Independent candidate wins Whitechapel by-election

The victorious Shafi Ahmed. Pic: Aghnia Ahmed

The victorious Shafi Ahmed. Pic: Aghnia Ahmed

An independent candidate, Shafi Ahmed,  won the Whitechapel by-election on Tower Hamlets Council last week with 44.73 percent of the vote, replacing jailed former councillor Shahed Ali.

Ahmed, a driving instructor who had never ran for office before, told Eastlondonlines: “I will make sure that there is a strong voice in the council who fight for the residents of Tower Hamlets and Whitechapel.”

Ahmed’s predecessor, Shaheed Ali, was jailed for five months in October for manipulating the allocation of social housing for their own gain. He was caught taking a council flat without declaring that he owned two properties and a business.

Twenty-four percent of the 10,502 voters in the electorate turned out last Thursday. Ahmed received 1,147 votes, followed by Victoria Obaze of the Labour Party with 823 votes, Will Fletcher of the Conservative Party with 217 votes, Emanuel Tomislav Andjelic of the Liberal Democrats Party with 173 votes, James Wilson of Green Party with 170 votes and UKIP’s Martin Smith with 34 votes. Eight ballots were spoiled.

Ahmed’s win surprised Obaze, who has been living in the ward and serving the Labour Party for over 10 years. Speaking to Eastlondonlines before the election, she said: “People are telling me now that they are no longer interested in independent candidates and they want a Labour candidate, somebody like me. I can change things; they put their trust in me and I am not going to disappoint them.”

On hearing the results, however, she said: “Good luck to Ahmed. I will continue to work in my community to help and support the vulnerable as best as I can.”

Ahmed spoke with at least 1,000 people within a month prior to the election. He has committed to tackling emerging issues in the area, such as anti-social behaviour and dustbin collection. “At the moment, the people have not got enough dustbin collections. It’s a serious problem,” he said.

Many residents in the ward have complained to him about sanitation and the cleanliness of their streets. Sabrina Khan, 47, a local resident who has been living in Whitechapel for years, is disappointed that councillors have failed to manage rubbish on the streets. “I want to get bins cleaned more often because I’ve seen a lot of rats,” she said.

Matters such as the development of a civic centre and town hall nearby Royal London Hospital are a major concern for Ahmed. “I will ensure the residents will benefit from the development. No big franchises will come in,” he said. Ahmed has promised to bring these issues to the council and urge for a solution. A biweekly surgery consultation will allow residents to maintain communication with him.

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