A ‘Democratic’ Coup in Tower Hamlets by an Unelected Judge

A ‘Democratic’ Coup in Tower Hamlets by an Unelected Judge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Elected Leader of Tower Hamlet’s Council Lutfur Rahman is Overthrown as
Electoral Judge Substitutes Himself for the Electorate

I have a letter in today’s Guardian condemning the removal
of the leader.  In the same issue there
is a typical Guardian handwringing leader which fails to grasp the serious
constitutional and democratic issues involved.

Letter in Guardian today

 I don’t know whether or not Mr Rahman was corrupt (or more
corrupt than other local authority leaders). 
What I do know is that he was, despite the allegations re-elected and singled out by both major political
parties – Tory and Labour for abuse.  Labour, whom Mr Rahman left,
after the usual ‘democratic’ expulsion procedures and the Tories, who have
virtually no support in the Wardleft it to the far-right Eric Pickles. Pickes, a Zionist
neo-con to the tip of his belly, did the dirty work and sent in the
Commissioners.

Sacked by New Labour he Successfully Won the Elections
Lutfur was singled out for attacks by both political parties
and the subject of a witchunt by Panorama. 
When you think of the major corruption in the City and among Defence
Contractors Panorama of course picks on one of the poorest local authorities in
Britain for an ‘investigation’.  I watched it.  ‘Piss poor’ is one of the milder accusations.  It proved nothing and was heavy on innuendo.  Real journalistic investigation as per Wiki Leaks or Edward Snowden is beyond it.
What is known is that the Police refused to take action on
this ‘corruption’.  Mr Rahman was accused
of using the race card (unlike the largely White Labour and Conservative
Parties) or indeed unlike UKIP.  It
beggars belief.
Lutfur & Supporters
Mr Rahman was accused of using unlawful religious
influence.  Presumably unlike Protestant
Unionist candidates in Scotland and Ireland or Catholic anti-abortionist priests in
Liverpool or Jewish Zionist rabbis in Hendon and Finchley.  The whole issue stinks and it is British racism
which is putrefying.
Tony Greenstein
Lufur Rahman and George Gallway

The smear campaign against Lutfur Rahman is an insult todemocracy

 ‘The story of Lutfur Rahman is a democratic success
story.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson
Friday 30 May 2014
Lutfur Rahman had barely been elected for his second
term as independent mayor of Tower Hamlets before an offensive began to
delegitimise the results.
Lutfur and Peter Tatchell
This is to be expected. There had been a concerted
effort by the media and political establishment to smear Rahman. This
culminated in a Panorama exposé,
followed by Eric Pickles sending in police to investigate the documentary’s
claims. And though the investigation turned up no credible evidence of
wrongdoing
, Labour insiders were confidently expecting victory. To
be defeated by a convincing margin in an election where the turnout was
London’s highest must have hurt.
Now, claims of intimidation at
polling stations have been made, by two local councillors hostile to Rahman.
Given that there was a policeman stationed at each polling station throughout
the election, such intimidation would be particularly brazen. Oddly, no
complaint was received on the day, and no such allegations have been
reported to police
.
Ken Livinstone – one of the few major politicians who express his unease at what has happened
Let’s consider the specific claims made. Mile End Labour
councillor Rachael Saunders described “huge crowds” outside some
polling stations, “shouting at people or encouraging them to vote in a
particular way”. Tower Hamlets Tory councillor Peter Golds also
claims that at one polling station he visited, 11 supporters of Rahman were
stationed inside the grounds and could be seen thrusting leaflets into the
hands of Bengali voters and escorting them to the door of the polling station.
Handing out leaflets and even encouraging people to vote
in a particular way is not a breach of electoral law. But whatever the truth of
these claims, it is unclear that any voter was actually intimidated into
changing their vote. The US-based rightwing website Breitbart, which
investigated Rahman’s “intimidation”, found that there were also, in
fact, Labour party volunteers who
were crowding polling sites
.
We’ve seen this before. In 2010, in Rahman’s first run
for mayor, the Labour party debarred him owing to accusations of electoral fraud,
after he’d been chosen to be Labour’s candidate. Rahman won as an independent
and a subsequent investigation by the Electoral Commission found “no
evidence” of membership abuse. However, while the accusations were widely
reported, the commission’s findings remained absent from the popular press.
Eric Pickles – who hates local democracy – has willingly done New Labour’s work – a Zionist neo-con
Likewise, in 2012, there were accusations of electoral
fraud against Rahman in two Tower Hamlets byelections. Of 154 allegations, the
Electoral Commission found 151 to be without merit, but probed three. What
followed was a wide-ranging investigation by
the Metropolitan police and the Electoral Commission. A year later, the report
found that “the vast majority” of complaints “were reported by
local councillors” and that there was “insufficient evidence to prove
an offence”. While the accusations were reported by every major news
source, the outcome of the investigation into them was not.
These claims can be seen as part of a wider political
attack, intended not just to delegitimise the outcome of this vote, but to
stigmatise Rahman’s supporters. One of Golds’ claims, for instance, is that in
2010 every Bangladeshi voter in the ward he was standing was stopped and told
that he was gay and Jewish. It seems unlikely that Golds both speaks Bengali
and was able to hear every conversation that took place. But Golds also
implicitly assumes that Bangladeshi voters are homophobic and antisemitic. If
this is true then Rahman is plainly not the mayor for them. Rahman has never
hesitated to repudiate instances
of antisemitism in the borough and has committed to restoring the East London
Central synagogue. When the Old Ship, a local gay bar in Limehouse, was faced
with the prospect of being unable to renew its licence, Rahman intervened to
back a vibrant local campaign, ensuring it could continue to operate with a new
15-year licence.
Indeed, the attacks on Rahman often imply that his
supporters are the bearers of ideas not fit for a “mature democracy”,
as Nick Clegg put it. In recent days, several media outlets have alleged that
Rahman’s former adviser Kazim Zaidi is threatening street violence unless the
outcome of the election is accepted. In fact, Zaidi’s actual statement
makes no mention of violence, but of a political battle between a grassroots
old Labour politics and a machine-driven New Labour spilling “onto the
streets”. Surely a mature democracy is used to the idea of people taking
their grievances to the streets?
The thrust of all this is quite plain. It is to depict a
democratically elected politician as a sort of Asiatic despot whose supporters,
far from being an energised democratic populace, are stigmatised as
intimidating by sheer dint of their number and enthusiasm. There is a deep
substrate of racism informing this.
Absent in this type of invective is any consideration of
why, in spite of the frenzied mobilisation against Rahman, his own base
mobilised even more ardently, putting him back in power with about 12,000 more
votes than he received in 2010. The fact that his administration, with its
modest means, has built more affordable social housing
than anywhere else in the country
, may not matter to Rahman’s
opponents, but it seems to matter to his voters. Tower Hamlets replaced the
full education maintenance allowance after the government abolished it,
expanded a living wage requirement for all contractors, and allocates a £1,500
grant to every university student. It was the first council in the country to ban contracts with firms that
blacklist trade unionists
, absorbed all cuts to council tax benefit,
refuses to enforce the bedroom tax, and has avoided many of the cuts to vital
services, such as libraries and youth clubs.
The story of Lutfur Rahman is a democratic success
story. The fact that it seems dodgy to the political and media classes is
indicative of how long they’ve been insulated from anything resembling real
democracy.

Met considers criminal inquiry into Tower Hamlets mayor
Lutfur Rahman

Rahman is told to vacate post immediately after election court judge finds
him guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May

Police are considering whether to launch a criminal inquiry relating to the
former mayor of Tower Hamlets after he was found guilty of multiple corruption
allegations by the high court and kicked out of office.

The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his
supporters were found to have used religious intimidation through local imams,
vote-rigging and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist to gain power.

Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to
have allocated local grants to buy votes. He was ordered to pay immediate costs
of £250,000 from a bill expected to reach £1m.

Summing up, Judge Richard Mawrey said Rahman had sought to play the “race
and Islamophobia card” throughout the election and would no doubt do so after
this judgment. “He was an evasive witness – Rahman was no doubt behind illegal
and corrupt practices,” Mawrey said.

He also faces being stripped of his profession as a lawyer after the judge
claimed he told “a pack of lies” in the witness box.

The ferocity of the judge’s verdict provoked gasps in court. Friends of
Rahman claimed he had been unfairly treated.

Police on Thursday struggled to react to the judgment, based mainly on
evidence put together by local voters. Last April, detectives examined
allegations of electoral fraud and corruption against Rahman but found no
evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

A Met statement last night said the force has noted the judgment and will
consider the 200-page report.

Lutfur Rahman’s fall unlikely to end divisions in Tower
Hamlets

Rahman, who is no longer mayor and will be removed from the
electoral roll, expressed shock at the judgment and said he was considering
launching a judicial review – his only possible course of legal action.

A statement on his website said: “Today’s judgment has come as a shock – the
mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice
system, and so this result has been surprising to say the least.”

Even if he does challenge the ruling, he will not stop a new mayoral
election, which is expected to be held in mid-June. Rahman is barred from
standing again.
politics”.

However, Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor, said he was “distinctly
uncomfortable” with a court’s ability to remove an elected mayor. “If there is
any illegality, then surely that’s a matter for the police.

“I’m uneasy that a mayor who has taken on the political powers in a borough
can be removed by someone who is essentially a bureaucrat. What I don’t
understand is why he [Mawrey] found evidence of corruption that the police have
so far failed to identify,” he said.

The judge handed down his verdict on Thursday after a 10-week hearing at the
Royal Courts of Justice.

A group of four residents – defined as petitioners by the election court –
had called for last year’s mayoral election, in which Rahman triumphed over Labour
rival John Biggs, to be declared void.
Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court, limited though it
necessarily was to the issues raised in the petition, has disclosed an alarming
state of affairs in Tower Hamlets.

“This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the
population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other
deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man. The real
losers in this case are the citizens of Tower Hamlets.”

Mawrey said the effect of his ruling was that “Mr Rahman’s election as mayor
on 22 May 2014 was void – that is to say, it is as if it had never taken
place”.

Rahman’s election agent, Alibor Choudhary, was also banned as a councillor
with immediate effect.
The petitioners were praised by the judge for their courage and told that
they had been fully vindicated.

They called for a criminal inquiry into Rahman but questioned whether it
could be carried out by local police because of their “connections” to Rahman.

Azmal Hussain, a petitioner who said he would have lost his Brick Lane
businesses if they had lost the case, dismissed concerns that the judgment
would be seen as racist.

Tower Hamlets: relief and anger at Lutfur Rahman courtruling

 “The people
who have really suffered are ordinary people of all races who were supposed to
accept corruption because it comes from someone claiming to be against racism.
It is corruption, pure and simple, and it should be challenged,” he said.

During the hearing, the court heard evidence from a handwriting expert that
hundreds of ballot papers carried marks suggesting they could have been filled
out by the same person.

Rahman was also accused of making false statements about the personal
character of Biggs by branding him a racist. “No rational person could think Mr
Biggs was a racist – it was a deliberate and dishonest campaign. Rahman and
Choudhary are personally guilty,” said the judge.

The judgment also found Rahman to be the first person since the 19th century
to be found guilty of the misdeed of unlawful religious influence.

As the then mayor campaigned for re-election, local Muslims were told “that
it was a religious duty to vote for Mr Rahman”, the judge said.

It was claimed that a Bengali newspaper, the Weekly Desh, published a letter
signed by 101 Islamic leaders, which was “intended to have undue influence on
the Muslim population of the borough”.

Mawrey also said “bribery” had been “proved” following an examination of
grants in the borough. He said the “administration of grants” had been “firmly
in the personal hands of Mr Rahman” and “cronies”.

“In administering the grants policy, Mr Rahman acted in total disregard of
the council’s officers, its members and, almost certainly, the law,” he said.

Allegations of intimidation at polling stations fell “just short” of being
proved beyond reasonable doubt and so Mawrey rejected them “with considerable
misgiving”.

Yet he found that the behaviour of Rahman’s supporters had been “deplorable,
even indefensible”.

Police had failed to spot obvious intimidation on election day, the judge
said. He suggested that “an unkind person might remark that the policemen … had
appeared to take as their role model the legendary Three Wise Monkeys”.

In an unusual move, Mawrey said that he was sure that the Law Commission
would take a close look at the judgment as it weighed up possible reforms to
electoral law.

The judge will also report Rahman to the Solicitors Regulation Authority
which could lead to further action that may result in his suspension as a
solicitor.

The director of public prosecutions will consider the evidence in the case,
raising the prospect of a criminal investigation into the poll.

The verdict comes after the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered a team of
commissioners to ensure the council was properly run
after a PwC
report last year found it had flouted spending rules.

 

 

 

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