Archive for May, 2012

I’m told these are the results for the Weavers by-election in Tower Hamlets:

John Pierce (Labour) 1544

Abjol MIah (Lutfur Respect) 1260

Caroline Kerswell (Conservative) 415

Alan Duffell (Green) 373

Azizur Rahman Khan (Lib Dem) 208

If so, big sigh of relief for Labour, a pretty good performance for the Greens, yet another disaster for the Lib Dems and a very strong showing by Lutfur’s Independents/Respect in what should have been a Labour walkover.

Labour will take heart from this and it maintains their strategic control over the full council. If they’d lost Josh Peck’s leadership of the group would have been questioned far more.

If Ken Livingstone loses tonight, expect to see the likes of Oli Rahman, Shahed Ali and Rania Khan being tempted to rejoin Labour. Labour will want to see this as the beginning of the end for Lutfur. Long, long way to go though…

UPDATE – 1pm

Labour group leader Josh Peck tells me via Twitter: “Oliur and Rania will never rejoin the Labour Group under my leadership – nor will any of the others. I never mourned their loss!” He added later that the sentiment also applies to Shahed Ali, Abdul Asad, Rofique Ahmed. This is where we might see the lines being drawn for a potential challenge to his leadership next week.

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Weavers count – over to you

As I’ve got to do my day job and write Sunday’s fish and chip paper today, I won’t be at the Weavers count. So I’ll leave it to any readers there to report from the scene, either by sending in comments directly or by email or text and I’ll update as we go along.

One thought: the BBC are reporting this morning that Respect winning five seats in Bradford was a “great night for Galloway”. Was it really? They fielded 11 targeted candidates and  won only five, just weeks after a thumping by-election victory there. And the council seats weren’t George’s priority anyway: he knows full well they were after a Yes vote in the mayoral referendum there. Only on Monday, Galloway boasted this in the Guardian:

“Put your house on it – we will win the mayoralty of Bradford in November.”

Bradford voted no by 55% to 45% last night.

Can Abjol Miah salvage a “great night” for LutfurRespect?

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The polls are open in Tower Hamlets and I’ll leave this thread open to you for your descriptions. Include details such as voter and police turnouts, which way you think it’s going (particularly in Weavers) voter intimidation, complaints about possible wrongdoing, comedy moments, whether Abjol MIah is wearing a Respect rosette, and of course sightings of the not-so-lesser spotted Lutfurmobile…


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Isabella Freeman

I have had to take this post down for the moment because Isabella Freeman has sent me a letter threatening to sue me for libel. Any lawyers out there who might want to help me, please get in touch.

UPDATE – Aug 15, 4pm

The Evening Standard has today published the following apology to Isabella Freeman in relation to the article it published on May 2 and which I copy and pasted on here that day. I made further remarks based on the Standard’s article which I removed following a threat of legal action from Ms Freeman. Given that the Standard has withdrawn its article, I am happy to repeat and agree its apology here and withdraw the comments I made which had been based on that article.

Here is the Standard’s apology:

On 2 May we reported allegations that Isabella Freeman, the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal Services) and Monitoring Officer of Tower Hamlets, had shown a lack of care about alleged voter fraud in Tower Hamlets and, on the contrary, was involved in a deliberate cover-up.

We accept that those allegations were untrue and any suggestion that Isabella Freeman had not overseen the correct procedures was wrong. She has, in fact, taken steps so that the council has the most robust systems and processes permitted within electoral law to ensure the integrity of the electoral register and identify any malpractice.  Tower Hamlets electronically scans 100 per cent of postal votes and rejects any that have non-matching signatures. The article also incorrectly stated that Ms Freeman had blamed Muslim voters for the claims by others of voter fraud in Tower Hamlets. We apologise to Ms Freeman.

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There’s something odd about this Thursday’s by-election in the Tower Hamlets ward of Weavers.

According to the list of candidates on the council’s website here, Abjol Miah describes himself as the Respect candidate. This, of course, is unsurprising since Abjol is a leading figure in Respect and was that party’s group leader on the council until 2010.

However, take a look at his election campaign leaflet:

Lots of Labour red, lots of Lutfur Rahman…but not one mention of the word ‘Respect’. Is this a warning to the voters of Bradford West? The George Galloway and Respect brand may have been victorious there but in Tower Hamlets, which witnessed their ups and downs for five fascinating years, their names seem toxic.

A senior Labour figure in Tower Hamlets had this to say about the lack of Respect in Abjol’s leaflet:

Very clever, he’s not said he’s anything else or that he’s an independent, so I think he’s within the law – but not entirely sure. Interesting that they see it as a toxic brand now.

There’s another way of looking at it, though: that the Lutfur brand is so strong that it would be madness not to capitalise on it. That would be worrying for Labour. But it shows you just how close Lutfur and Respect are now.

However, Lutfur could also find himself in trouble over another leaflet doing the rounds in Weavers. Here it is:

It is a letter from Our Dear Leader to the residents of Jesus Green in Weavers. Invoking the Cameronesque tone of “I share your concerns”, he tells them that he’s looking into supposed traffic problems in the area – and then thanks Abjol Miah for bringing it to his attention.

If this letter is not an actual abuse of purdah and election rules, then it is very close to being one.

Tory group leader Peter Golds has written the following complaint to council chief executive Aman Dalvi and his legal head Isabella Freeman (who seems to becoming Britain’s most well known ostrich when it comes to electoral malpractice):

Dear Isabella and Aman
I attach a copy of a leaflet circulating in Jesus Green, Weavers ward, where there is a by election on Thursday.
You will note that the leaflet is supposedly a message from the Executive Mayor.
It states “I have instructed officers to investigate this problem, with the intention of installing speed bumps”
  • There is no agreed budget for such a proposal
  • There has been no consultation on such a proposal
  • There is no indication where this would be in council priorities
Furthermore the leaflet (which has no imprint) supports Abjol Miah, a candidate in the election on Thursday.
This leaflet implies that council priorities have been adjusted to give support to a candidate in an election, less than a week before polling.
As a matter of interest residents are bemused as there is no indication that there is a need for traffic calming on a road that is often difficult to drive through due to parked vehicles.
Why have council priorities been adjusted for naked political and electoral purposes?
Many thanks
(Cllr) Peter Golds 
Were elections always so tortuously controversial?
UPDATE – Wednesday 12.30pm, May 2
The council has sent me the following statement in response to the complaint about Lutfur’s letter in Weavers:
The council holds budgets for prioritising highway safety. Views of local residents would quite properly be taken into account in deciding which measures to implement where safety issues are identified. The Mayor can direct how budgets should be used to address residents’ concerns, particularly where an intervention is required to promote safety. If speed bumps are required then the appropriate consultation processes would of course follow. Finally, as the letter was not published using council resources there has been no breach of pre-election rules.
 So what they’re saying is that Lutfur can take whatever executive powers he wants in a pre-election period as long as it’s not publicised with taxpayers’ money.
Which does rather beg the the following questions
  1. Who did fund that letter (it has no imprint)?
  2. Does it constitute election campaign material? (Almost certainly yes.)
  3. And will the Returning Officer investigate this? (Almost certainly no.)

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