Home run for 10 candidates in Tower Hamlets election for mayor on June 11
- Credit: Vickie Flores
The gloves are off in the ‘home run’ in the last seven days before the people of London’s East End go to the polls on June 7 in the re-run election to replace deposed mayor Lutfur Rahman.
All the major candidates are lined up tonight for a radio showdown in a live hustings debate on BBC London’s Eddy Nestor drive-time show being broadcast from a community centre in Bethnal Green.
Labour knows it has to win back Tower Hamlets if it is to have any standing in its traditional working-class heartland.
Rahman was originally their own candidate in 2010, but had a falling out—which led to him running as an independent.
He humiliating his former party twice at the polls, the first time in 2010, then again in 2014—the second election being the one that the High Court overturned in April for fraud and malpractice.
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Labour’s London Assembly budget chairman John Biggs (above), former Tower Hamlets council leader, lost out to Rahman in that dodgy election.
Now he’s back for the re-run and promises a manifesto of new council house-building, a crackdown on anti-social street behaviour, more apprenticeships, extending free meals to all primary school children—but especially restoring public trust in the Town Hall in his “contract” with residents.
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“Tower Hamlets has a chance next Thursday to reject the division and controversy of the past,” Biggs declares. “I will be a mayor who knuckles down and gets the job done.”
But the shadows of Rahman’s now-defunct administration are still on the streets, having selected his own protégé to take his place, Rabina Khan, a member of his former cabinet, now running as an independent. His mugshot is on her election posters.
Khan warns that Labour or Tories would “hit those who need support in the pocket hard”.
Half of all children are below the poverty line in Tower Hamlets, her campaign points out.
She has pledged to keep the replacement payments of Education Maintenance Allowance and university grants and claims Labour and Conservatives would use the excuse of government cuts to remove the support services that she has pioneered as part of the previous administration.
“The priorities of the Westminster parties speak volumes,” Khan warns. “They agree on cutting welfare and pushing families into poverty. Residents cannot afford wasted years of a Labour or Tory mayor.”
The man who brought down Lutfur Rahman in the High Court, Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, is running for mayor to “sweep the town hall clean”.
The 54-year-old writer and film-producer has had a meeting with Scotland Yard’s high-level ‘Gold Group’ of officers investigating election fraud and been assured that the time limit for prosecutions for any malpractice in the 2014 election for both mayor and Tower Hamlets council has been extended six months to November 21, he will tell BBC London listeners tonight.
Erlam promises: “All council business will be in English to ensure transparency. All documents will be in the public domain to open up decision-making to the people.”
The Tories, meanwhile, are competing on the campaign trail to end “town hall secrecy”, while pushing for more school places and protecting parks from noisy summer festivals.
Conservative hopeful Peter Golds , with his support spreading out from the Isle of Dogs, also wants an end the cult of personality politics.
“There will be no mayor’s photographs on dustcarts and the notorious East End Life propaganda will cease publication,” he promises. “It’s not the job of a local authority to run a so-called weekly newspaper, let alone one that makes you yearn for political diversity as in the days of Pravda during the Soviet era.”
He also attacks plans to spend £100 million on a new town hall at Whitechapel, converting the former London Hospital which Rahman picked up for £9m from the local NHS trust.
But sweet music to the ears of families living close to Victoria Park is “the Golds pledge” to reverse Rahman’s policy of hiring out parks for noisy festivals, including the attempt to rent out the Tower Hill merchant seamen’s war memorial for parties “only stopped after an international outcry.”
Also running is Liberal Democrat Elaine Bagshaw, fighting back after the party’s heavy defeat at the General Election, who puts corruption at the heart of her campaign.
The regulator with the Financial Conduct Authority in Canary Wharf promises to save £1.5m a year by scrapping East End Life and use the money to help tackle child poverty.
“It’s absolutely wrong that we live in the shadows of Canary Wharf and the City skyscrapers, yet have the second-highest unemployment in London,” she says. “It’s simply appalling that 49 per cent of our children are growing up in poverty.”
The 29-year-old from Limehouse has held banks to account as a financial regulator and has supported those who “fell victim to the scandals of payday lenders.”
She would go through Tower Hamlets council’s £1.2m budget “line by line” if she gets into the Mayor’s Office—once the government’s commissioners have finished with the books.
Also form the financial sector is journalist John Foster, running for the Greens, to give “a real voice that can be heard over the in-fighting” while speaking up for the disenfranchised.
But he would really like to vote himself out of office, because he doesn’t agree with having an executive mayor in the first place.
The Greens want executive mayors abolished, arguing that such mandates put too much power in the hands of a small number of individuals.
They propose a referendum on whether Tower Hamlets should continue having a directly-elected executive mayor.
But in the meantime, their 40-something candidate promises to work with all parties through the old committee system if he gets his feet under the mayor’s table.
FULL LIST OF CANDIDATES
? John Biggs – Labour, re-elected London Assembly’s budget chairman, represents east London at City Hall, former leader of Tower Hamlets Council.
? Rabina Khan – Independent, ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s former ‘Tower Hamlets First’ administration, cabinet member for housing, represents Shadwell, defected from Labour to join Rahman.
? Peter Golds – Conservative, Tory Group opposition leader on Tower Hamlets Council, represents Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs.
? Andy Erlam – Red Flag Anti-Corruption, took Lutfur Rahman to the High Court for election malpractice.
? Nicholas McQueen – Ukip, came third in General Election for Poplar & Limehouse.
? John Foster – Green, journalist, former Parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green Bow in 2010.
? Elaine Bagshaw – Liberal Democrat, a regulator with the Financial Conduct Authority in Canary Wharf.
? Vanessa Hudson – Animal Welfare.
? Hafiz Abdul Kadir – Independent.
? Motiur Rahman Nanu – Independent.