Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shady dealings in support of Red Ken at the LSESU

Remember Fadhil Bakeer Markar? He was last seen on this blog sending an inflammatory and highly biased letter about Israel to every LSE fresher. Now he's abusing his position again, this time in support of Red Ken. Signing a letter to the Guardian with not just his own name but also that of the LSE Students' Union. This is an abuse of his position and quite possibly a breach of charity law. Here's an article that was published in the latest issue of the LSE's student newspaper - The Beaver (not online elsewhere I'm afraid) - which sets it all out:

Case for resignation
The signing of the letter in The Guardian supporting the re-election of Ken Livingstone by two SU representatives is illegal and unconstitutional
by Alex Teytelboym

This week The Beaver has kindly pointed out that Fadhil Bakeer Markar, our already disgraced General Secretary, and Ruhana Ali, the hitherto low-profile Education and Welfare officer, signed a letter to The Guardian newspaper supporting the mayoral re-election of Ken Livingstone (can be found on the Guardian Unlimited website).

Livingstone is not a particularly pleasant character. Dubbed 'Red Ken' for his notoriously left-wing views and support for Venezuelan rogue socialist regime, he was nevertheless popular among Londoners. The signatories of the letter claim that Livingstone has "championed a policy of tolerance, understanding and mutual respect of communities." That policy famously expired when Livingstone was suspended from office for four weeks in March 2006 for intentionally calling a Jewish Evening Standard reporter a 'concentration camp guard'. According to his lawyers he was not acting in official capacity. Of course he was not. Nor was Mel Gibson.

Livingstone's nasty character is entirely beside the point. The point is that the letter was signed thus: "Ruhana Ali, Fadhil Bakeer-Markar, LSE students union". From a point of view of a casual Guardian reader, it may seem as if the LSE SU, a charity, supports a political candidate. But the Charity Commission states very clearly on their website: "Following the principles, it is acceptable for a charity to advocate support for a particular policy, even if that policy solution is advocated by a political party or candidate, providing the the policy is in furtherance of the charity's purposes. However a charity must not support a political party or candidate". No mention of clear policies in the letter, by the way.

At last week's UGM, Bakeer Markar was very angry with me for pointing out that he potentially broke the law. He claimed that he and Ali signed the letter "in a personal capacity". If Tony Blair signed a letter to Vladimir Putin saying "You suck!" and signed it "Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, in personal capacity", what do you think the repercussions for the Anglo-Russian relationship would be? How do you think it would be reported to Vladimir? And would Vladimir ever bother to read a letter from any old Tony?

The same logic applies here. Bakeer Markar and Ali abused their positions as elected sabbatical officers and trustees of this Union and betrayed its members. Last year our students voted for them in the confidence that they would use their positions for the betterment of the Union. These two sabbaticals have used our trust to advance their own political goals. As Daniel Finkelstein pointed out on the Comment pages of the Times in October: "Charities are allowed to engage in limited political activity but only to support their genuinely charitable, non-political objectives and only if they are careful not to allow these activities to to dominate their work, becoming the main way of achieving their objectives." Politics has dominated the agenda of Bakeer Markar and Ali since before their re-election, although their precise associations remain unclear. It is no secret that they received ardent support from murky, fraternity-like NUS organisations, such as the Student Broad Left and former sabbaticals.

Bakeer Markar and Ali must reveal who approached them to sign the letter. On 3 January a letter appeared in the Guardian Comment is Free section. It was signed by 63 prominent individuals and charities, of which about a third are closely linked to fundamentalist Muslim organisations according to the Centre for Social Cohesion. Lord Falkner challenged The Guardian to publish a list of Muslims supporting the other candidates. Instead, two days later the letter, signed by our sabbaticals, appeared in the newspaper. Bakeer Markar refused to answer questions from The Beaver reporters about the letter and reveal who approached them to sign the letter. Ali invented a new deadline for quotes and went to consult him. This conspiratorial behaviour suggests that Bakeer Markar and Ali may have some embarassing political associations and influences, including the signatories of the first letter.

It is in my opinion, that Bakeer Markar and Ali signed the letter under instructions from someone, who is closely connected to the mayoral office. It shows no signs of independent thinking, rather a following of orders. Both of them appeared at a party recently thrown by the mayoral office for London students' union sabbaticals. I wonder how much of this article has been censored. Last time a key quote from my new investigation on Bakeer Markar mysteriously dissapeared. He then pressured The Beaver to install "in my opinion" in front of almost every controversial statement on these pages. The Beaver executive editor bravely defended my article.

Bakeer Markar has something in common with Livingstone. They both refuse to apologise and admit their mistakes. In the denial of wrongdoing, they both look pathetic. As Livingstone should have two years ago, Bakeer Markar and Ali should resign today.

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