Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

What Is Respect up to in Tower Hamlets?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

Since the heyday of Respect, when it got George Galloway elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and became the official opposition on Tower Hamlets council one year later, the party has been in the doldrums. Mr Galloway’s reputation took a nosedive as he donned a red leotard and pretended to be a cat in the Big Brother house, and a whole raft of Respect councillors later defected to Labour and the Conservatives (sic). Indeed, rather like the rival Palestinian factions in the classic movie, ‘The Life of Brian’, the party then split into two pieces, each claiming to be the keeper of the true flame, which has left all but those at the centre of things at a loss to know what Respect really is these days and what it stands for. But now the party has a new rallying point, which it hopes will help it rise like a phoenix from the ashes: a referendum for a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. There already is one in neighbouring Newham, Labour’s Sir Robin Wales, but presumably Respect is hoping that it could win a mayoral contest in our scandal-torn borough. And who would be their candidate? Everyone is assuming it would be George Galloway. ‘Gorgeous’ George is standing down from Bethnal Green and Bow at the forthcoming general election and moving over to my home seat of Poplar and Canning Town. But assuming he doesn’t win here, a mayoral contest a few months later would suit the party nicely, to have him bear its standard. So the party has been collecting signatures on a petition to move to a mayoral system. As 7,000 of the 17,000 signatures collected were reportedly inelligible, because the people did not fill in their full names or else did not live in the borough, one hopes that Respect will be a little more careful when it comes to filling in George’s nomination papers. It’s all a bit of a fiasco, but at least he adds to the gaiety of the nation.

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6 Responses to “What Is Respect up to in Tower Hamlets?”

  1. Duncan Borrowman said

    And of course, directly elected mayors are such ideal representatives of diverse local communities unlike local councillors representing their areas. Compare and contrast the Liberal way of running Tower Hamlets with devolved power to neighbourhoods and Comrade Gorgeous George’s plan to have the red flag flying and Cartroesque posters of his chisled features.

    • David McLaughlin said

      Spelling chiselled properly would add a little weight to Borrowman’s bizarre comment. Mr Galloway has no plans to fly the red flag anywhere. A critique about George’s politics would be a welcome change from the abuse he is subjected to by political pygmies.

  2. Duncan Borrowman said

    And of course, directly elected mayors are such ideal representatives of diverse local communities unlike local councillors representing their areas. Compare and contrast the Liberal way of running Tower Hamlets with devolved power to neighbourhoods and Comrade Gorgeous George’s plan to have the red flag flying and Castroesque posters of his chisled features.

  3. It won’t be George, and it certainly won’t be any of the SWP faction either. Only the Bangladeshi candidates are now capable of winning elections in Tower Hamlets under the Respect banner, and even there they are susceptible to the whims and vagaries of communalist voting – to say nothing of defecting to the most unlikely parties as you point out!

  4. clever pseudonym said

    It’s fairly simple, really: The current system is rotten and corrupt. In general, Respect is against these mayoral systems. But in Tower Hamlets, Labour is so utterly rotten, it can’t get worse. Right now, there’s the “leader and cabinet” system, in which decisions are made in private and then ratified in public. We’ve recently seen that local decisions are basically made by the regional Labour party, with the threat of de-selection hanging over the heads of every Labour councillor.

    How can anyone call that democratic? Not only a secret cabinet system, but everyone’s votes being decided by the regional people.

    So, we want to break that open, because we think people in Tower Hamlets deserve better than the rotten lot running it. In this situation, an elected mayor might be able to break through the rotten Lib/Tory/Lab show.

    “As 7,000 of the 17,000 signatures collected were reportedly inelligible,”

    Oh good, so you just swallow all the spin from Labour too.

  5. Mikey J said

    Sorry but that is your argument? George Galloway might stand for Mayor and that’s why they are backing a mayoral system? So why did at the last council meeting, Respect vote for the mayoral referendum to take place in February with the Mayoral election in May, if that’s the case?

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