Hather Ali, of ‘bed in a shed’ fame, to stand for Labour in Higham Hill (naturally) UPDATED

News reaches this blog that the Labour Party has chosen Mr. Hather Ali as a candidate for Higham Hill in the forthcoming local elections.

This is certainly very surprising, because a couple of years ago Mr. Ali – the nephew of longstanding Labour Cabinet member Liaquat Ali – was involved in a rather unsavoury but very public Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) case concerning a ‘bed in a shed’.

The story is as follows. In 2002, members of Hather Ali’s close family, including his mother, purchased 305 Higham Hill Rd., and rented it out.

However, when, in response to a complaint, LBWF officers later inspected the property, they found that an occupied extension to the back of the building was unfit for habitation, and accordingly served a prohibition order to have it demolished.

In response, Mr. Shokat Ali – father of Hather, and brother of Liaquat – appealed to the RPT on behalf of his wife, and was represented at the hearing by his son, who, handily, popped up acting for the managing agent involved, Star Lettings.

LBWF’s case was presented by Ms Catherine Lovett, a LBWF Environmental Health Officer, with a degree and ten year’s worth of practical experience, and her written and verbal evidence included the following (emphasis added):

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In reply, Mr. Hather Ali claimed that ‘the landlord was committed to carrying our repairs’; had put in fire alarms and redecorated; and anyway, the condition of the property was not as bad as had been made out. In written evidence, his father added ‘“The extension was built over 10 years ago and is not dangerous. The condensation is due to the tenant never opening windows, I can carry out any works to improve the property…but extension is very safe”’.

The Tribunal was thus offered a plethora of competing arguments and facts, but after due consideration, it was in no doubt about who to believe.

The Ali’s case was completely rejected, the original decision upheld, and costs were awarded to LBWF.

Subsequently, the Alis’ trouncing was covered by the Waltham Forest Guardian (WFG), Private Eye,  and Guido Fawkes (see links below).

For his part, Mr. Hather Ali told the WFG in mitigation: ‘“It was our right to go to the tribunal, so we did. The building had been there for 13 or14 years and there has been no problems with it at all. We bought it as it is now. We are no longer disputing it and we are fully compliant. We are going to knock it down and re-build it again”’.

But in some respects this only added fuel to the fire. Mr. Hather Ali might claim that it was ‘our right’ to go to appeal, but this glossed over the fact that at various times in the troubled life of number 305 the Alis and/or Star Lettings had failed to comply with LBWF Improvement Notices and even a Schedule of Works, whilst also rejecting offers from the Town Hall to discuss matters amicably. Similarly, his belief that there had been ‘no problems’ with the property simply flew in the face of the evidence, and in addition exhibited an unhealthy complacency (to put it mildly).

Finally, though both Ali senior and junior repeated the line that the extension had been purchased as it now stood, there were reliable and less partisan observers around who insisted that the ‘bed in a shed’ was in reality only a few years old – a  lack of agreement about a basic fact that inevitably amused Private Eye.

Regarding what relevance any of this has now, opinions will no doubt differ. As with Cllr. Mbachu, some will argue that Mr. Hather Ali’s professional life is of no consequence to the rest of us. But housing is a sensitive subject, and leaving aside details and even the RPT judgement itself, the bottom line is that Mr. Hather Ali (a) was intimately involved in a situation where individuals and perhaps families were rented grossly inadequate housing, both unhealthy and unsafe, and (b) might well have carried on in the same vein, but for the intervention of the law – and if that kind of behaviour is not inconsistent with Labour values, what is?

However, it is becoming clearer by the day that, in Waltham Forest at least, discussing such matters in terms of ethics or morality is largely a dead duck. Realpolitik rules. Cllr. Coghill and her chums need Cllr. Liaquat Ali (and so his kin) in order to stay in power, meaning that there won’t be any criticism from that direction. Momentum is engaged in the same kind of tawdry games, where the ends always justify the means, however grubby – a ‘new politics’ it certainly isn’t. So all in all anyone with the Ali name is pretty bullet-proof.

Indeed, far from being considered a pariah, Mr. Hather Ali likely will now find himself welcomed into congenial company on the Labour benches.


Tim Bennett-Goodman, the ex-Labour, now Independent, councillor for Higham Hill Ward comments:

‘Having dealt with this case as a ward councillor your article revives unhappy memories.

I supported Hather Ali when he wanted to stand in 2013, feeling that I should offer a young fellow-Labour member encouragement and support. His subsequent high-profile involvement in this case was thus not only professionally embarrassing but personally upsetting. It felt like a betrayal, not just of my trust but of the Labour values I thought we shared.

The Tribunal is in the past now and I could have accepted Hather’s selection in any other ward than Higham Hill. But to seek, and gain, selection in the very ward whose residents were treated with such disregard for their safety and wellbeing is at best tactless and at worst disrespectful.

It remains to be seen what my residents make of it when they come to consider who to vote for next May’.

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