The Friendly Lefty makes has commented on my last post that Respect’s decision not to field a candidate against Labour’s Lutfur Rahman can’t in any way be described as a pact.
Here are Respect’s two statements in full:
Tower Hamlets Respect Party last night decided by an overwhelming majority not to stand a candidate in the mayoral election. Instead Tower Hamlets Respect calls on on all its members, supporters and voters to vote for Lutfur Rahman to be Tower Hamlets’ first executive mayor.
The reasons for this decision are two-fold.
Firstly, Lutfur has been the subject of a vicious witch-hunt orchestrated from within the Labour party and fuelled from without by the extreme right wing press. This has demonised both Lutfur and significant sections of the Muslim community with a thinly veiled anti-Muslim racism. We welcome the fact that Lutfur saw off the despicable attempt inside the Labour Party to keep him off Labour’s selection shortlist and then to win with a large majority over his rivals. But we have no doubt that the witch-hunting and the smears against him will continue.
Secondly, Lutfur has declared since his selection that he wishes to build a broad coalition against the terrible cuts that the Condem government wishes to impose on the less well-off, the disadvantaged and the ordinary working people in this borough. We welcome this very much and we want to be part of that coalition to help ensure that those words are turned into action when Lutfur is elected, as we are sure he will be, on October 21st.
The programme of government we want to see from Mayor Lutfur Rahman includes
– Defence of public services and jobs
– Action to end the housing crisis by breaking with Labour’s previous failed policies
– Fighting all racism and discrimination
– Better schools and community facilities and safer neighbourhoods
– Making the Olympics deliver for the people of East London
George Galloway commented: “We are proud of the crucial role Respect played in establishing a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. This is a much more democratic system. I also stated that Lutfur Rahman was the kind of mayor we needed at the rally against the English Defence League three months ago. I am very pleased that he has finally been selected as Labour’s mayoral candidate. He will have my support in this election on the basis that he will lead the fight against the cuts from this terrible Condem government.”
Respect will be vigorously contesting the forthcoming by-election in Spitalfields and Banglatown that will occur as a result of Lutfur’s election, which we predict Respect will win, and the GLA elections in 2012.
Carole Swords, the chair of Tower Hamlets Respect, this morning spoke about the difficult decision Respect had had to make over the mayoral election. “We campaigned very hard for the referendum that Labour wanted to deny the people of Tower Hamlets and we were delighted when the people voted by a large majority for a directly elected mayor. This was never about setting something up that Respect could exploit, contrary to the smears put about by some in the Labour Party and others. It was about establishing a democratic and accountable system of governance in Tower Hamlets, unlike what has gone on here for so many years.
“As an electoral party, the members always want to contest elections wherever and whenever it is good for the people to do so. In this case, however, the overwhelming majority of Tower Hamlets Respect concluded we are dealing with unusual conditions. Lutfur Rahman has been subject to a terrible witch-hunt and yet he has shown his mettle by coming through it and convincingly winning selection. More than that, he has spoken of his determination to fight the cuts on the basis of the broadest possible coalition.
“It’s for these two reasons we are going to support him. I would emphasise we are not supporting the Labour Party which has done so much damage in Tower Hamlets, we are supporting this particular candidate, just as we supported Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral election. But we give notice that we will be voting for Lutfur on the basis he leads the fight against the Condem cuts. If he fails in that duty to the people of Tower Hamlets, we will be his fiercest critics.”
I’ve asked Respect for details of their vote last night, but so far they have declined to reply. I’ve also asked them to explain why, if they thought Lutfur was so good, they tried to oust him from his council seat in Spitalfields in May. I suppose that’s when Respect still had ambitions of being a proper player in Tower Hamlets. Those days seem to have gone.
Or have they? If Lutfur wins in October there will be a by-election in Spitalfields in which Respect will field a candidate, most likely their former town hall leader, Abjol Miah. I would not be surprised if he won, with not a little help from Lutfur’s backers. Many then predict that Respect would expect Lutfur to fulfill the pledge outlined in the statement above, ie a “determination to fight the cuts on the basis of the broadest possible coalition”.
Would that mean a cabinet seat for Abjol? Conspiracy? Perhaps, but let’s see. Funny how some of the other theories labelled conspiracy months ago are now in fact fact today.
So, while we do not have a Lib Dem/Tory coalition candidate, we do have a Labour/Respect coalition of sorts, or at least a Lutfur Camp/Respect coalition. It’s also worth noting that some of Lutfur’s leading supporters are ex-Respect councillors, Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum and Rania Khan. They left Respect because they could no longer stand the direction Abjol seemed to be taking the party. What political somersaults they’ve been doing!
By the way, here’s the dictionary definition of ‘pact':
UPDATE – 6.30pm
Just spoke to a spokesman for the London Labour party who has rejected speculation that the National Executive Committee has to rubber stamp Lutfur’s selection. He said: “I’ve double-checked it and as far as we are concerned it’s all done and dusted. Lutfur is our candidate.”