Ken Livingstone likens government’s Tower Hamlets takeover to ‘East German communists’

Ken Livingstone called the attacks on Mayor Rahman 'outrageous'

Ken Livingstone called the attacks on Mayor Rahman 'outrageous' - Credit: Rehan Jamil

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has attacked as “outrageous” the government’s intervention in Tower Hamlets politics, likening it to “East Germany under the communists”.

2010... Livingstone campaigs with Rahman in Brick Lane

2010... Livingstone campaigs with Rahman in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant

Mr Livingstone, who campaigned for Lutfur Rahman in 2010, said he’d like to take local government secretary Eric Pickles to court over his plans to send three commissioners to seize council powers after a damning audit report on council finances.

The findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ six-month audit on grant allocations and the sale of public buildings have led to calls from Labour for the Mayor’s resignation – calls he has dismissed in a BBC interview.

Mr Livingstone blasted an “obscene underhand alliance” between the local Labour group and the Conservatives, accusing them of spreading “smears and innuendo” about the Mayor.

He also signed a letter to the Guardian newspaper yesterday calling the government’s move a “flagrant violation of the democratic will of the population”.

Labour leader Cllr Rachael Saunders said the Mayor should 'consider his position'

Labour leader Cllr Rachael Saunders said the Mayor should 'consider his position' - Credit: Archant

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Speaking to ITV News today, Mr Livingstone said: “It’s absolutely outrageous.

“You’ve got a completely obscene underhand alliance between the Labour and Tory councillors to block everything that’s going on.

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“Council meetings are chaotic. There’s nothing Lutfur can do about that.

“The local Labour party members should be ashamed of what their councillors get up to – smears and innuendo, none of it ever stands up.”

Livingstone on a Whitechapel 'walkabout' during Rahman's 2010 election campaign

Livingstone on a Whitechapel 'walkabout' during Rahman's 2010 election campaign - Credit: Archant

He added: “I’d take Eric Pickles to court. This is like something out of East Germany under the communists.”

Mr Livingstone also repeated his prediction that the Mayor will be re-admitted to the Labour party “once he’s eventually cleared of all these smears”.

A spokesman for the Labour group said: “Labour’s current team, from Hillary Benn MP as our shadow secretary of state who spoke in parliament this week, to local MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali, and Tower Hamlets Labour councillors, are determined to fight for fairness and transparency in Tower Hamlets Town Hall.

“Local people are being cheated by Lutfur Rahman, who brings shame to our great borough.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles

Local government secretary Eric Pickles - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

“We will not be distracted by commentators from outside.”

Ken Livingstone campaigned alongside Lutfur Rahman in the 2010 mayoral election against his own party after Rahman was deselected by Labour and ran as an independent.

In April this year, Mr Livingstone publicly defended the Mayor over a critical Panorama documentary about Mr Rahman’s administration, which aired three days before the audit was launched.

His intervention was seized on by supporters of the Mayor, who handed out leaflets during May’s mayoral elections claiming Mr Livingstone was “backing” the incumbent’s re-election.

The former London Mayor, who had recently become an adviser on the council’s £900million revamp of Whitechapel, was forced to make a public statement clarifying his position and endorsing Rahman’s Labour rival John Biggs.

Read more:

Labour suggests Mayor should step down over damning audit report

Eric Pickles to send three commissioners to run Tower Hamlets over audit

Tower Hamlets rejects government audit report, saying ‘no evidence of fraud’

Auditors say Tower Hamlets ‘failed to provide best value’ for residents

Read the PricewaterhouseCoopers report here

Panorama: Ken Livingstone defends Lutfur Rahman, says he ‘fell asleep’ during BBC broadcast

Ken Livingstone backing Labour’s John Biggs for Tower Hamlets Mayor

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