Are Labour councillors using charity food donations to curry favour?

Suspicions have been raised in recent weeks that Labour Party councillors have been using charitable food donations as a means of currying favour with voters in Tower Hamlets.

Instead of donated food going to those in need it seems quite possible it has been given to Labour councillor’s mates, their own families, existing and potential Labour voters and those they want to impress.

In Tower Hamlets. Who would have thunked it?

The Bangladesh High Commission

The issue was highlighted last week when a food donation from the government of Bangladesh, personally delivered to the Deputy Speaker Cllr. Mohammed Ahbab Hossain (Labour, Bethnal Green) by the Bangladesh High Commission, went slightly astray.

When the Bangladesh government discovered via a Facebook post that Da’watul Islam UK & Eire in Bigland St, Shadwell, was distributing their donated food the phone lines between Bangladesh and Tower Hamlets glowed white hot.

The reason being that Da’watul Islam UK was on the side of Pakistan during the Bangladesh War of Liberation and this was not – and is not – forgotten by Bangladeshis either in the subcontinent or in the East End. Estimates of the numbers killed in the genocide of 1971 vary between 300,000 to 3,000,000 people.

Da’watul Islam UK and Eire operates out of its premises known as Darul Ummah, a multi-purpose community centre and mosque.

For more fun facts about Da’watul Islam UK please see How fundamental Islamists hijacked the East End of London Part 2 over on Love Wapping.

EEE contacted the Bangladesh High Commission in London for clarification on this matter and the BHC issued this press statement.

“On 2 June 2020 Bangladesh High Commission London handed over some dry food items to Tower Hamlets’ Deputy Speaker Councillor Mohammed Ahbab Hossian for distribution to relevant food banks.

An official of the High Commission handed over the foodstuff to the Deputy Speaker in presence of Councillor of Mile End Ward Asma Islam and Reverend James.

On receiving the food items, Deputy Speaker Ahbab Hossain said that the food items would be distributed by different registered and listed food banks of Tower Hamlets Borough including Covid-19 Team of Mile End and Care House Food Bank among Covid-19 affected people regardless of their race, religion or ethnic backgrounds.

It may be noted that Bangladesh High Commission London did not hand over any food item to any organization called Dawatul Islam UK & Eire.

For further information about distribution, you may contact the Deputy Speaker who in the meantime informed us that the food items are being distributed in different areas by engaging many more registered and listed food banks of Tower Hamlets.”

The Bangladeshi language London Times News ran this story, ‘Bangladesh High Commission London donates food items sent as Foreign Minister’s gift to Tower Hamlets Food Bank.

Da’watul Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami

EEE contacted Cllr. Mohammed Ahbab Hossain who passed our enquiry on to Da’watul Islam UK & Eire who contacted us and very kindly explained the good work they do in the community but seemed shy of using the term ‘Da’watul Islam’. Quite why ‘Da’watul Islam’ don’t want to use the term ‘Da’watul Islam’ is an issue for ‘Da’watul Islam’ to sort out.

It’s not as if they are called ‘Jamaat-e-Islami’ or anything.

‘Covid-19 Team’ was mentioned by the Da’watul Islam and it may have been that the Bangladeshi High Commission was not aware of who the Covid-19 Team was when they handed over the food.

Khales Uddin Ahmed (former councillor and Council Speaker) was one of the first to ask the Bangladesh High Commissioner why Da’watul Islam seemed to be the ‘sole distributor’ of the food?

Here is another social media post asking what is going on.

“How are the councillors in Tower Hamlets using their profiles to walk into the high commission?

Bringing the food pack/biscuits, please let us know which consultation was done prior to distributing.

Can you confirm is all of the packs that were given distributed to the needy rather than your own homes.

How many boxes are left from the 100 in the store room?”

All clear now? No? Oh well. It gets even more complicated soon.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets council was approached for comment but, as usual, answer came there none. Was it something we said? Whatever.

The Labour councillors

Completely separate to the Bangladesh High Commission kerfuffle are the activities of several Labour councillors and their food donation activities.

Well, we thought they were separate but it seems not. Mole has had this story for several weeks but it kept on moving down the potential story list until the Bangladesh High Commission surfaced so thought we would cover both issues in one story.

Helping those in need is integral to the Holy Month of Ramadan and the Covid-19 pandemic has hit people of all faiths in the borough hard. It has been wonderful – if not surprising – to see all sorts of community groups emerge to deliver food to those in need.

The process goes like this.

Community group gets food, usually donated by a bigger community group or a sponsor like a local business (or the Bangladesh High Commission). Community group delivers food to those in need. Hungry resident is very grateful and eats food. Community group keeps a log of who was given what and when and this is then given to the food donor for transparency.

That’s it. Simples.

An alternative to this seems to have been going on. A Tower Hamlet resident (who will not be named as we do not want them intimidated or victimised) alerted us to this in early May.

“They [Labour councillors] are using the coronavirus situation to distribute food to ‘vulnerable’ without keeping a log of who they distributed it to. A lot of the councillors I am told took the food to their own homes which was donated by sponsors.”

EEE checked with a Bangladeshi councillor (not Labour) who told us in some detail about the way food deliveries are undertaken, tracked and logged and paperwork returned to the sponsor.

These are the questions I asked Tower Hamlets council on 13th May. They have not replied.

“I have had reports that some local councillors (I have names) have been using the deliveries of meals to gain political support. Food is not given to the needy but their mates.

From what I can understand there is a council run system for food deliveries which local councillors should use and councillors also work with local mutual aid groups to organise meal deliveries, in this case there is always a list of people who food is sent for that is given to the delivery sponsor.

Is this correct? Do these deliveries include Iftar meals?”

Because Tower Hamlets council has not replied to these questions either (definitely something we said) we have no idea if there is a council run system or if food donations involving council resources, premises and or elected councillors are in anyway monitored.

EEE also emailed these councillors because either have been specifically mentioned to me and or they have been mentioned in social media posts relating to the food runs in question.

  • Abdal Ullah (Labour, St Katharine’s & Wapping)
  • Ehtasham Haque (Labour, Blackwall & Cubitt Town)
  • Sabina Akthar (Labour, Stepney Green)
  • Asma Islam (Labour, Mile End)
  • Mohammed Ahbab Hossain (Labour, Bethnal Green)
  • Sirajul Islam (Labour, Bethnal Green)
  • Shah Ameen (Labour, Whitechapel)
  • Tarik Khan (Labour, St Peter’s)
  • Mohammed Pappu (Labour, Blackwall & Cubitt Town)

These are the questions EEE asked the councillors via email on 14th May.

  • Have your food deliveries been part of a council run scheme or has it been sponsored by different individuals / groups?
  • If your deliveries have been sponsored could you tell me by who?
  • Could you provide me with a list of any food given to you, the person or organisation who provided the food and what the stated purpose was of the good being given to you?
  • Do you have any interest in the donor(s)?
  • As a local councillor is there any requirement for you to declare these gifts / donations on your declarations of interests?
  • Who has been organising your work?
  • How where the people you delivered food to identified as being in need?
  • Was a list of these people drawn up and where can it be inspected?

EEE was particularly interested to see what reply would come from Cllr. Abdal Ullah as we knew he had given an Iftar meal to at least one person who absolutely and most definitely did not need it. Here’s a photo.

Food courtesy of Cllr. Abdal Ullah

 Baroness Uddin

Tweets by Cllr. ABdal Ullah with personal note of thanks from Baroness Uddin.

It was also interesting to see Cllr. Ullah getting a personal note of thanks from none other than Wapping resident Baroness Uddin! So touching. Pity she has such an unfortunate career history.

None of these councillors – including Cllr. Ullah – have replied.

No surprise there as it seems Tower Hamlets Labour Party have placed a blanket ban on any councillor having engagement with either the Wapping Mole or any member of the extensive East End Enquirer editorial team.

We think the logic behind this is that if they do not reply then we will not publish any stories about them. Anyone in Tower Hamlets Labour Party evaluated this media strategy?

The Bugblatter Beast

The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal

We ask ‘cos the strategy reminds Moley of the The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame which is ‘a vicious wild animal from the planet of Traal, known for its never-ending hunger and its mind-boggling stupidity.

One of the main features of the Beast is that if you can’t see it, it assumes it can’t see you. Due to this it has been considered one of the least intelligent creatures in the Universe.’

In addition to the activities of these councillors we have also been informed that Ruhul Amin and Shundor Miah have been seen wandering around Watney market handing out lentils. Not one at a time obviously.

Other Bangladeshi friends we have talked to were amazed we thought this practice was in any way newsworthy because it is so common.

So. Not a single response from anyone to any of our questions. Can’t see why. We were – and still are – genuinely interested in how these food distributions work.

Two become one

Due to our innocent nature EEE staff did not consider the story about the Bangladesh High Commission food donation was in any way linked to the story of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party councillors food donation story until we started writing it all up.

The reason the two stories are linked is because of the numerous photos we had been sent in early May – before the Bangladesh High Commission donation – which clearly show that some of the food donations were organised from the premises of Da’watul Islam UK and Eire Darul Ummah in Bigland Street.

Seems these food donations – which may well be totally charitable in nature remember – are super popular with Tower Hamlets Labour Party as both Mayor John Biggs and Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum were on hand to help out. Here are the photos.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and other Labour councillors helping with food donation distribution at Da’watul Islam base Darul Ummah, Shadwell.


Facebook post by Apsana Begum MP Da’watul at Islam base Darul Ummah, Shadwell.
Tweets by Cllr. Ehtasham Haque
Tweet by Cllr. Abdal Ullah thanking Da’watul Islam for hosting Iftar event.

As we have said there is no reason to believe that there is anything untoward going on here. Apart from what witnesses have told EEE of course.

Although a sceptic might think that the lack of responses to our questions to both Tower Hamlets council and eight Labour councillors is odd.

Apart from the way in which these food donations are organised and monitored (are they monitored?) there is something interesting here.

Da’watul Islam, based at Darul Ummah in Bigland Street, is essentially a rebranded version of ‘Jamaat-e-Islami’ for London. And has (had?) close links to our old friends Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) which we have written about extensively in the past.

And one Lutfur Rahman is also chums with Da’watul Islam.

East End Enquirer comment

(If anyone is remotely interested)

Why is an ostensibly Labour councillor Deputy Speaker Mohammed Ahbab Hossian on such good terms with Lutfur Rahman ally Da’watul Islam?

Why is the Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Apsana Begum MP and other Labour councillors seemingly so keen to help out at Da’watul Islam when so many Bangladeshi residents hate and detest Da’watul Islam for the actions of its parent organisation Jamaat-e-Islami during the 1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation?

We have asked those involved with the above basic questions and have received no reply apart from the Bangladesh High Commission and Da’watul Islam to whom we are very grateful.

Why does Tower Hamlets Labour Party refuse to engage at even the most basic level with the only media outlet in the East End of London that attempts to hold local politicians to account? If there is a perfectly legitimate reason for the various food donations activities that have been going on in Tower Hamlets why not tell us so we can tell you?

Residents would be excused for thinking that Tower Hamlets Labour Party has something to hide, even if it has not.

The current Labour administration seems, like the previous Tower Hamlets First administration, to be completely ignoring the most basic rules of our democratic system and doing whatever it likes.

There are no indications that anyone in central government has any interest in reigning in Tower Hamlets council. Maybe residents should start asking why the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is scared of doing its job?

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