Lutfur Rahman ‘tried to stop’ Panorama going ahead, says BBC reporter

Panorama's John Ware says the mayor tried to stop the programme

Panorama's John Ware says the mayor tried to stop the programme - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Tower Hamlets tried to stop BBC Panorama’s report about his time in office from going ahead, according to the chief reporter on the programme.

Veteran investigative journalist John Ware said Mayor Lutfur Rahman used public money to have lawyers and a PR company block the report and portray it as racist.

He also claims the mayor “twisted the truth” by saying Panorama was under “criminal investigation” for racism when it was the leak of documents by a junior member of its staff to the mayor that was being investigated.

His comments come after government-appointed auditors launched an investigation into allegations of “poor financial management and fraud” at Tower Hamlets Council on April 4.

Writing in another newspaper, Mr Ware said: “Two weeks ago, on Panorama, we scrutinised the way [Lutfur Rahman has] runs this most diverse of boroughs.

“Instead of welcoming this, the mayor employed a major City law firm and a PR company at huge public expense to try to get the programme stopped.”

He said Mayor Rahman called the Panorama report “racist” and Islamophobic before it was broadcast, released a video attacking the programme and called for a “Twitter storm” to counter Panorama’s “lies”.

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Mr Ware added that the government’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), was investigating whether the leak broke the law, not whether Panorama was racist, as the mayor had implied.

He said: “The mayor is a solicitor. He must know the Information Commissioner is concerned with data security – not allegations of racism or Islamophobia.

“Yet he was perfectly happy to twist the truth.”

The mayor also wrote to the BBC director general to complain about the “proposed programme” as late as the Friday before it aired.

A spokesman for the mayor declined to comment on whether public money was used to try to stop the programme, but said lawyers were called in to advise about the data leak.

He denied that the mayor ever claimed the ICO was investigating Panorama for racism.

The spokesman added: “Having embarrassed himself by spending untold thousands of licence fee payers’ money on a damp squib of a programme that’s been dogged with controversy, ex-tabloid bruiser John Ware is trying to avoid the serious questions raised about his journalistic integrity in recent weeks with the smear, spin and distraction that are his stock-in-trade.”