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In 2007, a balding George Galloway and a few other bald men fought over the comb that was the imploding Respect/SWP “the Unity coalition” party. Due to a spat with the SWP about who owned the rights to the precious Respect name, Galloway’s main rump called themselves Respect Renewal. Separately, a gang of four councillors, largely cheesed off with the way their group leader Abjol Miah was running the show, split off to form a new group called Respect (Independent).

Eight years later and history is (kinda) repeating, albeit with some different faces and the musical chairs moving in different directions.

Back then the gang of four comprised Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum, her daughter Rania Khan and Ahmed Hussain. Not long afterwards, Ahmed joined the Tories, where he is still well regarded, while the other three were bought off/recruited by Labour.

This morning the group that used to be called Tower Hamlets First and which is now known as Independents suffered its first split. Abjol Miah, upset at not retaining his paid position as a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (instead, and incredibly, the job of scrutinising council business falls to grants king Maium Miah and the Prince of Narcissism Mahbub Alam), texted a couple of colleagues and then emailed John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, to say he was quitting the group.

His move took some by surprise, not because he was defecting but because he was doing it alone. In the background there had been discussions about a few of them forming a new group. These talks had been taking place not just in the wake of Rabina Khan’s defeat, but also before it. What the disgruntled councillors had in common was a shared frustration at the way Lutfur Rahman (yes, him) was still effectively controlling things.

Last week, according to an insider, the Deposed Dear Leader met his former THF councillors to declare that Rabina would remain his candidate for mayor in 2018. Apparently his word was final, just as it had been when he selected her after his Election Court humiliation in April. No discussion, nada.

This, I’m told, was too much to stomach for some. To them, he was the cause of their current predicament – so how dare he not suggest an open and transparent selection process (ie a vote).

Lady Jane GreySo a number of them set about planning a split. I’m told that those planning to do so are the Independents’ group leader, Oli Rahman (the six day Acting Mayor and the Lady Jane Grey of Tower Hamlets politics); Shahed Ali; ex-deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque; and Mohammed Mufti Miah.

The first four were all Labour councillors. Whether Abjol would join them to make a group of six is not clear. bigpic

Were this to happen, their initial task would be to choose a name: Independents First? Independent (Independent)? Independent Renewal? Choices on the back of a postcard please.

More substantially (and I use that word advisedly), there would also be implications for the system of proportionality. The main Independents group would drop to 11 in number, while the new gang would have possibly six members. The former would lose entitlement to some committee positions, while the latter would gain some.

For the most part, and I think Abjol is the exception here, the possible defectors would like to return to Labour. Were that to happen, there would be so many dead bodies left in Labour the calls for a Tower Hamlets cemetery would become irresistible.

That said, it’s clear Lutfur is planning a long term comeback and that Rabina is working hard on strengthening her grassroots support. Labour is likely to have a fight on its hands in 2018, and by 2022 Lutfur will be eligible to stand as mayor again (in fact he could try for a vacated councillor position in 2019…if he’s not bankrupted by court costs, of course).

John Biggs at Labour iftarSo the aim of the game for John Biggs (and at an iftar for the Labour group on Tuesday night, pictured left, he made clear he’d want to stand again, although some tell me they’d like to see Sirajul Islam given a chance) must be to secure re-election, as well as running a decent council.

His hand is strengthened by weakening those of his opponents. Oli et al, believe it or not, do carry some votes. Deals that fall short of re-admittance to Labour can always be made.

Murky, but that’s politics I suppose.

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In his victory speech on June 12, John Biggs said he’d been elected as a Labour mayor, that he’d run the council as a Labour mayor, but he hinted strongly he’d also acknowledge the multicoloured coalition of voters who put him there. Very senior allies of his said that night that some kind of role would have to be found, for example, for Peter Golds. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the role of Speaker seemed to be the perfect fit but in the ensuing days the offer did not come about. Instead, the councillor who did more than any other elected member to bring down Lutfur Rahman has been made a senior member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with a special responsibility for probity and governance. I’m sure he’ll relish it and perhaps end up as Speaker next year… As it happens tonight’s full council meeting – the first with Biggs as mayor – was chaired by Cllr Moahmmed Adbul Mukit, or ‘MBE’ as he’s known among his colleagues – on account of his MBE of course. It’s his second successive term, as it is for his deputy Rajib Ahmed. I wasn’t there for the meeting but by all accounts it was a most sensible affair. Biggs was apparently cheered by Tory and Labour supporters alike in the public gallery when he announced he would be the ‘speaking variety of mayor’.

Missing from the proceedings was Rabina Khan. I don’t know why and I’m sure she has a good reason so please don’t judge. Ohid Ahmed was also missing (for the start), as was Mahbub Alam, who was posing by the Eiffel Tower earlier today according to his narcissistic Twitter feed. Tonight’s full council was to ratify the various appointments to cabinet and other committees. A Labour press release today said this:

Mayor John Biggs has announced his Cabinet. This leadership team draws on the knowledge, experience and dedication of Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets.

One of the key objectives of this Cabinet is to do away with the secrecy and opaque nature of decision making that plagued the previous administration.

Decisions will be taken transparently and openly, with cabinet meetings held around the borough; council meetings will no longer see the mayor sitting in silence; and councillors will be fully involved in the decision making process, ensuring that local ward knowledge is always fed into the process.

Mayor: John Biggs

Cllr Rachael Saunders: Deputy Mayor for Education & Children’s Services & the Third Sector

Cllr Shiria Khatun: Deputy Mayor for Community Affairs

Cllr Sirajul Islam: Statutory Deputy Mayor

Cllr Rachel Blake: Cabinet Member for Strategic Development

Cllr Joshua Peck: Cabinet Member for Work & Economic Growth

Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs: Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services

Cllr Asma Begum: Cabinet Member for Culture

Cllr Ayas Miah: Cabinet Member for Environment

Cllr David Edgar: Cabinet Member for Resources

With forthcoming decisions such as the South Quay Masterplan, Rich Mix litigation and the upcoming report on the Medium Term Financial Plan, the Mayor and Cabinet will be diving straight in to the new culture of transparent and fair decision making.

And in early changes, the Mayor has got rid of the leased car used by his predecessor, agreed that the long-delayed report into the sale of poplar Town Hall be released to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as required by a Council resolution over a year ago, and instructed that there be a long-delayed settlement with the Rich Mix Centre in Bethnal Green and that legal action pursued under the previous Mayor whose effect would have threatened the existence of the centre be ended.

Mayor John Biggs commented: “I’m very pleased to announce the Cabinet and I know we will all do our utmost to serve the residents of Tower Hamlets. I am incredibly proud to serve all people of this borough, but this is no time for complacency: whilst I have already made some changes such as scrapping the mayoral car, we are  fully focussed on the big challenges ahead. As there was a period of time with no mayor, there was a pause in decision making.

“We must act now in an efficient and fair manner to sort out these decisions for the benefit of residents. I am beginning to clear the backlog of decisions, and to reverse some actions of my predecessor which were in my view unhelpful for the Borough. I have already held one mayor’s surgery to listen to residents’ issues and there will be many more of these meetings. And I have pledged a regimen of greater transparency and openness.

“It is vitally important that we now press on: serving the residents of Tower Hamlets fairly, transparently and efficiently.”

The other major appointment is Marc Francis as chair of the development and strategic development committee. With his wife Rachel Blake as cabinet member for housing, they’re going to have some pretty solid Chinese Walls at home. In other developments, two senior council officers have also been recruited. Zena Cooke, formerly of Maidstone Borough Council, will become corporate director for resources on August 1. And Melanie Clay, from Central Bedfordshire Council, will become the new corporate director for law, probity and governance on September 17. Meic Sullivan Gould will have to find another way of financing a new car. An advert for a new chief executive is also due to be published this week. Slowly but surely, the directions laid out by the Government to the Commissioners and council are being ticked off. They could well be unemployed by the end of the year.. And speaking of the unemployed, there are now a few redundant ex-Tower Hamlets First councillors in need of work. Actually, we really shouldn’t call them THF councillors because that party has been dissolved and they’ve officially formed an Independent group on the council. But what’s this email which dropped at into my Inbox at 9.35pm tonight? IMG_0819   Spot the subconscious mistake…? Anyway, here’s the substance:

#Part-time Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets during second wave of Tory cuts

John Biggs, the newly elected Labour mayor of Tower Hamlets, will be continuing his position as London Assembly Member, whilst the Conservative government threatens more cuts to social security.

Despite gimmickry of pay cut and spin, the fact is that John Biggs will still be taking home nearly £85,000 from combined salary despite being a part time Mayor for the people of Tower Hamlets.

Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest areas in London, is at high risk of being hit the hardest with extended cuts to public services, of which the survival of many rely upon.

The Independent Group, formerly Tower Hamlets First, revived services such as; Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives expenses to school leavers to support them through college; introduced the London Living Wage, which sees that employees in Tower Hamlets are given fair wages; and reduced child poverty by more than 15% since 2010.

Concerned for the future of Tower Hamlets under a Labour mayor, the Independent Group has made a pledge to hold John Biggs to account, on any decisions that may threaten the current services that protect the vulnerable and support the prosperity of the public.

Tower Hamlets was ranked first last year by Grant Thornton on its high growth index, and is also one of the top performing London authorities for the delivery of affordable homes, with 3980 affordable homes delivered and 1262 affordable/social rented homes for families delivered.

Cllr Oli Rahman, Leader of Independent Group, said:  “If John Biggs is committed to keeping the borough united, as he has said before, he needs to acknowledge the devastating effects that the Tory cuts can and will make to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community, and make it his priority to ensure that our residents can live, learn and work with dignity.”

Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent runner up in the Mayoral election, said: “We will continue to fight for the people of Tower Hamlets, and we will do that by holding John Biggs and his Labour cabinet to account. We are a local grassroots political movement and our focus is very much on the welfare of the community, not on building our careers in Westminster politics.” “Despite operating under the full brunt of Tory cuts, we will be leaving behind a legacy of services, the fate of which, lies in the hands of John Biggs and his Labour cabinet.”

Notes to Editor:

1. Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent candidate in June 2015 against Labour’s John Biggs secured 26,384 votes, against the backdrop of a most vicious and negative right wing campaignhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabina-KHAN-for-MAYOR/792583084189426

2.Cllr Oli Rahman, preformed Acting Mayoral duties before election, is one of the youngest political Group Leaders in the United Kingdom – https://twitter.com/cllroliurrahman

When I used the word ‘substance’ above, I was being generous.

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I texted John Biggs this morning to ask how his first week as Tower Hamlets Mayor had been. He replied with a very workmanlike text and it suggests a breath of fresh air. Here it is:

Got rid of car. Unfroze rich mix money (subject to call in).

Moving out of the mausoleum into a far smaller space.

Restoring a space for the speaker to host guests.

Went on two visits – primary school, housing opening. Need to do more – aim to get out at least once a day.

Did first surgery. Did a tour of the building to meet staff. (Need to finish last floor next week).

Forgoing £36,000 of mayor’s salary while still at City hall.

However that is early stuff, if important. By end Monday will have a cabinet.

Try to walk to work each day. Meet interesting people.

The selfie-count is reducing as the number of people impressed by my momentary fame declines.
JB

Meanwhile, here are some photos of the grand office Lutfur Rahman had built for himself. They were sent to me by council insider who tells me it was known as the Lutfur Bunker. John Biggs refers to it above as the ‘mausoleum’.

IMG_0790 IMG_0792 IMG_0791 IMG_0796 IMG_0797 IMG_0794 IMG_0798 IMG_0795 IMG_0799

 

 

 

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andy erlam

Election court petitioner Andy Erlam

John Biggs is to be congratulated for winning the re-run Tower Hamlets mayoral election.  The result was a clear rejection of Rahmanism and of Rahman’s proxy candidate, Rabina Khan.

We now expect John Biggs to ruthlessly root out the rest of the corruption at the town hall within the three years left in his mandate. If he starts to do this, he can be sure of my and many others’ co-operation.  But he and the Labour Party must also now reflect on the fact that it was Labour that created the crisis in the first place.

That is why Labour was so hostile towards the Election Petition initially and made various attempts to sink it.  Biggs himself was a very reluctant witness who had to be coaxed for months to provide an adequate statement for the court. Almost all other local Labour “leaders” looked the other way.  One allegedly actively dissuaded people from giving evidence.  What is the point of leaders who lead from the back?

There remains a question hanging in the air.  Everyone knew that election corruption was rife in Tower Hamlets. It’s been going on for years, so why didn’t anyone, apart from Ted Jeory, Andrew Gilligan and Mark Baynes, do anything about it? Remember, Rahman was, and in many ways still is, a Labour man.  So the choice in the election was really between Labour and Labour. Return of the One Party State of Tower Hamlets.

Rahman claimed in the election court that senior Labour officials such as Keith Vaz, Ken Livingstone and Len McCluskey had met him and his deputy Alibor Chaodhury and that they had agreed a “pathway” with the party leadership for Rahman to get back into the Labour fold. The Labour leadership has never denied this dirty deal behind the backs of both the Labour Party membership and the electorate. In my view, the only thing that stopped it being implemented was a spanner in the works in the form of the Election Petition.  My reading of Biggs’ victory speech last Thursday was a hint at some form of reconciliation with Tower Hamlets First group councillors. Too eager, too much, too early.

John Biggs

Mayor John Biggs with Labour supporters

Last year Labour decided not to take an Election Petition itself against Rahman, even though it suspected that he had, once again, committed industrial-scale fraud in the mayoral and local elections.  Maybe it was because historically Labour has also been involved in similar tactics? Rahman learnt his skills from Labour.

It’s all very well to talk about “drawing a line”, as Biggs does, but the body will only stand a chance of recovery if all the cancer is cut from the ailing body and we now know that election corruption was and is only the tip of the iceberg as regards corruption within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  The cancer of corruption is still there.

Intimidation and violence in local elections has not stopped in Tower Hamlets either. A few days before this election a Labour councillor was badly manhandled and bruised outside a mosque because he refused to support Khan.  In typical style, he appears not to be pressing charges “on advice from the elders”.  So supporters of Khan can get away with a potential crime?  And you want these people back in the Labour Party?

It’s my belief that numerous fraudulent and invalid votes were also cast again in Tower Hamlets and the police are investigating. If Khan is seriously considering her own Election Petition, who will it be directed at? My advice to her is: save other people’s money.  It will fail at the first hurdle and “be laughed out of court”.

The police have acceded to my request to extend their enquiries to include the local councillor elections and the courts have agreed that ballot papers must be preserved a further six months.  Complaints can be made direct to the Met at: SETelections@met.police.uk as soon as possible and before November at the very latest.  I hear that local Labour leaders are already advising disappointed 2014 Labour candidates to leave matters – i.e. not co-operate with the police.  And we wonder why so many local police enquiries run into the sand?

If people are now being discouraged from making formal complaints to the police about last year’s local councillor election fraud, they will live with the terrible consequences for years to come.  Incidentally, it has never been clear why Chris Weavers, Labour’s then election agent and local Party chair, failed to challenge any of the poll counts on May 22 2014 at the time. Looking back, was his inaction wise?

It will also be especially interesting to see whether Biggs will root out corruption connected with local land deals.  Scotland Yard is actively examining allegations of very serious fraud and misfeasance in public office on this aspect.  It will be interesting to see if the new mayor opens up all the books to a serious and robust police investigation or concentrates on “reputational” issues like a public affairs consultant for FIFA. There is also the small matter of the fraud issues coming out of the PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ investigation. Why is Scotland Yard turning a blind eye? There must be a reason.

The only aggravation I had on the streets was from a few self-styled Biggs aides who criticised me for ‘splitting the Labour vote’.  No vote belongs to Labour.  Like respect, every vote has to be earned.  Such arrogance has destroyed the ethical power of the Labour Party.  It is anti-democratic and indeed illegal to seek to pressurise voters and candidates. Don’t they know?  I take it as a badge of honour.  Remember Labour created Rahman.

Furthermore, the spectre in the election campaign of both Peter Golds openly boasting in public meetings that he would “lend” second preference votes to Labour, and of Biggs “lending” Labour’s second preferences to the Tories beggars belief. Have these people learnt nothing?

The voters have decided and that decision must be respected. I would like to thank the 1,768 people who voted for me, the many others who (I am told) wanted to but didn’t and the many more who put me down as their second preference.  Many wish to keep in touch and can do so at: andy@redflagac.org

We will now see if Labour will clear up, or cover-up, the mess of its own making.

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IMG_0664John Biggs delivered a far more generous victory speech last night to the Tower Hamlets First brigade than they perhaps deserved.

It wasn’t what he said precisely but the tone he used. I suppose it’s easy and better to be magnanimous in victory than to be crowing and churlish but he congratulated Rabina Khan for her campaign (who, by the way, didn’t reciprocate in her speech – she forgot to say well done and instead focused on the ‘me, me’ parts) and he promised to recognise the fact she polled so many votes. She won almost 26,000 votes on the first round, 1,500, or less than 2 per cent, behind John.

He said we shouldn’t forget that “a lot of bad things have happened” but that we should now move on.

He said he would hold office as a Labour mayor but in also praising Peter Golds he hinted at possible cooperation to come.

Peter, in his speech, struck a more wary tone. He said John won by “borrowing” votes from the other parties. As he said this, John raised a somewhat surprised eyebrow, but given the comments on this blog and on Twitter during the past couple of days, as well as the feedback John’s opponents were getting on the doorstep, I think Peter was doing no more than stating the bleeding obvious.

Peter polled 5,940 votes, or 8.7 per cent of the first round total. This was almost the same as Chris Wilford achieved last year in percentage terms (he got 7,173 votes in total) but far below the 20 per cent the Tories achieved only last month in the general election for the borough’s two constituencies.

And in second preference votes, there were a huge number of Tories who put Labour second yesterday.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 13.59.56For sure, this was an election in which Labour found friends in other parties.

I know that had John won last year he’d been planning to create an administration reflective of the rainbow nature of his support. It would be very surprising were that not the case this time.

The Government commissioners (who like almost all senior council officers will have been relieved by the result) will surely leave once they see functional politics at play again.

This is why Peter was right in his speech at the ExCeL centre to warn about the consequences for THF of last night’s defeat. Where do their band of jokers go now? Labour and the Tories will need to watch their backs when it comes to future candidate selection for councillors. More about them in a future post.

But more immediately, John now has to create an administration. He has already appointed three deputy mayors in Rachael Saunders, Shiria Khatun and Sirajul Islam, but there will be others wanting some reward. It was noticeable that Abdal Ullah, no longer a councillor, was the man who escorted John into the count last night.

There’s now a cabinet and other appointments to be be made. Some in his Labour group will have to bide their time. Will John take a Sir Robin Wales approach and dish out special responsibility allowances like confetti?

And how will he thank the Tories and in particular Peter Golds? Not so long ago, I suggested he’d make an excellent council Speaker. I think he’d love wearing the civic chains and ensuing order in the council chamber. Offering that role to him for a year would seem a wise choice. After that, I’d put him in charge of transparency and anti-corruption: a mini-Eric Pickles.

And then there’s Rabina. Could John offer her something? Would he? Would she accept? A role to encourage more women into politics? It would certainly create a split in the group of 17 “independents”. Or would she prefer to lead their group as Opposition leader. If the latter, she will need to formally join them and then take on Oli Rahman who has assumed that role.

And there is some talk about Rabina’s team examining a possible election petition against John’s win but how serious that is and on what grounds, I’m not sure.

I took some videos of this morning’s speeches and I will publish them once they’ve finished uploading in two hours’ time…

Lastly, congratulations to Labour’s Sabina Akhtar for winning in Stepney and to Andy Erlam and the other petitioners. Andy polled 1,768 votes yesterday – less than 3%  – but his fans are of a far, far higher number than that.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of last night’s fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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A day to go and even Radio 4’s Today programme has got in on the act, having just given the Tower Hamlets election its second prime time slot just before the 8pm news.

The tenor of her report was plus ca change: John Biggs facing false allegations on the doorstep that he will close down mosques; accusations by Andy Erlam of possible vote fraud; returning officer John Williams again telling the world we can be confident in the process; Rabina Khan, who has promised to be more transparent than Lutfur, refusing to be interviewed; and every single Bangladeshi voter in the vox pop asserting that Lutfur had been stitched up and that he hadn’t been corruptly elected.

I’m sure Richard Mawrey QC would have been listening with exasperated but unsurprised sighs. Might he be put to work again?

It’s not just Rabina’s campaign which has courted controversy. Peter Golds has been thoroughly enjoying himself but has been let down by a supporter who appeared on one of his leaflets. Rabina’s supporters have unearthed a Facebook posting by a Glen McCarty last year when he felt the need to vent some racist poison after apparently fearing for his wallet walking through Whitechapel. Here’s the posting and and leaflet.

glen mccarty

Perhaps he should have a word with Tory activists Ahmed Hussain and Dr Anwara Ali, who pays their taxes. Peter Golds says he’s appalled by it and has asked for an apology. If a Rabina supporter had written something equivalent there would be justifiable fury and that’s the case here as well.

Meanwhile, Rabina yet again failed to attend a hustings last night, this time on the Isle of Dogs. Here’s the seat that was reserved for her:

rabina chair

She has proved to be a crushing disappointment in this regard. She promised to be more accountable than her boss, Lutfur Rahman, to be more transparent, but she’s simply copied his tactics. This is, I suppose, not surprising when her campaign is being run and managed by Lutfur and his former advisers, including Mohamed Jubair of Channel S (remember his name, I think we’re going to hear a bit more about him soon, I reckon).

She claims she’s going to be her own woman if she’s elected. She hasn’t demonstrated anything like that thus far.

John Biggs has been successful getting out Labour’s big guns to campaign: Tessa Jowell has been a regular; Dan Jarvis came last night, Andy Burnham tonight. Less successful has been the party’s attempt getting out hordes of local activists and perhaps this is a reflection of rising rents in Tower Hamlets where there has traditionally been a flow of students to help at times like this.

One final thought for now: Rabina has just been on BBC London radio boasting about her housing record. But during her time as cabinet member for housing, service charges for Tower Hamlets Homes leaseholders in my old patch of Bow have risen by 30%. A significant reason for this has been the costs dumped on Tower Hamlets Homes by the council for various management services and contracts.

I’ve previously asked her about this, but guess what: no response.

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John Biggs

John Biggs

In less than a week our borough has a chance to draw a line under the controversy and division of recent years by electing a mayor whose sole focus will be on the things that matter most to local people.

For too long our borough has been dragged through the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A farcical election count, a damning auditor report, a Government intervention, a mayor removed for election offences.

The former Mayor Lutfur Rahman not only divided the community with his patronage based politics but his mismanagement of the Council led to Government interventions of the kind we rarely see in this day and age. In both respects it is the people of the borough who suffer.

None of this was about one community or another. Everybody in our borough lost out as their council and leadership was focused on itself and not delivering the things people expect of their council. But make no mistake that the consequences of his actions have been very divisive, creating mistrust that politicians are not there for the public good, but for some dodgier purpose. I get fed up with the public cynicism that says all politicians are ‘corrupt’. Thankfully it is only a very select few who are. But when we find them we must comprehensively work out how to stop it happening again.

And so this election is a chance to put the council back on residents’ side. It requires us to move forwards but to do this we must also admit that things were wrong. It therefore boggles my mind that the Lutfur Rahman candidate, Rabina Khan, is in almost complete denial that anything was wrong, or that she had anything to do with it. Her constant refrain is ‘we must look forwards’. We must, of course, but we cannot ignore recent events. To do so is a bit like a burglar selling you back your tv and accusing you of being backward looking in asking where it came from.

My manifesto, my contract with residents, focuses on policies which will benefit every corner of the Tower Hamlets. Building the first new social housing in years, cracking down on anti-social behaviour, creating new jobs and restoring the reputation of our borough. But to move forwards we must comprehensively deal with the last of these. The Mayor model can work – just because someone crashes a car it doesn’t mean nobody else can drive again – but we must introduce a culture of transparency, of bridge building and of checks and balances if we are to move forwards credibly.

On day one I will scrap the mayoral car and the army of advisors. I’ll end the biased coverage in East End Life and review how the council should best communicate with residents, and how the Mayor should be accountable to the Council as a whole. Maximum transparency, and a willingness to explain all decisions, will be the foundations. In the first months we’ll implement the recommendations in the PWC report to make the council more open and accountable, we’ll appoint a new Chief Executive and get cracking on making good on my manifesto commitments. I will redesign a Mayor’s office that is lean and I will develop a proposal for transparency, and regular meetings with the wider public. We want no more headlines about scandal and corruption, just ones about knuckling down to make things better, and then positive ones about the great things that local people achieve.

Whilst there are many candidates standing in this election last year showed us that the choice is between Labour or more of the same under Lutfur Rahman’s candidate. There will be many people reading this who are not natural Labour voters and who may not agree with everything I say or propose to do. Whether those people use their second preference or not may decide the result. To those voters I pledge a culture of openness and a good administration that listens, and explains, and does ot neglect the voices of any part of our community.

I am happy to write more at a later date about the challenges on housing, skills, employment, development, education, budgeting and so on. However, the simple fact is that this is an election like no other. It’s about getting our borough back on track and moving on from the divisive past we’ve seen under Lutfur Rahman. If elected, that is exactly what I intend to do.

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