The ex-mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has announced the next Tower Hamlets First mayoral candidate.
Rabina Khan will stand for mayor in the election in June, following the dismissal of Rahman after he was found guilty of electoral fraud and bribery in last year’s election.
Khan’s campaign was officially announced at a public event in Whitechapel, Defend Democracy in Tower Hamlets, on Thursday night.
She appeared visibly emotional with tears in her eyes as she stood on stage and delivered her first speech as an official candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets.
She expressed her displeasure at Rahman’s exit, and said: “I am here today…because Lutfur Rahman believed I would be a good councillor.”
Khan is currently a Cabinet member for housing in Tower Hamlets and will run in the mayoral by-election in June.
Rahman appeared during speeches and was met with deafeningly loud cheers.
Hundreds of people turned out to support Rahman, apparently unaware he would introduce Khan as his successor, as he declared his election campaign last year had been fair.
In his first public speech since his removal, he said that the 37,395 individuals who gave him their vote in 2014 “did not vote because they were bribed, coerced or intimidated”.
He said he was “exploring the possibility” of challenging the judgment, and announced that Khan would take over from him.
Several MPs offered their support, including George Galloway and Ken Livingstone, who both sent videos to be shown at the event.
Galloway described Rahman’s dismissal as an “anti-democratic coup” while Livingstone admonished judge Richard Mawrey, stating he had “clearly allowed his political beliefs to override any serious assessment”.
Many of the guest speakers, who ranged from MPs, campaigners, students to local residents, expressed their anger towards the legal proceedings.
Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, described it as an “insult” and John McLoughlin, of Tower Hamlets Unison, said he couldn’t understand how the judge could “set aside the voices and votes of 39,000 voters in Tower Hamlets”.
Sabrina Sullivan, who works in a law centre and has lived in Tower Hamlets for over 10 years, had read the entire judgment and said it “shocked” her.
She also noted some discrepancies in the legal report and was confused as to why it “doesn’t deal with why actually the mayor has been effectively sacked”.
A fund has been set up for Rahman to pay for the legal cost he has already incurred, which is expected to be over £1 million.
Labour Party’s Christine Shawcroft, a constituency representative on the National Executive Committee, also announced that should they wish, residents could donate money to help with Rahman’s appeal.
A large proportion of the speeches made reference to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several guest speakers claimed there had been a “war on Muslims” since the 9/11 attacks.
Though there was obvious support for Rahman last night, sources close to the council say that Rahman failed “to turn up time and time again to answer his case”.
There were also suggestions of a smear campaign against Labour candidate John Biggs, who was beaten by Rahman in last year’s mayoral election.
Tower Hamlets is now without a mayor. Earlier on Thursday, acting mayor Oliur Rahman announced he was stepping down due to a conflict of interest.
His employer Job Centre Plus had refused him permission to stand as acting mayor because he is a civil servant.