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Archive for May 10th, 2011

Here’s some more from last night’s meeting of the Tower Hamlets Labour group. As well as picking Josh Peck as leader (extra £12,658 allowance a year on top of his basic £10,065), former council chair Motin uz-Zaman has become his deputy and Anwar Khan remains as chief whip.

David Edgar’s defeat is, I said, a short term blow for Mayor Lutfur Rahman. I’m told that there was a Plan A in place in the event of an Edgar win, which would have seen Lutfur readmitted into the Labour fold by the time of Ken Livingstone’s final campaigning for next year’s London mayor elections. That would have allowed Ken and Lutfur to share the same platform without too much embarrassment, according to the plan (which was not known about, concocted or endorsed by David himself, it has to be said).

I’m also told that there was and is a Plan B, which could also lead to the same outcome, but with rather more collateral damage. It is now expected that such is the rancour within the Labour group that there could well be now regular wrecking tactics and rebellions against the party whip, for example voting against some of last night’s appointments at the full council meeting next Wednesday. The idea would be to bully Josh and the anti-Lutfur brigade into accepting an outcome the new leader would probably rather resign over.

The other interesting development from last night’s meeting is the group’s choice of chair and deputy chair of the council. Mizan Chaudhury beat Anna Lynch to become the nomination for chair (picking up an extra £7,557) and Rajib Ahmed is the proposed deputy (plus a bonus of £3,777).

Now, both these chaps have history. A similar history to Lutfur, in fact.

At a press conference in late 2005 to unveil Labour’s candidates for the following May’s council elections, Mizan had to be man-handled out of the room by party officials after he had a stand-up row with Jim Fitzpatrick. Mizan was (probably rightly) cheesed off that less talented people had been selected over him. So, after his eviction from the press conference, he promptly stood against Labour and evicted himself from the party. Remind you of anyone?

His new deputy, Rajib, a part-time singer and magician, is also someone who has previously left Labour because he didn’t get what he wanted. He was a Labour councillor between 1998 and 2002, but was de-selected for the 2002 elections, then suddenly realised he was a big fan of the Lib Dem ideology. He was re-elected as a Lib Dem in 2006 and for the next two years, he became the Mystery Man of Tower Hamlets politics. Although he found time to bank his £9,500 a year allowance during that time, he was far too busy to actually either attend council meetings or even file his time sheets, something that led to a rebuke from the borough’s toothless Standards Committee. As he was about to be expelled from the Lib Dems in 2008 for being useless, he suddenly jumped ship back to Labour. Remind you of anyone?

Clearly, he’s a man whose political principles have not exactly been solid; let’s say that he can be “persuaded”. In the last few months, he’s been a Lutfur sympathiser and I wonder whether he voted for David or Josh last night? And in return for what? I wonder whether he will donate that extra £3,557 to a charity?

As deputy, he will have no major role, but he will represent the council at official functions and is in line to become its chair next year.

It is during the council meetings that chair has influence: he or she can dictate the tone of the occasion, particularly when it comes to Lutfur,

The problem with the Labour group is that it contains so many people with so much history of switching sides that no wonder Lutfur is convinced it’s just a matter of time before he gets back in.

As the council’s finance spokesman for four years, Josh won many admirers, but over the next year I suspect the numbers game within his own group is going to be a much harder job to master.

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