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There is an argument that the presence of Ukip on the mayoral ballot paper in May helped secure a victory for Lutfur Rahman. Their candidate, Nick McQueen polled some 4,400 votes, a significant proportion of which might otherwise have gone to Labour’s John Biggs.

I don’t really buy that argument but I think even Lutfur’s camp are glad he ran.

What I do think is more likely is that Ukip’s presence in yesterday’s by-election cost the Tories two of their three seats in Blackwall & Cubitt Town.

Here are the results:

LBTH BCT results

The turnout was low and some remarked there were more police and observers from the Electoral Commission than voters at the polling stations yesterday. The count at Anchorage House was, by all accounts, far more controlled than last time, which isn’t saying much.

And it finished at 3am, after two recounts. After a fair amount of confident boasting by some in Lutfur’s camp, his Tower Hamlets First candidates came nowhere close.

The recounts centred on two of Labour’s candidates and Chris Chapman from the Tories. As you can see, only five votes separated second from fourth. At various points, Labour’s Candida Ronald was ahead of party colleague Anisur Rahman, then fortunes switched and finally settled on Candida.

Congratulations to the three winners and particular commiserations to Gloria Thienel who was regarded well as a councillor in the last term. I’m fairly sure that the 200 odd votes picked up each by the Ukip slate cost her a seat.

But that’s democracy. Whether Ukip continue to challenge and engage in council meetings from the public gallery remains to be seen.

And this is how the chamber now looks: Labour 22 seats; Tower Hamlets First 18; Tories 5.

Labour needed 23 for a controlling majority in the chamber and that would have been significant. As things stand, unless Labour are able to persuade Tory boss Peter Golds to defect., we’re probably in for four more years of dysfunctional politics and council business.

I think it’s unlikely Lutfur will be able to entice five Labour councillors to defect. And I think it’s likely that the Tories will join Labour on various votes, but probably not as many as the last time.

Significant matters to resolve include what to do about the vacant chief executive’s position. That’s down to vote of the full council. Team Lutfur will not have their way on that.

And as I’ve said before, having a strong chief executive in place is going to be key in stabilising the council. I think Eric Pickles and co also believe this. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what PwC recommend.

 

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