Local elections: The death knell for Lutfur Rahman’s era as Labour paints Tower Hamlets Council red

Delighted Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets. Pic: Alex Shaw

Delighted Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets. Pic: Alex Shaw - Credit: Archant

The Labour Party painted Tower Hamlets red in the local elections, winning 42 out of 45 council seats.

They secured nearly one in every two votes (46.1 per cent) to control the borough in a result sounding the death knell for the corrupt Lutfur Rahman era.

The council took until 2am on Saturday to declare its results — the last in England — which saw the Conservatives win two seats and the People’s Alliance one.

Labour’s John Biggs also returned as mayor for a second term with almost 73pc of votes cast.

Speaking at the count in the ExCeL centre — staged outside the borough for security reasons — Biggs said he hoped the victory signalled an end to the “divisive, inward looking” politics of the past, where he first took office after the High Court overturned Rahman’s victory in the corrupt 2014 election.

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His party increased their share of seats by 20 from 2014, stealing 18 from now-dissolved rivals Tower Hamlets First.

The count at the cavernous exhibition hall began eight hours after polls closed, owing to pilot scheme to tackle voter fraud.

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Measures included random identity checks and inspecting ballot boxes to make sure the number of ballot papers matched votes cast against the electoral register.

False names on the register, ‘doctored’ ballots and voter intimidation at the polls in 2014 were unearthed the following year by an election court banning Rahman from office.

His former cabinet member, Rabina Khan (People’s Alliance), lost her mayoral bid on Friday but retained her seat at Shadwell ward with 1,565 votes.

Elsewhere, Tory group chairman Peter Golds was re-elected for Island Gardens, alongside party colleague Andrew Wood (Canary Wharf).

By 11pm, with nine wards still to declare, Labour readied for victory, having won 22 of the 23 seats needed for a majority.

Some party supporters called it a night, along with Aspire’s Oliur Rahman, who later lost his seat in Stepney Green to Labour’s Motin Uz-Zaman by three times as many votes.

It took another three hours for the final ward, Whitechapel, to declare, much to the relief of a hoarse returning officer, Will Tuckley.

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