Livingstone has caused far greater problems for the Labour Party than Woolas, yet has been allowed to get off scott free. His reaction to this? To go to the press saying that he wants to get Rahman readmitted. The casual arrogance – the spitting in the face of all the little people by the big man who knows the rules just don’t apply to him – is simply unbelievable.

By the way, Mr Lansman, anyone who links to a blog by Michael Meacher – a man who is on record as thinking that the US government knew about 9/11 in advance and covered it up – a) has no credibility and b) is no progressive.

That’s more ridiculous than David Icke in a tutu.

Mr Meacher’s stated views or the conclusions I draw from them?!

Your’s. Firstly as I think he’s suggested that’s plausible, not asserted that it happened. Secondly as there’s nothing inherently ludicrous – let alone anti-“progressive” – about such a view. Thirdly as the idea that linking to him would discredit a totally different person is bizarre.

Of course it’s a ludicrous view. How utterly bizarre to think otherwise. Of course it is anti-progressive to buy into bizarre conspiracy theories. The light of reason should be our guide… On another level, the eschewing of evidence-based rational belief is made worse if you are then inclined to think the impossible worst of a fellow liberal democracy. If you can’t see that, then you have a big problem.

To be fair to Meacher, it’s not like he’s peddling the no planes “theory” (sic).

There’s nothing inherently unreasonable about “conspiracy theories” and conspiracies do take place in “liberal democracies”.

Liking the nice “scare quotes” there. Is your implication that conspiracy theories is a nasty word that those with open minds shouldn’t use? I presume further that by scare-quoting “liberal democracy” you mean to say that Bushitler’s AmeriKKKa is no such thing? Or possibly in some exciting cod-Marxist way that no such thing exists? Does your liberal use of the inverted comma make you feel awfully superior and clever? Above the sheeple who are convinced by that monkey Bush at any rate? But you know better – you and your band of sceptical intellectuals prepared to fearlessly challenge received wisdom…

I’ve heard it all before, mate. There are certainly virtues to an open mind, but it should not be so open that it falls out, thus encouraging a person to believe that a country’s democratic government would a) be so evil or b) so stupid to attempt to allow the mass slaughter of its civilian population? Do you have any idea how many people would need to keep a liddle iddle weeny secret to enable that to come off? You are a joke, BenSix. But the biggest joke is that you think people like me are the punchline, not yourself.

cjcjc says: You are making the typical lefty mistake of assuming that an extremist like Rahman actually represents the “community”.

Depends who you are talking about, but if the election is anything to go by he represents more of the community than the others.

I have a very liberal Bengali friend who lives in Tower Hamlets, who’s family are deeply ingrained in all this.

The idea that Lutfur Rahman is an Islamist is hilarious to her… she says that he goes to the Mosque once a year to get votes – like any other politician.

That charge sheet drawn up by Andrew Gilligan is all very nice and easy to copy and paste, but I suspect that each of those claims look very different once you dig deeper. It’s rather like all the smears that are put up on Harry’s Place, which fall apart once a judge actually looks at them.

For example, it says:
5. presided over the stocking of Tower Hamlets libraries with extremist literature, including hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by Awlaki.
6. proposed to “Islamically brand” the multicultural Brick Lane with “hijab arches.”

Sorry – was Lutfur personally responsible for picking the books and stocking them, or was someone else? And once it became clear Awlaki was an extremist, did he object to the books being removed or not? Or is it, as is more likely, he neither knew about this neither cared because he’s not vaguely religious?

Also – did Lutfur Rahman personally want to “Islamically brand” Brick Lane? Because none of the news reports I’ve seen regarding this idea mention him?

All we get are a bunch of armchair warriors who copy and paste these lists on blogs without anyone bothering to read through and question them.

They are the reason Rahman was kicked out of the party, along with his Islamist entryist supporters.

Was due process followed or not? If not, then that’s your main problem right there.

All these people demanding due process for Woolas are completely hypocritical because they want proper procedures followed only for their mates.

Is your implication that conspiracy theories is a nasty word that those with open minds shouldn’t use?

No, but if one’s going to use it I feel a definition should be provided. Otherwise it’s just a meaningless and obscurantist pejorative.

I presume further that by scare-quoting “liberal democracy” you mean to say that Bushitler’s AmeriKKKa is no such thing?

A two-party state that goes to war on a false pretext, institutionalises torture and selects a great deal of its officials from a small, plutocratic elite? Doesn’t sound incredibly liberal to me. Or democratic.

Does your liberal use of the inverted comma make you feel awfully superior and clever?

Or perhaps it’s to indicate scepticism as to the validity of those terms…Oh, go on then, yes: I get my kicks from typing parallel lines on each side of words. It’s a simple life but a happy one.

There are certainly virtues to an open mind, but it should not be so open that it falls out, thus encouraging a person to believe that a country’s democratic government would a) be so evil or b) so stupid to attempt to allow the mass slaughter of its civilian population? Do you have any idea how many people would need to keep a liddle iddle weeny secret to enable that to come off?

Altogether now…

Implausibility ? impossibility!

By the way, if the idea that agents of the state could be meshed with terrorists is so incredible to you, just google Operation Gladio.

That charge sheet drawn up by Andrew Gilligan is all very nice and easy to copy and paste, but I suspect that each of those claims look very different once you dig deeper.

So, what evidence does Mr Hundal present for this sweeping “each of those claims” contention? A question:

Sorry – was Lutfur personally responsible for picking the books and stocking them, or was someone else?

Does he have the answer? No.

Oh, and so much for being a responsible leader. Apparently “I didn’t know” would be just fine when something inexcusable happens. One to remember the next time Mr Hundal takes anyone to task for something done by his or her subordinates.

Then there’s this:

Or is it, as is more likely, he neither knew about this neither cared because he’s not vaguely religious?

Right, so if you are not particularly religious, and you are in a position of responsibility in a borough where Islamist extremism is rife, no problem, you can’t be expected to care.

I think I would prefer any old “armchair warrior” to this kind of idiotic complacency and baseless smearing.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 28

“So, what evidence does Mr Hundal present for this sweeping “each of those claims” contention?”

Um, I think the person making the accusations needs evidence before the defense bothers to go digging. You can’t just say “so-and-so did something bad”, without anything to support the statement, then when someone says “no he didn’t” triumphantly demand evidence. Heal thyself.

We don’t need to subjectively compare and contrast.

Labour are already using the latest technology to do that for us.

http://www.pantone.co.uk/pages/products/product.aspx?pid=754&ca=7

BTW, how much did Ragheadman (or whatever he’s called) get off Labour MPs for his own fighting fund?

I’d bet the skin off my hairy but indigenous backside that it’s a lot less than they’ve given to Phil ‘Play The Whiteman’ Woolas.

You can’t just say “so-and-so did something bad”, without anything to support the statement, then when someone says “no he didn’t” triumphantly demand evidence.

“Anything”? If Mr Hundal would like to counter the evidence-based reporting of Andrew Gilligan, he could do so,

Has he? Not at all.

The point that is not being taken here, which should be taken, since it is the case, is that the local Labour Party in Tower Hamlets – its activists, officials and elected representatives – have a deep sense of disquiet about Rahman because he doesn’t stand for the values of liberal pluralism that are a priori Labour values, instead choosing to ally himself with the Islamists in Islamic Forum Europe who have links with the extremist supremacist Jamaat-e-Islami which committed war crimes during the Bangladeshi struggle for independence.

Sunny raises the question of due process. The point is that Rahman being removed as the candidate was the end of a long and drawn-out process. The party had already decided to prevent him from putting himself forward for the shortlist. He then went to court to force an opening for himself. Rahman has been the subject of investigation by the party and disquiet for some time. So, on the issue of due process, yes, Rahman has had a lot of time and energy spent on investigating his situation. But the broader point is the political one. It has been correctly decided by the party that Rahman is not a suitable candidate for high office on behalf of the Labour Party. No people who ally themselves with extremist Islamist war criminals have a place in the Labour Party. That’s pretty simple really.

“the local Labour Party in Tower Hamlets – its activists, officials and elected representatives – have a deep sense of disquiet about Rahman because he doesn’t stand for the values of liberal pluralism that are a priori Labour values”

An excellent point.

Values of liberal pluralism are most certainly apriori Labour values.

34. Chaise Guevara

@31

Woah, history repeats itself.

Word to the wise: evidence is something real. Something we can all see.It’s not just you repeating your point of view and calling it evidence-based reporting.

Don’t get me wrong, I reckon there’s a good chance you’re right. But if that’s the case, please demonstrate that it’s true, instead of backing up some wild allegations on the basis of guilty till proven innocent.

Is ‘Paul’ another name being used by Andrew Gilligan? I hear the latter has a whiff of sock-puppeting about him.

If Mr Hundal would like to counter the evidence-based reporting of Andrew Gilligan, he could do so,

I’ve just poked holes in the so-called evidence based report, and you’re asking me for evidence? Think Gilligan is the one who needs to provide more solid evidence here, not me.

have a deep sense of disquiet about Rahman because he doesn’t stand for the values of liberal pluralism that are a priori Labour values

What you mean is that he doesn’t stand for the values that certain people did not like. Otherwise I’d love for the party to practice liberal pluralism in other places too.

To clarify: I’m NOT a fan of Lutfur Rahman. I’m making the same point that Jon Lansman is – that due process has been shot to pieces, and it’s blatantly obvious there are double standards here when it comes to dealing with people within the party.

No people who ally themselves with extremist Islamist war criminals

You do know that Andrew Gilligan has a show on the Iranian Govt funded Press TV don’t you? Or if he doesn’t now, he certainly did for years.

More questions:
3. handed large and growing sums of council money to IFE front organisations.
4. moved council funding from secular, multicultural organisations to groups closely connected to the IFE.

Could there organisations and what work they do be named please? I’d like to see some evidence than people simply copying and pasting without telling us what they’re referring to.

For some people it seems just screaming ‘ISLAMIST FASCIST!!!’ seems to be all the evidence they need to judge someone as guilty.

Is ‘Paul’ another name being used by Andrew Gilligan?

Pitiful.

I’ve just poked holes in the so-called evidence based report

You have done no such thing. You have resorted to silly and empty contentions and smears. No change there then.

Links to many of the stories summarised in the post cjcjc has entered above can be found here:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100063101/lutfur-rahman-ken-livingstone-says-bring-him-back-into-labour/

Go on, show us he’s wrong.

Sunny – the Tower Hamlets Labour Party doesn’t want him or his 8 councillors back. These are the people we should be listening to and supporting. It is bizarre that you wish to undermine the passionate feelings of the party’s activists on the ground. But I suppose we all know that you are no friend of the Labour Party. How did that ramping up the Lib Dems in the election go, by the way?

On “Gilligan’s charge sheet” of 11 charges against Lutfur Rahman, could I as a resident of Tower Hamlets just question charge number 5:

“5. presided over the stocking of Tower Hamlets libraries with extremist literature, including hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by Awlaki.”

I went to Gilligan’s article (from February 2010), only to find that his charge against Rahman there is that he did not remove this stock from the shelves until January. So, if it is more Rahman “presided over the stocking”- when was this? If it is the “extremist literature” found by Social Cohesion in their report on TH libraries, that was 2007 and Rahman was not Leader of the Council in 2007. It was Denise Jones.

There’s a BBC Newsnight September 2007 article on this.

However, whether it was Leader Denise Jones (who owns a book store, so let’s hope she wasn’t doing any presiding) or Lutfur Rahman – councillors are not involved in the stocking of the libraries. Libraries, now replaced in Tower Hamlets by ‘Idea Stores’, are the responsibility of the Communities, Localities and Culture dept of TH Council and it is senior Council Officers in the CLC who choose the book and tape suppliers. The procurement and selection procedures are down to them. The councillors only determine the budgets for the Idea Stores.

At a Cabinet meeting this summer, (also attended by members of the public), then Leader Helal Abbas, decided to build another Idea Store. All the councillors in his Cabinet talked about was how it was to be funded, not what books or tapes etc would go into it. (The minutes are available on the TH website.) Sorry, but it is the officers who “presided” and still preside here over the stocking of our libraries/Idea Stores.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman: compare and contrast http://bit.ly/bBXSw8

  2. Yusuf Yearwood

    RT @libcon: Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman: compare and contrast http://bit.ly/bBXSw8

  3. Ben Cooper

    RT @Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman: compare and contrast http://bit.ly/bBXSw8 < no mention of the 'wife-beating' & 'racist' smears?

  4. nelsoncook

    RT @YusufYearwood: RT @libcon: Phil Woolas and Lutfur Rahman: compare and contrast http://bit.ly/bBXSw8





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