Ken Livingstone has appeared on the Tower Hamlets mayoral campaign trail this week in support of controversial independent candidate Lutfur Rahman, who was withdrawn from the Labour party candidacy last month.
His support of Rahman – who was deselected as a Labour candidate by the party’s ruling body, following ‘serious allegations’ about his conduct – has caused consternation among political analysts.
As Labour contender for London Mayor, Livingstone is not allowed to participate in campaigning against official Labour candidates for political office.
According to the party’s rules, those violating this principle ‘shall automatically be ineligible to be, or remain, a party member.’
Livingstone’s violation of this rule yesterday is particularly pertinent as eight other local Labour representatives have already been suspended for supporting Rahman’s candidacy rather than that of the party’s nominee Helal Abbas.
Responding to these cases last Thursday, Harriet Harman, deputy leader of Labour, told journalists: “There is nobody else that is a Labour candidate for Tower Hamlets, so basically people can either be supporting Abbas, which is what we want Labour supporters to do, and all of us in the Labour Party are doing.”
“But if they are not supporting Councillor Abbas – if they are supporting somebody else – then they are opposing the Labour Party, and you cannot be against a party and in it.”
Rahman was removed from the Labour nomination in September, despite winning the most votes from Tower Hamlets Borough party members.
His candidacy had already proved controversial during the shortlisting process, and came after he was removed from his position as Labour leader in Tower Hamlets in May.
Labour’s National Executive Committee took the decision to bar him from the mayoral ticket following allegations in The Telegraph on 3rd September that he had been involved in signing up fraudulent ‘paper’ party members in order to win the nomination.
Livingstone has described Labour’s decision to deselect him as ‘a big mistake’ and ‘a moment of madness.’
Journalist Andrew Gilligan, who was involved in the making of the Dispatches film, reacted to Livingstone’s endorsement of Rahman by describing it as ‘an act of political self-harm amazing even by his [Livingstone’s] own standards.’
Livingstone himself has a chequered history with the party, having won the London mayorship as an independent in 2000 after he was not selected as an official Labour candidate. He was readmitted to the party in 2004.
Labour has thus far refused to disclose whether action will be taken against Livingstone.