I was proud to make my maiden speech in support of Haringey Labour’s amendment to a deficient Brexit motion tabled by Haringey Lib Dems.
Canary Wharf Group invited me along with elected Councillors of Bangladeshi origin from across the country. The event began with the question from the host: “How many Councillors are there of Bangladeshi origin?“. People were offering different guesses. I pitched in with an ambitious figure of 250. The right answer was clearly “Not enough!” as one audience member quipped. In fact, there are now 112 Councillors of Bangladeshi origin up and down the country. There are three MPs of Bangladeshi origin with Baroness Pola Uddin as the only member of the House of Lords with Bangladeshi heritage.
While the Bangladeshi community has come a long way, they are still under-represented in politics. There isn’t a high profile Bangladeshi political figure in the main political parties. In comparison, politicians with Pakistani and Indian heritage have fared better with the obvious examples being Sadiq Khan, Sajid Javid and Priti Patel (before her fall from grace). Politicians from Bangladeshi heritage need to get better at ‘politicking’ to climb up the greasy pole ensuring that they do not fall down like Priti Patel.
Back to the reception, it was indeed a nice gesture from Canary Wharf to recognise the achievements of Councillors of Bangladeshi origin. As I posted my pictures on social media, many friends commented that Canary Wharf needed to do more to empower young Bangladeshis and create career opportunities for them. This is true, because Canary Wharf is situated in Tower Hamlets with some of the most deprived areas in the country. Perhaps someone from Canary Wharf reading this blog will take note!
Tottenham Labour Party members elected me to be one of their delegates at Conference. This meant that I had to be in the Conference hall on the morning of the first day of Conference (Sunday 23 September) to vote to decide which priority motions Conference will debate. At the crack of dawn, I picked up my fellow delegates from different points in Tottenham. After dealing with a slightly deflated tyre in my car, I drove as fast as I could and ensured that we were in Liverpool and in the Conference hall by 10.00am.
This was the biggest Conference in Labour Party’s history with a record number of party activists from across the country. The debates in the Conference hall were engaging and the atmosphere electrifying. On the first day of Conference, there was a passionate debate about a rule change to how sitting MPs would need to seek re-selection.
Currently, 50%+1 of all branches and affiliates in any constituency would need to vote to trigger a sitting MP. This means that there would need to be a negative campaign against a sitting MP. It also meant that an MP had a ‘job for life’ and that it was extremely difficult to trigger those MPs overly critical of the Corbyn leadership. The current system was described by a comrade as ‘Primark’. Most delegates wanted an open selection in every constituency, which was described as ‘Harrods’. However, the rule change proposed by Labour’s NEC can be described as ‘Marks & Spencer’ as it was a half way house between the current system and open selection. That is, only 33% of branches or affiliates needed to vote to trigger a selection where there is a sitting Labour MP. In the end, Labour members voted for ‘Marks & Spencer’!
The highlight of Conference was when comrade Colin Monehan from Harlow moved a motion on Palestine. The atmosphere in the hall was absolutely electric. The Conference hall became a sea of Palestinian flags. Colin spoke passionately to rapturous applause. His motion was followed up my ordinary delegates speaking up for Palestinian human rights and Jeremy Corbyn announcing in his keynote speech on the final day of Conference that a Labour government would recognise Palestine on its first day.
I attended many fringe events organised by the likes of Labour Friends of Bangladesh (which serves the best food at Conference), Morning Star, Islamic Relief, Labour Friends of Palestine, Labour List and so on. It was soon time to head back to London after the Conference wound down. It did not feel like I had attended a Conference with dreary speakers, but a festival of ideas to transform Britain.
Turnpike Lane is where my family and I have been going for the best part of the last three decades for buying halal meat, Bangladeshi fish and other Asian groceries. It also has a range of Asian restaurants giving it a unique flavour in the locality. There isn’t quite another place like it in Haringey. A resident described it as Haringey’s own ‘Brick Lane’ with reference to the number of eateries serving up dishes from the Indian sub-continent.
I was recently made co-chair of a strategy group to look at improvements to Turnpike Lane as it has been neglected over the years. The place looks a little run down and businesses have a number of other concerns that affect their trade. It may be compared to what Green Lanes was like and how it has now been transformed into a top destination for Turkish and Kurdish cuisine.
Turnpike Lane is in my ward and being co-chair of the strategy group gives me a real opportunity to give much needed TLC to the area so that it can become a destination of choice for people. I was pleased that a large number of business owners on Turnpike Lane attended the inaugural meeting of the strategy group. They contributed with many excellent ideas. It is now up to me and my colleagues in the Council to deliver. Watch the space. There are exciting times ahead!
Below is a transcript of my speech that I delivered at the unity protest against the Nazis and Tommy Robinson supporters on Saturday 14 July 2018.
Sisters and brothers, yesterday, we marched, in our hundreds of thousands, against the World’s number one racist, Donald Trump.
Today, In this Carnival of Resistance, we are standing up to Britain’s number one racist, Tommy Robinson and his neo Nazi supporters.
I am a Labour Councillor in Haringey and we have a proud tradition of standing up to fascists in Haringey. 41 years ago at the Battle of Wood Green, Haringey Councillors including a certain Jeremy Corbyn and the wider community came together and resisted the National Front who had threatened to march in our area.
The people of Haringey said to the fascists, “these are our streets and you do not belong here”. Up and down the country, that is how communities organised and defeated the National Front.
Not just just the National Front, we defeated their successors, the BNP. It’s extraordinary to think that only in 2006, Barking and Dagenham had elected 12 BNP Councillors.
12 years later, not only did the community in Barking and Dagenham get rid of the BNP, they elected 12 Muslim Councillors in this year’s local elections. That is what the racists do not like! They also hate that Londoners elected a Muslim Mayor of London.
And, I say to the racists who give Sadiq Khan vile islamophobic abuse on a daily basis: not only did Londoners elect Sadiq Khan as their mayor, they gave him the biggest personal mandate in British Political history.
1,310,143 Londoners voted for Sadiq Khan.
And this is my challenge to the fascists: instead of dishing out islamophobic abuse to Sadiq Khan on Twitter like cowards, put your own candidate against him in the next mayoral election.
Come on if you think you are hard enough, stand against Sadiq in 2020!
And Londoners will send you packing with your tail between your legs. Sadly, it’s not just the fascists that give out vile, islamophobic abuse to Sadiq Khan. We saw the disgraceful Tory MP Michael Fabricant send out the most vile islamophobic tweet targeting Sadiq Khan.
At the last mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith and the Conservative Party ran the most hateful, racist election campaign in living memory against Sadiq Khan. Islamophobia is rampant in the Conservative Party.
I back Muslim Council of Britain’s call for an enquiry into islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
I say this to the Conservative Party, when you turn a blind eye to islamophobia and make it mainstream, the fascists take it as carte blanche to murder Muslims on our streets.
Last year, a fascist killed Makram Ali outside Finsbury Park Mosque.
And a few years ago, fascists killed Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham.
Never again do we want to see the killing of Muslims on our streets.
Never again do we want to see the fascists marching on our streets and giving Nazi salutes.
Of course, “never again” is what Europe said after the second world war following the genocide of six million European Jews.
But, we had the genocide of European Muslims in Bosnia in our lifetime. Only this week, we marked 23 years since the massacre in Srebrenica when more than 8 thousand Muslim men and boys were massacred.
I am afraid with the rise of far right groups and racists across Europe, we might see another genocide. We see the demonisation of migrants and refugees every day in Europe.
Theresa May masterminded the hostile environment policy against immigrants. And Donald Trump putting children in cages or concentration camps is just a trial run.
He has emboldened and inspired racists all across Europe and the Western world. If we want to avert another genocide on European soil, we must stay united and organise because there are more of us than them.
The day after my election as a Councillor in Haringey, I delivered a speech at the March for Windrush on 5 May 2018 outside Downing Street. Here is a video of my speech:
4 July 2018 was my last meeting as Secretary of Tottenham Green Branch Labour Party (BLP). I stepped down, because I would now be attending branch meetings over in Noel Park where I am Councillor. It has been an absolute pleasure serving Tottenham Green BLP as its Secretary during 2017/18. I also served as chair of the BLP the year before.
I have made many great friends in Tottenham Green. We took part in important campaigns from opposing the Haringey Development Vehicle to advocating on behalf of the Latin American community in Wards Corner. As can be seen from the pictures, we also declared Tottenham Green a Trump-free zone in advance of his arrival in the UK.
I have been a grassroots Labour activist serving as a branch officer since I joined the Party in 2010. I was twice elected as chair of Noel Park BLP between 2010 and 2012 where I cut my teeth in grassroots Labour politics. Being elected by your peers is always a huge honour.
I have now been elected by members of the public to serve as their local representative in Noel Park. This is an even bigger privilege. This takes precedence over internal Party positions. This is why I also decided not to re-run for the position of Tottenham Constituency Labour Party’s Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Officer. I served in this role in 2017/18 and ensured that voices of BAME members were central to Haringey Labour Party.
On 23 June 2018, I travelled to Northern France with Haringey Labour Councillor Colleagues to express solidarity with refugees stranded there. Here is the video of the trip:
As part of Refugee Week 2018, I went with my Councillor colleagues, Peray Ahmet, Matthew White and Mike Hakata and other activists from Haringey Stand Up to Racism to help refugees stranded in Calais and Dunkirk through Care4Calais. Thanks to everyone who donated to Care4Calais, we raised over £1500. This will support vital work that Care4Calais are doing to stand by refugees and treat them with dignity.
We went to a distribution point in Dunkirk where hundreds of people are staying in tents in the woods and in an open field. There are children, women and young men who have fled wars, persecution and extreme poverty. They have no food or sanitation. They rely entirely on the generosity of volunteers and charities that come to help them. Through Care4Calais, we gave each person a hygiene kit containing basic essentials that they will need on a day to day basis.
This was my second solidarity trip to Calais. I personally benefit more from these trips than people who are stranded there. I realise how fortunate I am to live in a country without persecution where I do not fear for my life or my safety. I am free to express my views and live my life freely. These are things that we take for granted. For the refugees fleeing war, persecution and violence, they just want a chance to live and enjoy what we all enjoy. They want the simple things in life. Yet, our governments in the West have turned their backs on refugees. They are not fulfilling their obligations under the Refugee Convention.
Below is the speech I delivered outside Downing Street at the ‘March for Windrush’ as a newly elected Councillor.
I am honoured to have been elected yesterday to serve the people of Haringey.
And I am extremely proud to be on this stage today to make my first public appearance as a newly elected councillor and to say that I will be working every day to make Haringey a hostile environment for racists.
As long as I am Councillor, there will be no hostility towards refugees.
There will be no hostility towards asylum seekers and
There will be no hostility towards migrants.
Now, let’s turn to the disgraceful and ridiculous mainstream media coverage of the election.
They are painting this as some kind of a defeat for the Labour Party.
Labour actually won 1018 more seats than the Tories across the country. That is 1018 seats more than the Tories.
What they are not covering is that a racist Tory Councillor has just been re-admitted into the Conservative Party so that they can take control of Pendle Council.
The Tories have form in running racist election campaigns. You will remember the last London Mayoral election – the most racist election campaign in living memory that the Tories ran against Sadiq Khan.
In the 1964 by-election, the Tories ran a campaign with the slogan “If you want a coloured for your neighbour, vote Labour”. They actually used the ‘N’ word in reference to Windrush citizens who had to the UK to rebuild this country after the Second World War.
A few years after that, we had the infamous Rivers of Blood speech from Enoch Powell.
In a follow-up speech, Enoch Powell proposed a Ministry of Repatriation to send Commonwealth Cizitens back to their country of origin.
We are seeing a manifestation of that policy in Theresa May’s Go Home vans and in her ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Let’s not make any mistake about it. The hostile environment is a racist policy.
The hostile environment has treated British Citizens, the Windrush Generation in the most despicable manner, destroying lives and denying their human rights.
To give you one example, the hostile environment has refused to treat British Citizens on the NHS.
When the founding fathers of the NHS, Nye Bevan and Clement Attlee set it up, they set it up with the principle that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right.
And to refuse NHS treatment to the Windrush Generation is to deny them their human right and to treat them as less than human.
That is what racism looks like.
That is what slavery was about.
And that is what colonialism was about.
And from this stage, I would like to re-iterate our demands to Sajid Javid and Theresa May:
- We demand that the 2014 Immigration act is repealed
- We demand an immediate end to deportations and detention of Commonwealth Citizens
- We demand that all those deported be brought back to Britain immediately
- We demand a guarantee to protect of all Commonwealth Citizens and their human rights
- We demand that all those affected in any way be given compensation for deportation, threats of deportation, detention, loss of housing, jobs, benefits and denial of NHS treatment.
- We demand an immediate end to the hostile environment for any immigrants.
Thank you vert much for listening. Peace and solidarity to you all.