Lutfur and Ohid, the Laurel and Hardy of Tower Hamlets politics, have fallen out.
In happier times, they were in separable: you couldn’t turn a page of a local paper without the pair standing arm in arm, smiling lovingly at each other and their ever-ready cameras.
Back in the day, Ohid Ahmed, a regeneration “expert” who knows how to make a good cut from a deal, was Lutfur’s campaign manager, a man whose lap-dog loyalty and ugly and unintelligible heckling, was then rewarded with the post of Deputy Mayor.
For a year, the partnership worked: Lutfur got his Mercedes, Ohid was given a bigger office and kidded himself he had executive powers.
However, reality always bites back.
I’ve heard rumours that they’d fallen out for a few weeks but I’ve now heard it from a broad enough range of sources to believe it is true. It is the talk of the town hall and everyone has their theory. Some think Ohid has not been given enough money (Labour used their majority to cut his special responsibility allowance salary to a mere £15,500) and is desperate for funds to renew the lease on his chunky watch; while others are convinced they’ve had some kind of Brown/Blair falling out over who does what next.
Some think Ohid is desperate to become an MP. As a Labour candidate, he was laughed out of West Suffolk in 2010 but his ambition still outweighs his talent and he could be looking for a way back into Labour to find a seat elsewhere. So the theory goes.
Another theory, which I think is far more interesting, is that Ohid is ambitious for the Mayoralty and that he’s been trying to push Lutfur to stand as an MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Now, we know for sure, that Lutfur did fancy himself as an MP once upon a time. He could stand in Bethnal Green and Bow as an independent and stand a chance, a la Galloway. Alternatively, if Labour let him back in, he could win their selection process.
But the problem is that the General Election will be in May 2015, a full year after the next Mayoral elections. I think that now he has a taste for how much power he actually has as Mayor, Lutfur would be very reluctant to give the job up in 2014. However, what if Lutfur were to stand for the Mayor again in 2014 and then decide he has enough support to run as an MP a year later? If Lutfur were elected to Parliament, he would have to give up his town hall post. Who would be Mayor then?
Well, his deputy would hold the fort and although I haven’t yet checked this, I’m fairly sure the law would require a new Mayoral election. And if that is the case, such an election would be held on a day when no other votes were taking place….and we all know what happened last time that happened: a low turnout and Lutfur crowned.
In fact, that is probably Ohid’s only chance of creeping in. But the problem is that Ohid would have to be Lutfur’s candidate. And as we know, Lutfur has found a New Best Friend in postal vote king G(h)ulam Robbani…
Thieves always fall out…