A motion for debate in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party, descended into what Bangladeshi Muslim members described as two hours of continuous abuse by, what one member described as “white privileged” Labour Party members.
The motion was to postpone internal party elections (AGM) to the summer due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Tower Hamlets is a Covid-19 hotspot and has seen twice the national average death rates amongst Bangladeshi’s.
Many local Labour Party members have experienced deaths within their immediate and extended family members. This prompted the local BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) forum to bring a motion to the local Labour Party to postpone the AGM till the summer.
A member said “what seemed like a reasonable request by ethnic minority members descended into a shouting match, with a small minority of white members trying to shout down the motion, with one insisting that Muslim women members need to identify themselves to him, questioning their right to attend the meeting. He did not insist the same to white female members”.
Muslim members saw what they feel to be Islamophobic tropes used against BAME female members attending the meeting.
Eventually the vote was held and the motion passed overwhelmingly.
However, angry members at the meeting have issued a joint public statement on social media:
Joint statement with Tower Hamlets BAME Forum on disturbing behaviour at Poplar and Limehouse GC Meeting on 28th January 2021 https://t.co/59gBEA6jdu
— Tower Hamlets Momentum (@THMomentum) January 31, 2021
Speaking to local members, they felt angry that this kind of behaviour is still seen acceptable in the local Labour Party.
One female Muslim member, left the meeting in disgust said that ‘this kind of behaviour will put her off getting involved in politics’.
Another member said: “people need to understand that the Labour Party is a party for the working class communities, not a party of white privileged middle class carpet baggers. Given their behaviour, they can get lost and join the National Front”.
Pressure is growing on Mayor John Biggs to distant himself from such actions. The Mayor was at the meeting and all throughout did not intervene, he in fact it seems to have encouraged the abusive behaviour, members said.
When Biggs did speak, he attacked a Bangladeshi Muslim member, accusing him of secretly recoding meetings and warning him of “consequences”.
The incident takes place amongst accusations that the Labour Party has not done enough to combat racism and Islamophobia in the party.
A recent survey of Muslim members of the party, by the Labour Muslim Network found that 59% did not feel “well represented by the leadership”, and 44% did not believe the party takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously.
Over a third (37%) have directly witnessed Islamophobia within the party and it found that 55% did not trust the leadership to tackle Islamophobia effectively. 48% did not have confidence in the party’s complaints procedure to deal with Islamophobia.