CONSTITUENTS IN Bethnal Green & Bow were stunned today as the constituency MP, Labour’s Rushanara Ali, snubbed a local reporter trying to ask her a question at a public meeting.
The incident occurred at a public meeting in defence of the Rohingya people being held on Friday at the London Muslim Centre. Rushanara was giving a prepared comment to the cameras. She said that the harassment of the Rohingya was wrong and tantamount to ethnic cleansing – and then spent some time saying that she had sent a letter, which 176 fellow MPs had signed, to the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, asking them to take action.
As she drew her comments to the cameras to a close, a reporter from LB24TV, an East London-based TV on demand community channel, tried to ask Rushanara a question. She went to sit down and as he approached her she said sternly “Can you not do that?” As he asked if he could put a question to her, she followed with “Go away!” The reporter pointed out that she could have spoken nicely to him, but she pointed into the distance, gesturing to him to “beat it” as she turned her head away.
Some unidentified men arrived on the scene and encouraged the reporter to move away. The reporter thanked Ms Ali for her time and walked to the side, clearly frustrated at her refusal to engage.
Rushanara Ali’s response to questions of foreign policy has been disturbing her constituents for some time.
•Rushanara Ali is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma and visited the country in 2013. She wrote an article in The Guardian last December. The Parliamentary Group makes the running on issues related to Burma, so it is not surprising that Rushanara Ali took the lead in organising a statement from UK MPs – a letter to the Foreign Secretary is the least she could have done. Constituents are disappointed that, given the humanitarian crisis, she has not done more.
•Last October, Labour MP and then Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry put a motion in the House of Commons calling on the UK Government to do more to stop the unfolding civil war and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen – and in particular to look into Saudia Arabia’s role in the conflict. Neither of Tower Hamlets two Labour MPs voted on the motion.
•More recently, two constituents of Bethnal Green & Bow went to the House of Commons to lobby Rushanara Ali about arms sales to Saudi Arabia – as part of a lobby organised by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Rushanara did not come to speak to the constituents who went to speak to her about this issue.
Some constituents have expressed disappointment that Rushanara appears to be comfortable expressing opposition to an internationally unpopular regime (in Mayanmar) but appears reluctant to speak out on equally important human rights issues to do with a government which the Tory Government is holding back from criticising. Does this represent the policy of the Labour Party?
•View Rushanara Ali refusing to speak to an LB24TV reporter: