Archive for March 5th, 2012

The East London Advertiser reports that Ala Uddin has been selected as Labour’s candidate for the likely by-election in the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward. We’ll find out today or tomorrow if this is going ahead when we learn whether benefit fraudster Shelina Ak(h)tar is appealing her sentence.

This means that the by-election would be a straight fight between Uddin (a former Labour councillor and council deputy leader in 1998 – and a leading member of the historic squatting movement of the Seventies) and Lutfur’s man Gulam Robbani. I understand that Respect’s Abjol Miah, who had been keen to stand, has been persuaded not to because he realises he would split the anti-Labour vote and that “Lutfur needs to beat Labour”.

This then throws up a very interesting question of when the by-election will be held. As I mentioned here last month, Lutfur would ideally like it held on a different day to the City Hall elections on May 3 when he will be going around the borough telling people to vote for Labour’s Ken Livingstone. He would find it slightly tricky to also tell people that day to vote against Labour in Spitalfields.

Many believe Lutfur would want the by-election the week before on April 26 but would he dare waste thousands of pounds of public money just for an overtly political poll? I’m not sure even he would do that.

However, let’s look at the process for calling the by-election. Shelina was sentenced on February 6. She has 28 days in which to appeal: if she doesn’t, she is disqualified. But when does that 28 days end? Is it today, March 5, or tomorrow? I ask this because it is crucial for when the by-election can be held.

Under the Local Government Act, once the seat becomes vacant (today or tomorrow), a “notice of vacancy” is then required to be delivered to the chief executive by two electors in the borough, asking for an election to be held.

The returning officer will set the date of the by-election and it must be within 35 days of receipt of this “notice”. Saturdays, Sundays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a bank holiday and a day appointed for public thanksgiving or mourning are excluded form the 35 days.

So, get out your diaries. Start counting 35 working days from tomorrow and you see that the 35th day is actually Thursday, April 26. In order for there to be a by-election on May 3, the signed notice would have to be delivered a week tomorrow at the earliest.

Remember also, the legislation states “within” 35 days of any notice. In theory, the by-election could also be held (just about) on April 12 or April 19.

In any case, can Lutfur control what two electors might do off their own back? He could just say it had nothing to do with him.

One last thing: at some point Ken Livingstone will no doubt come to Tower Hamlets to campaign. I wonder who he will urge people to vote for if asked: Labour, or Lutfur’s man? Not a very convenient by-election this one, is it.

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