On Saturday I joined with Labour’s Diane Abbott MP, the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett, the President of the TUC Mohammed Taj and a host of other politicians, activists and musicians, plus a 10,000 strong crowd, to celebrate United Nations Anti-Racism Day. This year’s theme was to highlight the key role leaders can play in mobilising opposition to racism.
This is an issue close to my heart. With over 18 different ethnic groups and 200 nationalities, Tower Hamlets is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. I am proud that our Annual Residents’ Survey found that 81% of residents think people from different backgrounds get on well together in Tower Hamlets, up from 75% in 2010.
However, strengthening community cohesion is an ongoing issue for us.
We face threats from those on the fringes like the English Defence League and their friends. But we also face a more insidious threat in the form of irresponsible comments from mainstream politicians and the media.
When the media and local politicians make totally unfounded claims about the council being in the ‘grip’ of Muslim extremists they create fear, suspicion and undermine community cohesion. When Robin Wales makes disgraceful comments about ‘apartheid’ in Tower Hamlets and John Biggs makes outrageous comments that I only want to represent one community, they undermine community cohesion in Tower Hamlets.
I am totally committed to ensuring Tower Hamlets is a place where all communities prosper and flourish. I can assure residents I will not let anyone hinder my administration from building community cohesion in our borough, regardless of whether they are the likes of the EDL or whether they are desperate politicians scrambling for votes.