New mayor is chance for East End leadership

LABOUR councillor Shahed Ali insists that Lutfur Rahman is a ‘Respect collaborator disguised within Labour’ (‘There is really only one right candidate for mayor,’ Advertiser Letters, October 14).

It is surprising, since Cllr Rahman was leader of the Labour-run Tower Hamlets council for two years, 2008-10, that the party failed to notice this at the time.

Cllr Ali also wonders how “an independent candidate with a proven track record of breaking party rules” can be an effective mayor of Tower Hamlets and seems to suggest that submission to party discipline is somehow in the best interests of the electorate, despite Labour’s National Executive Committee having a proven track record of ignoring party democracy.

Rahman won twice as many members’ votes in the final round of Labour’s candidate selection ballot on September 4 as the two runners up, John Biggs and Helal Abbas, put together.

But Rahman was dumped by the party’s NEC without even an investigation when two of his rivals, Abbas and Bill Turner, apparently alleged that he was sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalists.

Unquestioning party loyalists might not care, but the lack of internal democracy and accountability in political parties has serious implications for our democracy as a whole.

So a degree of independence from any party might be useful for a candidate for mayor, as Ken Livingstone demonstrated when he stood as an independent for London mayor in 2000, defeating an uninspiring ‘official’ Labour candidate.

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Last week’s election of a mayor creates a new opportunity for leadership in Tower Hamlets, a key representative for the East End. So it should be someone that we can all feel proud of.

Jeffrey Marshall

Myrdle Street