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Battle begins to decide if Tower Hamlets gets elected mayor

PUBLISHED: 07:03 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:35 05 October 2010

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Carmen Valino

RIVAL campaigns to decide if London’s East End should have its own powerful elected mayor or keep the council cabinet system have fired their first salvoes with political big guns rolled out for the battle for Tower Hamlets

ABOVE: No’ protesters picket the yes’ rally urging Livingstone not to divide the community with his campaign for an elected mayor to replace the local council’s cabinet...

BELOW: Livingstone (far left) confers with Keith Vaz while Galloway (right) calls for strong East End leadership’ to take on the Government...

By Mike Brooke

Pictures: Carmen Valino

RIVAL campaigns to decide if London’s East End should have its own powerful elected mayor or keep the council cabinet system have fired their first salvoes this week with some of the political big guns rolled out for the battle.

The yes’ lobby who won the right for a referendum to be held on May 6 opened the shots on Saturday with a rally calling for an elected mayor for Tower Hamlets.

Front-line Labour sparks such as Parliamentary Home Affairs chairman Keith Vaz and ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone were brought into the rally at Whitechapel’s Brady centre to join forces with Respect MP George Galloway and 300 supporters.

But they ran the gauntlet of 100 protesters outside, urging Livingstone not to divide’ the community.

The no’ campaigners fight to keep control of the Town Hall in the hands of a 15-strong cabinet and draw support from Government minister Jim Fitzpatrick, whose Poplar constituency would fall within an elected mayor’s manor.’

Livingstone, London’s first-ever elected Mayor who is main patron for the yes’ campaign, spoke of an elected mayor as essential to fight a central government to get resources for the deprived East End.

Galloway, who quits his Bethnal Green & Bow constituency at the General Election to take on Fitzpatrick in neighbouring Poplar & Limehouse, insisted he has “no intention of standing for Mayor.” This followed a public row the two had on the East London Advertiser website on February 3 when Galloway was accused of trying to create a bolt hole’ for himself if he lost at the polls.

He sees an elected mayor as sidestepping the “poisonous web” he says a former council leader was spinning behind the scenes to keep control of Tower Hamlets.

Those opposing an elected mayor fear control of the East End’s £1 billion annual budget would concentrate too much power in the hands of one person.


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