ELECTIONS: Labour ‘confident’ in Tower Hamlets race for mayor as counting begins

The count runs through the night to determine who wins the race to be mayor of Tower Hamlets. Pictur

The count runs through the night to determine who wins the race to be mayor of Tower Hamlets. Picture source: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

Counting the votes for mayor of Tower Hamlets is expected to begin at around 4.30am after all the ballot boxes have been checked and validated.

Labour’s John Biggs is defending his slender majority from 2015 aiming for his second term as executive mayor over his People’s Alliance rival Rabina Khan.

Labour party officials are quietly confident tonight, watching the ballot papers being validated.

Up to 600 council staff have been recruited at the 109 polling stations and for the count at the ExCeL centre where the counting is being run, while 70 police officers were drafted in for the tight security.

The council is sensitive to security issues after the marred 2014 election overturned a year later in the High Court with allegations of ballot rigging and intimidation.

Previous counts have taken place in locations in the borough where security had been getting out of hand.

“Things have calmed down this time,” John Biggs told the East London Advertiser at the count. “We haven’t got the crowds turning up at the election count as previously.

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“We have relatively few venues in Tower Hamlets that would work well on security. But that’s a question for the returning officer, not me.”

Biggs was quietly confident about the result giving him his second term.

“It looks like I might have won it—but let’s see,” he said, after casting an eye over the piles of ballot papers.

He hopes to win on the first round, which would be a decisive strike against a divided opposition split between the People’s Alliance and ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman’s party Aspire whose candidate is his former deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

But some observers in the Asian community where much of the opposition support is based are saying that Aspire voters’ second choice could go to the Alliance and vice versa, rather than to Labour.

That would push the count to a second round—which could mean we are in for a long night.

Others in the race, though not the bookies’ favourites, are Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and Trade Unionist.