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Below is a letter that Labour’s John Biggs has sent to a few local papers in which he criticises Ken Livingstone’s support for Lutfur Rahman.

John lost of course by some 3,000 second round votes in May to Lutfur. He remains a London Assembly member for the City & East constituency.

He is also likely to be called and cross-examined as a witness for the Tower Hamlets election petitioners in the forthcoming court hearing.

That hearing, by the way, is likely to start at the end of January. It could well last between two and three months, which would mean any mayoral election re-run taking place after May’s general election.

It’s not at all certain, of course, who would contest such a re-run. Were Lutfur to lose the hearing he might be barred from office. It could be, however, that the judge rules the actual count unlawful, but that it was not Lutfur’s fault. In that case, Lutfur might be free to stand again.

Would John Biggs want to contest a re-run anyway? Would the party locally or regionally want him to?

Would Lutfur want to stand again?

He seems to be trying to raise/improve his national profile at the moment as a darling of the Left. He’s changed his Twitter photograph to show a more workmanlike down-to-earth image: tie loosened, shirt sleeves rolled up.

lutfur rahman, twitter

And the people who write his Tweets for him are concentrating far more on national, as opposed to local, political and social issues.

I’ve written on here a few times about the internal battle within his Tower Hamlets First party over who might stand against Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Bow next May.

Speculation has previously centred on Abjol Miah (who still encourages people to “vote Respect” on Twitter), Rabina Khan and possibly Ohid Ahmed.

But I wonder whether Lutfur himself might be interested?

[He has wanted to become an MP for many years. It was during his campaign to become Labour’s PPC for the seat in 2007, when Rushanara eventually triumphed, that he fell out with his “friend” Helal Abbas. Here’s a letter he wrote to my former paper, the East London Advertiser in March 2007.]

Lutfur Letter March 2007

Were Lutfur to stand next May, it would mean campaigning during the period of the Election Court…when his expensively assembled legal team could be making headlines for him.

Curious and curioser…

Anyway, here’s Jogn Biggs’s letter:

I have great respect for the achievements of Ken Livingstone, and was proud to have worked alongside him for eight years at City Hall. His vision for London is, in my view, unmatched.

The Olympics, massive transport investment, and a focus on policing which helped to restore public confidence, would not have happened without him.

His focus on the plight of those on low incomes, and on helping people to get the skills they need for employment and to help themselves, was a vital part of his work too.

While not everything he did was right, a lot was and his successor, Boris Johnson, has coasted on his achievements, unwisely reversing some while, as with the Olympics, Crossrail and police numbers, brazenly trying to claim credit for others (even while, in some cases, undermining them).

Ken’s genuine passion for our City made him, in my view, a great and visionary London Mayor.

And I pay great respect also to his work while at the GLC. In particular he will be remembered for his work on equalities, challenging discrimination and disadvantage faced by many simply because of their race, gender, sexuality, physical ability or the disadvantage or poverty of their background.

At the time he was attacked as dangerously left wing and ‘politically correct’. Nowadays those views are generally seen as part of proper mainstream thinking – not about a free lunch, but about a greater fairness.

Again, not everything he did was right but his legacy is solid.  

However, he is absolutely wrong in his recent comments about Tower Hamlets politics.

Politics is about passions, strong opinions and different priorities. However, his representation of Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman as a victim of a stitch up is just plain wrong.

I and others am proud to have played a part in helping East Enders from different backgrounds and cultures to have access to power.

But we are in a different age now – people who are in power have a duty to act properly, and high standards apply to everyone.

The local Mayor, who has, I am sure, many positive qualities, has seriously failed the East End and Ken does nobody a service, in any community, by pretending it is someone else’s fault.

While Ken Livingstone and a small minority of those who claim to be on the Left, believe Lutfur Rahman is a victim, in my view, and that of many, many others, it is the people of Tower Hamlets, including in the Bengali community, who are the victims of his misuse of power in the Town Hall.  

I am proud to have worked with Ken but disappointed that he is unwilling to see this. He is at risk of the classic error of the Left, of fighting internal battles and living in the past.

We need to move on from this.

John Biggs AM (and 2014 Tower Hamlets Labour Mayor Candidate)

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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.

Andy Erlam

andyerlam@ymail.com

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:

Dear Ted,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Andy

 

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This is a guest post by Andy Erlam, who was a candidate for the Red Flag Anti-Corruption party in Bow East on May 22 (he polled 129 votes).

[I’ve thought hard about hosting this post, and it is in no way an endorsement of the petition. I was asked whether I could publicise it, given this site’s audience. Andy Erlam says he would cite various grounds for a petition (which effectively calls on a court to conduct a judicial review of the result/count), including alleged voter intimidation. It would be for an Election Court to decide on any merits. A petition needs funds behind it and there are risks associated with it. Andy can explain directly. The initial costs of £10,000 are being met by Andy and he says arrangements are being put in place to limit any liability thereafter.]

 

Dear Ted,

I am presenting an Election Petition about the Mayoral Elections to the courts. We urgently need additional voters to sign and formally support the petition. The matter is urgent and I need other Tower Hamlets voters and, ideally, who voted in the 22nd May elections to join the petition.

The initial costs of £10,000 will be met by myself and arrangements are being put in place to limit liability, if any, thereafter.

Please get in touch with myself on 07795 547033 or andyerlam@ymail.com soonest. Petitioners must contact me urgently ideally before end of business Thursday 5th June please.

Witness statements from other voters are also needed and can be gathered later.

Several people have kindly donated to the legal fund. The fund details are as follows:

Account name: Steel and Shamash
Account number: 69524020
Sort Code: 15-99-00

IBAN number: GB48HOAB15990069524020

Reference ERLAM PETITION

Solicitors’ address:
Steel and Shamash,
12, Baylis Road
Waterloo
London, SE1 7AA

Please note that in the event of an underspend of the fund, contributors will be repaid their contribution proportionately, or in the unlikely event of not proceeding entirely.

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