A former member of banned mayor Lutfur Rahmans’s discredited political party, Tower Hamlets First, is to stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming re-run mayoral election in the borough.
Rabina Khan, a member of Tower Hamlets Council, was introduced by Rahman last Thursday as his party’s candidate following his own removal from office for “corrupt and illegal” electoral practices by the High Court.
However, there was some confusion over her status as Rahman’s party had by then already been removed from the register of parties by the Electoral Commission in the wake of the judgment. The Commission said it was also because the financial scheme it submitted at the time of registration was not being properly implemented.
Now Khan has confirmed in a tweet to Eastlondonlines that she will be standing as an independent.
However, some residents are sceptical about how independent a candidate Khan will be. Writing on his website Love Wapping, Mark Baynes referred to Khan as a “puppet” of Tower Hamlets First, saying: “All the bloc votes that were previously used for the benefit of the ex-Mayor are directed towards the new ‘front person’”.
In his judgment in Rahman’s case, Electoral Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC, who was sitting as a High Court judge, wrote: “The selection of candidates was made by Mr Rahman personally on the basis of the prospective candidate’s commitment to Mr Rahman personally.”
At the event on Thursday, Khan stated that she originally became a councillor because Rahman “gave [her] the confidence and the faith that [she] could do it as a woman.”
Some residents believe electoral fraud has been a recurrent issue for Tower Hamlets. Stephen Jones, 22, a research assistant from the area, said: “Tower Hamlets has always had problems with vote-rigging, whichever party the MP or mayor represents.”
However, Tower Hamlets resident Peter Perren, a business consultant, said: “If every infraction of [Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act] PPERA was acted on, there’d be no political parties in the UK.”
In a statement on her website, Khan pledged to fight for a style of politics that puts “women, families and ordinary people at the heart of policy and decision-making.”
New political party Left Unity have pledged their support for Khan. In a statement on their website, they said: “She is standing… at a time when the council is being taken over by Tory government agencies [who are] whipping up Islamophobic scare stories.” They have called upon those on the political left to support Khan’s campaign.
Mitch Winehouse, father of late singer Amy, has also endorsed Khan’s run for mayor. A Twitter user called @LutfurForMayor tweeted a picture of Winehouse and Khan together today.
If she is elected, Khan will be the UK’s first female Muslim mayor.