Is Mandela still worth a few votes for Hackney?

Nelson: Mandela remembrance and celebration afternoon, Hackney Museum, 1 Reading Lane E8 1GQ (020 8356 3500), Fri 3 Jan 2014 ©
Poster for Elba’s Mandela movie
Poster for Elba’s Mandela movie

ALMOST a month after the death of Nelson Mandela, Hackney council is to jump back on the bandwagon. Apparently the multimillion-dollar funeral attended by world leaders from the US President down was not enough.

The council announcement of the memorial makes no claim that “Madiba” had any connection with the borough. The council is, however, paying tribute to someone it can safely assume is near-universally loved. And doing so in an election year.

A tribute to possibly the most-admired politician of the 20th century is a cheap way to instil a warm feeling in capricious voters. See picture above.

Hackney has form in such cynicism. Its patronising of ethnic-minority voters probably reached its peak in the 1980s, including the naming of a street after Grace Jones, a Jamaican-born disco singer, although terming it an Alley may have been an in-joke too far for the performer of the number, Pull Up To The Bumper.

African-American abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth is another whose name has been appropriated by Hackney. Madinah Road, with its reference to one of the great shrines of Islam, supposedly appeals to Hackney’s Muslim residents.

Sojourner-Truth Close, off Richmond Rd, Hackney, London E8 251213 ©
Sojourner Truth: US campaigner

Guest speakers have been promised for the Mandela sham but none has yet been announced. Oona King, the Labour politician ousted by voters from Tower Hamlets, is bound to be on the list for her enthusiastic support of TV star Idris Elba, who stars in the Mandela biopic. They may have to settle for local MP Diane Abbott.

By coincidence, the Holly Street housing estate-raised actor’s Mandela movie opens in London on the same day as the Hackney ceremony.

It could not be that the Labour regime is trying, for reasons only it would know, to curry favour with the moviemakers, if only to have Oscars hopeful Elba be one of the guests who can help the party consolidate its hold on the Hackney levers of power.  No, it couldn’t, could it?

Hamish Scott 291213 

* Nelson Mandela remembrance and celebration afternoon, Hackney Museum, 1 Reading Lane E8 1GQ (020 8356 3500), Fri 3 Jan 2014 2pm-7pm. Guest speakers and performers at 5.30pm. Free. Good disabled access and facilities

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