Socialist Worker

Respect piles up pressure on Labour in east London

by Glyn Robbins, chair of Tower Hamlets Respect
Issue No. 2019

It is less than six months since the local elections - and already the cracks are starting to show within the New Labour group that runs Tower Hamlets council in east London.

Respect won 12 council seats during the May elections, and formed the main opposition group in Tower Hamlets.

The breakthrough came alongside an upsurge in grassroots campaigning by local groups determined to oppose the council’s vision of development and their privatisation plans.

Labour were in disarray at a full council meeting on Wednesday of last week, thrown onto the defensive by Respect councillors, combined with a barrage of local campaigners in the public gallery.

Respect councillor Rania Khan spoke at the meeting to attack Labour’s “local development framework” - its strategic plan for the borough.

“We believe this is a cover for social engineering on a massive scale, at the expense of existing residents and the poorest and most in need,” she said.

One tangible victory was a vote that overturned Labour and suspended the demolition of Bonner School.

But the council is also under attack over its plans to sell off council housing, huge increases to leaseholder service charges, and the question of low pay for contracted out council workers.

Last week Tower Hamlets’ strategic planning committee (with two Respect councillors) rejected a planning application to redevelop the Mildmay Hospital site off Hackney Road.

This is a very significant victory for the local campaigners in Weavers ward, and one that local Respect activists - including our MP George Galloway - have been heavily involved in throughout.

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Article information

Sat 23 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2019
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