Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Unity in Diversity, Newham Style

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st April, 2015

Gandhi statueThe London borough of Newham is the most diverse community in the United Kingdom, which made the holding of most of the 2012 Olympics there particularly apt. In the streets one is likely to hear every language of the globe and a majority of the people are either brown or black. So it’s not surprising therefore that Britain’s largest single ethnic minority, those of Indian origin, are well represented. Last night the Indian High Commissioner, Ranjan Mathai, was the guest of honour at a dinner for several hundred people at East Ham town hall put on by the Indian Muslim Federation (UK), with the theme Unity in Diversity. The poor High Commissioner had to wait for two hours of preliminaries and other speeches before he was able to deliver his delicately crafted text — with inevitable and appropriate references to the Mahatma Gandhi — which struck a more harmonious note than some of the previous homilies, including one from an American pastor from Forest Gate who, in the manner of evangelicals, rhapsodised about his wife and the love of Jesus, neither of which seemed especially apt to an overwhelmingly Muslim audience.

Robin WalesHowever, for all its diversity, Newham is a one party state, and for all the kind hospitality of our IMF hosts, that could not have been more obvious. All 60 local councillors in Newham are Labour (many were present and several spoke) and the borough has a Labour mayor, Sir Robin Wales (who sent his apologies for the dinner). Among the speakers before the High Commissioner were Lyn Brown, who until this week was Labour MP for West Ham, and Stephen Timms, similarly until this week Labour MP for East Ham. Despite the fact that Parliament has been dissolved and we are now in a general election, both were introduced as being the current MPs (and neither corrected that mistake). Moreover, a couple of the IMF speakers openly urged everyone in the room to vote Labour. No representative of any other party was invited to speak, though there were some present. So in effect it was a big rally for the Labour Party. So will it apear in Ms Brown and Mr Timms’ election expenses?

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