Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let's Close Every Club In Tower Hamlets! Part 1

We are all aware of Tower Hamlets Council and their view that every club in the borough should be closed. I have been researching the background to this issue and have found so much of interest that I could write a book about it. As I do not have the time for a book, this is the first of a number of articles about what is going on in this fascinating borough.

Let me tell you now that if the political landscape of Tower hamlets was a portrait, it would have been painted by Salvador Dali. If it was a film, it would be 'Apocalypse Now' and Lutfur Rahman would be Colonel Kurtz. The borough is an embarrassing mess and I imagine that many if not all of the people that actually work for the council are in a state of despair.

If you want to get a better understanding of Mayor Lutfur Rahman and exactly what is going on in the borough, visit Andrew Gilligans excellent blog at the Daily Telegraph. Go here to get a good summary of Lutfur, try here to get an indication of his management style, check out this article to see how bad things are getting and look here to learn more about some of his pals.

Rania Khan has form in terms of her opposition to the club scene. She was interviewed in The Guardian in 2008 by Katie Toms (Object) and stated....

‘The escalation of the porn industry and lap-dancing clubs really bothers me. I moved from Libya to London when I was about eight and seeing images of women being exploited and used as sexual commodities everywhere made me feel sick. I would walk down Tottenham Court Road as a teenager with my mates, ripping out all the prostitution fliers from the phone boxes".

With the above ideal burning in her mind, Rania set out to be a councillor and was elected in 2006. As we will see, it did not take her long to start pursuing her personal agenda...

At a Council Meeting held on 28th February 2007 (although I suspect one person started to think this way in early I right Michael?), a long time before any of us had even heard about Object and their plans, Cllr Rania Khan proposed Motion 10.1 as follows....

"...There is almost-total unity across Tower Hamlets people of all ages, ethnicities and faith groups in 
opposing the exploitation and degrading of women associated with sex and strip club...".

This was followed a few  minutes later by Motion 10.9, submitted by Cllr Denise Jones who stated.....

"....There are many people that see striptease as a degrading and morally reprehensible activity...."

To see the agenda a decisions of this meeting, please go here . Interestingly this was not the first time that Cllr Khan had tried to raise the issue, at a meeting held on 13th December 2006 the same motion was put to the council but was for some reason voted down, largely it seems by the Labour group. The same thing may have happened in November as well...

Politics in Tower Hamlets is complicated. The Labour Party lost a lot of council wards to Respect in an earlier election. They almost certainly rejected Cllr Kahns motion at the December 2006 meeting because they had not thought of it themselves. By February they were ready, hence two strip club related motions at the same meeting. Out of interest, Rania later defected from Respect to Labour. She is currently an Independent after Labour questioned her support for Lutfur Rahman.

I now have to complicate things a little further, by introducing someone else, Mr Michael Collins. At the December 2006 meeting, Mr Collins tabled a questions with regard 'strip clubs and sexploitation'. Mr Collins described as a 'local resident', was attending nearly every meeting that he could in order to ask questions about strip clubs, this is because Michael Collins does not like strip clubs (especially ones in Tower Hamlets) and thinks they should all be closed (but only if they are located in Tower Hamlets).

So we can see that efforts to wipe clubs off of the map have been going on for a very long time. The two main movers are Cllr Rania Khan and Mr Michael Collins, the latter at some point forming an organisation called CAPE Tower Hamlets. CAPE stands for the Campaign Against People Exploitation. Mr Collins was quoted in a posting on Cllr Khans blog. where he got somewhat carried away...

“Our problem has been to run a comprehensive grassroots campaign on few resources. The sex industry is both rich and powerful,” says Michael Collins, chair of CAPE, “and they will stop at nothing to make sure they can carry on their evil trade. We have been campaigning against them for some years after some appalling activities in residential areas around Commercial Street, Hackney Road, Docklands and Wapping involving a stabbing, a murder, abuse, assaults, prostitution and drug offences in and around these clubs.”

Now both Cllr Rania Khan and Michael Collins are very interesting people. Rania even earned herself the honour of an article in Andrew Gilligans blog in the Daily Telegraph. It is well worth a read because you can learn about the comments she made on her page in a social media website called 'Hi5'. Since this unfortunate episode, Rania has made changes to the pages in question (I made frame grabs of the originals) and written a blog entry where she explains herself. Rania is also mentioned here in an excellent blog called 'Trial By Jeory', that focusses on politics in the East End.

So this almost wraps up Part 1 of our Tower Hamlets coverage. As you can see, things are very complicated and I do hope that you follow the links to see exactly how complicated they are. In Part 2 we will focus on CAPE Tower Hamlets, an organisation that Rania Khan has declared membership of (she is also a member of Object). 

As I said earlier, Michael Collins is a very interesting man and is fighting the 'evil trade' of lapdancing (but only in Tower Hamlets). If you want, find out more about CAPE, by visiting their website (if you can find it, that is).

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