The TELCO Hustings at St Paul’s Shadwell
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th April, 2010
Last night, more than 300 people gathered at the 350-year-old St Paul’s Church in Shadwell, in my constituency of Poplar & Limehouse, for an election hustings with a difference. Faith and community groups which are members of TELCO — the East London Community Organisation that was really the progenitor of London Citizens — raised their particular concerns regarding such issues as the Living Wage, CitySafe Havens and Community Land Trusts and then got the leaders of the different political groups on Tower Hamlets Council to endorse them. Afterwards came two sets of parliamentary hustings for the candidates of the three main parties plus Respect, for both the constituencies of Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Limehouse. We parliamentary candidates were given just one minute each to expound our beliefs and policies, so I concentrated on our common goal of building a community in which all people can live with dignity and give each other respect. I also referred to the Strangers into Citizens campaign, for regularising longterm paperless migrants, at whose rally I spoke in Trafalgar Square last summer. At the St Paul’s hustings, George Galloway, alas, broke the spirit of consensus and sharing by launching a one-minute attack on the outgoing Labour MP for Poplar & Canning Town (the constituency boundaries have been changed), Jim Fitzpatrick, accusing him of being an Islamophobe (which I am sure Jim isn’t, despite recent gaffes) and saying (incorrectly) that all of the rest of us support the ‘colonial’ war in Afghanistan. This all brought predictable cheers from the Respect claque present, but almost everybody else visibly winced. Afterwards, I was interviewed by the Bengali TV station Channel S and stressed the need to work together for community cohesion in our borough and not to let divisive elements worsen tensions.