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Archive for March, 2012

Like most people, including those usually well-informed Westminster pundits, I was pretty surprised by the scale of George Galloway’s victory in the Bradford West by-election.

The usual suspects are already braying for Ed Miliband’s head on a plate. His leadership must be weak, they crow, for the party to lose a safe seat in this week of all weeks.

This narrative is being stirred up by right-wing spinners. In a week that has seen George Osborne’s ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ budget laying the burden of economic difficulties on the poor, the vulnerable and the elderly, another Tory cash-for-influence scandal and a fuel crisis stirred up by out of touch ministers; it’s easy to see why they’d want to shift some media pressure onto Labour.

But as far as I can see, these questions about Ed’s leadership are purely opportunistic.

This is no win for Cameron. Indeed, the Conservative vote collapsed – and Bradford West was one of their target seats at the last general election!

There is, however, a salient point to be drawn from this result.

People in the inner-cities are really feeling the impact of this government’s vicious austerity programme, and Galloway’s victory shows that a staunch anti-austerity campaign does not disconnect us with voters, as some would have us believe.

The nuances and triangulations so popular in Westminster make politicians appear out of touch. People in Bradford wanted to discuss more substantial issues. In other words, it was bread and butter issues, rather than the politics of pasties, that resonated on the doorsteps and ultimately won the day.

It is important that the Labour Party learn from this for the future.

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Teachers across the country will begin a one-day strike tomorrow.

This action follows the break-down of negotiations with government over pensions.

They have been asked to pay larger contributions, work for longer and get less in retirement.

Negotiations were ongoing, but the government have now dropped out of the discursive process, preferring to prematurely impose a settlement that teachers are not happy with.

Our teachers in Tower Hamlets are hugely talented and hard-working. They do a tremendous job in our schools, as can be seen with the record GCSE results that our youngsters have achieved. But we cannot take them for granted.

Cutting pensions will lead to fewer ambitious and enthusiastic graduates going into the teaching profession, shortages of staff and a greater reliance on supply teachers from agencies. This can only be detrimental to our children’s education.

I am truly proud of our teachers, and we owe it to them to stand by them in their hour of strife. That is why I am supporting tomorrow’s industrial action.

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Mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign website is “misleading” the public on crime figures, a statistician has told BBC London. The Conservative candidate for Mayor of London writes that “robberies are down 16.3%” under his mayoralty on the website backboris2012.com. But robberies have risen 18.8% over the course of Mr Johnson’s time at City Hall, according to research by independent analyst Professor Allan J. Brimicombe.

Read the full report from the BBC here

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Blood, sweat and gear

On Tuesday night I had the special honour of welcoming Bangladeshi trade unionists to the borough.

Mr Amirul Haque Amin, President of the National Garment Workers Federation of Bangladesh and Ms Arifa Akter, a full time staff organiser with National Garment Workers Federation, were speaking at a meeting organised by Councillor Rania Khanon behalf of the council and War on Want  about its new report into the garment industry in Bangladesh.

The report illustrates how sportswear giants Adidas, Nike and Puma are making huge profits from outsourcing their production to Bangladesh while more than 3 million workers in the garment industry get paid a pittance, work in unsafe conditions and are subject to bullying management.

Our honoured guests spoke powerfully about the responsibility of multinationals to ensure that the factories they outsource to respect and pay a decent wage to the workers who work in them.

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A visit from royalty

Earlier in the week I received a visit from an East End cultural institution; the Society for the Pearly Kings and Queens. The pearlies do valuable charity work and popped in for tea and a chat about how best I can offer support. It was great to see them. In a borough already distinguished for its fashion sense, the pearlies definitely take the prize for having the most distinctive and stylish outfits! Read more their history here.

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I was shocked and saddened to hear of this morning’s fatal incident in Toulouse, France, in which a teacher and three young children were shot and killed outside a Jewish school.

The attack appears to have racist motivations, and police have provisionally linked it with two other recent shooting incidents in the same area, in which three French servicemen of North African origin were murdered.

It also bears echoes of last summer’s horrific attack in Norway, in which 76 people were killed and 92 injured by the white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik.

These are hate crimes of the gravest nature. My heart reaches out to the familes of those whose lives have been so cruelly snatched by these hateful killers, and with the young man who was also injured in today’s attack: I hope and pray that he makes a full recovery.

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On Friday I hosted the Bangladesh Olympic Delegation at the Town Hall. With a large Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, I am keeping a close eye on progress of athletes from Bangladesh.

Led by Nurul Fazal Bulbul, the chef de mission of the Bangladeshi Olympic Committee, I was pleased to hear how the team is preparing during its pre Games visit toLondon. The Bangladesh team is hoping to win medals in shooting, archery and fencing. I wish the athletes the very best and hope to see you cheering them on during the Games!

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