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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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Thanks to ‘Working Mum’ for highlighting this video on the comments section of this blog yesterday. I think it’s worthy of its own post.

It’s a video of Rabina Khan’s campaign launch featuring among others Lindsey German, of the Stop the War Coalition and former member of the SWP’s ‘Central Committee’.

They all get very excited and praise Lutfur Rahman’s “integrity” before the Great Man himself makes the late entrance of a Grand Dame from stage right to express righteous indignation at the consequences of the legal process: he singles out disqualified Alibor Choudhury, apparently standing at the back of the room, for a special shout-out.

The audience are all very excited by this stage but when it comes to Rabina’s speech, they look a bit bored: Lindsey German can be seen picking imaginary fluff from her jumper in the way people do when they’re irritated and distracted.

Meanwhile, you can also see Oli Rahman and Shahed Ali – the former speaks and the latter claps – and I wonder what those two now feel about having joined in the political charade.

At the time of the PwC report and as soon as the Election Court verdict came through they and one or two others had the chance to choose wisely and break away from the Tower Hamlets First Muppet Show.

Instead, they chose…..poorly.

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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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This is a guest post, by Cllr Rabina Khan, formerly of Tower Hamlets First and now an independent candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor.

Rabina kahn, tower hamletsThe first thing I will do if elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets is sit down with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Commissioners. While this council continues to be recognised nationally as a high performing authority leading in many key policy areas, last year’s report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers identified governance failures in certain areas and addressing these must be our first priority – along with restoring confidence in our institutions and processes – so that we can move beyond recent challenges to best protect local people facing a wide range of adversities in difficult times.

I want to be a mayor for women, a mayor for housing and a mayor who stands up against austerity. Women need more role models in public life. Of the seventeen directly elected mayors in Britain, only four are women. I hope that I can be part of breaking that evident glass ceiling, following the recent influx of record numbers of women to Parliament and an election which for the first time saw female party leaders – Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood – take the stage and arguably totally transform the debate.

Every study has shown that austerity, and before it the recession, have hit women harder than men. Women’s unemployment, and particularly BME women’s unemployment, is a serious concern. That’s why I’m pledging to establish a brand new Women’s Employment Hub to ensure local women are presented with job opportunities and are equipped with the skills needed for the workplace.

Under my leadership as cabinet member for housing for the last five years, Tower Hamlets has seen more than 4000 social and affordable homes built – more than any other council in Britain as recognised by central government repeatedly awarding us the highest ‘New Homes Bonus’. We’ve established the landmark Preventing Homelessness Fund, refused to pass on cuts in council tax benefit and said no to Bedroom Tax evictions. But the housing waiting list continues to grow, so I’ve drawn up detailed plans to build 5,500 affordable homes by 2018.

Tenants know I’m someone who has always been on their side – and I’ll hold social landlords to account to make sure they promote real tenant leadership and decision-making. I’m also promising a better deal for Leaseholders – capping punitive charges and making our system fairer.

Over the last four years Tower Hamlets has blazed a trail on behalf of local people, fighting austerity and latent child poverty that continues to blight the East End. We’ve restored education maintenance allowances scrapped by central government, introduced universal free school meals in primary schools and introduced university grants to ensure that poverty cannot be a barrier to achievement.

We were the first council to pay workers the London Living Wage. Now I’m campaigning for a Living Rent. My brand new Mayor’s Employment Board and enterprise strategy will deliver 20,000 sustainable jobs and training opportunities, along with 8,000 new apprenticeships. As a working mum I understand what a juggling exercise life can be, so we’ll provide more nursery places to help parents into work. I’ll also abolish charges for bulk-waste collection.

Some have tried to make this election about the recent court judgment. Former mayor, Lutfur Rahman has made clear his intention to appeal. But that is his battle and this is mine. This election cannot be about the past, when the future presents such stark challenges to the poor and the vulnerable. We need to start a fresh chapter in our politics, opening up local democracy and leaving no-one outside. My People’s Question Time events across the borough will enable local people directly to hold me to account, along with key officials from the council and – I hope – partner organisations such as the police and the health service.

I’ll extend filming to all council committees, answer questions in full council, cabinet and the scrutiny committee. I’ll hold a regular press briefings. There will be no mayoral car. Grants will be determined in an open and transparent manner. I’ll review the council’s relationship with Rich Mix, and launch a brand new culture strategy to engage with all the rich spectrum of culture and talent throughout the East End. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’m my own woman.

The general election has returned a reactionary Conservative government hellbent on rolling back the state no matter the human consequences. At the same time we have a Labour Party bashing immigrants and backing the lowering of the benefit cap as its leadership candidates compete to see who can lurch most to the right. Even locally John Biggs has refused to guarantee lifeline policies such as the EMA. This area needs a mayor who can be relied upon to be on local people’s side. I hope you will put your trust in me to be that mayor.

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This extraordinary ‘interview’ with Rabina Khan has been published on YouTube and is being actively promoted on social media by her supporters.

The interviewer, Aaron Bastani, is not a journalist but some kind of political activist who runs a media company called Novara Media.

The video is six minutes long and worth watching if only for the fun factor. When I watched it I got the impression that even Rabina was a little embarrassed by the softball questioning. “What does it say about Labour that the ‘fightback’ begins against a Left-wing anti-austerity woman?” is Aaron’s penetrating opening gambit.

I’ll let you count how many times he asks about the Election Court trial and corruption. Toe-curling. In fact, it took Rabina herself to raise the issue of Lutfur Rahman. “He has his issues, I have my own way of going forward,” she tells Aaron.

Aaron, possibly unaware of the careers of Pola Uddin or Rushanara Ali, for example, or that Rabina was the only female councillor in Lutfur’s team, also suggests that Labour has a problem with “Muslim women” who want to progress from being mere “footsoldiers” for the party to becoming leaders in positions of power. Does he have a point? From my many years of following Tower Hamlets politics, I think it’s more to do with a lack of talent to be honest. Male and female. Of all faiths and none. And on that point, I think Rabina would have been cleverer to decline such a fawning interview. Her supporters in the Bengali media are promoting it but I think it just insults the intelligence of the viewer.

A second video of Rabina was also published today on eastlondonlines.co.uk, the site run by student journalists at Goldsmiths College. I’m going to be nice to them because they do much good work. And in any case, they don’t pretend it’s an interview. Here it is.

In other developments, as predicted, John Biggs has announced he would appoint three deputy mayors: Rachael Saunders, Sirajul Islam and Shiria Khatun.

Various people who have been out campaigning tell me that they detect less of a buzz on the doorstep about Rabina compared with Lutfur, but that John will still find it difficult to attract Lutfur voters anyway. I’m also told that many in the Bengali media believe that had Labour selected a Bangladeshi candidate this time, they’d far surer of a win. Tower Hamlets, eh.

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This is a guest post by Andy Erlam, who initiated the election petition that brought down Lutfur Rahman. He is a former Labour ministerial adviser who lives in Bow and who is now standing on behalf of the Red Flag Anti-Corruption Party for the Tower Hamlets mayor election on June 11.

andy erlam

By Andy Erlam, ‘the man who makes it happen’

My Resolutions

Tower Hamlets has been through a very difficult period, when its local government machine has been in absolute crisis. A local council should simply be a source of help to individuals and the local communities, not a source of irritation, controversy, injustice and sheer dysfunctionality. The problems are not new.

“Divide and rule” is the oldest form of repression. The Election Petition High Court judgement, especially the order for new mayoral election, provide a unique opportunity for Tower Hamlets: to build a new high-quality local government machine worthy of the people and controlled by the people. This is an opportunity in our lifetimes to create outstanding local government here in Tower Hamlets.

It’s not rocket science but it is very important and it will take many people working together to achieve a transformation of the Council, under a new form of leadership – leadership from the front, co-operative and collaborative leadership and leadership with a clear vision and determination to achieve major results.

I am standing for election as not only the mayor of Tower Hamlets but as a new kind of mayor. The people of Tower Hamlets must get back in control of their local council and stay in control.

I am making these resolutions now as a benchmark of what will be achieved. I will:

  1. Ensure that team-working is adopted universally in council business, in the same way as my cross-party team brought about the defeat of the previous mayor in the High Court in April. When people work together co-operatively so much can be achieved. I will ensure that factional in-fighting is minimised.
  2. Ensure that my considerable experience of working in national and international government and in grass-roots community work over many years is applied in the most useful way to our local government, working, of course, as a full-time mayor, with no big political party interfering with my actions.
  3. Ensure that the new permanent Chief Executive is encouraged to act under political direction but without political interference, so making the town hall a happy place to work.
  4. Ensure that the views of all citizens are recognised, making the maximum possible use of direct democracy and respecting the traditions of the British constitution.
  5. Ensure continuous interaction with all councillors, guaranteeing their position as the first point of contact for their supporters. All councillors should be brought into the decision-making processes.
  6. Ensure that new forums for the widest range of interest groups and communities must be formed to keep the Council in touch between elections.
  7. Ensure that the Cabinet is cross-party made up of councillors from all the political parties and that Cabinet and Council decisions comply with the highest standards of transparency and integrity. Power will be delegated.
  8. Ensure that new checks and balances introduced to ensure that the elected mayor is accountable to the Cabinet, the Council and the public. These are needed to ensure good decision-making in the interests of the whole community. Power should be shared with the Cabinet, the whole Council and the whole community. Some believe that the elected mayoral system places too much power in one pair of hands. The arrangements can be modified and Tower Hamlets can return to a more shared system of leadership. All these things need careful review and reform.
  9. Ensure, in particular, that the Oversight and Scrutiny Committee of the Council is treated with respect and that the mayor attends regularly and provides as much information and asssitance as possible. With the right relationships, everyone benefits.
  10. Ensure that the Council recruits staff from the widest range of people, so as to reflect the communities in a balanced way, including the recruitment of disabled people.
  11. Ensure that subsidised public housing is not used as a source of private income or otherwise abused. New systems of accountability to tenants and leaseholders are needed. The role of local social housing providers must be reviewed. Problems and shortcomings must be exposed and dealt with.
  12. Ensure a continuing improvement in education by strengthening systems of support and recognising the central role of school governors. Education is about helping children and young people finding their niche in life.
  13. Ensure a fresh tradition of trust between the council, the police and the community. The Metropolitan Police have given priority to improving policing in the Borough. The police service should be equally good for all local people.   The new local senior police officers are open to reform and improvement.
  14. Ensure social cohesion by the strict adoption of a one language policy in all official business, with no sector of society taking preference over any other.
  15. Ensure religious independence by removing all political involvement.
  16. Ensure that the Borough’s reputation as having on the one hand the second highest average income in the country and on the other, pockets of severe poverty, is reflected by reinvestment in the community, such as supporting more children’s nurseries.
  17. Ensure that sensible, focused and appropriate business policies are introduced to foster dialogue with local big employers (e.g. at Canary Wharf) and small and medium-sized companies which have a key role of play in generating wealth and wellbeing. If we are serious about reviving ‘the high street’, then we must put a stop to victimising the customers of local shops through excessively punitive Tower Hamets council parking policies.
  18. Ensure the provision of impartial and useful information on council business to all Council taxpayers and stakeholders.
  19. Ensure that the government Commissioners, (paid by us), are encouraged to make the most useful contribution to a brand new system of government, especially in the management of grants.
  20. Ensure that a confidential “hotline” is established direct through to the mayor for anyone to raise concerns.
  21. Ensure that Tower Hamlets Council is transformed with the aim of it becoming known as the most effective and admired local authority in the country.

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Three issues.

1. Undue spiritual influence, mosques and John Biggs

Tower Hamlets First (I’ll use this name for ease of reference for the time being although they’re banned from using it and in any case it may well be more appropriate to call them the party named in point 3 below) are trying to whip up a frenzy over a visit by John Biggs to a mosque in Roman Road, Bow, on Friday.

It was caught on video here:

In it you can see Shibbir Choudhury, the mosque’s secretary, welcoming John and informing people that he had committed to make Sirajul Islam his deputy mayor if he wins on June 11. Choudhury appears pleased about this and remarks that John was also responsible way back when for helping the East London Mosque get planning permission. This, he says, was a good thing. For that reason he says “we need to support him”.

John says immediately that he doesn’t think “it’s right for anybody to be invited to support a particular candidate in a mosque”. He says, “I’m a Labour candidate and I want you to look into your hearts and vote for whoever you think is the right candidate”.

THF have leapt on this to yell “double standards”, a cry that is fast becoming the new “racist/Islamophobia” tag of this particular campaign. In this they have perhaps been egged on by Giles Fraser, a former official of St Paul’s Cathedral who a few years ago wrote a nice piece about the borough while sipping a glass of red wine in a pub across the way from the East London Mosque, and then landed a job from Lutfur as the chair of the Tower Hamlets Fairness Commission.

Since then he has been one of Lutfur’s most high profile supporters. In the few weeks since the Election Court judgment he has uttered not a word about six of the guilty verdicts but written hundreds about the other one: undue spiritual influence. I suppose as a priest that’s his area of specialism, although it’s perhaps sadly doubtful in this day and age that he would ever experience that himself.

His arguments on this subject have included it’s his human right to express political views. I’m not a lawyer, but I think Richard Mawrey QC’s judgment was more subtle and more complex than that. Bluntly, Mawrey concluded Lutfur had enlisted the chair of the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques, Shamsul Haque (an unreliable witness, according to the judge) to secure a letter of support from 101 imams. This letter, Mawrey said, came amid a “substantial body of credible evidence that the Imams’ message that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman”.

Mawrey conceded that his judgment would be controversial, and it is. And I’m sure it’s also confusing to those who can’t be bothered or who are unable to comprehend it in full and understand the context.

In short, Biggs’s visit and the words of the mosque secretary do not in any way compare with the Election Court example. That said, the THF people will be free to challenge it in an election petition should Biggs win on June 11.

However, the episode was enlightening. It shows how politicians do feel the need to visit the mosques to secure votes. I wonder if any ever visit churches on Sundays for their campaigning?

As a result of Friday’s incident, Biggs has decided to cancel all further visits to mosques at times of worship. Here’s a statement he sent me yesterday:

“Tower Hamlets First are a party devoid of principles and morals – this was well established in the court case. Although they now have to describe themselves as ‘independents’ it looks like nothing has changed. Once again they [have] tried to smear me after I visited a mosque before Friday prayers. It adds to the importance, if any more reason were needed, for the borough to move on from this sort of abuse and I hope we will on June 11.

“After yesterday’s attempted smear by THF I have also decided that I will not accept invitations to speak in any of the borough’s mosques or other places of worship at times of worship between now and June 11. This is both to avoid any misrepresentation of me and also to avoid any of our places of worship being dragged into the election campaign. They should always have an independence and dignity separate from daily politics. I have always respected this but clearly my opponents do not.

“I would of course be happy to meet with representatives from places of worship who, quite rightly, may want to hear from me as the election approaches on issues of interest to them and their members.”

2. Leafletgate

Mark Baynes, who runs the Love Wapping blog, has done some excellent, good old-fashioned on-the-ground reporting.

This account of his here is a must read.

Mark lives on the Green Bank estate in Wapping and noticed yesterday that a man was distributing Tower Hamlets Homes leaflets. It’s assumed this man was acting for Tower Hamlets Homes, which is the council’s arms-length housing body on which Rabina Khan’s election agent Ghulam Robbani sits as a board director.

But it wasn’t just THH leaflets he was delivering to people’s homes: he was giving lucky residents a Brucie Bonus in the form of Rabina4Mayor leaflets as well. Clearly, this has the potential to be a serious issue and a possible breach of election law.

Mark quickly got out his iPhone and recorded the guy at work. Here’s his video:

And here are Mark’s stills of the leafleter.

Mark quite rightly reported it to the police immediately and they told him they are looking into it. The man has not yet been identified, but Mark has preserved many of the leaflets for forensics.

Both Rabina Khan and Oliur Rahman took to Twitter to say they’ve been “framed”, that it is all a stitch-up and the result of dirty tricks. They also have informed the police. They have not yet said who they think is responsible but one can only assume they think it’s their political opponents.

The police are sure to get to the bottom of it, but I must say, even by Tower Hamlets’ standards it really would be a very thick dirty tricks campaign: Mark Baynes has been known to photograph questionable Tower Hamlets Homes leafleters there before.

Richard Mawrey in his judgment made some important points about who were Lutfur’s agents in the wider legal sense in the 2014 campaign. If this leafleter is a Rabina supporter, her team would have to show he was rogue and acting alone. Both he and they would have to explain how he got hold of hundreds of her leaflets.

This could be a significant issue. If anyone recognises the leafleter, please email me (please do not name him in any comments on this blog).

 

3. The return of Rob Hoveman

Rob Hoveman

 

Rob, the man in the middle (a rare place for him), has been George Galloway’s very left leaning right hand man for a decade. Between 2005 and 2010, he ran Galloway’s constituency office in Club Row and then moved up to Bradford, where he had a holiday home, when George found another seat for a while.

He’s a phenomonally good operator and loathes Labour with the same passion that he has for classical music and Hornby trains.

Following the collapse of the Bradford Spring last month, Rob, who lives in Bethnal Green, might well be in search of a new job. He knows his way around the town hall, having once been Respect’s part-time political adviser at Mulberry Place. I wonder whether he could be the next Murziline Parchment as a possible head of Mayor Rabina’s office.

If so, watch this space for Abjol Miah, the only Respect councillor he had any real time for.

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