Labour head-to-head with Mayor Rahman for Spitalfields by-election

The list for candidates for the controversial Spitalfields by-election in London’s East End on April 19 has now closed with five competitors in the ring.

Labour is trying to snatch back the Tower Hamlets Council seat after its winning candidate switched soon after the 2010 election and went over to executive Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s independent administration—defying the party whip.

Their new candidate is former council deputy-leader Ala Uddin, from in Bethnal Green, aiming to return to the Town Hall after a decade.

He is up against Mayor Rahman’s proposed candidate Robbani Gulam, from Poplar, a former paid Lutfur aide who suspended his contract last month as social services advisor when the by-election loomed.

Labour had hoped for the poll on the same day as the London Mayor election on May 3 which would have had a high turn-out of voters increasing their chances.

But the timing depended on an appeal against the sentence by councillor Shelina Akhtar who was jailed in January for council benefit fraud.

Her appeal period ran out at the end of February, which meant the by-election couldn’t legally be held as late as May 3.

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Labour fears that might mean a low torn-out which would favour the Mayor’s independent candidate.

So the party opened its campaign this week with mass canvassing by teams of volunteers touring Spitalfields.

Three others are in the ring—Lib Dem’s Richard Macmillan from Bethnal Green, Conservatives’ Matthew Smith from Spitalfields itself, and Greens’ Kirsty Blake from Whitechapel.

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