Posts Tagged ‘gulam robbani’

Again, I’ve not yet had the dubious privilege of sitting in Court 38, a courtroom that even the Election Court judge Richard Mawrey QC himself has described as an “unofficial sauna” (there seems to be a problem with the heating system), so I can’t give a full flavour of events.

But I have read some of the transcripts from the proceedings.

Last week’s sittings seemed to be particularly testing. Records show Mawrey asked for Cllr Gulam Robbani to be excluded from the courtroom on Wednesday after he was accused by the petitioners’ barrister of intimidatory behaviour towards witnesses. Mawrey made no judgement on whether that was the case and stressed that the exclusion was no reflection on Lutfur Rahman.

The temperature between the two barristers, Duncan Penny QC for Lutfur and Francis Hoar for the petitioners, is also hotting up. During the mayor’s day in court on Friday, if that’s the right term to use, Penny complained to the judge that “these proceedings need to be taken control of, because what is going on at the moment is, in public, in very high profile proceedings, the most ridiculous conduct I have ever seen in a courtroom in 22 years on behalf of a member of the Bar.”

This complaint came after a long and detailed exchange between Hoar and Lutfur in which the genesis of the Tower Hamlets First party was explored. Part of the petitioners’ case is that the party was for all intents and purposes merely another embodiment of the mayor, so that acts which may have happened under its banner were linked directly to Lutfur.

Mawrey took a close interest in this exchange, which I’ll paste from the transcript below. He addressed a number of detailed questions to Lutfur about how involved he was in the party’s formation and what accounts and other records they kept. In short, Lutfur’s answer was that he delegated most of that to Cllr Alibor Choudhury. Lutfur said he was the leader but left the fine details to others.

Lutfur said the party was a “loose grouping” and that he hadn’t seen any party constitution, although he believed one existed. Further, Lutfur said the party didn’t have a bank account and that financing for things like election campaign materials was done through a system of donations in kind from supporters. Lutfur said the record keeping and accounts for these donations were kept properly at Alibor’s house, the party’s registered address.

As a result of the questioning on this matter, Mawrey agreed an urgent request from Hoar that these records and accounts be presented to the court by 10am tomorrow morning. Hoar indicated he’d want proof they hadn’t been “forged” over the weekend.

All strong stuff; Penny claimed these were “wild allegations”.

The excerpt below about the history of Tower Hamlets First, and how it was formed at a meeting in an unnamed councillor’s  house in late summer autumn 2013 I found particularly fascinating, not least because Lutfur’s then deputy mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed wasn’t there. But that’s just political anorak stuff.

The full transcript of Lutfur’s first day in court is here. It’s long, and he may have two or three more days of this.

The excerpt about this Tower Hamlets First business is also long, but well worth a read.

(Notes on the text: The first Q you read is a question from Francis Hoar. The formatting is as per the transcript so it’s in line numbers. Those numbers are the first items in each row. Occasionally you’ll see a page number appear e.g. “[page 1881]”; that’s the start of a new page and a new batch of line numbers. The page is headed with a title of whoever the exchange is between, e.g. “Lutfur Rahman – Hoar”. After every four pages, you’ll see this:


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This is the imprint of the company making the transcript, which someone has sent me. I think residents should have access to these records.

Here’s the exchange.

Q. Of course. You say this: “During my first term as mayor

22 I took part in negotiations with senior Labour Party officials

23 with a view to possible re-admission to the party for me and

24 all councillors who had followed me. … (reads to the

25 words)… many local residents were interested in standing for

[Page 1881]


2 election and ex-councillors”, and you discussed this with them

3 and you set up Tower Hamlets First as an umbrella group under

4 which all candidates could stand. You say: “Although

5 registered, it is not a political party in the formal sense.

6 It does not have any formal membership … (reads to the

7 words)… although we have a manifesto.” You registered the

8 party with the Electoral Commission on 18th September 2013,

9 did you not?

10 A. That is the date, yes.

11 Q. We have already discussed this, so you are well aware of the

12 obligations pursuant to the Political Parties, Elections And

13 Referendums Act 2000, are you not?

14 A. Yes, sir.

15 Q. You are the leader of the party and, therefore, many of those

16 responsibilities bear down to you ultimately, do they not?

17 A. It is a lose grouping of people with no constitution, no

18 membership. We never had any group meetings as such and, yes,

19 we had to satisfy the minimum requirement which needed a

20 leader and a treasurer. So, I was the nominal leader and

21 Councillor Alibor Choudhury was the treasurer of this grouping

22 of people.

23 Q. As the leader of the party you have particular

24 responsibilities, do you not?

25 A. Yes, I accept that.

[Page 1882]


2 Q. Legally?

3 A. Yes.

4 Q. When you registered the party, you registered emblems, did you

5 not?

6 A. Yes, sir.

7 Q. And you registered slogans; yes?

8 A. I left the actual registration, I delegated the registration

9 responsibility to Councillor Choudhury. I believe an emblem

10 was also registered.

11 Q. Two emblems?

12 A. Two —-

13 Q. They might be very similar?

14 A. Okay, forgive me.

15 Q. Fair enough. You tried to do that, you cover your back even

16 when you are doing these kind of things. Donations, again the

17 responsibility for donations lies with Councillor Choudhury as

18 treasurer. Who is the nominating officer?

19 A. The agent for the grouping was Councillor Choudhury.

20 Q. So, he is the treasurer and nominating officer?

21 A. The agent of the grouping, yes.

22 Q. Under the Act who is the nominating officer, pursuant to the

23 Act?

24 A. I think it is the agent who is the nominating officer.

25 Q. You think it is the agent, so you think it is Councillor


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[23] (Pages 1883 to 1886)

[Page 1883]


2 Choudhury?

3 A. It is Councillor Choudhury, he dealt with all the nominations.

4 THE COMMISSIONER: Just to remind you, Mr. Rahman, you have to

5 register a person as a party leader, a person as the party

6 nominating officer and a person as the party treasurer.

7 THE WITNESS: I believe it is, my Lord, Councillor Choudhury was

8 that officer.

9 Q. As both nominating officer and treasurer?

10 A. Yes.


12 MR. HOAR: The PPERA is the Political Parties, Elections and

13 Referendums Act also requires you to control campaign

14 expenditure —-

15 THE COMMISSIONER: Can I just pursue this a moment. As

16 I understand it I appreciate you do not have schedule 4 of the

17 Act in front of you, that provides that if the same person is

18 named in two or more of those three offices you have got to

19 give the name and home address of some other specified officer

20 in the party. Were you aware of that and who else is given as

21 a specified officer of the party?

22 A. My Lord, I left, I delegated the responsibility for forming

23 the grouping, naming, obviously I was consulted on the name,

24 and the actual formalities to Councillor Choudhury.

25 MR. HOAR: So, if there is a mistake and his Lordship’s point and

[Page 1884]


2 there is the name and address of somebody else, that is his

3 fault, is it?

4 THE WITNESS: Well, I do not know — when Councillor Choudhury

5 comes I am sure we can clarify. The Tower Hamlets First

6 grouping was accepted as a party and we were, Tower Hamlets

7 First were able to nominate councillors under its auspices and

8 the mayor. There was not a problem, so I believe the

9 formalities were complied with.

10 Q. You did not know what his Lordship just pointed out, did you,

11 until just now, you did not know that was the case?

12 A. No problems were brought to my attention when the groupings

13 were formed.

14 Q. Just to be clear, what your Lordship drew attention to was the

15 fact if there is one person named as nominating officer and

16 treasurer there needs to be another person’s name and address

17 registered. You did not know about that until his Lordship

18 brought that to your attention, did you?

19 A. Sure, I do not know all the exact specifics of what is

20 required —-

21 Q. No.

22 A. May I finish, please, Mr. Hoar. What is required to form a

23 party or a grouping. But what I do know, and I was informed

24 and I believe that is the case, that it was formed properly,

25 the formalities were complied with, hence we were able to use

[Page 1885]


2 the emblem and the name going forward in the 2014 election.

3 Q. I do apologise by saying “no”, I did not mean to cut you off.

4 THE COMMISSIONER: Do you have a registered campaigners officer?

5 A. We do not have any registered campaigners as such. Although

6 Councillor Choudhury and Councillor (unclear) are my main two

7 campaign people.

8 MR. HOAR: Would you be aware that the nominating officer,

9 Councillor Choudhury, is responsible for giving written

10 authorisation for candidates to stand on behalf of the party.

11 A. Yes.

12 Q. And for submitting lists of election candidates where

13 proportional representation is used, that does not apply in

14 your case, so we will ignore that. As a treasurer he is the

15 officer with legal responsibility for ensuring the party

16 complies with its financial requirements and he would be the

17 officer to whom most of the correspondence from the Electoral

18 Commission was sent?

19 A. Yes, and he complied with those requirements.

20 Q. We will come back to that. There is, is there not, a great

21 potential for anyone setting up a political party to get some

22 things wrong, is there not?

23 A. I think in any circumstances we are humans, we can make

24 mistakes. However, in this, in setting up a grouping Tower

25 Hamlets First the fact that nominations were accepted, the

[Page 1886]


2 emblems were accepted, we were able to go into election under

3 its name, I believe it was properly formulated.

4 Q. Just to be clear where I am going, I am not at the moment

5 suggesting that anything did go wrong, but there is a

6 potential and the reason I ask that is this. There is a

7 potential for things to go wrong and therefore it is important

8 that the decision to register a political party is very well

9 thought out and planned. Would you agree with that?

10 A. Yes, and we did form a grouping, Tower Hamlets First.

11 Q. Did you receive legal advice?

12 A. As I said, I delegated to Councillor Choudhury, if there were

13 any problems we would have brought it to my attention.

14 Q. You would know if you received legal advice or not, would you

15 not?

16 A. Not necessarily. I left it to — as I said, it was the

17 responsibility of Councillor Choudhury to form and to attend

18 to the formalities and he did attend to the formalities, the

19 party was registered and in order to do that what was

20 necessary he attended to it.

21 Q. I am sorry, Mr. Rahman, have I got this right? You would not

22 know whether or not Councillor Choudhury had received legal

23 advice about setting up a political party for which you were

24 going to be leader; is that your evidence?

25 A. I do not know if Councillor Choudhury obtained legal advice.


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[24] (Pages 1887 to 1890)

[Page 1887]


2 What I would have known if there were any issues, if there

3 were any problems in registering that group, it would have

4 certainly are been brought to my attention.

5 Q. I am sorry.

6 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Rahman, perhaps you can put some flesh on

7 the bones. Who took the decision that a political party would

8 be formed?

9 THE WITNESS: It was a number of councillors, I was there, my

10 Lord, and some supporters. It was not a public meeting, as

11 such, some of us took the decision when we could not be

12 re-admitted to the Labour Party.

13 Q. So, there was a meeting involving yourself and some

14 councillors and some supporters?

15 A. Sure, it was an formal meeting, my Lord. It was not a formal

16 meeting as such.

17 Q. Presumably you, as mayor, chaired it?

18 A. We were there, there was no chair. We had a discussion, it

19 was a discussion group and it was not a formal meeting that

20 required a chair and we decided —-

21 Q. Whose idea was it? Because obviously someone has to have the

22 idea in the first place before you can discuss it.

23 A. I think it was quite a few of us, because obviously — and

24 obviously I agreed with it, it was also my idea too, my Lord,

25 because people were approaching me, as I said in my statement,

[Page 1888]


2 who wanted to stand on my track record, on our track record

3 and how well we were that if we did not have a name, we did

4 not have a banner, then there would so many independents who

5 would be claiming to be part of the mayor’s team and,

6 therefore, we said we would give it a name.

7 Q. Who thought up the name?

8 A. I think one of our councillors thought up the name.

9 Q. Not yourself?

10 A. No, my Lord.

11 MR. HOAR: Who?

12 THE WITNESS: I cannot remember.

13 Q. It is quite important. People spend hundreds of thousands of

14 pounds getting advice on branding. You know that, do you not?

15 A. We were not a sophisticated party in the traditional sense,

16 Mr. Hoar.

17 Q. Do you remember that logo for the London Olympics? Do you

18 remember how many hundreds of thousands were spent on that,

19 for example?

20 A. I do not know how much was spent but I know a lot of money was

21 spent.

22 Q. People spend fortunes because it is so important, do they not,

23 these kind of things, Tower Hamlets First or another sort of

24 name, they spend a lot of money on it, do they not?

25 A. We hardly spent any money. Our logo is a house, you can see

[Page 1889]


2 it.

3 Q. It is an important decision, it is for a political party.

4 A. It is a very important decision. When we could not be

5 re-admitted to the Labour Party, we wanted a grouping of

6 people coming to together and clearly identified who they are

7 in terms of the election, that was it.

8 THE COMMISSIONER: If you want to form a political party there is

9 obviously a lot of paperwork to go through and you have to

10 find out what to do. As far as you can recall, who found out

11 what was to do and who did the paperwork.

12 THE WITNESS: Councillor Choudhury did — obviously he may have

13 sought help from a volunteer, someone may have helped him, but

14 he was the one who was tasked to go ahead and identify, find

15 out what the requirements are and attend to those

16 requirements.

17 Q. You must have signed at least one form as leader?

18 A. Yes, my name was used as the leader. My Lord, the name, it

19 was consensual when the name was branded around in that

20 discussion, more or less everyone said yes, Tower Hamlets

21 First because we wanted to concentrate on Tower Hamlets.

22 MR. HOAR: Do you remember you may or you may not take a bit of a

23 keen interest in politics.

24 THE WITNESS: A fair interest.

25 Q. Not just in Tower Hamlets, a bit more wider than —-

[Page 1890]


2 A. I try to keep up with current affairs.

3 Q. You have campaigned, for example, Keith Vaz?

4 A. It was not Keith Vaz, it was Mr. Ashworth.

5 Q. Was it? And you are associated now with Mr. Galloway, to a

6 degree, are you not?

7 A. I know Mr. Galloway, I have never voted for him and I have

8 never supported him. I am associated with a number of

9 politicians. If you could call it association, know of them,

10 etcetera, but I have never been a member of Mr. Galloway’s

11 party nor have I voted for him.

12 Q. And you go to meetings around the country, do you not?

13 A. Not really. I have been to one or two meetings to other

14 places but I have been more occupied with Tower Hamlets, that

15 is my priority, that is my passion.

16 Q. You were once voted to be one of the top 50 most influential

17 figures on the left, were you not? Do you remember?

18 A. I do not know influential.

19 Q. In the country?

20 A. All I am interested in is Tower Hamlets.

21 Q. You therefore take a keen interest in politics nationally, do

22 you not?

23 A. I hardly do take an interest in what happens nationally.

24 Q. Do you remember, there was an election for leader of the

25 Scottish Conservative Party a couple of years ago? Do you


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[25] (Pages 1891 to 1894)

[Page 1891]


2 remember that?

3 A. I cannot remember.

4 Q. Do you remember, one feature of the whole campaign was a

5 suggestion by one of the candidates Murdo Fraser, that the

6 name of the party should be changed. Do you remember that?

7 A. I cannot remember that.

8 Q. So, it was so important the naming of a political party that

9 it formed a important plank of a leadership election across

10 the whole of Scotland. Do you remember?

11 A. I do not recall that. I do not remember.

12 Q. Whether you remember that or not, you concede, do you not,

13 that naming a political party, especially at the outset, is

14 very important, do you not?

15 A. Tower Hamlets First, we placed the people of Tower Hamlets

16 First.

17 Q. Yet you cannot remember the name of the councillor who

18 suggested it?

19 A. When we had that discussion what name to be given, everyone

20 came up with more or less similar names. I cannot recall who

21 proposed it first.

22 Q. Where was this meeting?

23 A. Sorry?

24 Q. Where was the meeting?

25 A. It was one of our councillor’s houses.

[Page 1892]


2 Q. In a house?

3 A. In a councillor’s house.

4 Q. Who went?

5 A. As I have said, a number of councillors and one or two

6 supporters.

7 Q. Who?

8 A. I cannot give you the exact names.

9 Q. Why not?

10 A. Councillor Rabbani, Councillor Aminur Khan.

11 Q. Let’s go through them slowly so we can all take a note,

12 Mr. Rahman. Councillor Rabbani?

13 A. Yes. Councillor Aminur Khan, Councillor Rabina Khan.

14 Q. His wife?

15 A. Yes, Councillor Oliur Rahman.

16 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Choudhury?

17 THE WITNESS: Yes, Councillor Choudhury certainly he was there.

18 MR. HOAR: Kabir Ramis(?)?

19 THE WITNESS: No, he was there not.

20 Q. 0hid Ahmed?

21 A. No, he was not there.

22 Q. He was your deputy mayor at the time?

23 A. No, he was not there — sorry, he was my deputy mayor, but he

24 was not there. We informed — this was not a formal meeting

25 as such.

[Page 1893]


2 Q. No.

3 A. We never had any formal meetings. I had a chat with him

4 afterwards and I informed him.

5 Q. Nothing is formal, is it, Mr. Mayor?

6 A. We were not a formal grouping.

7 THE COMMISSIONER: Were most of these councillors members of your

8 cabinet?

9 THE WITNESS: Yes, my Lord, apart from Councillor Aminur Khan who

10 was not a member of my cabinet then — sorry, nor was

11 Councillor Rabbani. So, Councillor Rabina Khan was my cabinet

12 member; Councillor Alibor Choudhury was; Councillor Oliur

13 Rahman was my cabinet member.

14 Q. Who took the decision that Mr. Alibor Choudhury would do the

15 paperwork?

16 A. He was very reluctant, all of us pushed it his way.

17 MR. HOAR: When was it, this meeting?

18 THE WITNESS: It was some time in the end of autumn of 2013.

19 Q. Autumn?

20 A. Yes.

21 Q. Towards the end of autumn?

22 A. When did we form the party, Mr. Hoar?

23 Q. Well, you tell me. I did not form the party.

24 THE COMMISSIONER: I think it was accepted, Mr. Hoar, that it was

25 registered in September of 2013.

[Page 1894]


2 MR. HOAR: But the witness said towards the end of autumn.

3 THE WITNESS: I did not say end of autumn.

4 MR. HOAR: Was that a slip of the tongue.

5 A. No, Mr. Hoar, I do say —-

6 Q. Are you getting confused?

7 A. You said end of autumn, I said some time in autumn.

8 Q. Sorry.

9 A. So late summer and autumn.

10 Q. As his Lordship correctly points out, the party was registered

11 on 18th September, which technically is summer. (Laughter)

12 THE COMMISSIONER: That is not your best point, Mr. Hoar, by a

13 long way.

14 MR. HOAR: That really is the head of a pin. I am not picking up

15 on that. (To the witness) Anyway, it was in autumn, was it,

16 this meeting?

17 A. Late summer.

18 Q. Late summer/early autumn, but you cannot remember when

19 exactly. It is a pretty important meeting though, is it not?

20 A. I mean, you describe it as important, I do not know what you

21 mean by that. We waited until the last minute to be

22 re-admitted into the Labour Party. We were hoping that we

23 could be re-admitted into the Labour Party. We had to go —

24 could have all stayed independent, it would not have mattered

25 to us. The only reason why we formed and gave it the name,


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[26] (Pages 1895 to 1898)

[Page 1895]


2 formed a loose grouping so that a number of independents could

3 not, we knew who the independent was associated with us and

4 would stand with us rather than anyone coming along claiming,

5 “I am independent, I am Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s” —-

6 Q. I understand all that?

7 A. That is all.

8 Q. It made eminent sense. But, nevertheless, the decision to

9 register a political party was an important decision?

10 A. In that sense, it is important, yes.

11 Q. Yet you cannot remember specifically who was there, where it

12 was and when it was?

13 A. No, I am telling you —-

14 Q. You can remember where it was?

15 A. It was in a councillor’s house. There were a number of

16 councillors were there, not everyone was there. During a

17 discussion this came up and the councillors agreed and we

18 agreed that this is how we will move forward. If it was

19 something preplanned and organised in advance, then all the

20 councillors would have been invited.

21 Q. Did you think of taking a minute of the meeting?

22 A. I believe there was, as I said it was not a formal meeting, I

23 do not believe there was a minute but Councillor Choudhury

24 took some notes.

25 Q. So, there were notes some notes of this meeting?

[Page 1896]


2 A. He took some notes on the back of a paper.

3 Q. On the back of an envelope?

4 A. I do not know what it was, paper.

5 Q. Has he still got the envelope?

6 A. I doubt he has got — the paper, I do not say envelope.

7 I doubt that he has it.

8 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Rahman, perhaps you can help me on a couple

9 of matters. Can you recall who paid the fee for registration?

10 THE WITNESS: I did, my Lord.

11 Q. As I understand it, an application for registration must be

12 accompanied by a copy of the party’s constitution?

13 A. Sure.

14 Q. So, there is a constitution?

15 A. I do not believe there is a constitution, so I do not know how

16 they got over that. (Laughter)

17 MR. HOAR: There is no constitution?

18 THE WITNESS: There may be aims and objectives set out, I do not

19 believe there is a constitution.

20 Q. Are you —-

21 A. Can I finish, Mr. Hoar. A constitution as such in the

22 tradition of the Labour Party or the Conservative Party —-

23 Q. So, it is rather the English constitution of British

24 constitution latterly, it is an unwritten constitution, it is

25 made up of conventions and other documents; is that how it is?

[Page 1897]


2 A. No, I am not saying that. All I am saying, in terms of a

3 written constitution that the major parties have, I do not

4 believe there is a constitution in that sense.

5 Q. So, you are in breach of the Political Parties —-

6 A. No, I am not saying we are in breach —-

7 Q. Well, you are.

8 A. —- I am sure Councillor Choudhury, when he comes here, can

9 give a perfect answer as to how the party was formed.

10 Q. But you do not believe there is a written constitution, do

11 you, that is what you have just said?

12 THE COMMISSIONER: You would presumably know, as the leader of

13 then party, if there was a written constitution.

14 A. There was not a constitution in the tradition sense, my Lord.

15 But in order to qualify —-

16 Q. In order to register you have to, theoretically at least, to

17 send with your application form a copy of the party’s

18 constitution, but you have never seen one?

19 A. I have not seen a constitution as such, but there may well be

20 a memorandum to support that application, there may well be

21 one in existence.

22 Q. Can I take this a little further. Also required by schedule 4

23 to the 2000 Act is this, the 2000 Act says, section 26: “A

24 party may not be registered unless it has adopted a scheme

25 which set outs the arrangement for regulating the financial

[Page 1898]


2 affairs of the party for the purposes of the Act.” One of the

3 documents that you have to submit, together with the

4 constitution, is the draft of the scheme for regulating the

5 financial affairs of the party. Have you ever seen a draft

6 scheme for regulating the financial affairs of the party?

7 A. A number of documents, as I have said, Councillor Choudhury

8 attended to forming the grouping and the party. On its

9 application a number of documents were shown to me and

10 I believe I had to sign a piece of a paper. I do not know,

11 I cannot remember the exact documents. As I said, Councillor

12 Choudhury will be in a very good position to explain —-

13 MR. HOAR: Oh yes.

14 THE COMMISSIONER: As the leader of the party, presumably you

15 obviously would take some interest in the financial affairs of

16 the party.

17 A. Absolutely.

18 Q. But you are not aware of the draft scheme which the Act

19 requires?

20 A. I am not aware of the draft scheme as such. What I am aware

21 that declarations are made and returns are submitted on a

22 regular basis.

23 MR. HOAR: Mr. Rahman, it does sound rather like you did not get

24 legal advice about this, does it not? It really does sound

25 like you did not get any legal advice at all from what you are


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[27] (Pages 1899 to 1902)

[Page 1899]


2 saying?

3 THE WITNESS: I believe Councillor Choudhury would be the best

4 person to answer that question.

5 Q. You, as the leader, would not think it wise as a lawyer who

6 knows the limitations of our specialism to get legal advice

7 from an election law specialist about registering a political

8 party?

9 A. I delegated the responsibility and it is proper to delegate

10 responsibility.

11 Q. When you were a respondent to this petition you instructed one

12 of the three leading firms who were specialist in election

13 law, did you not?

14 A. Yes, Mr. Hoar.

15 Q. I may be unfair to them, they may even be in the top two, you

16 did that because of the importance and gravity of the election

17 petition, did you not?

18 A. I needed expert advice and we got expert advice.

19 Q. In addition to it being important to get expert advice about

20 an election petition, it is pretty important to get it about

21 registering a political party, is it not?

22 A. Mr. Choudhury may have got that advice, I do not know.

23 Q. Again, you are seriously asking this court to believe that if

24 Mr. Choudhury got legal advice you would not know about it?

25 A. As I said earlier on, if there were any problems I asked him

[Page 1900]


2 to bring it to my attention. So, obviously there were not any

3 problems, otherwise he would have done so.

4 Q. For example, breaching the Act can be a criminal offence, can

5 it not?

6 A. It may well be.

7 Q. For example, there is a criminal penalty pursuant to section

8 47 for submitting improper accounts, is there not?

9 A. Accounts have been submitted.

10 Q. His Lordship has just drawn your attention to a part of the

11 Act that you had absolutely no knowledge about, has he not?

12 A. Councillor Choudhury, who formed the party, in whom I have

13 full confidence, my Lord, and no issues were brought to my

14 attention —-

15 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Choudhury, I understand, is not legally

16 qualified. Am I correct?

17 A. No, he is not, my Lord.

18 MR. HOAR: You are, though, are you not?

19 A. Not in election law.

20 Q. And not in contractual law either.

21 A. I am not a contractual lawyer.

22 Q. No, which is why you think you might want to get a lawyer who

23 is experienced at least in drafting an incorporated

24 association’s constitution, would you not?

25 A. Mr. Choudhury formed the grouping. He attended to the

[Page 1901]


2 formalities. We were able to go into the 2014 election with a

3 properly constituted grouping of Tower Hamlets First.

4 Q. A properly constituted grouping.

5 A. Of Tower Hamlets First. No issues were brought to my

6 attention so I can reasonably assume that there were no

7 problems.

8 Q. So you are a party whose leader does not know whether the

9 party has received legal advice, a party which does not have a

10 constitution, a party which is in breach of the Act for not

11 having a constitution and a party, frankly, whose leader — I

12 will stop there as it is going to be rude so I will not —

13 whose leader knows little, if anything, about the procedure

14 for registering political parties.

15 A. Mr. Hoar, that is not my expertise. We wanted to form a

16 party, a grouping, and we did so. Councillor Choudhury had

17 the responsibility to attend to those matters and he kindly

18 did. We went into the 2014 Mayoral and Council election under

19 the umbrella of Tower Hamlets First.

20 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Rahman, help me on the question of

21 constitution. One would expect the constitution of a

22 political party to contain rules for the admission of people

23 to the political party. I imagine you would be familiar with

24 that from your days in the Labour Party.

25 A. Sure.

[Page 1902]


2 Q. What I cannot understand is what was your mechanism for

3 admitting people to Tower Hamlets First as a party if you do

4 not have a constitution?

5 A. Sure. I am not saying there is not a original document, my

6 Lord, setting out its aims and objectives and terms of conduct

7 etc. It is not a constitution in the traditional sense as the

8 Labour Party or the Conservative Party or the Lib Dem Party

9 has because we are not a party in the traditional sense. We

10 do not have a membership. Our members are the councillors and

11 the candidates who stood on the platform of Tower Hamlets

12 First.

13 Q. If someone came to you and said, “Mr. Rahman, I would like to

14 stand as a candidate for your party”, are there rules in

15 existence which would govern whether you admitted that person

16 or not or would you simply yourself decide whether or not he

17 was going to be a candidate?

18 A. No, clearly there was a pack, my Lord, and Mr. Choudhury, as

19 an agent, went through that pack which has the protocol of the

20 Electoral Commission guidance and some basic norms about what

21 is required to be a candidate. The process was this.

22 Potential candidates approached me at the first instance and I

23 asked some basic question. We did not have a traditional

24 machinery as such. As I said, it was a grouping of people.

25 We asked some basic questions as to what qualifies them to be


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[28] (Pages 1903 to 1906)

[Page 1903]


2 a candidate. Those people were then passed on to Councillor

3 Choudhury, who went through the formalities. There was a pack

4 that was in existence.

5 Q. So in effect Councillor Choudhury chooses the candidates.

6 A. I did the initial vetting, my Lord, and the candidates were

7 passed on to Councillor Choudhury to go through the

8 formalities before they could be nominated as our candidate.

9 MR. HOAR: I want to explore that more, if I may, but can I just

10 ask you about membership, please. How do you join Tower

11 Hamlets First?

12 A. We do not have a membership, a formal membership as such.

13 Q. Really?

14 A. No.

15 Q. So why do you say at paragraph 66 on page 17 of your witness

16 statement: “Whilst not a strictly organised party, Tower

17 Hamlets First is certainly distinguishable from me and it

18 would be an insult to its members to assume that they joined

19 simply to support me” so how do you join?

20 A. Councillors.

21 Q. No.

22 A. Councillors.

23 Q. You said “members” —-

24 A. What I want to —-

25 Q. Do you want to correct that?

[Page 1904]


2 A. Let me correct that, Mr. Hoar.

3 Q. You want to correct paragraph 66, do you?

4 A. Can I just say what I meant by that is that we do not have a

5 formal membership, Mr. Hoar. We do not have members as such

6 per se. Our members, the members of Tower Hamlets First are

7 its councillors and the candidates who stood for councillors

8 who did not make it through. That is all it is.

9 Q. So no subscription, no membership card, no statement of values

10 like the Labour Party, no constitution, no membership list,

11 you do not know how many members you have, there are no

12 disciplinary proceedings, there is nothing, is there? There

13 is nothing to it.

14 A. I would not accept that.

15 Q. It does not even comply with the minimum requirements of the

16 Act.

17 A. I am sure it complied and therefore it formed a grouping. It

18 formed a party to go into the 2014 election.

19 MR. HOAR: I think you have just discovered that it does not. Can

20 I take you, please, to the Labour Party rule book in relation

21 to candidate selection for local government, please, after his

22 Lordship has asked some questions.

23 THE COMMISSIONER: You say that you are unaware of the scheme for

24 running the financial affairs of the party, which appears to

25 be an obligatory document, but that is something on which

[Page 1905]


2 Councillor Choudhury may help us. How are the financial

3 affairs regulated?

4 A. My Lord, I believe it would be incorrect if I said I did not

5 know of its financial obligations. Of course I know of its

6 financial obligations.

7 Q. No, its financial arrangements.

8 A. I was required to sign some documents when the grouping was

9 formed and I do know, and I do ask, that regulatory returns

10 are submitted and declarations are made about the financial

11 affairs of the grouping, of the party.

12 Q. But returns of what? How does money come in and how does

13 money go out?

14 A. Donations, my Lord, donations, expenditure. We have to submit

15 a return to Companies House and to the Electoral Commission,

16 the relevant authorities, on a regular basis. Those are

17 submitted.

18 Q. I follow that, but how are the financial affairs arranged?

19 That is something that, at the moment, I am a bit baffled

20 about. Presumably you have a bank account.

21 A. We do not have a bank account. (Laughter) We are not a party

22 in that sense. People will make commitments, my Lord, and the

23 money will be spent.

24 THE COMMISSIONER: For example, if someone comes to you,

25 Mr. Rahman, and says, “I think you are doing a great job. I

[Page 1906]


2 want to put £10,000 into your campaign.” You would not

3 presumably expect them to produce a pile of non-consecutive

4 fifties. How is it physically paid?

5 MR. HOAR: Or maybe you would.

6 MR. PENNY: No, sorry, that, I am afraid, is exactly what is going

7 on in this court at the moment. It is the pursuit of a

8 vendetta.

9 MR. HOAR: Really?

10 MR. PENNY: Including comments along those lines. That is quite

11 inappropriate in the public sphere.

12 THE COMMISSIONER: Your protest is noted.

13 A. My Lord, can I explain?

14 Q. Yes, I would like you to explain. I am interested to know the

15 mechanics of it.

16 A. My Lord, we do not have a bank account because we do not have

17 so much money coming into us. For this leaflet, for example,

18 we would not know if this leaflet would cost X amount; yes? A

19 volunteer would ask me, “Look, this would cost this amount and

20 the payments will be made by me to go to the printers or by

21 someone else —-

22 MR. HOAR: The trouble is, Mr. Rahman —-

23 THE COMMISSIONER: Let Mr. Rahman finish.

24 A. If someone decides to support us, my Lord, we would not ask

25 for the money to be given to us. We would say, “Please pay on


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[29] (Pages 1907 to 1910)

[Page 1907]


2 our behalf to the printers” so they would make the

3 disbursements on our behalf.

4 Q. How is that then logged?

5 A. We would know. We would write the name of the donor’s name —

6 Mr. Choudhury will explain that when he comes in — or the

7 person who has paid the money directly. The details will be

8 noted and the amount will be noted. The amount will be

9 declared at the appropriate stage, my Lord.

10 Q. So there would somewhere be an account book of some kind in

11 which the donations would be noted.

12 A. Yes, my Lord.

13 Q. And the expenditure that is made, for example, on the leaflet.

14 A. Yes.

15 MR. HOAR: So, Mr. Rahman, in that case, you will not have any

16 problem at all bringing that book on Monday morning, will you?

17 A. Mr. Choudhury will explain and will produce whatever —-

18 Q. No, Mr. Rahman, I am saying to the court that I am quite happy

19 for you to ask Mr. Choudhury whether he can provide that to

20 you over the weekend and if he can, you will be quite prepared

21 to bring it to the court on Monday morning, will you not?

22 A. You have said what you have said. I will need to speak to Mr.

23 Choudhury, Councillor Choudhury.

24 Q. I look forward to seeing it.

25 A. He is the one who deals with the financial affairs and I am

[Page 1908]


2 sure he can explain.

3 Q. Good.

4 A. And the process is that, my Lord.

5 MR. HOAR: Because the problem with your —-

6 MR. PENNY: My Lord, I would like to make some submissions,

7 please.

8 MR. HOAR: That is fine.

9 MR. PENNY: I would like to make some submissions.

10 THE COMMISSIONER: In the absence of the witness or not?

11 MR. PENNY: The witness is entitled to be present. I am content

12 for the witness to be removed whilst I make the submissions.

13 THE COMMISSIONER: No, if you are happy, he can stay there.

14 MR. PENNY: I want to invite my learned friend to cease making

15 statements or expressions of personal opinion. I would like

16 him to act as an advocate and an advocate who asks questions.

17 MR. HOAR: That is a completely inappropriate objection, if I may

18 say so, my Lord. I am doing nothing but asking questions and

19 putting propositions to a witness. It is a ludicrous

20 objection, if I may say so.

21 THE COMMISSIONER: As with jokes, it is the way he asks them. I

22 think Mr. Penny does take the point that occasionally your

23 questions do stray —-

24 MR. HOAR: I apologise for that.

25 THE COMMISSIONER: —- into the area of —-

[Page 1909]


2 MR. PENNY: Melodrama.

3 MR. HOAR: They are not comments though. They are propositions to

4 be put to the witness and that is entirely proper, of course.

5 Can I take you back, Mr. Rahman, to the issue of donations.

6 What you have said is that you have no bank account; yes?

7 A. Yes.

8 Q. Therefore, there is no one record of the donations that your

9 political party will receive, is there?

10 A. There are records, Mr. Hoar, there are records.

11 Q. But the records will be sporadic records of donations and

12 payments to different organisations rather than one bank

13 account, will they not?

14 A. “Sporadic” is your word. There are records. There is a

15 system in place which clearly shows what bills have been paid

16 and how they have been paid.

17 Q. But that record is entirely a matter for Councillor Choudhury.

18 How he puts that together is crucial, is it not?

19 A. It is a proper record and proper declarations are made to the

20 appropriate authorities.

21 Q. So the risk for Councillor Choudhury is that if somebody says,

22 “Councillor Choudhury, I do not believe you are taking an

23 accurate record”, he has got no way of saying, “No, it is all

24 going into this bank account”, has he?

25 A. Money does not come — that is why we do not have a bank

[Page 1910]


2 account. Money is expenditure on money that is spent,

3 incurred costs, costs incurred and the donor will pay for

4 money spent directly.

5 Q. We have to take it on trust from Councillor Choudhury that he

6 is keeping an accurate record, do we not?

7 A. Councillor Choudhury keeps records and we have full confidence

8 in him in keeping records.

9 Q. We have to keep it entirely on his trust, do we not?

10 A. And —-

11 THE COMMISSIONER: Where are the records kept?

12 A. Councillor Choudhury keeps those.

13 Q. At home?

14 A. Yes, his home is the registered address.

15 Q. His home is the registered address of the party.

16 A. Yes, my Lord.

17 Q. So if any suggestion was made that he was not keeping an

18 accurate record, it would just be his word against somebody

19 else’s, would it not?

20 A. I am sure it could be cross-referenced.

21 Q. How?

22 A. Ask Councillor Choudhury when he comes in.

23 Q. You do not think that as leader, you ought to perhaps keep a

24 closer eye on these sorts of things, Mr. Rahman?

25 A. I do. I have full confidence in Councillor Choudhury.


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[30] (Pages 1911 to 1914)

[Page 1911]


2 Q. Do you?

3 A. He is the Council’s Cabinet member for resources and finance.

4 He has done a good job for the last five years.

5 Q. But you have just heard from his Lordship that, unbeknownst to

6 you, he has breached the Act by not having a constitution.

7 A. Well, let us —-

8 THE COMMISSIONER: No, Mr. Hoar, that is not entirely fair. What

9 the witness says is if there is a constitution, he has no idea

10 where it is or what it is or even of its existence. There may

11 be, in Mr. Choudhury’s home, a copy of the constitution, which

12 at some stage I shall be shown. All Mr. Rahman says is, “If

13 there is, I have not got one and I have not seen it.”

14 MR. HOAR: You are much more of a Tory than a Whig, are you not?

15 You like your unwritten constitutions, do you not, Mr. Rahman?

16 THE COMMISSIONER: I think that is fighting talk with a gentleman

17 of the Left.

18 MR. HOAR: I know. I apologise for the comment. Anyway, can you

19 please turn to this document, Appendix 4, “NEC procedures for

20 the selection of local government candidates”. I am just

21 going to take you, if I may, to the start. These are

22 procedural rules. This is the 2013 rule book so it may have

23 changed a little since your time in the Labour Party.

24 THE COMMISSIONER: Can I just pursue something if I may.

25 Mr. Rahman, were you in court when a Mr. Dawber gave evidence?

[Page 1912]


2 A. For part of it, my Lord.

3 Q. This was a dinner that was held at Island Gardens. Mr. Dawber

4 told us that this was a political donation of the kind that

5 his company makes pretty well across the board.

6 A. Yes.

7 Q. He expressed that they had done the figures and they had

8 worked out exactly how much it was. I cannot remember, but it

9 was something like £45,000. I will be reminded by Mr. Penny,

10 I am sure. As that is a political donation in this case to

11 your party, Tower Hamlets First, what would the mechanism be

12 for the party to record that donation?

13 A. Sure. Councillor Choudhury, in that instance, recorded the

14 value of the donation in terms of the meals, in terms of the

15 hall and the other materials that was attributed to Canary

16 Wharf, my Lord, and that, together with other expenditure,

17 other donations, was declared to the appropriate authorities.

18 There is a proper procedure in place where he records those

19 kinds of transactions. That is an example of where we did not

20 need an account, we do not need an account, my Lord, where

21 money was paid directly from the donor to the provider of the

22 service.

23 Q. These are reasonably substantial sums, of course. This is not

24 a few pounds on a leaflet. This is many thousands of pounds.

25 A. No, absolutely. This is the biggest sum as such that we

[Page 1913]


2 received from someone who helped us.

3 Q. As I understand it, Mr. Rahman, what you are saying is that we

4 would be better off asking Mr. Choudhury about all this.

5 A. Yes. That is exactly how it happened.

6 MR. HOAR: Can I take you, please, to your file V, page 1390. Do

7 you have that?

8 A. Yes.

9 Q. Before I get to that, it is right, is it not, that as a party

10 you need a brand; yes?

11 A. Yes, something to recognise it by.

12 THE COMMISSIONER: By a brand, do you mean a logo?

13 MR. HOAR: I mean it in the most loose sense, incredibly loose,

14 rather like THF. I am sorry about that.

15 MR. PENNY: You do it all the time. I do not why you are

16 apologising.

17 MR. HOAR: At page 1390, the brand is this, “Mayor Lutfur Rahman

18 transforming Tower Hamlets three years on”; yes?

19 A. That was the logo, that was the brand, that was the signage we

20 used for this booklet.

21 Q. Page 2, “Three years on”. Turn the page. There is a very

22 nice picture of you, Mr. Rahman. It is a very nicely produced

23 document, is it not? Just flipping through it, it is

24 incredibly impressive. It is very, very nicely set out with

25 lovely pictures, with extremely catchy slogans, the kind of

[Page 1914]


2 thing that would prompt anyone to vote for you, is it not?

3 You like it. Presumably you do like it because you used it.

4 A. It is about giving the message of what we had delivered, what

5 we had done as an administration for the last three years, the

6 preceding three years.

7 Q. Page 2 is a nice picture of you and a quote from Mayor Rahman.

8 Page 3 — page 4 and 5 on the original document — “Executive

9 Mayor’s foreword” with another picture of you and a quote.

10 Pages 6 and 7 show a nice picture of you and housing and

11 regeneration with a quote, not from you on that occasion.

12 Page 8 is a nice picture of you with a girl at a school and

13 then a nice picture of you with a police officer at page 9.

14 Then we go on to page 10. There are two pictures of you and a

15 picture of you at page 11. You are in the background on page

16 12, but you are in the foreground on page 13. There is a

17 small picture of you on pages 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 on the

18 timetable, 22 all over the place and your name at the end;

19 yes?

20 A. Yes.

21 Q. But it is not about you.

22 A. It is about me, my administration, what we have done during

23 the last three years. With the booklet, the money was paid

24 for by me.

25 Q. By you. You paid for it?


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[31] (Pages 1915 to 1918)

[Page 1915]


2 A. Not the Council. It was not Council resources. It was our

3 resources.

4 Q. I am not suggesting it was. Who paid for that brochure? Who

5 paid for it?

6 A. Well, clearly I paid for it, we paid for it. I do not know

7 whether it was a donation or whether it went from my

8 resources.

9 Q. You cannot remember.

10 A. I can go back and find out.

11 Q. But Councillor Choudhury has got good records of this.

12 A. Yes, absolutely.

13 Q. And he will be able to give it to you over the weekend?

14 A. We know exactly how much was spent on producing this booklet

15 and the number of booklets —-

16 Q. He will be able to give it to you over the weekend, will he

17 not?

18 A. When he comes in, you can ask him. I am sure he will provide

19 it to you.

20 Q. No, he will be able to give it to you over the weekend.

21 A. He can give the information.

22 Q. To you so that you can bring it to court on Monday morning.

23 If Councillor Choudhury has good records, they must be easily

24 to hand, must they not, Mr. Rahman; yes?

25 A. (No response)

[Page 1916]


2 Q. If Councillor Choudhury has good records that are in keeping

3 with the Electoral Commission’s rules and the law, he will

4 find it very easy to get a copy.

5 A. Councillor Choudhury keeps the records. He has the receipts

6 and he has got the records.

7 Q. It is up to you. You can bring it on Monday or not, as you

8 wish. You say this in your witness statement at R17. It is

9 paragraph 66: “Whilst not a strictly organised party, Tower

10 Hamlets First is certainly distinguishable from me and it

11 would be an insult to its members to assume that they joined

12 simply to support me. They agree with me and accept my

13 leadership because my record aligns with their values.”

14 Then you say, “Tower Hamlets First would be perfectly

15 capable of existing without my presence.” Can I take you,

16 please, to the regulated entry profile of your political

17 party, Tower Hamlets First, with the Electoral Commission? It

18 is a document you must be familiar with bearing in mind you

19 are the leader of that political party. (Same handed)

20 Can I ask you to look at right at the bottom. These are

21 the slogans that you have registered for your political party:

22 “Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s team”; “Lutfur Rahman’s team”; “Lutfur

23 Rahman’s progressive alliance”; “the Mayor’s team”; “Mayor

24 Lutfur Rahman’s independents”; “Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s

25 community alliance”; “East End independents”; “Tower Hamlets

[Page 1917]


2 First”; “putting Tower Hamlets first”; “Lutfur Rahman, Tower

3 Hamlets First”; “Lutfur Rahman, putting Tower Hamlets First”.

4 How many of those refer to you?

5 A. Quite a few.

6 Q. Can you count? I asked how many.

7 A. I said quite a few.

8 Q. Eight out of eleven. Eight of eleven of your slogans have

9 your name on them. The first of them talks about your team,

10 does it not? They use your title, “the Mayor”, which you

11 like, do you not? You like your title, do you not? Your

12 civil servants call you “the Mayor” all the time.

13 A. I have no comment. They also call me Lutfur.

14 Q. Your face and your quotes appear all over that document that

15 we have just seen, do they not?

16 A. We chose the name of the grouping, Tower Hamlets First. We

17 may have given it a number of descriptions but, at the end of

18 the day, the description we gave was Tower Hamlets First,

19 Mr. Hoar.

20 Q. Can you please turn to R43.21, Mr. Rahman, in the same file,

21 file R, with your witness statement?

22 A. Which paragraph?

23 Q. 43.21. It is paragraph 100: “I have read the second statement

24 of Ahmed Hussain ….” and then it goes on into other matters

25 which need not concern us. “In respect of paragraph 35, there

[Page 1918]


2 is no condition attached to grants requiring plaques to be put

3 up saying that the plaque project was opened by the Mayor.

4 This is just custom and practice for all projects under my

5 administration.” You wrote that just weeks ago, did you not,

6 in January; yes? Did you not?

7 A. Yes.

8 Q. It is your witness statement.

9 A. Yes.

10 Q. “No requirement, just custom and practice”. Those are paid

11 for by the taxpayer, are they not?

12 A. It is usual for leaders of the counsel, whether the current

13 leadership or previous leadership, if you go around Tower

14 Hamlets, you will see where the leaders have opened

15 initiatives, where the leader’s name has gone on plaques to

16 acknowledge that. It is usual. I can assure you that I am

17 not the first one. It has happened under the leadership of my

18 predecessors, Councillor Denise Jones, Michael Keith and

19 Councillor Abbas. There is signage — you may call it plaques

20 — to acknowledge that.

21 Q. So, to take one example at random, Councillor Abbas would have

22 “Leader, Councillor Abbas” all over Council documents, would

23 he?

24 A. Councillor Abbas has opened new housing where a plaque or

25 plaques have been installed. He is the leader of the Council,


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[32] (Pages 1919 to 1922)

[Page 1919]


2 Councillor Abbas.

3 Q. And the brand of the Council would be “Leader, Councillor

4 Abbas”, would it?

5 A. Sorry, you are talking about the branding of the Council? We

6 are in a different area. We are in the Mayoralty. The change

7 in governance, people need to know. It was not a leader of a

8 cabinet system. It was a mayoralty system. The decisions had

9 to be taken by the Mayor and the Mayor was responsible for

10 those decisions. Therefore, it was only proper, given a need

11 to know and understand the mayoralty. The Mayor was

12 accountable to them. The leader was not accountable to the

13 electorate, to the people of the Borough, apart from his or

14 her ward. Here, we have a Mayor who is responsible to the

15 entire population of Tower Hamlets.

16 MR. HOAR: Could you turn to file G, please, Mr. Rahman?

17 THE COMMISSIONER: Are we turning to another matter?

18 MR. HOAR: No, but it would be a convenient moment.

19 THE COMMISSIONER: I think possibly that we can all go and cool

20 off for ten minutes from this unofficial sauna and reconvene

21 at twenty-minutes past three.

22 (A short break)

23 MR. HOAR: Mr. Rahman is entitled to be present, because he is a

24 party, of course, and I am going to make the application that

25 I make now in public. I apply for immediate (or as soon as

[Page 1920]


2 possible, not later than 9 p.m. tonight) disclosure, pursuant

3 to 31.19, of the accounts of this political party; and the

4 disclosure should be to the High Court, I think. There is a

5 real concern that if we leave it any later than this,

6 documents could be manufactured; and there is evidence that

7 documents have already been manufactured in this case. You

8 saw it yesterday, my Lord. So, I ask that you make that order

9 now, whether by witness summons or otherwise.

10 THE COMMISSIONER: Yes. Sorry, what was the —-

11 MR. HOAR: Well —-


13 MR. HOAR: 31.19, I think, is disclosure, third party disclosure.

14 THE COMMISSIONER: So, who would be required to —-

15 MR. HOAR: Alibor Choudhary is said to have this.

16 THE COMMISSIONER: Yes. Even were I with you, there would be

17 nobody in the High Court at 9 o’clock on a Friday evening,

18 that is for sure; and certainly not me.

19 MR. HOAR: The problem is, if we leave it over the weekend, we

20 will have absolutely no way of knowing whether it has been

21 manufactured.

22 THE COMMISSIONER: I follow that. But were such an event to take

23 place — which there seems at the moment, on the evidence

24 I have, no assumption to be made on the matter — then would

25 that not —-

[Page 1921]


2 MR. HOAR: Yes, it would. I follow your Lordship’s thinking.

3 THE COMMISSIONER: On the other hand, I think that it would be

4 desirable, given Mr. Rahman’s evidence with regard to the

5 position of Mr. Choudhury as his agent and as the Treasurer of

6 the party, if the accounting records of the party were brought

7 to court by somebody for start of business on Monday. I would

8 also quite like to see (if such exists) whatever document was

9 sent to the Electoral Commission as being the party’s

10 constitution and whatever document was sent to the Electoral

11 Commission as being the draft of the scheme for the management

12 of the affairs under section 26.

13 MR. PENNY: Surely, the Electoral Commission is the correct party

14 to whom this ought to be directed. If you are going to stand,

15 as my learned friend is, and make a wild allegation in

16 public — and it is not the first one, let’s face it — then

17 why do you not go to the Government body that regulates the

18 elections, instead of —-


20 MR. HOAR: Not the accounts.

21 THE COMMISSIONER: I think, Mr. Penny, that the primary source of

22 the constitution and the statement of its financial affairs,

23 the primary source for that must be the company itself — in

24 this case, the political party itself.

25 MR. PENNY: Shall I read you what the Electoral Commission

[Page 1922]


2 published about this?

3 THE COMMISSIONER: I am simply going on Schedule 4 to the 2000

4 Act. If these documents exist, they should be in the

5 possession of the political party. If they are in the

6 possession of the political party, there is no reason why the

7 gentleman who has been mentioned should not produce them here

8 at 10 o’clock on Monday morning.

9 MR. PENNY: I am sure that is right. But you might, actually,

10 like to read what is actually published by the body that is

11 responsible for the regulation of this — because I do not

12 know that anybody has in this courtroom.

13 THE COMMISSIONER: At the end of the day, I go on the Statute

14 rather than on what the Electoral Commission publish.

15 MR. PENNY: You are a High Court judge, or you are a Deputy

16 High Court judge. But there we are.

17 THE COMMISSIONER: So, my source is the Statute.

18 MR. PENNY: Yes, of course.

19 MR. HOAR: My Lord, I still have a concern, which is this. It is

20 all very well to say that were it to be presented on Monday

21 and to be forged, that would be a great point for us. It is

22 actually a point which I follow entirely. However, how on

23 earth are we going to find out? Are we sending it to

24 Mr. Radley for a documentary analysis?

25 THE COMMISSIONER: No. Simply, at the moment, it is going to be


TEL: (020) 7067 2900 E-MAIL: info@martenwalshcherer.com FAX: (020) 7831 6864


[33] (Pages 1923 to 1926)

[Page 1923]


2 produced in court by somebody at 10 o’clock on Monday morning.

3 If the documents do exist, we can look at them, and if they do

4 not exist, then somebody at some stage will probably provide

5 an explanation for us.

6 MR. HOAR: We can look at the documents that purport to be the

7 documents referred to.

8 THE COMMISSIONER: Whatever documents are produced, we will look

9 at; and if none are produced, we will not.

10 MR. PENNY: Can I just raise a matter —-

11 MR. HOAR: Just to be absolutely clear, it is not a wild

12 allegation.

13 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Hoar, Mr. Penny has an application.

14 MR. PENNY: These proceedings need to be taken control of, because

15 what is going on at the moment is, in public, in very high

16 profile proceedings, the most ridiculous conduct I have ever

17 seen in a courtroom in 22 years on behalf of a member of the

18 Bar; and it is happening in a case where, as you know, the

19 oxygen of publicity will be feeding this on to the wires.

20 Your Lordship, as well as having the obligation of making the

21 fact-sensitive decision in this case, as you do, has a

22 responsibility to the public to ensure that conduct which is

23 appropriate to proceedings of this nature is observed; and

24 that, in my submission, is not happening at the moment.

25 MR. HOAR: I do not accept any of that, my Lord. I suggest that

[Page 1924]


2 my learned friend withdraw that comment.

3 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Hoar, at the moment, I work on the

4 principle that if you ask a question that is improper, I shall

5 stop you. If Mr. Penny objects to a question, and he is

6 right, I shall stop you. But you conduct your

7 cross-examination, as Mr. Penny conducted his, as you consider

8 fit.

9 MR. HOAR: I note that there will —-

10 THE COMMISSIONER: It is right to say that the issues that have

11 been ventilated in cross-examination, namely, the structure of

12 Tower Hamlets First, that issue does appear to me to be

13 relevant to an issue raised in the petition, namely, the issue

14 — which is clearly on the petition and is argued both ways by

15 both sides — as to whether and to what extent the party is or

16 is not, as it were, an emanation of the Mayor.

17 MR. HOAR: Indeed.

18 THE COMMISSIONER: That is an issue in the case. Mr. Penny has

19 addressed it from one side, you are addressing it from the

20 other. But it seems to me that that is something that may

21 legitimately be explored in cross-examination of Mr. —-

22 MR. HOAR: May I say —-

23 MR. PENNY: Your Lordship will have noted that I did not

24 suggest —-

25 MR. HOAR: May I say, before my learned friend —-

[Page 1925]


2 MR. PENNY: —- I did not suggest otherwise. I am talking about

3 the nature of the proceedings. I am not talking about the

4 content of the questions; and nor am I talking about the

5 content of the questions that your Lordship has asked. I am

6 talking about the nature of these proceedings and the conduct

7 that is going on.

8 MR. HOAR: My Lord, if my learned friend had objections, perhaps

9 he should have put them. I do submit that is — in any event,

10 there we are.

11 THE COMMISSIONER: More questions, fewer comments, Mr. Hoar,

12 I think is the —-

13 MR. HOAR: Well, Mr. Rahman cannot cope with that.

14 THE COMMISSIONER: Well, that is a comment that should not have

15 been made, Mr. Hoar.


17 THE COMMISSIONER: Mr. Hoar, do not engage in the aside. Not

18 simply does it annoy Mr. Penny, but it also does not help me.


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Further to my last post (and the council’s failure to answer my questions), here’s why Lutfur Rahman failed to attend the solemn Remembrance Sunday event in Tower Hill on Sunday:

Lutfur rahman, george gallowayHe was in Bradford for a “young people’s educational awards ceremony”. It was, according to Takki Sulaiman’s press office, a “longstanding commitment”.

But it actually took place on Saturday lunchtime: there are tweets from the event timed at 2pm that day.

Bradford is less than a four hour drive away from Tower Hamlets. I presume he stayed overnight in Bradford on Saturday rather than returning.

It’s his call, of course, but he does invite some pretty justifiable criticism with decisions like this.

The awards at the Shapla Community Hall were hosted by a Bangladeshi organisation called BEAP (Bangladesh Education Achievement Project).

From the video it seemed a reasonably small event, but clearly Lutfur is something of community leader in the wider Bengali community and not just east London. His audience would have been grateful for his attendance.

The video below is fascinating.

George Galloway is the warm-up act for the Tower Hamlets mayor and makes a speech defending him as some kind of ex-Labour/real Labour blood brother.

And at 7.20mins, you can see Lutfur arriving with his kitchen cabinet from Tower Hamlets, ie Cllr Gulam Robbani, Cllr Aminur Khan (Rabina Khan’s husband) and Cllr Maium Miah. If there are others, I’ve missed please let me know.

You then see Galloway embracing Lutfur. It seems Lutfur isn’t that bothered by Galloway, that he’s somewhat embarrassed by him.

They spend a few seconds posing for the cameras and Lutfur barely looks Galloway in the eye as George fawns over him. I was half-excpecting George to lap up some imaginary Lutfur milk.

It seems Galloway is now desperate for Lutfur’s approval. Is it Lutfur who has now become the Real Deal?

Here’s some of Galloway’s speech to the event:

Mayor Lutfur and me and Ken Livingstone have some things in common. One of them is that we were all expelled from New Labour for standing up for principles and standing up for real Labour values. We all three of us then defeated New Labour in election after election.

..I campaigned for a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. We started the petition that created this position and I was proud to work with Mayor Lutfur in both of his successful elections. We should be proud of his victories and his mayoralty in east London.

The authority that he has built is a beacon throughout the country in educational and in other social and political achievements. There are no academies in Tower Hamlets…

I wish we in Bradford had a council like Lutfur Rahman has in Tower Hamlets.

What he has now been subjected to is nothing short of a racist attack. They hate Lutfur because he has proved that Bengalis can win elections and can carry out their promises made to the people.

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Predictably, there seems to be a rearguard action among Lutfur Rahman’s supporters to try and downplay the PwC report.

We can sum up their arguments thus:

1. PwC found no evidence or fraud or corruption

2. What about other councils such as Newham, Basingstoke and Dean, and Timbuktu (ad nauseam): why not investigate them, why pick on Tower Hamlets?

3. How dare PwC lecture Tower Hamlets taxpayers on the best value of public money when it ‘creams’ off millions in Government contracts.

4. It’s a Tory plot.

Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are the arguments of student common room (where 9/11 truthers might even find a home).

On Number 1, the report says it was made aware of nine cases of suspected fraud involving grants and contracts during its inspection, but it agreed to leave these alone as further questioning might jeopardise police/council investigations.

We can assume that money linked to the Brady Youth Forum was one of those nine and, as I pointed out in this post here in April, the council has some explaining to do on that.

The report, when you read it in detail, is excellent. As I’ve said before, the PwC auditors were clearly shocked by what they found.

And from the tone of the report, you can see where they believe the problems lay. I suspect they had some (probably more than some) sympathy with most council officers (although there are one or two significant exceptions to that).

On the other hand, they seemed wholly unimpressed with certain elected members and their powers of recall to remember important facts and details. The Mayor himself, lawyer, suffered from that problem, but he is much busier than his underlings.

The devil is in the detail, as they say. There was unjustifiable political interference in decision-making. Grant awards could easily have been made on the back of an envelope.

What I’d like to see is much more evidence on how the grant monies were/are actually spent. Which salaries are b eing paid for, what do they do etc etc?

When, in 2012, I highlighted the questionably invoices submitted by Gulam Robbani for his work as a mayoral adviser, there was outrage across the political spectrum, including from inside Lutfur’s camp.

Those invoices, which ‘detailed’ some pretty dodgy timesheets for his work, were signed off by the head of Lutfur’s office, Murziline Parchment. Did she check work done against his invoices? No. He may well have done work to justify his contract but those invoices didn’t show it.

There was no financial or management control in place. And when there are no such controls, you create an environment where wrongdoing can happen. Or where you don’t get the best value for public money.

That’s what PwC have highlighted. How many of these groups receiving grants are submitting solid invoices to back up their original applications?

Surely Lutfur’s supporters can see this? You wouldn’t run a business with your own personal money in that way, so why should a council be any different?

As for Number 2: let’s not forget that the politics of Tower Hamlets have been a nationally known basket-case for many years. It’s reputation become increasingly poisonous. You only have to watch to the video of Alibior Choudhury labelling former Labour councillor Ann Jackson a fascist-type ‘black cardigan’ (when she was in mourning for her ex-husband) to see how low it has stunk.

The dysfunctional politics (together with the challenging transformation to a mayoral system of governance) has caused real problems at officer level. The lack of a strong chief executive and a decent monitoring officer is both a symptom of that, and a contributory factor to the reputational chaos.

On Number 3. This is another form of whataboutery. Shoot the messenger. There are of course concerns about corporate lobbying of government and Whitehall waste. The latter has been something of a political mantra for Eric Pickles himself. But banging on about the bigger macro picture does a disservice to the actual cause.

If we have more scrutiny and adherence to processes at a grassroots/micro/town hall level, then there’d be less need (and work) for the likes of PwC. PwC were brought in because there were obvious failings in that respect.

Take care of the council pennies and the national pounds will better (to some degree) look after themselves.

As for Number 4: if it’s a Tory plot, might you argue: Why hasn’t Pickles gone after the country’s biggest Labour dominated authority, ie Newham?

Lutfur was an easier target, of course, because he was no longer part of the political mainstream. He didn’t have Labour support. But again, this is all part of the dysfunctional politics.

So where are we at?

The council has given its assurance to DCLG over the distribution of further grants, as required by Eric. It has until November 18 to make its representations on the proposal to send in Commissioners.

Some in Lutfur’s team want to take an aggressive stance and examine a possible legal challenge…another misguided David vs Goliath battle.

I know there are senior council officers who would rather now just knuckle down and take the medicine. Further legal challenges would just further erode the borough’s reputation.

Lutfur should see the appointment of commissioners as an opportunity. With them there, it’ll arguably be more difficult for people to criticise him. He’d benefit, both politically and as an administrator. He’d be better able to concentrate on his messages such as housing.

And when/if the Commissioners leave in 2017, a year before the next election, he might even have a good success story to sing about.

In the meantime, I leave you with PwC’s report on how the council co-operate with the inspection team (this, remember, after the town hall had ‘welcomed’ their arrival). The penultimate paragraph, 1.46, is particularly telling. The Interim Monitoring Officer is not named: It’s Meic Sullivan-Gould.

Timing and duration of the Inspection

1.28 The Inspection commenced on 4 April 2014, the date of the Appointment Letter. Our field work was substantially complete by 5 September 2014, since which time we have focused on fact checking with the Authority and with individual witnesses (see below for more detail) and in finalising this report.

1.29 In the Appointment Letter, we were directed to report our findings from the Inspection by 30 June 2014 or such later date as might be agreed between us and the Secretary of State. This flexibility reflected the inherent uncertainties at the outset of the Inspection. Examples of these uncertainties included the

volume and ease of access of information that might need to be examined; the extent, nature and implications of any issues that might emerge; and the level and timeliness of co-operation we would receive from the Authority.

1.30 By a letter dated 27 June 2014, PwC informed DCLG that it would not be in a position to report by 30 June. This letter formalised the position that had been apparent for some time prior to that date and which had been discussed between PwC and DCLG on a number of occasions. The primary reason given in the 27 June letter for the need for an extension beyond 30 June 2014 was the failure of the Authority to provide information on a timely basis, or at all, in relation to a number of important requests made by the Inspection team. Given the inherently iterative nature of the Inspection, the delay in provision of information had a significant impact on our overall progress in pursuing our enquiries in the various areas of focus, as well as our ability to plan for and arrange interviews, which were expected in turn to bring to light further information and documents that we would need to review and consider.

1.31 By a letter dated 30 June 2014 DCLG replied, agreeing to a postponement of the reporting deadline. It was proposed that further discussions should take place between PwC and DCLG in the first half of July 2014 to determine by when PwC could reasonably be expected to report under the circumstances. Those discussions led to the conclusion that we were unlikely to report before the middle of September 2014, but that the position would be kept under regular review.

1.32 For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that by a letter dated 4 July 2014 (received by PwC on 7 July 2014), the Mayor wrote to PwC objecting to the manner in which the Authority’s level of cooperation and responsiveness to requests had been characterised in PwC’s letter to DCLG of 27 June 2014 and asserting (in summary) that such characterisation was inaccurate and partial. PwC responded to the Mayor’s letter by a further letter dated 17 July 2014. In the 17 July letter, PwC rejected the Mayor’s assertions on the basis that there were no material errors of fact in our 27 June letter, and also took the opportunity to expand on some of the aspects of the Authority’s stance that had contributed to delays in the provision of requested information and documentation.

1.33 On 25 September 2014 we received a further letter from the Mayor responding to our letter of 17 July 2014 to him. The Mayor reiterated his view that our 27 June 2014 letter did not present an accurate and impartial view of the Authority’s co-operation with the Inspection. We remain of the view that our 27 June 2014 letter presented a materially accurate and fair view of the position. We will respond formally to the Mayor’s latest letter shortly.

Approach to our work

General principles

1.34  As directed by the Secretary of State through the Appointment Letter, our primary focus throughout the Inspection has been the four areas outlined at paragraph 1.8. Our approach to each of these areas is set out in more detail in the relevant sections of this report, however, at a general level, our approach to each area has typically included the following common elements:

Fact finding meetings with relevant officers (i.e. employees of the Authority) (“officers”) to gain an understanding of the operation of the area in question;

“Walk-throughs” of relevant processes to confirm our understanding;

Requests for information, data and documentation of relevance to the Authority’s financial systems, relevant processes generally, or individual programmes or transactions, as appropriate;

Detailed analysis of individual transactions or categories of transactions targeted on a risk based approach; and

Formal interviews with selected officers, councillors and the Mayor.

1.35  The above steps are iterative and often overlapping, rather than strictly sequential. Furthermore, while each of the four areas has been the subject of a separate work stream within the Inspection, there are certain points of cross-over between them, which are brought out in the relevant sections of this report.

Selection of items for detailed examination

1.36  Within the four primary areas of focus, the selection of specific transactions or categories of transaction for detailed examination has been judgemental and risk-based rather than purely random or statistical. As intimated above, the Inspection has not occurred in a vacuum. It was instigated as a result of concerns brought to light by a variety of sources, some of which have been aired in the media. In addition, further sources, from both inside and outside the Authority, have approached us with information during the course of the Inspection. We have also had regard to matters escalated through the Authority’s own governance processes, including the deliberations of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee (the “O&S Committee”) and the work of the Authority’s Internal Audit function. Finally, we have made our own judgements about where risks might lie given the nature of the transactions in question.

Information sourced other than from the Authority

1.37  In the early stages of the Inspection, we established a dedicated and regularly monitored email address (lbth.inspectors@uk.pwc.com) through which anyone wishing to provide information in confidence could contact us. This email address was featured on the DCLG website. Over the course of the Inspection, we have received 256 communications into that email address from 38 individuals. In addition, other sources have approached us directly (i.e. other than through the dedicated email address referred to above), again with information of varying degrees of relevance to our remit. Not all of these communications were relevant to our terms of reference, but those that were have been factored as appropriate, into our approach.

1.38  In addition to the above, we have also had dialogue with a number of former officers of the Authority about their contemporaneous knowledge of matters relevant to the Inspection.

1.39  We have actively sought to engage with those sources who have come forward and who appeared to have information of potential relevance to our terms of reference and where we required further detail or clarification. Not all sources have been able to back up their concerns or allegations with tangible evidence and in those instances, where we have not been able through our Inspection to fill this evidential gap, we have been unable to give the information they have provided much, if any, weight.

Fact checking by the Authority and by interviewees

1.40  The extensive factual components of sections 3 to 7 inclusive of this report have been subject to a fact checking exercise between us and the Authority. The Authority was given a 10 working day period from 11 to 24 September 2014 to review factual extracts and provide comments and, where appropriate, any additional evidence which it wanted us to take into consideration. In parallel, individuals whom we have interviewed, and from whose interviews we were proposing to cite particular statements (with or without attribution), were given the opportunity over 10 working days to review and comment on those citations. We have received responses from the Authority and the majority of the relevant individuals, which at our discretion we have reflected as we deemed appropriate in this final version of the report.

The Authority’s stance vis-à-vis the Inspection

1.41  On 4 April 2014, the date of our appointment, the Mayor’s Office4  issued a statement welcoming the Inspection stating “I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to send independent auditors to review our grants processes. This review will demonstrate that the Council acts in the best interests of all Tower Hamlets residents ”.

1.42  On 1 July 2014 (some three months later) the Mayor wrote to the Secretary of State informing him that he had asked the Authority’s Interim Monitoring Officer to initiate a judicial review of his decision to instigate the Inspection. We note that, in refusing the Authority’s application for judicial review, the judge considered each of the grounds advanced by the Authority in its application as “unmeritorious” and the first ground as “hopeless”. We understand that the Authority has now applied for an oral hearing and that this is due to be heard by a High Court judge on 14 November 2014.

1.43  It should be acknowledged that the Authority gave assurances to us that the initiation of judicial review proceedings would not affect the on-going cooperation of the Authority with the Inspection. Notwithstanding the issues outlined below and elsewhere concerning the level of cooperation of the Authority and its responsiveness to our requests for information and documentation, it is fair to say that the commencement of judicial review proceedings did not in itself have any significant effect on the Authority’s dealings with the Inspection team.

1.44  At the outset of the Inspection the Authority established a Project Management Office (“PMO”) to oversee and manage the flow of information and documentation to the Inspection team and to assist in the arrangement of meetings and, in due course, more formal interviews. This was in principle a helpful step and created a useful mechanism for liaison between the Inspection team and the Authority, very much in accordance with our desire for there to be a clear line of communication and a single point of contact for formal requests. The Inspection team has met regularly with the PMO team to discuss the status of information requests and provide further explanation and clarification where necessary. Initially, such meetings took place on a daily basis, reducing in frequency as the Inspection progressed and the need for such frequent meetings reduced. We recognise the PMO team and no doubt many other officers have put in considerable effort to collate and provide the requested material.

1.45  Over the course of the Inspection, we made a total of 290 requests via the PMO for information or documentation. Some of these were quite broad, in some cases involving the provision of large volumes of documents or data, while others were for targeted items mentioned to us in meetings or interviews or referred to in other documents already provided to us. Inspectors are required to give three days’ notice of a request. In practice, we have not generally insisted on being provided with full responses to all requests within three days, recognising that some of our requests were substantial in scope or that the requested information or documentation might reasonably be expected to take longer to collate.

1.46  As discussed at paragraph 1.41 et seq, despite its public assertions of support for the Inspection, the Authority has at various stages raised a number of obstacles to our progress which have significantly delayed the provision of information or documentation and which in large part led to our request for an extension of the time table for the Inspection. These obstacles broadly related to the Authority’s concerns about the legality and/or scope of the Inspection. Additionally, the Authority raised issues as to whether or not we were entitled access to documents that might be covered by legal professional privilege.

Taking each of these in turn:

On 12 May 2014, we were informed that the Interim Monitoring Officer required us to “certify” a significant number of requests. There is no legal basis upon which the Authority could require such certification, and we were not prepared to do so. Furthermore, the form of words the Authority sought to prescribe in the certification defined the scope of the Inspection too narrowly and were therefore not in a form which we could accept, even if we had been prepared to do so in principle. All requests for which the Authority was taking the position that it needed individual certification were put on hold. On 13 June 2014 (just over a month later) without further explanation, we were informed that certification was no longer an issue.

On 7 May 2014 we requested access to certain legal files. This request was followed up as outstanding on a number of occasions until 4 June 2014 (almost a month later), when the Authority informed us that we were required to sign up to a number of written conditions and undertakings in relation to the requested material. These included an acknowledgement up front that all the said material was privileged, which we pointed out we could not know without seeing it first and which was unlikely in any event, given the probability that even legal files would contain material that was not itself privileged by virtue of the circumstances in which it had been created. Without our acceding to all of the Authority’s demands in relation to this material, we started to gain access to it on 16 June 2014, some six weeks after first requesting it.

1.47  One example of a request of central importance to the Inspection which was subject to very significant delay was the provision of basic accounting data covering the majority of the Period. Until 1 April 2013, the Authority used a JD Edwards Financial System, migrating to an Agresso Financial System during that year. While in discussions with the Authority about the provision of data from the current Agresso Financial System (which also resulted in some delay) we requested data from the JD Edwards Financial System on 29 April 2014. We know from discussions with relevant Authority staff that the data was extracted and ready to be provided to us by 12 May 2014. However, the Authority challenged the legality of this request, and it has continued to reserve its position on this matter, even as it finally authorized the release of the data to us on 20 June 2014, almost two months after the initial request and just ten days before our original reporting date. We have referred to the data from the JD Edwards Financial System and the Agresso Financial System together in the remainder of this report as the “Financial Data”.


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Where to start with updates on the events of last week?

Yesterday, Mayor Lutfur Rahman staged a mini-rally/call for canvassers outside Sir John Cass School in Stepney. I’d been helping out with some spring cleaning at St Dunstan’s Church across the road so I thought I’d pop by to see what was going on.

Here’s the male heavy crowd.

lutfur crowd

Thanks to Cllr Gulam Robbani‘s Facebook page we can see the moment I arrived.

This is a photo he took of me offering a handshake as he walked towards me.



He wasn’t interested in the handshake; he just continued walking towards me, pointing his camera in my face. It was weird.

So I took a couple of him instead.

But he just carried on snapping. I’m not sure what he thought he was doing (and if you look carefully in the background, you can see Lutfur looking a little concerned about his friend’s erratic behaviour as well) so I gave him the thumb’s up.

thumb up

Someone suggested later I sign an autograph book for him.

Like little sheep following one of their more misguided leaders, a few more brave Lutfurites rushed forward to copy him. Cllr Alibor Choudhury also joined in and asked people to take pictures of us together.

Here are a couple more of my secret fan club.

Don’t you think they do look sheepish?

Standing in the background of the ‘thumbs up’ photo is Sebastian Payne, the online editor of the Spectator magazine. He thought it one of the strangest scenes he’d scene at a political rally. I mean, what kind of politician would try and intimidate a journalist? Bit sinister.

Seb, in a piece he wrote last night, also said there were a number of other more professional photographers taking photos with long lenses from the park across the way and from the end of the street.

Whether these photographers were paid by Lutfur I don’t know, but one or two were jumping to his orders.

For example, a couple of minutes after the Great Man himself arrived, one of his men (for they were pretty much all men), spotted a couple of white girls walking past. They pointed this out to Lutfur, so the mayor pounced. Smiling, he rushed over to them. They looked a bit bemused.

Lutfur and the girls

But he stood there chatting to them for a couple of minutes, just long enough for his cameraman to take enough shots to tick his “diversity” box.

lutfur girls and cameras

And then he walked back to the embraces of his 75 or so committed fans.

For the next half hour I was there, he never once more ventured beyond that crowd.

While I was watching all this, I did have a pleasant chat with his main man, Cllr Alibor Choudhury. We discussed all manner of things and I repeated an offer for Lutfur to write for this blog. He thought it a lovely idea. He also repeated a statement put out on the council’s website disputing the calculations made by BBC Panorama about the awarding of grants.

The BBC said Lutfur had diverted more than £2million of grants towards Bangladeshi or Somali groups to shore up his vote.

In contrast, the council had stated: 

In fact, in the latest grants round, £1.6million of a £9.7million programme was awarded to organisations with a Bengali or Somali chair, CEO or applicant – or 16.5 per cent to a community that makes up just under 36 per cent of the population.

I told Alibor surely the way to settle this is for the council to provide a breakdown of its figures by group. No problem, he said. So I said that’s odd because when I’d asked Takki Sulaiman, the council’s head of communications, for that spreadsheet on Thursday, he’d refused to send it. Takki said if I wanted that breakdown, I’d have to submit a FoI request. How transparent.

Alibor said Takki was “wrong”, that I should have been given it. So would Alibor send me it instead? Oh no, said the cabinet member for finance, we’ll have to let Eric Pickles’s inspectors now do their job.

He then asked me for my opinion on how last week’s events will affect the May election. I told him I didn’t really know. I said Labour seem buoyed by it and that many Bengalis had expressed deep embarrassment about the antics of Lutfur bhai and co.

Alibor said he was surprised at that and pointed to the favourable coverage the Mayor had received in the hard-hitting, ever-so-scrutinising Bengali media.

Here’s a selection of front pages from Thursday’s editions.

Bengali papers

Some of the headlines read ‘Brave Lutfur’, ‘BBC apologises over Panorama’, etc etc. It’s a free press, I suppose, but they do let themselves and their readers down sometimes with their gullibility.

A number of the papers, including the once prestigious Surma, also ran headlines declaring that Jack Straw was now backing Lutfur. “Lutfur is rolling out the sort of progressive programme that I’m in favour of Labour councils initiating,” the former Foreign Secretary was quoted as saying.


In fact, these quotes were taken from a rather feeble April Fool gag on Michael Meacher’s blog, Left Futures, published here the morning after Panorama on April 1. There were so many clues this was fake, I won’t bother going into them, but the biggest one of all was the line inserted at the top of the article on Tuesday evening.

Left futures

If I were Labour, I’d be getting Jack Straw to demand an apology and the right of reply in all those papers for the next edition. Labour needs to do better getting its message out to the media.

The Bengali community deserves better journalism than this.

But Lutfur, partly due to the council cash that’s been lobbed their way, has the Bengali press sewn up.

Late on Friday afternoon, his two council-paid media advisers, Numan Hussain and Mohammed Jubair (the £50k a year adviser who also works for Channel S) sent out invites for an “emergency press conference” in the town hall. These two, remember, have been behind allegations the BBC was racist.

I wasn’t invited, and nor was the East London Advertiser. I’m not aware of any other non-Bengali hacks who were asked to come. In fact, the ELA’s Adam Barnett received a tip-off from another source and made his way to Mulberry Place. Only after he was in the building did the Mayor’s Office ring him and ask if he’d like to come!

Here’s Lutfur’s photo of the meeting.

press conference

That’s Stuart Madewell to Lutfur’s left. Many of the others in camera shot are councillors or Tower Hamlets First activists. I’m told the “press conference” wasn’t the most biting of affairs, that it was more like a campaign strategy meeting.

I’m told the first question was something like: “We’ve heard there were SAS here and you’ve been arrested. Is this all propaganda?”

Who dares wins, eh.

There have been a couple of other developments, which I’ll report on later, but in the meantime, here are a couple more photos (courtesy of Labour’s @dave___smith):

Today’s edition of East End Life:

East End Life


Can anyone spot what’s missing??

And a someone removing Lutfur’s name from Poplar Baths.

Screen shot 2014-04-06 at 16.33.11

Not quite the Baghdad Saddam statue, but…


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