#ELLGE19: Accusations of ‘corruption and hypocrisy’ at Bethnal Green and Bow hustings

Rushanara Ali speaks at Bethnal Green and Bow hustings. Pic. Alex Mistlin

A stinging attack on Tower Hamlets Labour and by extension, their candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali has been launched by the Conservative candidate for the constituency.

Speaking at a hustings, Nicholas Stovold sought to undercut the Labour Party’s popularity in the constituency by arguing that outstanding allegations against the council of housing fraud and financial mismanagement meant Labour were unfit to represent the constituency. In particular, Stovold’s claim that the council has a £100 million surplus sat idle in a current account provoked a strong reaction from the audience.

Stovold said: “Rushanara’s 35,000 majority is nothing to be sniffed at, but people can still send a strong message to the council to stop taking people for granted.” 

Speaking after the event, Stovold remained adamant that blame for local issues sat firmly at the council’s door. He told Eastlondonlines: “Over the last few years, we’ve seen corruption and hypocrisy from Tower Hamlets council. They declare a climate emergency while 187 out of their 200 vehicles run on diesel. A lot of people are fed up and I think we will see a protest vote against Labour on the 12th.”  

Rushanara Ali, seemed taken aback by the Conservative’s line of argument, responding: “I thought this was a parliamentary election not a council election.”

She was clear to pin the blame for rising homelessness and food bank use at the foot of the Conservatives. She said: “David Cameron may have called this country broken Britain, but it was him who broke it.”

The parties’ records on racism was another prominent issue during the hustings. Liberal Democrat PPC Josh Babarinde said: “The leader of the Tory party makes islamophobic comments, the leader of the Labour party has failed to get to grips with antisemitism and the leader of the Green Party has called for a ban on Halal meat.”

The Green Party’s Shahrar Ali concurred saying that “tackling institutional racism must be a priority for anybody who represents a community like Tower Hamlets.” 

In response to the accusations of anti-semitism that have dogged her Tower Hamlets Labour colleague, Apsana Begum’s campaign, Ali conceded that “the Labour Party needed to do more to restore trust in the Jewish community.”

The real unexpected twist to the evening was when Vanessa Hudson, the Animal Welfare candidate, took to the stage to challenge her exclusion from the panel. She was the only candidate standing who wasn’t invited to attend.  She attacked the other candidates for simply “paying lip service to the climate emergency” and only focusing on humans. 

For the remainder of the husting, Hudson tried to interject on a number of issues, but Zainab Khan, the Chair, repeatedly denied her the right speak. Later, several audience members expressed dismay towards the decision not to invite Hudson in the first place.
Khan explained that London Metropolitan University, who convened the hustings, had issued invitations “following a collaborative discussion between staff and students in which it was decided that the event would feature candidates from parties who had received a strong number of votes in previous elections.” 

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