Last night’s poorly attended Labour group meeting was a 1-1 draw for former Tower Hamlets council leader Lutfur Rahman, it seems. I hear that several councillors, including mayoral hopefuls Shiria Khatun and Siraj Islam, failed to turn up, so missing out on the chance to vote for how much they could be earning over the next few years.
Whereas Lutfur’s motion to limit the number of terms a directly elected Labour mayor can serve to two was rejected, elements of his proposals to cut councillors’ allowances in these austere times were nodded through. They will be put to the council’s cabinet on July 7 and then to a vote of the full council a week later. If councillors do vote to cut their pay (and subsequently the number of positions which attract take-home cash – see this story about patronage in neighbouring Newham for how the system is used elsewhere), then they will be applauded.
In other developments, the fall-out from the Great Labour Stitch-Up continues. Current council Helal Abbas is understandably upset, but there is not much he can do. His friends are urging him to declare for John Biggs and so put down a marker for the deputy mayor position, but he’s resisting that, preferring instead to keep his options open. Such prevarication could prove costly, but if the mood music coming from the John Biggs camp is anything to go by, he could be right. Sources close to John tell me that a feature of a Mayor Biggs regime would be meritocracy and not patronage: if you’re good and you can demonstrate you’ve been good and will be good, you’ll be rewarded with work. This would be a revolution in Tower Hamlets politics. Which means it’s unlikely to happen, of course.
Meanwhile, the grapevine is abuzz with a new potential spanner in the Labour works. Following the “anti-fascist” mark in the East End two weeks ago (reported in different styles by the Guardian here and the Evening Standard here), I hear that the organisers, London Citizens and United East End, are thinking of fielding their own candidate. (Some are wondering whether Lutfur might be tempted.) There’s a good chance this would be backed by Respect who would be able to dress up the campaign as a grass roots movement against the Labour machine.
In all likelihood, if Biggs is chosen for Labour, the United East End candidate would be someone from the British-Bangladeshi community and be supported by people keen on highlighting racial lines.
The irony would be beyond despair.