As last night’s dust continues to choke the Tower Hamlets atmosphere, Mayor-elect Lutfur Rahman is trying settle the shape of his new administration.
At the outset of his independent campaign and as a precondition of the crucial support of Respect and George Galloway, Lutfur said his rule would be a “broad coalition”. Well, given that so far he only has nine councillors openly on his side, it will have to be.
But who will join his cabinet?
Labour’s London boss Ken Clark is understood to have decreed to his councillors that they can not remain in the party and serve with Lutfur. So anyone wanting to take Lutfur’s shilling will have to defect.
During the last month, one of Tower Hamlets’ most able councillors, Marc Francis, was a notable absentee from Labour’s campaign. While Lutfur was council leader between 2008 and 2010, Marc was not only his deputy in all but name, but he was also his brains. When Lutfur was ditched by the NEC, Marc agonised over what to do. Although his friends told him otherwise, he himself thought his Labour career could be over because he’d backed the “wrong” man. He’s a councillor in Bow East, where I live, and if his heart had truly been with Labour and Abbas, the turnout would have been higher here. As it is, there is a strong suspicion among his party colleagues that he could have been helping his mate. I’m told that when he turned up to the count just before this morning’s declaration, he was not wearing a Labour rosette, he hugged Lutfur, and then ignored the Abbas team. I’m also told that he warmly applauded Lutfur’s speech and stared in silence during Abbas’s apparently faltering effort.
So, could Marc jump? He could well be offered the position of deputy mayor. And he could well take it. It would end his career with Labour, but Marc might take the view that there is life outside politics and that a four year stint pursuing his own goals in social housing – despite a backdrop of massive Coalition cuts and the probable lack of co-operation from Labour’s two neighbouring mayors, Jules Pipe in Hackney, and Sir Robin Wales in Newham – would be worth the aggro.
Even more intriguingly, I understand that Lutfur’s camp have also made informal approaches to Tory group leader, Cllr Peter Golds, and Lib Dem boss, Cllr Stephanie Eaton. I don’t think Peter would touch the new regime with a barge-pole (he was one of those most disgusted by the Lutfur Ali affair), but Stephanie’s position is more ambiguous.
What would you advise the pair?