Ex-council leader Helal Abbas throws cap in ring to run for Tower Hamlets mayor

Cllr Abbas meeting voters in Roman Road with Lord Kinnock in 2010... not enough to stop Lutfur Rahma

Cllr Abbas meeting voters in Roman Road with Lord Kinnock in 2010... not enough to stop Lutfur Rahman at the polls - Credit: Archant

The council leader who lost at the polls to be Tower Hamlets’ first directly-elected mayor against controversial Lutfur Rahman in London’s East End in 2010 is back in the ring today.

Helal Abbas, who headed the council for just six months before Rahman took over, has put his name forward today to be Labour’s candidate to run for mayor next year.

But he faces the first hurdle of winning the party nomination in April against London Assembly budget chairman John Biggs—another ex-Tower Hamlets council leader—and other local senior Labour names who have declared themselves for selection so far, including David Edgar, Rachael Saunders and deputy group leader Motin Uz Zaman.

Two more councillors are thought to be likely to throw their hat in, Siraj Islam and Mizan Choudhury.

But it was Abbas who Labour had pinned hopes on three years ago during an acrimonious dispute involving allegations of electoral register rigging which led to Rahman quitting the party, running as an independent and storming home at the polls.

“I hope we can learn from the mistakes of 2010,” said Cllr Abbas. “Our campaign last time was too short and there were mis-communications.

“We now have a longer run-in to fight next year’s election—it’s an opportunity to formulate policy and win on the doorstep and put up a strong message.”

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He slammed Mayor Rahman—the man who denied him victory last time—for “lack of transparency” running Tower Hamlets’ £1.2 bullion budget.

“Rahman misuses and abuses public trust,” Cllr Abbas claimed. “His activities have cheapened democracy in the East End and created more divisions than unity.”

Labour draws up a shortlist on March 2, when it starts a tough selection process to find its candidate to be announced on April 6 to get ready to oust Lutfur Rahman and take back control of Tower Hamlets in 2014.