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Labour facing 2nd Tower Hamlets opposition group now recognised by Electoral Commission as ‘Aspire’ party

PUBLISHED: 18:16 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:30 07 March 2018

Independent front-bencher Oli Rahman addressing Tower Hamlets Council meeting. Picture: Mike Brooke

Independent front-bencher Oli Rahman addressing Tower Hamlets Council meeting. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A second opposition group on Tower Hamlets Council has now been recognised by the Electoral Commission as a legal political entity that is taking on Labour at May’s local elections.

Independent group, now called Aspire, in walk-out from council meeting in December over a vote on police investigations into ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman corruption. Picture: Mike Brooke Independent group, now called Aspire, in walk-out from council meeting in December over a vote on police investigations into ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman corruption. Picture: Mike Brooke

The former Independent group—the rump of ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman’s banned Tower Hamlets First organisation—has been registered as the Aspire party.

Its 10 councillors, the largest opposition group pitted against the Labour administration, have joined the new set-up ready to challenge Labour at the polls.

The move was announced just hours after the East London Advertiser revealed earlier today that another group led by Lutfur’s former cabinet member for housing had been recognised as the new People’s Alliance party on the council.

Aspire, like the Alliance, is taking on Labour’s John Biggs who is running for a second term as mayor.

Oli Rahman (left) seen in 2010 with Lutfur Rahman and Alibor Choudhury who were both banned from council office by the 2015 corruption trial. Picture: Dan McCurry Oli Rahman (left) seen in 2010 with Lutfur Rahman and Alibor Choudhury who were both banned from council office by the 2015 corruption trial. Picture: Dan McCurry

Aspire’s candidate for mayor, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, slammed the Labour administration for being unprepared for the winter conditions.

“It’s not so much about the snow,” he told the Advertiser today. “It’s about the lack of leadership in response.

“Only this morning I witnessed an accident in Wapping due to this lack of preparedness.

“I visited Wapping, Stepney and Whitechapel and the council seems to have abandoned the public in this severe weather condition by failing to put salt on the Whitechapel High Street pavements—this is unacceptable.”

Tower Hamlets Council's snow grit lorry in action in Bow, despite criticism from Aspire opposition that they weren't prepared. Picture source: LBTH Tower Hamlets Council's snow grit lorry in action in Bow, despite criticism from Aspire opposition that they weren't prepared. Picture source: LBTH

But the group has had a stormy passage itself on the council since their former leader Lutfur Rahman was banned from office as mayor by the High Court for corruption and malpractice in his 2014 election.

A row erupted at December’s council meeting which called on councillors from all parties to cooperate with police investigating the corrupt election.

The Independents boycotted the vote and walked out. They claimed “defamation” was being levelled against them and threatened legal action.

The 2014 election was declared void by a judge and a rerun was ordered the following year, won by Labour.

Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party was also removed from the register. But the rump of its members remained on the council, rebranded as the Independent group, now its members signing up as Aspire.

It’s frontbench leader, Cllr Oli Rahman, said: “Tower Hamlets needs a movement that represents the majority of its people rather than the bankers, those colluding with the government or pursuing a Blairite agenda.”

Aspire’s new party secretary, Lillian Collins, is pushing a membership drive outside the mainstream political scene. She said: “We welcome those who feel disenfranchised in the current political system and all fair-minded people to join our movement.”

The two opposition groups have been at pains to distance themselves before May’s local elections from the corrupt Lutfur administration which led to government commissioners sent into the town hall to put a halt to dodgy deals and handouts from the public coffers.

Meanwhile, the Labour-run council today revealed details of its overnight operation to tackle snow on the East End’s streets, in the face of criticism from Aspire.

Its gritting team of 110 contract workers have been out with a fleet of sweepers, cage lorries and two gritters over the last 36 hours gritting 133 streets and 50 miles of roads with 2,000 tonnes of rock salt.

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