Ken Livingstone and George Galloway defend Tower Hamlets’ mayor Lutfur Rahman at rally

MP George Galloway speaks in defence of mayor Lutfur Rahman at a rally

MP George Galloway speaks in defence of mayor Lutfur Rahman at a rally - Credit: Archant

George Galloway and Ken Livingstone were among speakers to defend under-fire Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman at a rally in Mile End.

Around 1000 residents attended the ‘Defend Democracy in Tower Hamlets’ event at the Waterlily, Mile End Road, on Wednesday to hear political and community figures speak in defence of the mayor.

Last week, communities secretary Eric Pickles sent in commissioners to take control of the £1.3billion Tower Hamlets council budget, following a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) report which found failings in the council’s financial management.

The report declared that there was a “lack of transparency” in the way the council chose to award grants and that in many cases grants had been awarded to “ineligible organisations”.

PWC concluded that the authority had a “tendency towards denial and obfuscation” when they were confronted with issues relating to budget handling.

Respect MP George Galloway described action taken against Lutfur Rahman as “a racist, Islam-hating witch hunt against the most popular and best mayor in the country”.

Galloway, a former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, also praised the mayor’s provision of free school meals and educational maintenance allowance – a grant scrapped across the UK in 2011 – for Tower Hamlets residents.

Most Read

He added: “Labour should be beating a path to mayor Lutfur’s door and asking him to sprinkle some of his stardust over them instead of expelling him, witch-hunting him and trying to drive him from office.”

Ken Livingstone also spoke in support of the mayor and expressed his hope that Rahman would run as a Labour mayoral candidate in the next election.

Lutfur Rahman slammed a BBC Panorama documentary that aired in March 2014 which examined the proportion of grant money he allocated to the Somali and Bangladeshi communities.

He said: “What’s wrong in helping those communities? I also helped the other communities, we have 250,000 in this borough, each and every one of them are dear to me and my administration.”

He added: “I don’t fear Mr Pickles because I or my administration or my officers have done nothing wrong.”

In July, four Tower Hamlets residents successfully petitioned the High Court to examine allegations of electoral fraud by mayor Rahman and returning officer John Williams in a hearing which is due to take place in January 2015.

Andy Erlam, one of the petitioners and founder of the Red Flag Anti-corruption party, said: “Livingstone and Galloway’s intervention is disgraceful. Political bullying will not stop us.

“People from the Bengali and other communities are turning to us and the government to give new evidence of irregularities.”