The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has united with Labour councillors against the proposal unveiled last week to abolish the electoral ward of Banglatown.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman has labelled the proposition put forward by a local Conservative group a “shameful attempt” to wipe out the contribution of the British-Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets.
Two petitions have been created to appeal the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s decision to redraw ward boundaries and remove the name ‘Banglatown’ from the ward of Spitalfields and Banglatown.
The Labour petition was created on Monday, after Mayor Rahman said he would do “anything”, including taking legal action, to retain the name.
Councillor Shahed Ali, independent councillor for Whitechapel, created the petition on behalf of Mayor Rahman.
Speaking to Eastlondonlines, he said: “I am extremely horrified to learn about the Boundary Commission actually giving the Tory proposal any thought to rip away the historic and cultural hub of the Bangladeshi community from the proposed ward map of Tower Hamlets and from this country.
“Generations of the Bangladeshi community have historically settled and started businesses in the Banglatown area. This Tory proposal is a ‘spit in the face’ for thousands of Bangladeshis and non-Bangladeshis who have struggled and sacrificed to have Banglatown recognised in the map of Tower Hamlets.”
Mayor Rahman told ELL of the work of past Labour leader George Lansbury, who campaigned for social reform in the East End.
He said: “The attempt by the Tower Hamlets Conservative group to wipe out the memory of social justice campaigner and labour movement icon George Lansbury (will) erase the vibrant cultural heritage that are the hallmarks of the East End.”
Abdul Mukit Chunu MBE, Labour councillor for Weavers, commented on the decision after signing the petition on change.org.
He said: “I was a young community activist in the early 1970s. I have been through all the struggles faced by the Bangladeshi community here in Brick Lane. [After the 1978] Altab Ali murder, the whole community was terrified to go out of their homes.
“I call on all Bangladeshis to come together now to challenge the proposed name change. The community has given their blood to settle in Brick Lane.
“The name of Banglatown carries our values, culture and the dedication of the people who have fought for the community since the 1970s. If we look into the British history, we can observe that many have started from Brick Lane. We see Banglatown as our ‘home’.”
Fozol Miah, Respect councillor for the ward of Spitalfields and Banglatown, described the decision as “ridiculous”.
He said: “In the way that Chinatown represents the West End, Banglatown represents the East End.
“It is an icon for the city of London, and the Conservative Party’s attempt to abolish it is ridiculous. I totally oppose their decision.”
Speaking to the East London Advertiser, Councillor Peter Golds, leader of the Tower Hamlets Conservative Group said: “There will always be Banglatown on a map, but why should it be included in a local government ward name?
“There is no government ward in the country that specifies a community. This is an absolutely typical attempt to paint opponents as racist.”
A spokesperson for the Local Government Boundary Commission for England said: “We are currently holding a public consultation on new electoral arrangements for Tower Hamlets and we are encouraging as many local people as possible to have their say.
“We have put together new ward boundaries and ward names across the borough and are now asking local people if they agree with our proposals and, if not, how they might be improved.
“The Commission has an open mind about changes and improvements to these draft recommendations and will consider all submissions put to it before finalising its recommendations.”
[callout]You can get involved with the consultation by:
- Logging on to www.lgbce.org.uk
- Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Going straight to the commission’s consultation portal at consultation.lgbce.org.uk.Hard copies of maps, reports and other information have been made available to local libraries and council buildings. You can sign the Save Banglatown petitions by going here and here.[/callout]