Two Tower Hamlets councillors have accused the Labour group of racial discrimination after the party upheld their expulsion last week.
Shahed Ali and Rofique Ahmed were originally expelled in April along with three other councillors: Kabir Ahmed, Abdul Asad and Shafiqul Haque.
The five were thrown out after Labour charged them with supporting Gulum Robbani, an independent candidate backed by Mayor Luftur Rahman, during the Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election in April.
A campaign leaflet produced by Robbani listed the expelled councillors as supporters, however both Ali and Ahmed say that they did not endorse the campaign. ELL were unable to contact Kabir Ahmed, Asad and Haque.
Ali, councillor for Whitechapel, said: “At that time I was out of the country for a good three or four weeks. I know for a fact that I didn’t participate in any form of campaigning whatsoever.
“The only claim they make to me campaigning was a leaflet that was produced by somebody that had my name on it. I wasn’t party to that leaflet.”
Ahmed, councillor for Mile End and Globe Town, said: “I have never been to that campaign.”
Claiming that the decision was due to ‘discriminatory elements’ within the Labour party, Ali said: “I’m confident that the actions of the Labour group on this occasion show that there are still racist and discriminatory elements in the party that choose to apply the rules to members based on their origin.”
As part of his submission to appeal, Ali cited the fact that Sir Alan Sugar, Dan Hodges and Ken Livingstone had not been expelled from the party after campaigning against Labour candidates.
Ahmed said: “They [Labour] are racial. It is discrimination.”
In response to the accusations, Chris Weavers, Chair of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, said: “The Labour Party takes any accusation of racial discrimination extremely seriously, however in this case it is absolutely clear that there is no basis whatsoever for these claims.
“The Labour Party locally and nationally is rightly proud that we are the most inclusive and representative of all political parties and have an unrivalled reputation for combating racism and discrimination in all its forms.
“To start throwing around baseless accusations is not only completely wrong but also sadly typical of their behaviour over the last year. Alleging racism to defend their indefensible position is offensive to the many Tower Hamlets residents who have to fight against real discrimination every day.”
All five of the expelled councillors appealed against the decision. Following the hearing, the panel concluded that there was “no reason to challenge the convincing evidence that had led to the original decision”. None of the councillors attended the appeal.
Ali told ELL that he was unable to attend due to “prior engagements that couldn’t be cancelled”. Ahmed said that he was not present at the hearing due to health problems.
Responding to news of the expulsions, Joshua Peck, leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour group and councillor for Bow West, said: “The case against the five was always very clear – they consistently voted and campaigned against the Labour Party and they are now paying the price.
“You cannot campaign against the party and expect to remain a member.”
Weavers continued: “Residents need to know that when they vote for a Labour councillor that’s what they will have for the whole four years of a council – not someone who will switch loyalties and views as it suits them.”
The expelled men all remain councillors as independents. Four of them – Abdul Asad, Shofiqul Haque, Rofique Uddin Ahmed and Shahed Ali – had previously moved against the Labour whip by joining the cabinet of Luftur Rahman last year.
Ahmed accepts that this may have been a contributing factor to the expulsion. He said: “The main cause is that I’m serving in Luftur’s cabinet, but I felt that I’m elected by the people of Tower Hamlets and my duty is to serve them in whatever way I can.”
14 out of the 27 remaining Tower Hamlets Labour councillors are of ethnic minority origin.