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andy erlam

Election court petitioner Andy Erlam

John Biggs is to be congratulated for winning the re-run Tower Hamlets mayoral election.  The result was a clear rejection of Rahmanism and of Rahman’s proxy candidate, Rabina Khan.

We now expect John Biggs to ruthlessly root out the rest of the corruption at the town hall within the three years left in his mandate. If he starts to do this, he can be sure of my and many others’ co-operation.  But he and the Labour Party must also now reflect on the fact that it was Labour that created the crisis in the first place.

That is why Labour was so hostile towards the Election Petition initially and made various attempts to sink it.  Biggs himself was a very reluctant witness who had to be coaxed for months to provide an adequate statement for the court. Almost all other local Labour “leaders” looked the other way.  One allegedly actively dissuaded people from giving evidence.  What is the point of leaders who lead from the back?

There remains a question hanging in the air.  Everyone knew that election corruption was rife in Tower Hamlets. It’s been going on for years, so why didn’t anyone, apart from Ted Jeory, Andrew Gilligan and Mark Baynes, do anything about it? Remember, Rahman was, and in many ways still is, a Labour man.  So the choice in the election was really between Labour and Labour. Return of the One Party State of Tower Hamlets.

Rahman claimed in the election court that senior Labour officials such as Keith Vaz, Ken Livingstone and Len McCluskey had met him and his deputy Alibor Chaodhury and that they had agreed a “pathway” with the party leadership for Rahman to get back into the Labour fold. The Labour leadership has never denied this dirty deal behind the backs of both the Labour Party membership and the electorate. In my view, the only thing that stopped it being implemented was a spanner in the works in the form of the Election Petition.  My reading of Biggs’ victory speech last Thursday was a hint at some form of reconciliation with Tower Hamlets First group councillors. Too eager, too much, too early.

John Biggs

Mayor John Biggs with Labour supporters

Last year Labour decided not to take an Election Petition itself against Rahman, even though it suspected that he had, once again, committed industrial-scale fraud in the mayoral and local elections.  Maybe it was because historically Labour has also been involved in similar tactics? Rahman learnt his skills from Labour.

It’s all very well to talk about “drawing a line”, as Biggs does, but the body will only stand a chance of recovery if all the cancer is cut from the ailing body and we now know that election corruption was and is only the tip of the iceberg as regards corruption within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  The cancer of corruption is still there.

Intimidation and violence in local elections has not stopped in Tower Hamlets either. A few days before this election a Labour councillor was badly manhandled and bruised outside a mosque because he refused to support Khan.  In typical style, he appears not to be pressing charges “on advice from the elders”.  So supporters of Khan can get away with a potential crime?  And you want these people back in the Labour Party?

It’s my belief that numerous fraudulent and invalid votes were also cast again in Tower Hamlets and the police are investigating. If Khan is seriously considering her own Election Petition, who will it be directed at? My advice to her is: save other people’s money.  It will fail at the first hurdle and “be laughed out of court”.

The police have acceded to my request to extend their enquiries to include the local councillor elections and the courts have agreed that ballot papers must be preserved a further six months.  Complaints can be made direct to the Met at: SETelections@met.police.uk as soon as possible and before November at the very latest.  I hear that local Labour leaders are already advising disappointed 2014 Labour candidates to leave matters – i.e. not co-operate with the police.  And we wonder why so many local police enquiries run into the sand?

If people are now being discouraged from making formal complaints to the police about last year’s local councillor election fraud, they will live with the terrible consequences for years to come.  Incidentally, it has never been clear why Chris Weavers, Labour’s then election agent and local Party chair, failed to challenge any of the poll counts on May 22 2014 at the time. Looking back, was his inaction wise?

It will also be especially interesting to see whether Biggs will root out corruption connected with local land deals.  Scotland Yard is actively examining allegations of very serious fraud and misfeasance in public office on this aspect.  It will be interesting to see if the new mayor opens up all the books to a serious and robust police investigation or concentrates on “reputational” issues like a public affairs consultant for FIFA. There is also the small matter of the fraud issues coming out of the PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ investigation. Why is Scotland Yard turning a blind eye? There must be a reason.

The only aggravation I had on the streets was from a few self-styled Biggs aides who criticised me for ‘splitting the Labour vote’.  No vote belongs to Labour.  Like respect, every vote has to be earned.  Such arrogance has destroyed the ethical power of the Labour Party.  It is anti-democratic and indeed illegal to seek to pressurise voters and candidates. Don’t they know?  I take it as a badge of honour.  Remember Labour created Rahman.

Furthermore, the spectre in the election campaign of both Peter Golds openly boasting in public meetings that he would “lend” second preference votes to Labour, and of Biggs “lending” Labour’s second preferences to the Tories beggars belief. Have these people learnt nothing?

The voters have decided and that decision must be respected. I would like to thank the 1,768 people who voted for me, the many others who (I am told) wanted to but didn’t and the many more who put me down as their second preference.  Many wish to keep in touch and can do so at: andy@redflagac.org

We will now see if Labour will clear up, or cover-up, the mess of its own making.

Thanks to ‘Working Mum’ for highlighting this video on the comments section of this blog yesterday. I think it’s worthy of its own post.

It’s a video of Rabina Khan’s campaign launch featuring among others Lindsey German, of the Stop the War Coalition and former member of the SWP’s ‘Central Committee’.

They all get very excited and praise Lutfur Rahman’s “integrity” before the Great Man himself makes the late entrance of a Grand Dame from stage right to express righteous indignation at the consequences of the legal process: he singles out disqualified Alibor Choudhury, apparently standing at the back of the room, for a special shout-out.

The audience are all very excited by this stage but when it comes to Rabina’s speech, they look a bit bored: Lindsey German can be seen picking imaginary fluff from her jumper in the way people do when they’re irritated and distracted.

Meanwhile, you can also see Oli Rahman and Shahed Ali – the former speaks and the latter claps – and I wonder what those two now feel about having joined in the political charade.

At the time of the PwC report and as soon as the Election Court verdict came through they and one or two others had the chance to choose wisely and break away from the Tower Hamlets First Muppet Show.

Instead, they chose…..poorly.

petergoldsclara_2475094b

His Twitter handle is @Going4Golds and now he’s going for gongs.

Sorry.

Already a proud holder of an OBE – unlike some he rarely uses the initials but he does wear the medal in the presence of the Queen – Peter Golds is now being made a CBE, which is of an altogether higher rank.

He’s been awarded it for “services to local government” and undoubtedly his work in Tower Hamlets over the past decade, but particularly in the last five, has won it for him.

He’s the toast of the Isle of Dogs  – and further beyond.

Unlike some nonentities in Tower Hamlets politics, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but he does appear in Wikipedia…on Norma Major’s page. It was he who introduced her and John Major.

A true man of history!

Well done, and congratulations.

Motiur RahmanThis is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in Tower Hamlets politics.

This character, Motiur (Nanu) Rahman, issued this video on Wednesday and was standing for mayor last night. He came last with 292 votes. Had this speech been better publicised before the election he’d probably have sailed it.

I’m certain it’s serious although part of me also thinks it’s a new Sacha Baron Cohen character: I’d call him Bara G.

You’ll understand why after watching it. I’ll try and embed it here, but WordPress is a bit clunky embedding Facebook videos so if you can’t see it then do hit this link: it’s worth it.

When he says bara he means borough.

The comments underneath the posting on Abjol Miah’s Facebook page are also worth reading: they’re brilliant.

A Biggs conundrum

IMG_0664John Biggs delivered a far more generous victory speech last night to the Tower Hamlets First brigade than they perhaps deserved.

It wasn’t what he said precisely but the tone he used. I suppose it’s easy and better to be magnanimous in victory than to be crowing and churlish but he congratulated Rabina Khan for her campaign (who, by the way, didn’t reciprocate in her speech – she forgot to say well done and instead focused on the ‘me, me’ parts) and he promised to recognise the fact she polled so many votes. She won almost 26,000 votes on the first round, 1,500, or less than 2 per cent, behind John.

He said we shouldn’t forget that “a lot of bad things have happened” but that we should now move on.

He said he would hold office as a Labour mayor but in also praising Peter Golds he hinted at possible cooperation to come.

Peter, in his speech, struck a more wary tone. He said John won by “borrowing” votes from the other parties. As he said this, John raised a somewhat surprised eyebrow, but given the comments on this blog and on Twitter during the past couple of days, as well as the feedback John’s opponents were getting on the doorstep, I think Peter was doing no more than stating the bleeding obvious.

Peter polled 5,940 votes, or 8.7 per cent of the first round total. This was almost the same as Chris Wilford achieved last year in percentage terms (he got 7,173 votes in total) but far below the 20 per cent the Tories achieved only last month in the general election for the borough’s two constituencies.

And in second preference votes, there were a huge number of Tories who put Labour second yesterday.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 13.59.56For sure, this was an election in which Labour found friends in other parties.

I know that had John won last year he’d been planning to create an administration reflective of the rainbow nature of his support. It would be very surprising were that not the case this time.

The Government commissioners (who like almost all senior council officers will have been relieved by the result) will surely leave once they see functional politics at play again.

This is why Peter was right in his speech at the ExCeL centre to warn about the consequences for THF of last night’s defeat. Where do their band of jokers go now? Labour and the Tories will need to watch their backs when it comes to future candidate selection for councillors. More about them in a future post.

But more immediately, John now has to create an administration. He has already appointed three deputy mayors in Rachael Saunders, Shiria Khatun and Sirajul Islam, but there will be others wanting some reward. It was noticeable that Abdal Ullah, no longer a councillor, was the man who escorted John into the count last night.

There’s now a cabinet and other appointments to be be made. Some in his Labour group will have to bide their time. Will John take a Sir Robin Wales approach and dish out special responsibility allowances like confetti?

And how will he thank the Tories and in particular Peter Golds? Not so long ago, I suggested he’d make an excellent council Speaker. I think he’d love wearing the civic chains and ensuing order in the council chamber. Offering that role to him for a year would seem a wise choice. After that, I’d put him in charge of transparency and anti-corruption: a mini-Eric Pickles.

And then there’s Rabina. Could John offer her something? Would he? Would she accept? A role to encourage more women into politics? It would certainly create a split in the group of 17 “independents”. Or would she prefer to lead their group as Opposition leader. If the latter, she will need to formally join them and then take on Oli Rahman who has assumed that role.

And there is some talk about Rabina’s team examining a possible election petition against John’s win but how serious that is and on what grounds, I’m not sure.

I took some videos of this morning’s speeches and I will publish them once they’ve finished uploading in two hours’ time…

Lastly, congratulations to Labour’s Sabina Akhtar for winning in Stepney and to Andy Erlam and the other petitioners. Andy polled 1,768 votes yesterday – less than 3%  – but his fans are of a far, far higher number than that.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of last night’s fun.

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As I’ve done in previous years, I’ll make this post yours: an open thread. Please add sensible, detailed and accurate comments about what you’ve seen at polling stations, e.g. turnout, atmosphere etc etc. Please don’t libel anyone.

In the meantime, below are the latest returns for postal votes:

IMG_0648

So of the 29,581 postal votes issued to households for the mayoral election, 15,956 had been returned as of yesterday. That’s 54%. Of those returned 1,114, or 7%, have been rejected for various reasons, e.g. an incorrect signature, or too many crosses. So 14,806 will count. More will come in today.

I can’t find the full/actual figures for last year’s election so if anyone has them please send them to me. (And if anyone does have knowledge of how people have voted in the samples of ballots opened, please keep that to yourself: it’s an offence to disclose them.)

I’ve only been able to find these percentages from the Electoral Commission

FullSizeRender

Over to you..

…and here’s the first pic showing a canvassing exclusion zone outside Ben Jonson Primary School polling station. This is what it’s come to..  

 

This is a guest post by Vanessa Hudson who is standing for the Animal Welfare Party (she is the leader) in tomorrow’s Tower Hamlets mayoral election.

Vanessa-Hudson-300x200Ten years ago, if someone had told me I’d be running for Mayor of Tower Hamlets in 2015, I’d have told them they were terribly mistaken. I am an accidental politician. I only ever have and still do make my living purely from my other life as a freelance producer / director in the media industry.

Today I am the leader of a small political party and I’m running for Mayor of Tower Hamlets because I’m amazed and appalled in equal measure at the way other politicians of all parties, at both local and national level, have either no awareness of or no appetite to tackle some of the most serious challenges facing our society today – climate change and environmental degradation, the rise in preventable diseases and the increasing number of animals, now in their billions, suffering at hands of man for reasons that are pretty hard to justify.

The last challenge is of course a moral one. Disagree with my moral stand point on that and it’s easy to reject it – and of course people do and will. But the environmental and health challenges we face are realities that will affect all of us and quite possibly our children and grandchildren, regardless of whether they end up living in London, Rio de Janeiro or Shanghai.

The point our party makes and the reason I feel forced to speak out is that these three challenges are all connected and they stem largely from one issue – the way we’re choosing to feed ourselves.

Since the 1950’s, with increasing wealth, there’s been a rise in animal product consumption across the globe. Meals based around meat and fish are now the norm not the exception. Many people know that our human population now stands at 7 billion but we hardly ever hear about our global livestock population, now standing at 23 billion. It’s our gigantic and rapidly growing livestock population and the feeding and watering of these animals that is both a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and which also causes huge resource consumption and environmental degradation around the world.

Livestock farming actually now produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the transport sector combined. Rainforest is being cut down at a rate of an acre per second to grow soya beans to feed livestock and fish. Almost one third of the planet’s land is becoming desert – with the vast majority due to livestock grazing.

As the world population is set to rise to 10 billion by 2050, the livestock population is set to rise too, further exasperating these problems. If we carry on like this without making any changes to the way we feed ourselves, we’re going to need between three and four planets to sustain ourselves. AWP believes we face a very stark choice between addressing these issues now or accepting that the planet we hand over to our children and grand children may well not be habitable.

Of course, with every food choice we make, those of us living in Tower Hamlets are playing a part in this environmental degradation too but, should we decide we want to, we could play a world-leading role in its solution.

If the environmental consequences of our eating habits don’t alarm us yet, perhaps the health ones should, because there’s no other London borough that exemplifies the terrible health consequences of poor diet more than Tower Hamlets. We have the worst life expectancy in London, a huge problem with diabetes, younger than average cancer deaths, younger than average deaths from heart disease, a higher number of strokes than the national average and, in some of our wards, mortality rates for cardiovascular disease which are close to twice the national average.

And when it comes to the health of our children, the statistics beggar belief – by the time they’re just five years old, 15% of our children are already obese. By the time they’re eleven, the proportion has risen to almost 25%. At the same time, we know that 85% of those eleven-year-olds are not eating the recommended five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.

And that’s the point. The causes of such ill health are not unknown to us. These are chiefly preventable conditions and diseases. Although not the sole cause of our ill health, would reducing our reliance on animal products alleviate some of these problems? Science suggests yes. In fact, nationally, projections are that we could save 45,000 early deaths and the NHS £1.2 billion in funds per year if we cut down on meat consumption to three times per week.

We know what causes the terrible poor health of people living in Tower Hamlets and we know how to solve it but look for the real political will to do so and it’s hard to find. It’s almost as if inequality of health takes a back seat to other forms of inequality.

Are unhealthy and unsustainable food choices and inactivity two areas that local government can influence? I think they are and our addressing them should not be perceived as optional or in some way incompatible with the other important work the new Tower Hamlets administration will have to do.

So, in addition to our policies on creating a safer, cleaner, greener borough, building sustainable housing to be proud of and promoting sustainable environmentally friendly business, we’re giving priority to creating a healthier community living more sustainably.

We want to combat preventable disease, save NHS funds and protect the environment by promoting healthy, plant-based diets across the borough.

We believe we must reduce public spending on products known to have a negative effect on human health, the environment or animal welfare. And we must ensure sustainable, plant-based options are available on every menu and at every meal in schools, nurseries and care homes.

Voters have two choices for Mayor on Thursday. I hope some will use one of them to show there here in Tower Hamlets there is an appetite for and a belief in a better future for people, the environment and animals.

My Key Policies

•A Safer, Cleaner, Greener Borough

Increased policing, tougher action on gangs, ASB, dumping and littering. Real action against businesses that contribute towards the pollution and degradation of the local environment. Further greening of urban areas and the development of urban growing.

•A Healthier Community Living More Sustainably

Combat preventable disease, save NHS funds and protect the environment by promoting healthy, plant-based diets across the borough. Reduce public spending on products known to have a negative effect on human health, the environment or animal welfare. Ensure sustainable, plant-based options are available on every menu and at every meal in schools, nurseries and care homes.

•Housing to be Proud Of

Raise the standard, quality and quantity of social housing and make low cost housing available to more people. Push for new build social housing to go further than minimum requirements for living space and building materials to create solidly constructed homes using sustainable, environmentally-friendly methods of construction.

•A Future to Look Forward To

Promote sustainable, environmentally-friendly businesses for the long-term benefit of society. Advance the availability of apprenticeships, including within East London Tech City to broaden and diversify employment opportunities for young people leaving education.

To find out more about AWP’s policies, visit: animalwelfareparty.org

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