Support Tower Hamlets mayor or risk riots, says advisor
Lutfur Rahman’s aide says there will be street violence unless people stop questioning the Tower Hamlets result
By Andrew Gilligan
28 May 2014
A senior adviser to Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, has said there will be street violence unless people stop questioning the manner of his re-election.
The Electoral Commission is to hold an inquiry into polling in the east London borough after dozens of reports of voter intimidation and a chaotic count that took more than five days to declare a final result.
Mr Rahman narrowly won re-election as an independent, by 52% to 48% after second preferences. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 2010 after The Telegraph revealed his close links to an Islamic extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe.
Kazim Zaidi, Mr Rahman’s publicly-funded political adviser at Tower Hamlets, wrote on a local blog: “If those who still seem unable to accept the result continue as they are, it will spill out onto the streets where even the cleverest machine politicians will not be able to manage it.”
Cllr Peter Golds, leader of the opposition on the council, said: “I am gobsmacked. This is actually a threat of violence. Given what we know of the mayor’s ability to bring people out on to the streets, this is deeply disturbing.”
Around two thousand of Mr Rahman’s supporters mobbed the count centre in Limehouse during counting on Friday, effectively barricading Mr Rahman’s opponents inside the building. A number of Labour figures, including Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, were told by police that they could not leave.
Many polling stations in the borough were also picketed by large crowds of Mr Rahman’s supporters, through whom voters had to push to reach the ballot box.
Rachael Saunders, a Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets, said: “There were huge mobs of people at the polling stations, shouting, intimidating, actually making it quite difficult for people to vote.”
Another voter told The Daily Telegraph that he was followed into the polling booth by Mr Rahman’s supporters who attempted to ensure that he cast his vote in the “correct” way.
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: “Everyone should be able to vote free from intimidation and be confident that their vote is safe. Clearly there have been issues at the Tower Hamlets count and we need to make sure we understand what happened, and the reasons for it, before reaching conclusions.”
Mr Rahman’s council is under two further investigations by police and auditors called in by the Department for Communities and Local Government for corruption and misuse of funds. The Telegraph and the BBC’s Panorama showed that he channelled council money disproportionately to members of his own Bangladeshi community.
Mr Zaidi, who is paid around £53,000 a year from public funds, previously wrote a chapter in an Exeter University pamphlet libelling members of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party. The university was forced to apologise and pay damages.
The council insisted that the count went well and that it had received no reports of intimidation.