Could former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman be launching a new political party? Rahman was convicted of electoral fraud in April 2015 and is banned from holding political office until 2021. But speculation is growing that he could be behind moves to launch a new movement after invitations were sent through a WhatsApp message by local councillor Mahbub Alam that was billed as a chance to take tea with the disgraced ex-mayor.
The meeting was held last Sunday at The Blue Moon Media Academy, in Mile End Road. According to the Companies House website register, a company of that name providing “business support service activities” was dissolved in October 2014 however the name still appears on the outside of the building.
An invitation was initially sent out billing it as a private meeting to take tea with Lutfur Rahman however it was publicised by a screenshot of a message taken from WhatsApp, which was shared on social media. It was also picked up on local news sites like Love Wapping and Right Relevance as well as Twitter.
A number of journalists gathered at the venue on Sunday afternoon. Councillor Alam told the East London Lines reporter that it was a private meeting and there would be another meeting setup specifically for journalists to cover. Alam also said that Rahman may or may not attend the meeting.
Later about 70 – 80 people arrived, mainly men. Two councillors escorted Rahman up the stairs shielding him from journalists’ questions. A BBC journalist asked the former mayor if he was setting up a new political party however he did not respond. Journalists were then bundled out of the building.
It is alleged that his new political party will be called ‘Tower Hamlets Together’. His former party was entitled ‘Tower Hamlets First’.
Local news site Love Wapping has revealed that Rahman has endorsed Councillor Ohid Ahmed as his candidate for the contest as the Executive Mayor of the borough in the 2018 local elections.
News of the developments prompted strong reaction.
Elaine Bagshaw, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election after Rahman was deposed, said: “Tower Hamlets has been constantly dragged down by Lutfur Rahman and his legacy of corruption. Under his leadership many people lost faith in our Council and that they were doing the right things for our community.”
She continued: “People are sick of his tit for tat feud with Labour. We can’t move on as a borough until he moves on and realises that his politics and his ego aren’t welcome anymore.”
Rahman’s successor as Mayor John Biggs said: “We live in a democracy and any group are free to form a party. However, both he, and the newly formed ‘People’s Alliance’ will have difficulty escaping from their corrupt, divisive and discredited roots, and the fact that their misbehaviour has cost local people millions of pounds in misappropriated funds.”
Biggs took over in June 2015 after Rahman was reported for ‘corrupt or illegal practices’ by the Election Court and barred from holding public office until 2021. Biggs added: “My first 18 months as Mayor has included real progress, but an awful lot of it has been spent clearing up the chaos and mess that they left behind. This is continuing, and highlights each day to me how utterly awful their leadership was behind the slogans.”
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