Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Exclusive: right’s mass purge of Muslim councillors and applicants in Waltham Forest

Labour right’s racist purge of black, Muslim and left-wing Jewish figures accelerates and Waltham Forest is a case study

The right continues to destroy Labour for factional purposes

The Labour right has conducted a mass purge of Muslims in Waltham Forest, according to local party members. In recent selection interviews for elections to the council, no fewer than 13 out of 14  Muslim applicants failed at interview. Of the ten Pakistani/Kashmiri applicants, all 10 were blocked by overwhelmingly white assessment teams.

Of forty existing councillors seeking to stand again, four were blocked. The four consisted of:

  • a Pakistani cabinet member who has been a councillor for 27 years and who, just in July, lost the council leadership contest by just two votes, 23:21
  • 2 other Pakistanis
  • the most senior black Cllr who was elected deputy group leader in September

Exploiting turmoil

Waltham Forest council has seen turmoil in recent months. The position of council leader became vacant in June this year after then-leader Clare Coghill announced she would be standing down. Ms Coghill subsequently took a job with developer Square Roots, which is a subsidiary of London Square – a major developer with substantial interests in Waltham Forest. Under Coghill’s leadership, the council had recently signed a contract to build 300 units at a cost of £125m.

The Labour Group’s annual general meeting took place on 1 July and saw two two candidates for Leader. Grace Williams beat Liaquat Ali to the position by 23 to 21 and was installed as council leader at the Council’s meeting on 2 September.

The borough’s council elections take place next May. The LCF (Labour’s ‘local campaign forum’) met in August for the first time since December 2018. In the intervening period the party’s left had a notional majority on the forum but the officers refused to call any meetings.

The LCF chair was replaced as a delegate by Chingford and Woodford Green CLP, the secretary eventually resigned and London Region intervened to prevent the LCF from meeting – supposedly because the secretary had resigned.

The Labour right re-took Chingford and Woodford Green CLP at its AGM this summer – and coincidentally Labour decided to allow the LCF to reconvene, with a12-6 right wing majority.

Despite Waltham Forest being one of the most diverse boroughs in Britain, the LCF is overwhelmingly white. All delegates from Walthamstow CLP, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP, the Cooperative party and the council’s Labour Group are white.

Applications to become a councillor were opened from 20 September to 11 October. Unexpectedly, all sitting councillors intending to run again were called in for interview. The LCF officers claimed that they had authority to do this because of guidance issued by the NEC in May 2021. At the same time, they refused members access to this document.

Skwawkbox has obtained a copy of this guidance. Far from authorising blanket interviewing of all sitting councillors, it only authorises interviews for those councillors with adverse disciplinary records or reports:

the purpose of this paper is for use where councillors or previous candidates have been called in for interview where their track record has raised concern.

…The LCF/LGC Officers, or a panel duly authorised by the LCF/LGC, may request an interview if the reports raise concerns about discipline, attendance, campaigning record or competence. Should they feel the circumstance dictate, the Regional Director can instruct the LCF/LGC that an interview is undertaken and must give such reasons in writing. Should an interview not be requested, the sitting councillor will be recommended for inclusion on the panel without interview.

Conditions were imposed by the NEC for reinterviewing sitting councillors. Presumably, the LCF considers only black and brown councillors failed to measure up

All decisions to call sitting councillors for interview must be approved by Labour’s regional director. The London region has frequently been accused of assisting the right in its machinations.

Councillors failed at interview

Only four sitting councillors were failed at interview. All were from an ethnic minority group:

  • Liaquat Ali – a councillor since 1994 – the most senior councillor of Pakistani/Kashmiri heritage, who had been confirmed in post as a Cabinet member in September 2021
  • Umar Ali, Liaquat’s son
  • Hather Ali, Liaquat’s nephew
  • Anna Mbachu, the borough’s longest serving Afro-Caribbean councillor. Mbachu was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Group at its AGM in July

New candidates

All interviews for non-councillor applicants were completed last month. It was immediately apparent that, in addition to failing the vast majority of left applicants, disproportionate numbers of black and Asian applicants had been failed.

At the LCF meeting on 29th November, Leyton and Wanstead delegates asked for diversity data for applicants. This was refused as “inappropriate”.

At least 20 councillors and candidates are understood to have appealed, but the appeals process is likely to run too long to allow any changes to be made before the elections. Local members do not even have a number for how many people applied in total, let alone their diversity.

However, members themselves have gathered statistics on all the ethnic minority applicants they could identify – and the data make shocking reading:

  • all ten Pakistani/Kashmiri applicants were failed
  • Of the total of 14 Muslim applicants, 13 were failed

In short, the main challenger for the leadership and two of his family members have been taken out, along with any potential supporters on the council, in what locals maintain is a naked right-wing coup.

Members also asked for diversity data on the assessment teams. This was also refused.

Anecdotally, although at least three quarters of assessment team members were councillors drawn from neighbouring boroughs, they were disproportionately white. This is surprising to say the least, considering the the diverse backgrounds of East London councillors from whom they were drawn.

Applicants who were failed at interview were overwhelmingly interviewed by white assessment teams. Skwawkbox has been told that members of a right-wing affiliated group played a prominent role.

Similar right-wing coups have been alleged in other boroughs in London and elsewhere. In 2018, all black Labour councillors on Enfield council were deselected and the Enfield LCF secretary became council leader amid allegations of rigging of selections to rule out potential opponents and allow unqualified allies to stand. Enfield’s deputy council leader and others refused to serve under the new leader and all the women Labour group officers bar the council leader resigned in protest at the events.

Skwawkbox view:

The Labour right’s Stalinism has come to the fore yet again as it exploits its opportunity to cement its control in Waltham Forest and remove any political opposition.

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