Remember Lutfur Rahman? In 2015 the then mayor of Tower Hamlets earned the dubious distinction of being Britain’s first directly elected mayor to be removed after being found guilty of electoral fraud.
Rahman was slapped with a five-year ban on standing for elected office after the Election Court reported him to be ‘personally guilty’ of ‘corrupt or illegal practices or both.’ Judge Richard Mawrey said he'd ‘driven a coach and horses through election law and didn't care’ while his party Tower Hamlets First, was ‘never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman’. An aide was found guilty of corruption; supporters attempted to seek a spiritual influence through local imams while Rahman himself accused rival John Biggs of being a racist.
Now six years on Luthur Rahman is back. Tower Hamlets is due to hold a referendum on 6 May about whether to retain the existing directly elected mayor system or replace it with a traditional council and leader one. Rahman believes it should stay. His face is plastered all over the ‘YES’ side to retain the mayoralty, appearing beaming on the campaign’s Facebook page in an image that describes him as the ‘People’s Mayor’ next to the tagline ‘Power to People.’ The imprint on the ‘Yes for Mayor’ campaign says it is promoted by Muhammed Maium Miah – one of Rahman’s former Tower Hamlets First councillors.
Mr S hears that Rahman is spearheading the campaign ahead of a plan to run in next year’s mayoral campaign to replace his successor John Biggs. And with election material like this, it seems he believes his name branding remains untarnished. One campaign video currently circulating has Rahman comparing the mayoralty of Tower Hamlets to London, New York and Paris.
In it he claims that under the old system of a council and leader: ‘I was accountable to the party and to the councillors’ but that under the directly elected system ‘I have to always consider the wishes and the wills of the people of this borough.’ A convenient argument, some might say, given that Rahman was replaced by party colleagues as council leader in 2010 after a Channel Four investigation that linked him to the Islamic Forum of Europe. No wonder he wrote last week: ‘Having experienced both the Mayoral and the Cabinet system, I know which I prefer.’
Councillor Peter Golds, who played a leading part in the events up to the 2015 election court case which saw the ex-mayor disqualified tells Mr S: ‘Most people who had been found guilty of fraud and corruption would have kept their head down. It is no surprise that Lutfur Rahman is campaigning, almost alone, to retain the mayoral system in Tower Hamlets as a launch pad to again secure political office.'