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I’v now heard of several cases of when Lutfurite canvassers (it’s alleged they’re being paid to knock on doors) have introduced themselves at people’s homes without clearly stating who they are. One contact said they were paid a visit by Cllr Alibor Choudhury recently and claimed even he failed to clarify his status; instead he apparently said “Hello, we’re from Tower Hamlets council and we believe in bringing the council to you” before asking whether there were any problems he could solve.

Mark Baynes, who runs the LoveWapping blog has detailed at some length the problems he’s witnessed, eg here, here and here. Channel 4 have also been examining the issue.

Peter Golds raised it at full council last week. I asked him to write a piece for this blog.

By Cllr Peter Golds

Three weeks ago a Labour candidate in Cubitt Town was calling on voters in Galbraith Street. How do I know? Easy, because a voter told me the next day.

The voter knew this was a Labour candidate because she had material identifying her party and herself as a candidate and indeed said so.  A week later I was with a team canvassing in Stewart Street and I have no doubt that the Labour party heard about this.

Why? Because we also identified ourselves and had leaflets and stickers indicating exactly who we were.

Once the local elections get fully under way candidates and helpers will be easily identified as they will be wearing coloured rosettes when calling on voters.

The stories circulating regarding canvassers supporting Lutfur Rahman and his team of candidates–and they are canvassers–are increasingly disturbing.

These people are not identifying themselves either as canvassers or immediately as supporters of the Rahman administration. In one case a resident on Manchester Road, questioned the two young men who called on him asking what it was about. He was told that this was their job. In which case who is paying?

Here is the text of an email sent this week to the police and the Returning Officer from a block on a Cubitt Town estate:

 I am receiving complaints from neighbours that two young men are knocking on doors with official papers in their hand and leaflets from the Mayor, when challenged concerning official ID they have fled saying contact the Mayor’s Office.

I am concerned at anyone going round knocking on doors without any kind of ID saying who they are and particularly where vulnerable people are concerned.

They have just knocked on my door and I can confirm they do not display any form of ID.

Perhaps you could kindly look into this and ask the Mayor to arrange for anyone canvassing for him to display appropriate and suitable Identity.

Note that once again when challenged they referred to the Mayor’s office.

There is also concern as to the huge numbers of letters, sent out at taxpayer’s expense by the council, supposedly as a response to enquiries.

A worried voter met me to say that she had received one of these visits from two young men (they always appear to work in pairs); again they were evasive as to who they represented, mentioning “the council”. 

A little later she received a letter from a councillor from another ward, whom she had never met, and would not in any case have contacted. This claimed to be a response from an “enquiry” that the resident had raised. As the lady said to me, she knows her local councillors by name. Why, so soon after the visit of the two young men had she received this letter when she was adamant that she not raised an enquiry.

 

Worryingly, these unsolicited letters are now logged on the council’s computer system. There is evidence that the number is very high. Will these people receive another unsolicited letter at the start of the election campaign?    

What data protection is there about his? The council is a public body, often holding sensitive information about residents, what is or could be fed into these letters and indeed visits?

Political parties contact voters, and we often contact them by leaflet or letter. However, we use our own resources and voters are made aware of our affiliation. We are also subject to strict rules on data collection.

This below the radar campaigning is part of the problem of the Rahman administration. They themselves are all but personally invisible to the electorate at large. Yes, the Mayor enjoys going to organisations who are the beneficiaries of his grants programme, and who naturally are delighted to have him unveil a plaque thanking him for his generosity.

This is not to use a campaign term, “pumping the flesh”. Nobody sees him on an actual doorstep or handing out leaflets on a street corner.

As for his candidates, there was a classic example this week.

The Mayor attended the new site of the traffic light tree sculpture close to Billingsgate Market. Naturally, he arrived in the taxpayer funded car, which promptly parked in the McDonald’s customer car park, using up a customer parking space.

From where Lutfur Rahman posed for a photograph, in front of Billingsgate Market, the town hall can easily be seen. It is a walk of three four minutes at the most. Had he walked it, he would have passed actual voters.

With him, in the car, was his media guru Mohammed Jubair and former councillor, Mohammed Shahid Ali, who was deselected by the Labour Party in 2010 and is apparently the Mayor’s chosen candidate for Mile End, some way from his home on the Isle of Dogs.

Perhaps Mohammed Shahid Ali needs a ride at taxpayers expense to find the ward he has been allocated? Certainly, whilst a councillor his main claim to fame was to fall asleep during a planning meeting and then vote on the matter in hand, which somewhat annoyed residents.

In conclusion, there are serious questions to be answered about these canvassers and council resources. Bluster, abuse and threats from the so called cabinet is not the way forward on this matter. It is time for others to look into the situation.

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