Residents of Tower Hamlets use lots of interesting adjectives to describe the current administration of their local council.
Few of them are printable. ‘Tiresome’ is one word that is.
For some reason the current Tower Hamlets First administration led by Mayor Lutfur Rahman seems to think it exists in its own little world where it can make up the rules as it goes along in order to serve its own personal interests. Annoying little details such as democratic process and freedom of the press are brushed aside. Or so Tower Hamlets Council would like to think.
Press freedom in Tower Hamlets
Blogger and Sunday Express journalist Ted Jeory has been an observer of East End politics for many years. Without his work many of the more unusual activities of Mayor Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets First would remain secret. Mayor Lutfur’s spin doctor Takki Sulaiman is not an admirer of Ted Jeory’s work. On more than one occasion Ted’s news stories have led the Tower Hamlets Council Head of Communications to stamp his foot. Sometimes both feet.
An excellent example of this is a news story by Ted Jeory regarding the £123,000 charged by lawyers and PR gurus to Takki Sulaiman for trying to stop the broadcast of the BBC Panorama documentary about Mayor Lutfur. (Tower Hamlets residents please note – that is your £123,000.)
So it was no major surprise when Mr Sulaiman had Mr Jeory frogmarched from a Tower Hamlets council meeting a couple of months ago for calling him a prick. To quote Mr Jeory:
“He [Takki Sulaiman] and I have a long history. He dislikes my journalism and I dislike his attitude to press freedom.
I’ve covered Tower Hamlets for nine years now and in that time I’ve seen a gradual erosion in the access afforded to reporters wishing to cover council meetings. That erosion didn’t start with Takki’s management of the communications department, but he has contributed to its acceleration.”
Ted is of the opinion that in the past Mr Sulaiman tried to get him sacked from the Sunday Express and in 2011 ordered the removal of the reporter’s table from the council chamber. The removal of the reporter’s table might seem a minor detail but in practice it makes journalist’s work more difficult as they have to report from the public gallery of the council chamber. (The table has recently been restored.) And the symbolism is obvious.
Most grown ups accept the occasional exchange of rude words as part of working life, but not Mr Sulaiman. Or so he would have us think.
More likely is that Mr Sulaiman saw this incident as an excuse to further restrict the ability of Ted Jeory to report on Tower Hamlets council. Without Ted Jeory in the council chamber few borough residents would ever know the reality of a Tower Hamlets council meeting.
The ‘Prick Incident’ was a blatant attempt by Mr Sulaiman to restrict the ability of the free press to report on the workings of Tower Hamlets council. This cannot be allowed.
Prick Incident correspondence timeline
- On 11th June I emailed Mr Sulaiman and asked him what was going on and received a round robin response later the same day.
- On 12th June I received another email from Mr Sulaiman giving his reasons for ejecting Ted Jeory.
- In no way satisfied with this reply I asked Ted Jeory for his view of the incident which was published on 12th June.
- On 14th June I made a formal complaint regarding the behaviour of Mr Sulaiman which I addressed to Stephen Halsey, Head of Paid Service at Tower Hamlets council.
- After an acknowledgement that my email had been received by Tower Hamlets council further activity regarding this issue to date has been nil. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Not a dicky bird.
As Tower Hamlets residents say, tiresome behaviour.
Complaint to Local Government Ombudsman
This morning 27th August 2014 I have filed a formal complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman alleging that Tower Hamlets council has failed to investigate my complaint. All I want Mayor Lutfur’s crew to do is what they are legally obliged to.
But then that doesn’t happen very often. As the Tower Hamlets First administration ignores requests from the DCLG, I doubt if the rest of us have a chance.
Or do we? Let’s see.
UPDATE 14:49 hours
Please see comment by Ted Jeory below.