Tower Hamlets election petitioner Andy Erlam has asked for the following to be published in response to my criticisms of him criticising John Biggs’s response to his original criticism of John. (Deep breath; I think I’ve got that right.)
Here’s his latest statement:
Like every journalist Ted Jeory loves conflict, even where none exists. John Biggs is a consummate politician and obviously relishes robust political debate especially if it leads to the best result. No doubt John is a very capable Member of the London Assembly and of the Police Committee, but he may not be an expert on Election Petitions.
It’s a pity Ted didn’t check some “facts” with me before publication, (we all make mistakes), before giving the wrong impression. The decision to change lawyers was a majority decision. Tower Hamlets First didn’t, of course, field candidates in the European Elections and corruption is less likely there.
The outcome of the hearing at 10am on Monday 28th. July at the Royal Courts of Justice (all welcome) will be decided entirely on the legal arguments put forward by our very able, independent, barrister not on comment made by Ted Jeory, John Biggs, myself or anyone else.
It is important that the Election Petition is free, and seen to be free , from national party political interests but instead representative of the entire electorate of Tower Hamlets. The prize is much, much, bigger than narrow party advantage. It’s about whether democracy matters.
What we can not do is accept statements or donations with strings. Everyone now has a primary duty, not to their political party or their mates, but exclusively to the court.
Incidentally, the many people who have been caught up in wrong-doing have a special incentive to now step forward to make statements. They are protected by the evidence they make to the Election Court, even if they took part in criminal wrong-doing themselves. The police and the Director of Public Prosecutions can not prosecute anyone using evidence produced in the Election Court, (except if purgery is involved, which is fair enough).
All witnesses are thus protected.
My answer to all the critics and “Arm Chair Petitioners” is this: Time will tell who is right and who is wrong.
Rather than engage in conspiracy theories, let’s ask some more questions:
1. Were many council officers told in numerous meetings, where they were treated, to go out and get 100 votes each for Lutfur or else they would be thrown out of their jobs?
2. Were they told that, if elected, John Biggs would sack them?
3. Is there a senior officer at the Town Hall, apart from the Returning Officer, who has had regular contact with DS Neil Smithson who is leading the investigation into alleged criminal election activity and, if so, for what reasons?
It’s the leadership of Tower Hamlets Council that is in trouble. Further revelations in the Sunday Telegraph and the contents of the PWC report will add fuel to the fire.
None of us are soothsayers but we can be allowed to speculate based on known facts and gut feelings: This time, this time, the entire political establishment in Tower Hamlets will fall.
Time will tell.
If I may be as so bold to comment on article published on my own blog…there patently is conflict and I know from talking to the people involved there has been genuine unease and disagreement about strategy. But I don’t really need to say that do I?
I asked Andy what he meant by “majority decision” over the sacking of lawyer Gerald Shamash (because I’m not sure that was the case). He declined to comment but instead sent a further and probably final statement, which is below.
On the substance, he outlines or suggests some extremely serious allegations, which, until they are backed by proper evidence in court, border on innuendo. The hearing on July 28 will be fascinating. I genuinely want to know whether there is a case for false statement against the Lutfur camp in respect of smearing John Biggs as a racist.
Here’s Andy’s response to my questions:
Thanks for inviting me to comment further.
Just to let you know that I do not wish to comment in detail further on the case. As you know, the Petition is subject to legal proceedings and the details of the allegations and the evidence will be disclosed to the respondents, Mr. Rahman and the Returning Officer, when they are required to be in the Court.
I would, however, like to clarify two points made in your most recent blog on 18th July:
1. Mr. Rahman’s application to strike out the Petition is made on the grounds of its alleged failure to set out in sufficient detail the particulars of the allegations made in the Petition. The Petition was drafted by Gavin Miller QC, while Steel and Shamash were still acting for the Petitioners. The strike-out application has nothing to do with any subsequent developments.
2. Whilst it is of course a matter for the court, the strike-out application is being vigorously opposed and I am advised is unlikely to succeed, as the Court has the jurisdiction to order further particulars once the Petition has been presented.