Starmer’s Labour Disenfranchised British Somalis in Kensington

In an unashamed assault on party democracy last month, Keir Starmer’s Labour targeted and excluded significant numbers of British Somalis from the shortlisting process for candidates hoping to become Kensington’s next member of parliament. Urban Dandy has been given details of how the party’s bureaucracy was mobilised to guarantee a result favourable to the party’s right wing.

The Kensington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is made up of three branches: South, North East and North West. Labour members in each branch were to vote to narrow down their choice of candidates from a longlist to a shortlist of three, then to vote for one candidate to take on Conservative incumbent Felicity Buchan at the next general election. Former Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad had already been barred from standing by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in a factional right-wing intervention.

South Branch

Next in the NEC’s sights was Councillor Kasim Ali, a prominent local politician and a British Somali with a history of community activism in North Kensington. From several Kensington Labour insiders we have heard that, with Dent Coad removed, the NEC hoped that one of their preferred candidates would secure the candidacy. But at the South Branch’s 27th October selection vote, Cllr Ali eased to a comfortable victory, winning every round.

image from Twitter / Kasim Ali

With Cllr Ali needing a nomination from just one of the two North Kensington branches to secure a place on the shortlist, the NEC took over, overriding the CLP’s democratic procedures and fixing the result. Here’s how they did it…

North East Branch

The North East vote scheduled for 1st November was postponed on the pretext of the branch not having the correct Zoom license to accommodate the number of members wishing to attend. Local Labour sources told us that a new license was hastily purchased but Labour’s London Region Executive postponed the vote until 9th November, giving the NEC time to create the chaotic circumstances in which they could guarantee victory for one of their preferred candidates.

By the day of the North West selection on 3rd November, a familiar tactic from the Corbyn era had been put in play to prevent Cllr Ali from securing a nomination at his home branch vote. A vitriolic message about one of the candidates, Mete Coban, was sent to all CLP members from an email address named ‘Danger in Kensington.’ Access to the membership mailing list is strictly limited so the email is likely to have been circulated by somebody holding a senior position within Labour at local, regional or NEC level. Two local Labour sources told Urban Dandy that the NEC’s two preferred candidates had also been provided with the membership’s contact data “months before”.

The highly dubious message was unquestioningly amplified in a vicious attack piece on Kasim Ali in a local blog, while Jewish News blamed “a group of activists” in North Kensington. There was no evidence that the councillor or any of his associates had a connection to the message and no explanation was offered as to how they could have circulated it or what their motivation to sabotage the process might have been. Labour bureaucrats seized upon the story to torpedo the CLP’s democracy, taking control of the selection process and barring Cllr Ali from standing.

Senior Kensington Labour members issued a statement that included the line “there is evidence that the racist message was written by a local known not be (sic) a Labour Party member and was initially posted on a Kensington Community Facebook page.”

There will be more on what Cllr Ali describes as a “fake antisemitism” smear in a later article.

North West Branch

On the day of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email, Labour members in the North West branch were set to vote on who to shortlist. However, a significant number were prevented from doing so. A Labour councillor told Urban Dandy that “14 to 16 members” were blocked. Another councillor informed us that the number was closer to 20. Both told us that all the excluded members had one thing in common, they were British Somali.

By this point, the selection meetings, held on Zoom, were being chaired by Labour’s London Region Director, Parleen Sangha. According to a local councillor, Sangha told some of the British Somali members “we can’t hear you” before removing them from the meeting and not readmitting them as they attempted to re-join the meeting for an hour and a half. Others simply saw the image below when they clicked on the meeting link.

(Screengrabbed and sent to Urban Dandy by a British Somali Labour member in the North West branch)

We have been informed that an elected Labour councillor for Golborne ward (part of the North West branch and one of the most impoverished wards in Britain) received a text message from a London Region representative as voting commenced telling them ‘I don’t have the correct email for you’ as a justification for cancelling their access to the ballot. The councillor is also British Somali and was using the same email address used when registering as a party member and used to log in to all subsequent meetings and votes.

No results from the North East or North West selection votes were published, and Joe Powell will stand for Labour at the general election having easily defeated the other shortlisted candidates, Mete Coban and Apsana Lachaux on 9th November.

Racial Profiling?

Labour councillors who spoke to Urban Dandy stopped just short of accusing Keir Starmer’s NEC and London Region of racism against British Somalis. They informed us that Labour members in the North East branch, mostly from ethnic minority communities, were also prevented from participating, while former party members with favourable views of Starmer were enabled by London Region to fast-track their re-joining on the day of the vote.

We asked London Region for clarity on why Cllr Ali’s bid for candidacy was undemocratically denied. They responded that they “had to” commence a “serious investigation” into antisemitism in Kensington CLP and that local members had been suspended “due to antisemitism”.

Their reply to Urban Dandy did not mention Kasim Ali or explain the prima facie racial profiling of British Somalis.

On 4th November Kasim Ali was interviewed by the NEC over the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email. They accepted that there was no connection between the councillor or his supporters and the message. However, his right to stand was not reinstated. It is not clear if this meeting was the “serious investigation” referred to by London Region.

A Labour source told Urban Dandy that they had searched the membership database and found that none had been suspended for suspected antisemitism.

Cllr Ali told us that he asked the Labour Party to investigate the circulation of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email but, to date, the party has not done this.

We also understand that Cllr Ali was blocked from speaking at the CLP’s Black History Month event in October following a concern raised by a rival candidate that this would give Ali an unfair advantage in the constituency selection. London Region issued a ban on longlisted Kensington candidates attending the event. Cllr Ali complained to London Region about his exclusion but has not received a reply.

Starmer’s Labour

Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour has purged its left-wing, often expelling or suspending members on spurious grounds, while many others who identify as left-wing have resigned their memberships in protest at Labour’s dramatic shift to the right.

When people rose up to protest racism in Summer 2020, Starmer dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as “Black Lives Matter moment” while the party has at times positioned itself to the right of Suella Braverman on migration.

The signs are that Labour in government would be pro-war, unreservedly pro-NATO and cement the UK’s role as junior partner and enabler of the United States’ constant war-making. US foreign policy currently includes bombing Somalia, humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and occupation of a significant proportion of Syria.

To fulfil this agenda, Starmer and his bureaucracy must minimise the number of potentially anti-war politicians in parliament. In Kensington, once the party members had indicated a preference for Kasim Ali, the NEC abandoned any pretence of a commitment to democracy.

It can be claimed that the removal of Cllr Ali and the disenfranchisement of British Somali members was about ensuring a preferred candidate would stand, rather than a case of racism. But would Labour have done this if Ali was not a Black, Muslim, African, working-class British Somali in North Kensington?

Would an antisemitic trope have been weaponised if the targeted candidate and party members came from a different demographic? And if so, would its use have passed without comment or investigation by the party and media?

Generating fear in our Jewish community and disenfranchising our British Somali community appear to be acceptable collateral damage to the fanatical clique that has control of Labour. Starmer’s party is liberal-fascist, uninterested in the cause of labour and intent on using power to advance the class interests of the British establishment and the economic elite.

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

North Kensington Children Honoured

Two London-based community organisations honoured the young people of North Kensington at the weekend. At an event on Ladbroke Grove, local children affected by the 14th June Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath showcased their creative skills and public speaking abilities.

The children were given a platform to reflect on their experiences of the summer after the Grenfell disaster. Many of them had benefited from trips away from West London, funded and organised by Baraka Community Association (BCA) and Worldwide Somali Students & Professionals (WSSP). The trips included a residential at Hindleap Warren, visits to Legoland, Chessington, Butlins and Thorpe Park.

Over a hundred days have now passed since the unprecedented fire on the Lancaster West estate, which claimed scores of lives, including friends of the children present.

The young people were set the task of designing posters to express their feelings experiences during summer 2017, presenting them to a panel of judges that included Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad. Contestants were judged on their artistic ability, literacy and presentation skills.

After much deliberation and disagreement, the cash prizes went to:

Third prize: Aisha, aged nine, for her poster ‘Asia, Africa’.

Aisha reflected on getting far away from North Kensington to Dubai, Kenya (which she described as ‘boring’ – sorry Kenya) and Somalia. Aisha gained the judges’ praise for her lively, confident presentation.

Aisha
Aisha, 9, with Emma Dent Coad MP

Second prize: Abdullahi M, aged nine, for his poster ‘My Sad but Amazing Summer’.

Abdullahi described the events of 14th June as they had unfolded for him, talking about his mother’s tears, and the united local community. He ended his presentation with the words “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

Abdullah
Abdullahi with Emma

First prize: Hussein, aged 13.

Hussein received first prize for his combination of a brilliant design and a very eloquent presentation, outlining how each section of his picture linked together, and explaining the abstractions to the audience and judges.

 

Winning Entry
‘Summer 2017’ by Hussein

The prizes were awarded by Emma Dent Coad MP, who hailed the organisations involved and the families in attendance, noting that they were doing “what we all want to do: making the most of ourselves and our children”.

The event showcased the effectiveness of well-established and well-connected community groups. Already up and running and filling in gaps in provision long before the Grenfell fire, these organisations were in place to provide much-needed support and relief when North Kensington was shattered by the events of June 14th. When government services were most needed, they were found wanting, but the community was able to provide some essential presence.

WSSP’s Director Kasim Ali said: “The aim was to help children cope with the Grenfell disaster by talking about it and expressing themselves artistically. At the same time they learned lifelong skills such as design, presentation and public speaking”.

img-20171002-wa0003.jpg

The other talented children taking part and so close to winning were:

  • Sahra
  • Maryama
  • Sharifa
  • Muna
  • Yasin
  • Ayman
  • Abdullahi E
  • Ibtisam
  • Abdirahman

 

 

As Abdullahi M said: “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

 

 

By Tom Charles

@tomhcharles

Baraka, No Drama

Untitled

The Baraka Youth Association have been grafting for over a decade to raise the level of educational attainment and integration of local young people of Somali origin.

With well-established roots in North Kensington and wider West London, Baraka forms part of the Somali Network in Kensington and Chelsea, a collective of Somali groups that organises events, support each other’s work and represent their community in meetings with local government.

Baraka carries out a range of educational and recreational activities: supplementary schooling for GCSE and ‘A’ Level students, English lessons, football coaching, gym and swimming sessions for children, as well as advice sessions and IT classes for adults. Baraka takes groups of local children on an annual field trip to East Sussex and last year the young people of the Association raised their own funds for a summer trip to Sweden for the first leg of a youth exchange programme.

Baraka’s enterprising efforts take place in a context of hardship for the local Somali community. A 2011 report by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council describes Somalis in the borough as a “Community in crisis.” Accounts of Somalis in London consistently identify a stream of problems: lack of adequate housing, a language barrier, poor educational attainment, arcane immigration procedures, hostile misrepresentation in the media, young men drifting in to crime and khat and institutional racism in Britain. There is a even a glaring underestimation of the size of the Somali population in London in official statistics, symptomatic of the fact that Somalis are an impoverished and somewhat forgotten group unable to demand much attention from wider society.

As public spending and welfare continues to be ruthlessly cut by our class conscious Tory government, the situation is precarious for many British Somalis. Education is identified in the community as the path to integration and economic well being, but with the dramatic rise in university tuition fees, there is a long road ahead for the bright young members of the Baraka Youth Association.

These young people excel at school, attend Baraka’s volunteer-run supplementary schools and homework clubs and talk about their love of London and their commitment to retaining their heritage and Somali identity. That they managed to find the time and energy to raise the funds for a hugely successful trip to Sweden is worthy of immense praise. But Britain hasn’t yet enabled its Somalis to maximise their contribution to society and their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit remain largely untapped resources. Britain’s sluggishness combined with the inevitable problems resulting from grinding poverty leave a serious and worrying reality.

The Guardian carried a couple of op-eds in 2012 putting a positive spin on the Somali Diaspora in Britain. There are reasons to be positive as the community begins to gain a foothold and individual Somalis make outstanding contributions. Nevertheless, the headings given to these articles, ‘Somali community in Britain begins to find its voice’ and ‘British Somalis: Nomads no more’ are somewhat misleading and do not accurately reflect the concerns of the authors.

Baraka Youth Association was been taking positive steps since long before David Cameron’s dud ‘big society’ idea was announced in 2010. During the preparations for Baraka’s 2012 Sweden visit, Abdullahi Ali, co-ordinator of the Youth Association told me of an idea he had: “Why not grow and sell our own fruit and veg? People will see Somalis in a positive light if we engage with them in business.”

True to form, Abdullahi and the Baraka Youth have made it happen. Baraka’s allotment in North Kensington is up and running and the ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place this week.

Working in partnership with Groundwork London Baraka are raising awareness in their community about the environment and sustainable food issues by growing their own fruit and vegetables. The young people will showcase their hard work on their allotment at the launch event with an afternoon of gardening workshops, games, prizes, food and refreshments.

At Baraka’s HQ on Ladbroke Grove Abdullahi told me: “We held a meeting and asked the children and young people what they wanted us to do. They were keen on doing something environmental; specifically they wanted to know how food is grown. So I spoke to the Kensington and Chelsea Youth Service who set us up with the Groundwork Community Development Team, who were then able to meet with the young people and develop ideas that have now become a successful project. The young people have already attended a number of sessions with Alice and Richard from Groundwork and are blogging about their experiences.”

And the Baraka Youth themselves? “My experience with the project has enabled me to become proactive in leading a group as well as being in a team” Suad Nur told me. “We all work towards our goal together: to grow our fruit and vegetables and distribute them to our community. Our gardening sessions brought us together as a team, and the support from Groundwork really helped with that.”

The ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place on Saturday the 13th of April, 12:00-3:00pm at the allotment in St Charles Centre for Health & Well-being. Everyone welcome.

This article was first published @ The Source Mag for Kensal Green, Kensal Rise, Queens Park and North Kensington