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In Tower Hamlets, now the accuser is accused

Just 2½ years ago, Lutfur Rahman was selected as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets with 433 votes compared with 251 for local London assembly member, John Biggs, and 157 for council leader, Helal Abbas. Shortly afterwards, Rahman was accused by Abbas of fraudulently recruiting members, including at fake addresses, paying their subscriptions, and winning by this alleged deception. Abbas was rewarded by becoming the Labour candidate before losing again to Rahman in the ‘real’ election.

Now Abbas and Biggs are competing again in what is seen as a much closer race to be Labour’s candidate with councillors Rachael Saunders and Sirajul Islam, and the winner will go on to challenge Rahman in the next ‘real’ election.  Rahman has since been cleared by Labour of membership irregularities and (he and his group of councillors) by the Metropolitan Police on 151 counts of electoral fraud brought by opposition councillors. However, now it is Rahman’s accuser who is himself being linked to new charges of membership irregularities and possible electoral fraud.

Last week I received a dossier about Labour Party members in two wards of Tower Hamlets. It listed thirty-one people in fourteen households, four of which are the households of current or former Labour councillors. Although registered as Labour Party members in Tower Hamlets at these addresses, the dossier alleges that they did not live there. Furthermore the dossier detailed links between these households and Cllr Helal Abbas. I immediately passed this information on to the national party so they could verify whether they were on Labour’s membership database, and on the electoral register since I have full access to neither.

Party head office has confirmed that 17 of these had been identified by an audit of membership carried out in recent months as not being on the electoral register and would not be allowed to vote unless they have a reasonable explanation. A further 13 (and possibly 14) are on the electoral register  but the party has concluded, without further inquiry, that they are “otherwise in compliance with their membership obligations” and that the party is “not in a position to investigate whether a person actually lives at the address in question“.

I am not satisfied with this explanation. The fact that 17 of the names have been found not to live there is a partial validation of the evidence which does suggest that there may be a conspiracy to influence the outcome of this selection process to benefit Clr Helal Abbas, and that does warrant further investigation. Local party sources confirm that it is widely known, for example, that Cllr Khales Uddin Ahmed has been “recruiting recently“. It is normal practice in these circumstances to visit the houses of the members in dispute in order to verify that they live there.

If these thirteen people in just two wards have been falsely registered in order to influence the outcome of this and other selections, they are likely to represent a small proportion of the total number of people who are so registered across the borough. Although they will have to provide “proof of address” in order to vote, it is quite possible that someone prepared to make a false declaration on the electoral register will also be able to provide false “evidence” of address. If the ballot goes ahead on time and the result is close, it can and should be challenged.

The ultimate irony of this situation is that Cllr Abbas is here accused of the very things of which he accused Lutfur Rahman. Rahman was barred as a Labour candidate and, in spite of having been cleared of those charges, remains outside the party. Abbas is not even being investigated in respect of those charges and is being allowed to continue as a candidate.

14 Comments

  1. Robbie Scott says:

    Cll Abbas is a very decent man and works hard for the Labour Party. You really shouldn’t write stuff like this especially 1 day before a poll.

  2. abdul says:

    Oh really! clearly you haven’t read about his infamous dossier of lies…suggest you do.

  3. Danny Hassell says:

    As Branch Secretary of Bromley-by-Bow I am very concerned at the claims you have made about membership in the ward; and that you appear not to have raised this with local officers.

    The document that you have published contains a number of factual inaccuracies and the article provides false and misleading information to readers.

    For example I know personally that for two people listed as not being on the electoral register for one property in the ward, actually live in a property just across the road and their membership details now reflect this. Yet information like this has been omitted from your article. I have personally visited both of these properties on more than one occasion.

    In another example you claim that four people do not live in the house with Cllr Khales Ahmed. However I know that one of these is his son who most certainly lives at this address. Another name is no longer at this address as they have recently moved to another house within the ward with other family members.

    No doubt further inaccuracies and misleading claims are also contained within your document.

    I also understand that you have not approached either Cllr Khales Ahmed or Cllr Helal Uddin – hardworking Labour councillors who are both committed to the Party and active in the local community – before publishing this document for any sort of personal explanation.

    Not the sort of behaviour one would expect from a Labour member at all.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Danny:

      I raised these matters both with the national party and with the constituency officers. The national party did investigate them – up to a point – and I have quoted their conclusions and why I think that they are unsatisfactory in a key aspect but also a validation of the charges in respect of 17 names. I would be surprised if constituency officers were not investigating further. I have done what I think I should have done to ensure that the charges are properly considered and bear some relation to the facts that the party can establish. However, I don’t think it is appropriate for me to personally investigate every charge. I should also point out that the last journalist to knock at the door of Cllr Khales Ahmed to investigate suggestions that certain people listed as living there did not do so was assaulted. The details of the incident together with a graphic photograph can be found at the Independent (picture below).

  4. James Folgate says:

    This article makes no reference to the strange friends Lutfur was keeping, the IFE allegations, his sudden, bizarre support from Respect and a whole load of other dodgy stuff which also contributed to his suspension as a LP candidate. In your urgency to make Abbas out to be a hypocrite you have distorted events completely and left out the features which marked them clearly apart.

  5. JD says:

    Is this a John Biggs dirty trick designed to help ensure he gets to be the LP candidate or is this a Lutfur Rahman dirty trick designed to help make sure he is not standing against another Bengali candidate in the mayoral elections. Knowing the company our mayor keeps I think the latter is far more likely to be the case…

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      JD: Neither. If there have been any dirty tricks, they are attempts to improperly influence elections.

  6. Russell Jones says:

    John Biggs won the tower hamlets labour mayoral selection, well just about by 8 votes after the second preference votes were redistributed. Not an overwhelming endorsement by any stretch of the imagination. Again it demonstrates how fractured the local Labour Party is, I’m sad to say.

    The word is that the second preference votes from Cllr Abbas’ supporters went to Biggs. Now that’s very worrying given the membership irregularities mentioned on this blog of at least 17 in just two wards by Cllr Abbas.

    Cllr Rachel Saunders should be very aggrieved and i’d be very surprised if she doesn’t lodge a formal complaint against this result.

    Looks like another colourful day in the life of TH labour selection elections!

  7. Jon Lansman says:

    Russell Jones:

    The detailed result was:
    Round 1: Rachael Saunders 261, John Biggs 257, Helal Abbas 207, Sirajul Islam 26.
    Round 2: (after Abbas and Sirajul eliminated and second preference votes redistributed): John Biggs 328, Rachael 319.

    Even if most of Sirajul’s first round votes went to Rachael, roughly half of the Abbas votes split no more than 2:1 in favour of John. If there were any voters for Abbas who should not have voted (and I suspect there were a few in spite of the obvious efforts of party officers and staff), they are even less likely to have transferred to anyone else.

    Although I haven’t spoken to Rachael about it, I would be surprised if she would want to make any fuss about the result. The fact is that she did very well even though she lost. She wants to see Labour beat Lutfur and won’t do anything that will undermine that objective.

    The most interesting aspect of the voting (apart from the closeness of the result) is the comparison with last time when Abbas’s vote started at 117 and climbed to 157 in the final ballot. This time, he got fifty more than that in the first ballot on a much lower poll (551 this time compared with 868 last time). That takes some explaining.

    Many of the 433 people who voted for Lutfur last time will have either left the party or abstained this time. John Biggs started this time with 6 more votes than he finished last time, though he will have got some support from people who voted for Lutfur last time. Rachael will presumably have inherited those who voted for Michael Keith last time, 89 rising to 100 in round 4, but did very much better, including a solid block of Bengali support.

    The most worrying thing for Labour is that there were over 300 fewer voters in the contest.

  8. john reid says:

    JD, I don’t doubt what you say, but have you proof, as it would be a valid argument to help us,

  9. Graham Taylor says:

    “The most worrying thing for Labour is that there were over 300 fewer voters in the contest.”

    Turnout was over 70% – which is incredible for an internal selction process. Name me a Trade Union general secretary elected on a turnout like that!

    Jon mate, someone needs to buy you a new abacus. 751 valid votes plus 15 spoilt papers. Plus membership is lower since the clearout of non valid members and there are lots of new members. It’s actually a higher turnout. Now THAT needs some explaining! Well not really, hacked off party memebrs got involved to chose the best candidate to beat Lutfur. SIMPLES.

    “This time, he got fifty more than that in the first ballot on a much lower poll (551[sic] this time compared with 868 last time). That takes some explaining”

    Hmmm.

    Could it simply be the fact that that was four years ago? Membership of any organisation is dynamic not static*, and – shock horror – people change their minds about things.

    – Some genuine members may have genuinely thought Lutfur was the best candidate last time round.

    – There are lots of new members in that pool as well, some of whom will have thought Abbas was the best candidate.

    *I recently received a ballot paper for the General Secretary election in the Unite union. I haven’t been a member for several years. obviously I voted for McCluskey 🙂

    Forward, not back.

  10. Graham Taylor says:

    “Not an overwhelming endorsement by any stretch of the imagination. Again it demonstrates how fractured the local Labour Party is, I’m sad to say”

    Or that there were three very strong candidates. That’s why party selections are done by STV

    Unity will be demonstrated in the coming weeks and months.

  11. Graham Taylor says:

    Jon – you also make a scurrilous suggestion by showing an out of focus copy of the Jerome Taylor article that it was Councillor Ahmed that attacked teh journalist, whne the article makes it quite clear that he had nothing to do with it.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I think, Graham, that you’ll find that I rather carefully don’t make any accusation that would be contradicted by the Jerome Taylor article.

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