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Last week, the Guardian’s Dave Hill speculated that Tower Hamlets First might field candidates in the forthcoming general election.

 

The article said:

For some time it has been thought likely that candidates from the local party led by Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman might stand in the borough’s two parliamentary constituencies, challenging Labour incumbents Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick. It’s been confirmed to me by a reliable source that this is indeed a definite possibility. There is no love lost between Rahman and Labour, on whom he and his allies have inflicted several defeats. Could Labour come unstuck in the East End?

Then this:

Names previously chattered about as THF runners are councillors Oliur Rahman (no relation), who is Rahman’s cabinet member for economic development, and Rabina Khan, who is his cabinet member for housing. They are generally regarded as two of the mayor’s most able lieutenants. They might not run at all and, if they do, it will be a big upset if they win. But Labour is well aware that they could not be easily dismissed.

The deadline for nominations for the general election is Thursday and it’s my understanding from sources within the Tower Hamlets First fraternity that Oli Rahman will definitely not stand against Jim Fitzpatrick in Poplar and Limehouse, not because he doesn’t want to fight Labour, but because he holds Jim himself in high regard. Those close to Oli may even help Jim with his campaign.

In Bethnal Green and Bow the story is slightly different, as I understand it. Rabina Khan is apparently chomping at the bit to stand against Rushanara, but it’s considered highly unlikely that Lutfur Rahman will let her go for it.

The verdict from Election Court Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC is unlikely to be delivered before Thursday and this is considered too complicating a factor. Another factor is that Tower Hamlets First, that shambolic mirage of a party, would only have 29 days to prepare an election campaign…and to establish something more than a “virtual bank” to fund it. The third factor is that they know Rushanara Ali is safe: she’s been working the doors hard for the past five years.

In any case, there could well be another general election campaign later this year if the mathematics of a hung parliament prove too difficult. THF might well feel that would be a better target, especially if Lutfur is cleared in his court case. They might have more of a story to tell then.

Cabinet reshuffles

Two other names who have apparently been jockeying for position in a potential THF raid on Bethnal Green and Bow are former Respect leader Abjol Miah and ex-deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed. Come next month, when Lutfur (if he’s still in office, of course) decides who’s in his next cabinet, the fortunes of these two men could change dramatically.

There is pressure on Lutfur to drop Ohid and bring in Abjol. Well, that’s the gossip anyway. Dear Cllr Selfie, Mahbub Alam, is also hoping for a position as cabinet member for social media, but I think he’s likely to be disappointed.

Not that cabinet positions matter of course, apart from the cash they earn for their incumbents. As I’ve written before, in Lutfur Land the power resides in the kitchen cabinet. This frustrates his colleagues and it has created divisions.

Throughout Lutfur’s first term from 2010-14, he did not once hold a group meeting of his then independent councillors. I’m told the same has been true since last May with the onset of Tower Hamlets First: there hasn’t been a single group meeting. He clearly doesn’t like being in environments where he can be questioned. It’s such an odd set up.

Commissioners

We still have only two commissioners, Max Caller and Sir Ken Knight. Eric Pickles’ department maintains its search for a third but this has so far been unsuccessful. – as have been the attempts so far by the other two to ensure the council appoints a permanent chief executive. In this, they have been frustrated by Lutfur’s efforts to make the current head of paid service, the charming Stephen Halsey, the permanent boss.

So much so that they wrote to Pickles last month to express their frustrations (in the most diplomatic language, of course). Eric has since replied to say he will give them extra powers to push this task along unless the council can supply reasons to him by next Monday saying why that won’t be necessary.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners say they have approved the approved the appointment of a new monitoring officer and a new chief financial officer. The swashbuckling motor-loving motor-mouth incumbent Meic Sullivan-Gould applied for the former.  But he didn’t get it. Drueni o’r fath, as they say in the valleys. Hwyl fawr!

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This blog post has been updated at the end of the original article with an email/legal threat sent to me this morning (Monday, Nov 4) by Takki Sulaiman, the head of communications at Tower Hamlets council. 

Further update (Friday, November 8): A sentence has been deleted from the original article (see marks in red below). This  follows a letter sent to me yesterday from the council’s chief executive’s directorate in the name of Interim Monitoring Officer Mark Norman. The full letter can be seen at the end of the first update to this post.

biggs fundraiserI was going to attend John Biggs’s mayor campaign fundraiser at Canary Wharf last Tuesday, but I couldn’t afford the £100 a head ticket price.

Apparently hundreds of others could.

There seems to have been a pretty impressive turnout by the Labour party, including several leading MPs.

John Biggs tweet

Sadiq Khan, who wants to be London Mayor, was there, as was Margaret Hodge, Rushanara Ali, Jim Fitzpatrick, David Lammy, who also wants to be London Mayor, John Spellar and Stephen Timms.

I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it. [Following a letter from the council’s chief executive’s department, a sentence has been deleted here. Please see the second update to this post at the end of this article.]

John made reference to this issue in his speech at the dinner, a speech I’m told that went down well.

Lutfur is so full of crap when it comes to his One Tower Hamlets mantra that it’s easy to be cynical of other politicians when they talk about cross-community unity.

But having seen John at work fairly closely over the past few years, I’m fairly sure he’s sincere about it.

He sent me a copy of his speech, so here it is:

Thank you for coming this evening. It is humbling to see so many people here. I know you’ve mainly come to see me. But it’s also a sign of the drive our Party has to win back Tower Hamlets.

I’m proud to be leading that fight – not for me, but for the change we all know this community desperately needs.

We need to start a new chapter in the life of Tower Hamlets – one of the most vibrant and exciting places on the planet.

This is my home. I’ve seen it ebb and flow over the years, walking with giants in its proudest moments – falling well short of its potential at its lowest.

Today, Tower Hamlets is at a crossroads. Although there is great success and achievement, for too many this isn’t happening. The people are being neglected, divided and, unless they are favoured, left behind by the very Mayor who is meant to help them.

GAP

Tower Hamlets is a story of ambition and change going back to the roots of the East End. It’s a story of people travelling here, whether from half way round the world or, like parts of my family, the English countryside because they want to improve their lives and the lives of their families. 

It’s a story of traditional communities flying the flag for and constantly, subtly, redefining our heritage, culture and values. It’s a story of new professionals, entrepreneurs, even bankers. All want to call our borough home.

The story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

Look at what is on our doorstep – the City, Canary Wharf, Tech City, the media and legal centre of the world, world beating medicine, the list is endless – our community should be using those opportunities. Many are. But for many this is not happening. A vital job for a modern council is to make people more powerful. We can do that.

Whether it’s SMEs or global giants, I know how much good business can do for the borough. Take where we sit tonight, Canary Wharf. This isn’t an island shut off from the rest of the borough. It’s part of our borough, our community. When I win I want to work with business, not for token gestures or pet projects but developing proper partnerships that benefit everyone. The best way to get jobs for local people is to work with business but Lutfur Rahman refuses unless it involves a photo-opportunity, and he doesn’t care about the detail.

Instead of making the most of the opportunities in Tower Hamlets he fails at every chance he has.

Take the Olympics – the golden example. We were at the centre of the world’s biggest festival. Yet what did Tower Hamlets get? Not a single Olympic event. No marathon. No lasting jobs. No homes. No vision.

But maybe that’s not fair – let’s not forget one achievement – the current mayor did get a VIP pass and tickets to the best events.

The world on our doorstep just waiting to be invited in and Lutfur Rahman still fails. To tweak a phrase I heard at the Labour Party Conference, Tower Hamlets can do better than this!

The problem is he believes it’s not his fault. Always someone else’s problem, always someone else’s fault. It’s wicked business, the evil Government, the McCarthyite Labour Party.

The best excuse came recently when his Cabinet suggested that families shouldn’t complain about the late night raves he packs into Victoria Park because it was their fault for choosing to live there. He just doesn’t get it!

He says people in Tower Hamlets are victims. We’re not, we’re passionate fighters.   

GAP

I know we can win next year. But let’s not kid ourselves – the challenge facing us is significant.

I and my great team of councillors and soon to be announced candidates will be working every second we have to win back control in 2014 but we do need your help. Running elections on this scale is not cheap. And our opposition is mysteriously well financed.

We on the other hand rely on you, our friends and members. Tonight’s proceeds will go towards vital materials and another new organiser to help us get our message out there, to show people they have a chance to get the borough moving forward again, not missing every chance we get for another 4 years.

Tonight I have a new pledge – I’m told you need one. It’s about stopping that cult of personality that’s more at home in North Korea than East London.

There will be some urgent cuts:

No Mayoral mug shots plastered across the borough.

No more abuse of East End Life.

No more luxury mayoral Mercedes.

No more wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on mayoral ‘advisors’.

And sadly no more driver to do the all important mayoral laundry.

Joking aside, this is an important point and an important election.  It’s about the future of our borough and our people.

Whether kids go to good schools.

Whether there are jobs for them when they leave

Whether homes are affordable and the streets safe.

A community with confidence and a sense of its place.

As Mayor I’ll work to make smart choices informed by the Labour values of fairness, equality and social justice. That’s why it’s so important to elect a Labour Mayor here in Tower Hamlets. 

This is no time to waste money – it’s a time to take important decisions that will help hard working people.  That’s why I’ve already pledged to scrap zero hour contracts in the borough and why Tower Hamlets Labour campaigning has forced the Council to blacklist the blacklisters, not working with companies who blacklist workers.

Tower Hamlets is the home of Cable Street and not one but two labour party leaders. It’s a melting pot and an economic powerhouse. The richest and poorest of places. It deserves better.

The future story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

The Future story of Tower Hamlets is about One East End – working together to build a better future.

Thank you

A bit different in tone to Lutfur, wouldn’t you agree?

UPDATE, Monday November 4

Takki Sulaiman, the council’s head of communications, sent me this email this morning:

I am writing to express concern about a line in the blog post dated Sunday 3rd November entitled: John Biggs’s speech at Labour gala dinner fundraiser.

“I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it given the way Lutfur Rahman has been raiding the grants budgets to fund his campaign.”

On reading the second phrase of the above a reader of your blog could easily conclude that funds from the Council’s Voluntary Sector Grants programme were being used to directly fund a campaign.  

This would of course be illegal and is not possible as council spending is subject to numerous statutory rules and processes plus the check and balance of audit and inspection.  

Given this, could I ask that you remove this phrase so as to avoid any potential damage to Mayor Rahman’s reputation.  

It is quite possible that this phrase is libellous.
 


Please let me know your intended course of action.

I’ve let him know that it’s pretty clear I don’t mean there’s been a direct bank transfer from the council’s budget to his campaign account (if I had evidence of that, I think I’d have headlined this post slightly differently…). I’m also fairly sure that this blog has made clear over the years that I think Lutfur is exploiting the grants system to buy votes for his political ends.

It’s lucky that most of my readers have the ability to understand the figurative meaning of words and phrases; most readers are intelligent to spot the subtle differences.

The last person to threaten to sue me in similar circumstances was deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

I did think Takki understood the use of language better than Ohid…

SECOND UPDATE – November 8, 2013.

Please see the following links containing a letter from Mark Norman, the interim monitoring officer for Tower Hamlets council’s chief executive’s department.

Mark Norman Mark Norman 2

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