Monday, November 17, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight in Mile End East

After the Forest Gate South coffee morning with West Ham MP, Lyn Brown, I drove over to Tower Hamlets to help out in the by-election in Mile End East (vote this Thursday). The Labour Party candidate is Rachel Saunders and I had been told to make my way to the Burdett Estate.

I drove along St Paul’s Way looking for Labour canvass teams. Opposite St Paul’s school was the Gorgeous One himself, standing on the pavement shouting into a megaphone surrounded by about half a dozen of his diss-respect acolytes. They were huddled around him trying to hand out leaflets to an empty street.

I slowed down and opened the car window to try and listen what he was going on about. I could not make out any coherent statements only incredibly loud ear piercing electronic feedback noises interwoven with occasional barely recognisable grunts. You could not make out the sentences but it seemed to be all about being aggressive, bombastic, bullying and threatening. You could imagine him sneering “We are keeping an eye on you, we know where you live”. What was amazing was how seriously he was taking all this. He appeared to think he was on a podium addressing a packed rally - shaking his arm up and down while vigorously pointing his finger at an audience of no-one. I thought it was all quite symbolic. A little man in the true sense of the word living on supposed past glories in denial of reality.

The rag bag of supporters gathered around him (nearly all white and male) should have been out on the “knocker” talking to local people and trying to persuade them to support their candidate.

I wondered what the SWP would have made of this when they had been in charge of respect. At least they had the sense to know that such prancing about is no substitute for organised and systematic canvassing. Of course, their belief that such actions were furthering the revolution was equally as deluded as George who believed that diss-respect would replace the Labour Party.

I soon joined up with Labour canvass teams. There was a really good turn out by local members and Councillors. I was sent to join a team which included Rachel herself; Council Leader Lutfur Rahman, A M Ohid Ahmed, Alibor Choudhury, Marc Francis, Shiria Khatun and UNISON member Cllr Sirajul Islam with his 9 year old daughter (get them while they are young). Councillor Carli Harper-Penman was out and about with London Assembly member, John Biggs.

From the top of the blocks you could look around and see small groups of Labour Party canvassers wandering around the estate. There was even a balloon stall. Interestingly I saw no Tory canvassers at all. It may appear that the local Tories have something in common with Galloway and don’t want to support former SWP associates?

The canvass itself I thought went well. It was somewhat surprising (I say no more) that some voters said they had been told that the respect candidate was also the Labour Party candidate?

For the first hour or so I could still hear the whine in the distance of the Respect megaphone. Eventually it died away so peace and quiet resumed. Who knows what when people stir up community politics and hatreds, but I have no doubt that eventually diss-respect will also fade away and become yet another weird and wonderful footnote in extremist east end politics.

Meet outside Mile End Tube (there is only one obvious entry/exist) 6pm tomorrow, 2pm and 6pm Wednesday. People wanted all day Thursday. Contact

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