Today, Andrew Stunnell MP, Minister for Communities, visited the Town Hall to discuss the racist march by the English Defence League planned for September.
I couldn’t attend this meeting, as I was in Birmingham attending the funeral of the three young men, Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, whose lives were so shockingly cut short in the recent disturbances. Hearing their loved ones talk about their lives, and all they had to offer, I was deeply moved. May they rest in peace.
Accordingly, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, the Deputy Mayor, attended the ministerial meeting in my place, along with the local MPs and a handful of councillors and council officers.
He tells me there was an extraordinary show of unity from councillors of all parties – and indeed it’s that unity which has come to characterise this entire campaign to ban this march of hate.
The Deputy Mayor hammered home the key points: that the potential violence and disorder that would ensue, particularly in light of the recent riots, is the last thing we need in our borough. That the Home Secretary was right to ban the EDL’s planned march in Telford last Saturday. That in times of financial restraint, the amount of taxpayers’ money that would be spent policing this march is indefensible – Dewsbury councillors said that the £172,000 spent on policing a 40-minute EDL rally on their patch could have kept two libraries open for a year.
All in all, Cllr Ahmed sent a clear message to the government: this march is not welcome, it is destructive, its potential repercussions do not bear thinking about. The Home Secretary must act now and ban the march.
And the communities minister said in reply that, whilst the authority to ban the march was not within his remit, he agreed with this position and would take this message to the Home Secretary.
The ball is now well and truly in the government’s court.