The mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, is to face a High Court hearing over claims of electoral fraud after his bid to throw out the accusations failed yesterday.
Rahman’s legal team had applied to have the High Court petition dismissed, and claimed it was flawed and insufficiently detailed.
Justice Supperstone said: “Having considered the submissions made by counsel and the documentation before the court, we have reached the firm conclusion, for reasons which we will give at a later date as soon as is practicable, that the petition is not nullity in whole or in part; it is not appropriate to strike out any of the grounds within the petition for insufficient particularity.”
Local Tower Hamlets constituents, Andrew Erlam, Debbie Simone, Azmal Hussein and Angela Moffat are the four people behind the bid to have the election of Rahman declared void. Andrew Erlam, who himself stood in the elections on an “anti-fraud” ticket, spoke in court on behalf of the others.
Witness statements put before the court included claims that:
- Council officers were “bullied” into securing votes for Rahman’s ‘Tower Hamlets First’ party and threatened with the sack if they failed.
- Postal ballots were completed in the same handwriting in Whitechapel.
- Thousands of electoral leaflets were printed with a false declaration as to the identity of the printer (allegedly Cllr Alibor Choudhur) at a small house at which such a level of printing could not possibly have taken place.
- Many signatures on postal ballots did not match the signatures on the application forms.
- False allegations were made about John Biggs, a Mayoral candidate, declaring that he was a racist and/or anti-Islamic.
- The Council, under the direction of the first respondent [Rahman], awarded grants to voluntary organisation owned or controlled by Tower Hamlets First activists in exchange for votes.
The statement goes on to claim that: “Canvassers and/or religious leaders [were] informing voters that they would not be ‘good Muslims’ if they did not vote for Rahman and that the Labour Party and its Mayoral candidate were anti-Islamic.”
The document detailed six separate polling stations where supporters of Rahman “accompanied” voters to polling booths and four stations where Tower Hamlets First literature was left in the booths.
The document stated that at the Lansbury polling station “a THF [Tower Hamlets First] candidate [was] handing out lollipops to children whose parents came to vote.”
A candidate allegedly told voters: “If they vote for THF…they will all get houses.”
Forty-one polling stations were allegedly host to large numbers of Rahman supporters “making it difficult or impossible for voters to get into the stations.”
The judge ordered that “further particulars of the allegations in the petition” should be supplied by 18 August.
Rahman continues to deny any wrongdoing. In a statement, he said there was no evidence that the recent election results were due to fraud and intimidation.
“It is clear that these complaints are being generated by disgruntled candidates who lost and the court has recognised this by not granting them a protected costs order,” he said. “I am completely confident that at the end of this process such claims will be exposed for the smears that they are.”
James Laddie QC for Rahman is set to appeal against the decision.
A trial date will be fixed after further details of the allegations are supplied to Rahman.