Remember the dastardly death threat against Mayor Lutfur Rahman that, er, wasn’t quite that?
On March 24, during what former Labour party manager Rob Marchant described as a “bored Saturday afternoon”, he had a Twitter conversation with a couple of friends. The topic of Tower Hamlets came up, then the question of whether Lutfur would ever be readmitted to the Labour fold.
Rob tweeted that were that to happen: “Makes mental note to keep revolver well oiled.” Then: “I will load the revolver and we can all take turns.”
Now, in theory it is possible to infer that Rob does have a revolver, and that it would be used not for an actual game of Russian Roulette but rather for a genuine act of murder–but such a theory could only be held by sado-masochistic fantasists, the illiterate, the humour-free, or the plain trouble-making.
The only reasonable inference was that the remarks were a joke about shooting themselves, ie “if Lutfur is let back in, we may as well all pack up”. Rob later explained it all here.
No. Lutfur, a qualified solicitor, saw the remarks as a genuine, imminent threat against his life. So he reported them to the police.
And incredibly, the police, who clearly had no burglaries to solve that day, actually launched an investigation.
Here’s what borough commander Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer said:
I am satisfied an appropriate police investigative response has been put in place and the matter will be subject to regular review … We do not discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.
And unsurprisingly, following some exceptionally tenacious detective work, the police later concluded there had been no crime.
The Observer journalist Nick Cohen criticised Lutfur for acting like a bully and for wasting police time, to which the Mayor had this response:
Unsurprisingly, as a prominent Muslim figure, I frequently receive abuse and threats — mainly from racist extremists of the EDL-ilk. That and the sheer violence of Marchant’s language in discussing me (‘I will load the revolver and we can all take turns … [makes mental note to keep revolver well cleaned and oiled]’) should explain why I acted when the tweets were drawn to my attention.
Now, all this is old news of course, but I was intrigued as to who might have encouraged the Mayor to go to the police.
His paid media adviser Mark Seddon, the respected investigative journalist, broke the story to the world via Twitter on March 26 at 7.52pm, thus:
Extraordinary. Rob Marchant, former Labour Party Manager, reported to police for tweeting death threats to Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
That tweet seems to have since been deleted from Mark’s timeline.
So I submitted an FoI request asking for all emails concerning the Rob Marchant tweet sent between Lutfur and any of his advisers or council officers.
The council says it doesn’t have any.
But it does have the email sent to the borough commander reporting the suspected crime. Here it is (the council has redacted the name of the sender):
Sent: 26 March 2013 16:03
Subject: Death threats to Mayor Lutfur Rahman on Twitter
Dear Chief Superintendent xxxxx,
I have just been alerted to the attached threats made on Twitter on Mayor Rahman’s life by ‘Rob Marchant @rob_marchant’ and am reporting it as a crime.
I’m sure you will agree the serious nature of these threats and urge you to investigate as a matter of urgency.
We would be happy to assist the police with any enquiries as part of the investigation.
Executive Mayor’s Office
t: 020 7364
“I’m sure you will agree the serious nature of these threats and urge you to investigate as a matter of urgency.”
As Mark Seddon quite rightly says….Extraordinary.
What strikes me from all this and other recent events is that there seems to be a tactic among Lutfur & Co to resort to the Standards Board, libel threats and the police in attempts to silence or discredit their critics.
And it’s also a little disturbing that Chief Supt Dave Stringer seemed so eager to please the Mayor that he ordered an investigation instead of just ringing him for a friendly chat to say, “Are you sure about this, pal?” I wonder how many silly (and clearly targeted) death threats are simply brushed off every day by the front desk at Bethnal Green police station.
Clearly, the borough commander is in a [small p] political situation (and he will surely think less of the mayor for being used like this), but Andrew Gilligan worried here about the relationship between the Met and the Tower Hamlet town hall. This episode gives more weight to that theory.