The Tower Hamlets mayor has brought grassroots manipulation back to British politics and with it some semblance of meaning, insists East London’s most uncertain columnist.
The general election on 7 May is arguably going to be the most important general election since the last one. And easily the most post-modern, with its lack of any really tangible, or for that matter imaginary, meaning. Grand visions for Britain’s future are supplanted by offers of midwives for all and Lloyds shares for some. Recognisable ideological divisions are secondary to achieving managed economic decline. The two candidates for Prime Minister are so un-liked, the British public found preferable a Scottish woman who openly wouldn’t represent ninety percent of them. The poster boy for radical redistribution is a former Big Brother presenter from Essex with a messiah complex. Green Party candidates get to attract young voters with fantastical policies they’d never have to try and actually implement, and Plaid Cymru made historic gains by getting themselves on telly. Not to mention UKIP, who may soon be horrified to learn that some of those drowning in the Mediterranean are skilled migrants.
Despite this fantastic selection, I will join many of my contemporaries in not voting. Not so much out of disillusionment with the system, if ever there was an illusion. Mostly because my constituency of South Hackney and Shoreditch has returned a Labour MP in every election since 1974. ‘Every vote makes a difference’, they tell me. To which I reply ‘my constituency of South Hackney and Shoreditch has voted Labour every election since 1974.’ It would quite honestly be less wasteful of my time on 7 May to drink cans of Beamish in Victoria Park and throw pebbles at the ducks. As I do so I’m certain I’ll stare across wistfully at the ramshackle borough of Tower Hamlets, longing to have a political landscape as entertaining as theirs.
Yes, Westminster could use a man like Rahman. He brings back good ol’ grubby strong-arming from the times when elections were physical affairs. There’s something very Al Capone about bullying people at the ballot box, as Rahman supposedly has. Ed and Dave could do with some romantic gangster comparisons. Despite their attempts at being bellicose this week, they seem less like Pacino and De Niro locking horns, and more Colin Firth and Hugh Grant tussling like toffs in Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Caliph Rahman on the other hand, has had the absolute balls to be the first man since the nineteenth century accused of ‘undue spiritual influence’. His supporters allegedly pressured voters, telling them not voting for Rahman made them ‘bad Muslims’. Just once I’d like to see a mainstream politician invoke the wrath of god. They’d get my vote just for bringing something really fresh to the table. No vague promises of ‘working Britain’: your soul depends on this. Atheist as I am, I like the sound of that.
Of course the constituency which broadly corresponds to the borough will go to Labour in the general election. The Tower Hamlets First party hasn’t yet made it to Westminster. Should they ever, I’ll be the first to throw my weight behind London’s first Islamic republic. At least a vote to please god has some gravity to it.
And for those who call the fracas in Tower Hamlets a ‘democratic shambles’, England may soon be governed by a party that 30 percent voted for, and another which nobody voted for.
At least Rahman had to break the law to make democracy a shambles in Tower Hamlets.