Below is a letter that Labour’s John Biggs has sent to a few local papers in which he criticises Ken Livingstone’s support for Lutfur Rahman.
John lost of course by some 3,000 second round votes in May to Lutfur. He remains a London Assembly member for the City & East constituency.
He is also likely to be called and cross-examined as a witness for the Tower Hamlets election petitioners in the forthcoming court hearing.
That hearing, by the way, is likely to start at the end of January. It could well last between two and three months, which would mean any mayoral election re-run taking place after May’s general election.
It’s not at all certain, of course, who would contest such a re-run. Were Lutfur to lose the hearing he might be barred from office. It could be, however, that the judge rules the actual count unlawful, but that it was not Lutfur’s fault. In that case, Lutfur might be free to stand again.
Would John Biggs want to contest a re-run anyway? Would the party locally or regionally want him to?
Would Lutfur want to stand again?
He seems to be trying to raise/improve his national profile at the moment as a darling of the Left. He’s changed his Twitter photograph to show a more workmanlike down-to-earth image: tie loosened, shirt sleeves rolled up.
And the people who write his Tweets for him are concentrating far more on national, as opposed to local, political and social issues.
I’ve written on here a few times about the internal battle within his Tower Hamlets First party over who might stand against Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Bow next May.
Speculation has previously centred on Abjol Miah (who still encourages people to “vote Respect” on Twitter), Rabina Khan and possibly Ohid Ahmed.
But I wonder whether Lutfur himself might be interested?
[He has wanted to become an MP for many years. It was during his campaign to become Labour’s PPC for the seat in 2007, when Rushanara eventually triumphed, that he fell out with his “friend” Helal Abbas. Here’s a letter he wrote to my former paper, the East London Advertiser in March 2007.]
Were Lutfur to stand next May, it would mean campaigning during the period of the Election Court…when his expensively assembled legal team could be making headlines for him.
Curious and curioser…
Anyway, here’s Jogn Biggs’s letter:
I have great respect for the achievements of Ken Livingstone, and was proud to have worked alongside him for eight years at City Hall. His vision for London is, in my view, unmatched.
The Olympics, massive transport investment, and a focus on policing which helped to restore public confidence, would not have happened without him.
His focus on the plight of those on low incomes, and on helping people to get the skills they need for employment and to help themselves, was a vital part of his work too.
While not everything he did was right, a lot was and his successor, Boris Johnson, has coasted on his achievements, unwisely reversing some while, as with the Olympics, Crossrail and police numbers, brazenly trying to claim credit for others (even while, in some cases, undermining them).
Ken’s genuine passion for our City made him, in my view, a great and visionary London Mayor.
And I pay great respect also to his work while at the GLC. In particular he will be remembered for his work on equalities, challenging discrimination and disadvantage faced by many simply because of their race, gender, sexuality, physical ability or the disadvantage or poverty of their background.
At the time he was attacked as dangerously left wing and ‘politically correct’. Nowadays those views are generally seen as part of proper mainstream thinking – not about a free lunch, but about a greater fairness.
Again, not everything he did was right but his legacy is solid.
However, he is absolutely wrong in his recent comments about Tower Hamlets politics.
Politics is about passions, strong opinions and different priorities. However, his representation of Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman as a victim of a stitch up is just plain wrong.
I and others am proud to have played a part in helping East Enders from different backgrounds and cultures to have access to power.
But we are in a different age now – people who are in power have a duty to act properly, and high standards apply to everyone.
The local Mayor, who has, I am sure, many positive qualities, has seriously failed the East End and Ken does nobody a service, in any community, by pretending it is someone else’s fault.
While Ken Livingstone and a small minority of those who claim to be on the Left, believe Lutfur Rahman is a victim, in my view, and that of many, many others, it is the people of Tower Hamlets, including in the Bengali community, who are the victims of his misuse of power in the Town Hall.
I am proud to have worked with Ken but disappointed that he is unwilling to see this. He is at risk of the classic error of the Left, of fighting internal battles and living in the past.
We need to move on from this.
John Biggs AM (and 2014 Tower Hamlets Labour Mayor Candidate)