Defected Labour councillors to be “kicked out” of Tower Hamlets Labour group

Four Labour councillors’ decision to take up cabinet posts in mayor Lutfur Rahman’s administration could see them kicked out of the party by the end of the week.

Cllrs Rofique Uddin Ahmed, Shahed Ali, Abdul Asad and Shafiqul Haque have joined the independent mayor’s five-member cabinet and Kabir Ahmed has been made an advisor – positions the Labour party says it will not back.

The mayor, who stood independently after Labour kicked him out over accusations of vote rigging, has accused the party of “petty politics” and says councillors should be working with him in the interests of East Enders.

A bitter row has now broken out between the Rahman-backers and the Labour administration.

Cllr Josh Peck, Labour leader, said: “These people have been dealt with in the normal way and by rules that every Labour member in the country is subject to.”

And he insisted his party would not join the mayor, adding: “I don’t think it’s a strong administration. Our role is to hold it to account.”

But the councillors who defected are arguing the rules are being wrongly implemented.

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They state the clause forbidding members from working for another party do not apply in this case as they have no direct power as cabinet members.

Directly elected mayors, like Mr Rahman, can make decisions on their own.

Cllr Ali said: “The clause is not relevant. The mayor is in charge whether we like it or not and we haven’t made any power-sharing arrangements.

“I don’t see harm in influencing him and, equally, in scrutinising him. Ultimately we’ve been elected by the people to serve their interests.”

Mr Ali also argues that in other authorities where there is an independent mayor, like Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, the Labour party has allowed its councillors to join the administration.

As part of their new roles, Mr Ali is cabinet member for environment, Mr Ahmed for regeneration, Mr Asad for health and well-being and Mr Haque is looking after jobs and skills.

In the new make-up of the council, Labour has 27 members, Mr Rahman has 13 backers, the Tories have eight councillors, Respect has two and there is one Lib Dem.