Elected Leader of Tower Hamlet’s Council Lutfur Rahman is Overthrown as Electoral Judge Substitutes Himself for the Electorate
I have a letter in today’s Guardian condemning the removal of the leader. In the same issue there is a typical Guardian handwringing leader which fails to grasp the serious constitutional and democratic issues involved.
|Letter in Guardian today|
I don’t know whether or not Mr Rahman was corrupt (or more corrupt than other local authority leaders). What I do know is that he was, despite the allegations re-elected and singled out by both major political parties - Tory and Labour for abuse. Labour, whom Mr Rahman left, after the usual ‘democratic’ expulsion procedures and the Tories, who have virtually no support in the Wardleft it to the far-right Eric Pickles. Pickes, a Zionist neo-con to the tip of his belly, did the dirty work and sent in the Commissioners.
|Sacked by New Labour he Successfully Won the Elections|
Lutfur was singled out for attacks by both political parties and the subject of a witchunt by Panorama. When you think of the major corruption in the City and among Defence Contractors Panorama of course picks on one of the poorest local authorities in Britain for an 'investigation'. I watched it. 'Piss poor' is one of the milder accusations. It proved nothing and was heavy on innuendo. Real journalistic investigation as per Wiki Leaks or Edward Snowden is beyond it.
What is known is that the Police refused to take action on this ‘corruption’. Mr Rahman was accused of using the race card (unlike the largely White Labour and Conservative Parties) or indeed unlike UKIP. It beggars belief.
|Lutfur & Supporters|
Mr Rahman was accused of using unlawful religious influence. Presumably unlike Protestant Unionist candidates in Scotland and Ireland or Catholic anti-abortionist priests in Liverpool or Jewish Zionist rabbis in Hendon and Finchley. The whole issue stinks and it is British racism which is putrefying.
|Lufur Rahman and George Gallway|
'The story of Lutfur Rahman is a democratic success story.' Photograph: Graeme Robertson
Friday 30 May 2014
Lutfur Rahman had barely been elected for his second term as independent mayor of Tower Hamlets before an offensive began to delegitimise the results.
|Lutfur and Peter Tatchell|
This is to be expected. There had been a concerted effort by the media and political establishment to smear Rahman. This culminated in a Panorama exposé, followed by Eric Pickles sending in police to investigate the documentary's claims. And though the investigation turned up no credible evidence of wrongdoing, Labour insiders were confidently expecting victory. To be defeated by a convincing margin in an election where the turnout was London's highest must have hurt.
Now, claims of intimidation at polling stations have been made, by two local councillors hostile to Rahman. Given that there was a policeman stationed at each polling station throughout the election, such intimidation would be particularly brazen. Oddly, no complaint was received on the day, and no such allegations have been reported to police.
|Ken Livinstone - one of the few major politicians who express his unease at what has happened|
Let's consider the specific claims made. Mile End Labour councillor Rachael Saunders described "huge crowds" outside some polling stations, "shouting at people or encouraging them to vote in a particular way". Tower Hamlets Tory councillor Peter Golds also claims that at one polling station he visited, 11 supporters of Rahman were stationed inside the grounds and could be seen thrusting leaflets into the hands of Bengali voters and escorting them to the door of the polling station.
Handing out leaflets and even encouraging people to vote in a particular way is not a breach of electoral law. But whatever the truth of these claims, it is unclear that any voter was actually intimidated into changing their vote. The US-based rightwing website Breitbart, which investigated Rahman's "intimidation", found that there were also, in fact, Labour party volunteers who were crowding polling sites.
We've seen this before. In 2010, in Rahman's first run for mayor, the Labour party debarred him owing to accusations of electoral fraud, after he'd been chosen to be Labour's candidate. Rahman won as an independent and a subsequent investigation by the Electoral Commission found "no evidence" of membership abuse. However, while the accusations were widely reported, the commission's findings remained absent from the popular press.
|Eric Pickles - who hates local democracy - has willingly done New Labour's work - a Zionist neo-con|
Likewise, in 2012, there were accusations of electoral fraud against Rahman in two Tower Hamlets byelections. Of 154 allegations, the Electoral Commission found 151 to be without merit, but probed three. What followed was a wide-ranging investigation by the Metropolitan police and the Electoral Commission. A year later, the report found that "the vast majority" of complaints "were reported by local councillors" and that there was "insufficient evidence to prove an offence". While the accusations were reported by every major news source, the outcome of the investigation into them was not.
These claims can be seen as part of a wider political attack, intended not just to delegitimise the outcome of this vote, but to stigmatise Rahman's supporters. One of Golds' claims, for instance, is that in 2010 every Bangladeshi voter in the ward he was standing was stopped and told that he was gay and Jewish. It seems unlikely that Golds both speaks Bengali and was able to hear every conversation that took place. But Golds also implicitly assumes that Bangladeshi voters are homophobic and antisemitic. If this is true then Rahman is plainly not the mayor for them. Rahman has never hesitated to repudiate instances of antisemitism in the borough and has committed to restoring the East London Central synagogue. When the Old Ship, a local gay bar in Limehouse, was faced with the prospect of being unable to renew its licence, Rahman intervened to back a vibrant local campaign, ensuring it could continue to operate with a new 15-year licence.
Indeed, the attacks on Rahman often imply that his supporters are the bearers of ideas not fit for a "mature democracy", as Nick Clegg put it. In recent days, several media outlets have alleged that Rahman's former adviser Kazim Zaidi is threatening street violence unless the outcome of the election is accepted. In fact, Zaidi's actual statement makes no mention of violence, but of a political battle between a grassroots old Labour politics and a machine-driven New Labour spilling "onto the streets". Surely a mature democracy is used to the idea of people taking their grievances to the streets?
The thrust of all this is quite plain. It is to depict a democratically elected politician as a sort of Asiatic despot whose supporters, far from being an energised democratic populace, are stigmatised as intimidating by sheer dint of their number and enthusiasm. There is a deep substrate of racism informing this.
Absent in this type of invective is any consideration of why, in spite of the frenzied mobilisation against Rahman, his own base mobilised even more ardently, putting him back in power with about 12,000 more votes than he received in 2010. The fact that his administration, with its modest means, has built more affordable social housing than anywhere else in the country, may not matter to Rahman's opponents, but it seems to matter to his voters. Tower Hamlets replaced the full education maintenance allowance after the government abolished it, expanded a living wage requirement for all contractors, and allocates a £1,500 grant to every university student. It was the first council in the country to ban contracts with firms that blacklist trade unionists, absorbed all cuts to council tax benefit, refuses to enforce the bedroom tax, and has avoided many of the cuts to vital services, such as libraries and youth clubs.
The story of Lutfur Rahman is a democratic success story. The fact that it seems dodgy to the political and media classes is indicative of how long they've been insulated from anything resembling real democracy.
Met considers criminal inquiry into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur RahmanRahman is told to vacate post immediately after election court judge finds him guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May
Police are considering whether to launch a criminal inquiry relating to the former mayor of Tower Hamlets after he was found guilty of multiple corruption allegations by the high court and kicked out of office.
The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have used religious intimidation through local imams, vote-rigging and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist to gain power.
Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to have allocated local grants to buy votes. He was ordered to pay immediate costs of £250,000 from a bill expected to reach £1m.
Summing up, Judge Richard Mawrey said Rahman had sought to play the “race and Islamophobia card” throughout the election and would no doubt do so after this judgment. “He was an evasive witness – Rahman was no doubt behind illegal and corrupt practices,” Mawrey said.
He also faces being stripped of his profession as a lawyer after the judge claimed he told “a pack of lies” in the witness box.
The ferocity of the judge’s verdict provoked gasps in court. Friends of Rahman claimed he had been unfairly treated.
Police on Thursday struggled to react to the judgment, based mainly on evidence put together by local voters. Last April, detectives examined allegations of electoral fraud and corruption against Rahman but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
A Met statement last night said the force has noted the judgment and will consider the 200-page report.
Rahman, who is no longer mayor and will be removed from the electoral roll, expressed shock at the judgment and said he was considering launching a judicial review – his only possible course of legal action.
A statement on his website said: “Today’s judgment has come as a shock – the mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice system, and so this result has been surprising to say the least.”
Even if he does challenge the ruling, he will not stop a new mayoral election, which is expected to be held in mid-June. Rahman is barred from standing again.
However, Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor, said he was “distinctly uncomfortable” with a court’s ability to remove an elected mayor. “If there is any illegality, then surely that’s a matter for the police.
“I’m uneasy that a mayor who has taken on the political powers in a borough can be removed by someone who is essentially a bureaucrat. What I don’t understand is why he [Mawrey] found evidence of corruption that the police have so far failed to identify,” he said.
The judge handed down his verdict on Thursday after a 10-week hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.
A group of four residents – defined as petitioners by the election court – had called for last year’s mayoral election, in which Rahman triumphed over Labour rival John Biggs, to be declared void.
Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court, limited though it necessarily was to the issues raised in the petition, has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets.
“This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man. The real losers in this case are the citizens of Tower Hamlets.”
Mawrey said the effect of his ruling was that “Mr Rahman’s election as mayor on 22 May 2014 was void – that is to say, it is as if it had never taken place”.
Rahman’s election agent, Alibor Choudhary, was also banned as a councillor with immediate effect.
The petitioners were praised by the judge for their courage and told that they had been fully vindicated.
They called for a criminal inquiry into Rahman but questioned whether it could be carried out by local police because of their “connections” to Rahman.
Azmal Hussain, a petitioner who said he would have lost his Brick Lane businesses if they had lost the case, dismissed concerns that the judgment would be seen as racist.