There’s a golden rule in journalism that you don’t run with single source stories. But at the risk of having a load of nasty eggs stuck on my face I’m going to take a punt on this one.
I’ve just been told by one senior Labour figure that today’s interviews for the party’s mayoral selection process in Tower Hamlets has resulted in a shortlist of three.
I’ve heard that 14 people applied for the contest, including council leader Helal Abbas, his predecessors Lutfur Rahman and Michael Keith, John Biggs, David Edgar, Shiria Khatun, Sirajul Islam and Rosna Mortuza.
While there seemed to be some doubt whether the party’s panel of NEC and London region leaders would select Lutfur Rahman, who was accused of being linked to the Islamic Forum of Europe, it appeared certain that Abbas would make the final cut.
Well, my source tells me that the shortlist to go forward to a ‘one member one vote’ ballot of Tower Hamlets party members next month numbers just three…and it is….Cllr Shiria Khatun (the only woman), London Assembly member John Biggs and Cllr Sirajul Islam.
A month ago, I wrote here that the London regional party would try to find a way of keeping Lutfur off the ticket, and if my source is right, that’s proved correct.
Two things: John Biggs now has to be favourite to win Labour’s choice, and therefore be Mayor come October. And secondly, we now have two mightily cheesed off Labour councillors in Abbas and Lutfur. If Labour’s interviewing panel has failed to back its two most recent council leaders, not only is that a huge embarrassment to them personally, but also a real vote of no confidence in the current cabinet system of local government that they strived so hard to promote.
Who Respect, which forced the mayoral contest, now picks will be fascinating. Previously, George Galloway, who his close friends once told me was desperate to leave the Bengali politics of the East End for the more “sophisticated” Pakistani politics of Jack Straw’s Blackburn constituency, had hinted he would back Lutfur if he were Labour’s pick. Now Lutfur seems to have been sidelined, one does wonder whether Respect will try to tickle his fancy with a place on its unpredictable ticket.
Just a reminder…there’s a £1bn borough at stake here….