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Lutfur Rahman: the case for reinstatement

Although Tower Hamlets has the wealth distribution profile of a least developed country, the borough has made big improvements in education, housing and other social services, both under Labour control and now under an ex-Labour executive Mayor.

Even so, in the media it has become a by-word for corruption and incompetence, but that reputation owes less to reality than to perceptions fanned by a disturbing alliance of New(ish) Labour and old-style stitch ups, with conservative little Englanders epitomised by the Telegraph and Mail.

What they share is an evocation of the pernicious traits of Islamophobia in this country and other parts of the West. New Labour apparatchiks were so tainted with it that they suspended the candidacy of former Labour Leader Lutfur Rahman for alleged “Islamist” links. The affair reveals disturbing prejudices – and the cynical use of them in a campaign almost reminiscent of the Koch/ Tea Party onslaught on Obama.

On the evidence of Tower Hamlets, all it takes to remove a rival in the Labour Party – at least a Muslim one – is to hint at “Islamist” links. That guarantees a reflex that is not only shamefully racist but also abandons all pretence to the standards of justice that we presume to hold in opposition to “Islamism” and Shariah Law.

Indeed, in one school of the latter, it takes four adult male witnesses trying – and failing – to pass a thread between the copulating couple to prove adultery. In New Labour, all it takes is a rival with a dodgy dossier assembled from the worst of the Tory Press to unseat a democratically chosen mayoral candidate!

While currently Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s reputation was restored even by the Press Complaints Commission, which ruled against the scurrilous articles that formed so much of the dossier, he remains outside the Party he has served for decades, while those who made accusations that were subsequently proven unfounded remain in. Throughout the process Party apparatchiks have assumed guilt with no opportunity for him to rebut the case.

Now the injustice, and damage to the Party, has been compounded with the summary expulsion of five councillors for allegedly supporting an independent supporter of the Mayor in the election. They were not given notice of the move, let alone an opportunity to rebut the charges, and quite rightly point to the contrast with the prominent Labour figures who actively called for the defeat of Livingstone in the London elections – with seeming impunity. In the meantime, a councillor who was arrested for assaulting fellow members and uttering death threats in the council chamber retained the Labour whip, while the police considered pressing charges. Even though they dropped them, the incident does little to enhance the prestige of the beleaguered council

Many of the Labour group on the council team up with the Tories to thwart the policies of the expelled Mayor, policies which put most Labour councils to shame. He is building 1000 new socially affordable homes per year, in order to tackle the borough’s chronic over-crowding problem. He is bringing all council homes up to Decent Homes standard. He has reinstated the Education Maintenance Allowance, making Tower Hamlets the first council in Britain to do so. Under his leadership, the borough also became the first local authority to pay all workers the London Living Wage, a cause that Ed Miliband has passionately championed. He is setting up an Energy Cooperative that will offer an alternative energy supplier to residents, slashing hundreds of pounds per year from gas and electricity bills. He has not closed a single library, unlike Brent which has closed six, and, unlike Haringey which last year announced plans to cut youth spending by 75%, in Tower Hamlets spending on youth services is actually increasing.

While other parts of London were in flames during the riots, Tower Hamlets, whose youth have every reason to protest disparities of wealth in Tory Britain, stayed quiet.

This has gone beyond the rights or wrongs of individual Party members: increasingly at stake is Labour’s relationships with large numbers of politically active people of Muslim origin. The Party should set up a commission to inquire into the Tower Hamlets Party with a view to reconciling the various factions, reconstituting the Party and readmitting members who have been loyal to its principles and represent a large constituency of those on whom Labour depends for victory. Otherwise, it will be giving a gift to the deservedly flagging fortunes of Respect.

Anton Wahlberg is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). This article first appeared in Campaign Briefing, CLPD’s annual newsletter, sent to all CLPs and available online here.


  1. Robbie Scott says:

    Sure he’s done lots of good things but if he wants to rejoin the Labour party why has he campaigned against the Labour party locally in 3 by elections ? He campaigned for an independent candidate in 2010 unofficially and in 2012 he officially campaigned for an independent one week and a Respect candidate the next. Why antagonise the situation why not back local labour candidates ? Yawn.

  2. Alex says:

    Labour has a tradition of allowing dissenters back into the fold. Bevan himself was expelled early in his career, and he went on to be the most reveared Labour minister and the party deputy leader.

    Ken was allowed back after standing as an independent against the official candidate. He is now on the NEC, having achieved the most support in this years election.

  3. I had to remove a comment that included insulting language, so I quote from our comments policy:

    “Be nice. Don’t make personal attacks on other commenters, Left Futures bloggers or the subjects of posts on the site. By all means challenge the things people say or do, but don’t be personal and keep it civil. Play the ball and not the player.”

    (Conrad Landin, associate editor)

  4. Robbie Scott says:

    Alex dissenters are one thing but he’s been taking the ****. So at the last election he was ‘stitched up’ and just to note there are plenty of people who do no accept that. How does he respond? He campaigns twice for two independents standing against the Labour party and once with a Respect candidate. All he had to do was sit there reapply which he and his deputy have done to no avail and play the wronged wife. Instead he choose to campaign against the party. A little odd.

  5. themadmullahofbricklane says:

    I assume from the comments from Conrad Landin that I am not going to be able to completely demolish this article which is a pack of lies so I will do it elsewhere. Under the guise of not being rude to people total censorship is in place here.

    1. Commenters welcome to take issue with arguments – but this does not require personal insults. The vast majority of people who comment on this site manage very well in this practice.

  6. Patrick Coates says:

    What does Bob Roberts do!

  7. Matty says:

    As soon as I saw the comment from Conrad, I guessed that it would be referring to the madmullah. There is something in the style of the madmullah that reminds me of Terry Fitz.

  8. Gary Elsby says:

    Why not make a list up of nazi sympathisers and Conservative MP who went on to become Labour Government Ministers?

    I think Lutfur gets it spot on.

    Personally, I can’t wait to stand in another Genera lor local election against (if you must) Labour.

    By the way, your claims of fighting from within is the right course of action has produced no results whatsoever and is grossly exaggerated.

    Whom should be following whose example of honesty, credibility and Leadership?

  9. Matty says:

    Or just try putting Terry Fitzpatrick into Google and you’ll find some rather disturbing results.

  10. john reid says:

    Bevan wasnt expelled he had the party whip withdrawn, and tatchell isn’t in labour ither, if lufthur did rejoin and an ex labour candidate stood for mayor, would labour allow me to campaign for the indepedent, like Ken did,

  11. Gary Elsby says:

    Can I be the first to offer my congratulations to Euan Blair for winning the Coventry North election in three years time.

    …..and still it goes on.

  12. Gary Elsby says:

    Talking of Nazi sympathisers going on to be Labour Ministers and talking of Bevan in the same breath being withdrawn from the whip………

    Is this Labour’s ‘shower scene’ where we wipe out an entire series of events as though they didn’t happen?

    The truth is, some of them didn’t quite like the bad bits about Hitler’s habit of exterminating vast areas of civilisation.

    Did good for Labour though, all said and done.

    Now about Lutfur being a naughty boy…

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