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We need a Mayor who will stand up for Tower Hamlets

August 11, 2010

By Abjol Miah

In the next few weeks, all the major parties of Tower Hamlets will select and announce their candidate for the Borough’s first directly elected mayor.

For those of us in Respect, it’s a proud moment. We obviously didn’t perform as well as we’d have liked in the May elections, but we were overjoyed that the referendum to change the way the council worked and introduce an accountable mayor won the backing of more than 60% of voters. We had played a central and active role in the campaign to secure a ‘yes vote’. Whilst the three other parties made excuses for why they could not support the proposal, we showed we had our ear to the ground and understood the widespread desire amongst Tower Hamlets residents for a change at the very top. A new way of doing things.

That is one of the principles on which Respect will ask for your vote in October. Labour’s selection process has been a humilating farce, revealing the disunity and incompetence at the heart of that party. How can Labour’s candidate be trusted to get the best out the mayoralty for local families? Every move they make will in fact have to be done with the approval of Labour Head Office – and the sad truth is that by Autumn that will most likely mean warmonger David Miliband.

This brings us to what Respect believes the Mayor of Tower Hamlets should do. The Tory and Lib Dem government have now made it clear that they consider places such as Tower Hamlets prime targets in their attempts to devastate living conditions for millions of people. The cuts in public spending that they are introducing will be felt very sharply here. Local government jobs are under serious threat and the housing budget has evaporated. Not only is London the guinea-pig for destroying NHS funding, it has emerged this week that we are also on the frontline of David Cameron’s Big Society plans. Be in no doubt that the Big Society is in fact the Big Con: taking huge chunks out of the welfare state and demanding that already overworked charities and voluntary organisations pick up the pieces.

This climate calls for clear and determined political leadership in our Borough. The Town Hall should become a centre of opposition to the government’s cuts, and the newly elected Mayor should do everything in her or his power to defend local residents from the Coalition government’s damaging policies. At the same time, where priorities can be shifted to improve the situation this should be done. A pro-active strategy that sought to attract trade with India, China and Bangladesh would generate wealth and opportunities that could shield us from the worst of the ‘Age of Austerity’ and generate investment that would help us grow, not cut, our way into recovery. Scrapping Labour vanity projects like Council free-sheet East End Lives would mean more money where it was really needed – frontline public services. The Mayor would be a high-profile focus point, demanding better housing and services for Tower Hamlets residents and exposing the damage of David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s policies.

And of course, as last month’s visit to Tower Hamlets by the English Defence League makes clear, we need a Mayor that will take an uncompromising stand against anti-Muslim racism, and all discrimination and bigotry. In the tough years ahead of us, there will be some who want to scapegoat Muslims and others and blame those communities for society’s problems. A Respect Mayor will not concede a single inch to racism. Instead, we will all stand united in defence of our Borough and fight together to win a better deal for everyone.

Over the next few months we will be putting forward Respect’s policies for a fairer, better Tower Hamlets.

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