The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has told a judge this week that the Labour Party bears “hallmarks of institutional racism”.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman is currently on trial at Election Court in the Royal Courts of Justice over accusations of election fraud but denies any wrongdoing.
In a written witness statement to the judge, Mr Rahman said he felt he is part of a “new generation of ethnic minority candidates” and that he “felt a degree of ambivalence” from Labour’s hierarchy.
He also said: “The Labour Party is not racist in the overt sense but I believe it, like many other organisations, still bears some of the hallmarks of institutional racism.”
“My colleagues would talk casually of the ‘Bangladeshi vote’ as if it was a homogenous bloc that would be delivered en masse.”
Four voters are proceeding with legal action against the mayor under the Representation of the People Act after one voter claimed that members of Tower Hamlets First, led by Mr Rahman’s party, had stolen his postal vote.
The voter, who remains anonymous upon receiving death threats if he gave evidence, told the court that a number of people had come to his home asking him to vote for Tower Hamlets First in the run-up to the election. He said “these people” had offered to “post” his vote for him.
Three days before polling day, burglars kicked his door in and stole his partially completed postal ballot.
Mr Rahman denies any wrongdoing.
Some voters, described as “sore losers” by Mr Rahman, are calling for Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC to declare the results of the May 2014 mayoral election void, and order a rerun of the vote.
Mr Rahman’s lawyers have described the four voters’ claims as exaggeration, invention and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”
Mr Rahman, who was previously leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour party, said: “I believe I ruffled feathers in the party hierarchy.” He said that from 2008, a campaign against him was carried out by Labour members accusing him of being part of The Islamic Forum of Europe, an alleged “extremist group”.
He later said: “If they [the Labour party] had actively intervened to prevent me becoming mayor and replaced me, an Asian man, with someone who was white, the Labour Party would have appeared overtly racist.”
The council’s newspaper, East End Life, also came under scrutiny, with claimants saying that more than 95 per cent of quotes in the publication came from Mr Rahman or his members of his cabinet.
The mayor defended the publication and said that it was a “fantastic newspaper” and is “not a propaganda machine”. The newspaper has been around for 20 years now and is delivered to every household in Tower Hamlets.
The trial is set to continue into March, when a verdict will be reached over the allegations.