Polls open 7am-10pm for Tower Hamlets mayor and Stepney Green's council by-election
PUBLISHED: 06:10 11 June 2015 | UPDATED: 08:03 11 June 2015
Voters go to the polls in London's East End today for a new Mayor of Tower Hamlets in the shadow of police investigations into election malpractice and corruption.
The polls open at 7am in the re-run of the 2014 election that was overturned in the High Court, with Scotland Yard now investigating 16 fresh allegations on top of the tranche of evidence from 47 reports of malpractice already being looked into.
Voting finishes at 10pm and the count for both the Mayor and for a Stepney Green councillor being carried out away from the East End, at the Excel centre in Silvertown, to avoid intimidation that council officials experienced last year.
Today’s re-run results from a court judgement which barred Lutfur Rahman from office for corruption and malpractice.
The Met Police have obtained an extension order making sure none of last year’s ballot papers are destroyed at the end of the statutory 12-month period, after calls for the investigations to be extended to some councillors including members of Rahman’s now-disbanded Tower Hamlets First party who are being challenged at the Electoral Commission.
Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was handed a dossier on Tuesday of more allegations, with names of 17 witnesses prepared to testify, when anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam called at Scotland Yard. He was the man who brought down Lutfur Rahman in the High Court.
Police and Tower Hamlets council officials, meanwhile, are stepping up security at all polling stations today.
A Town Hall spokesman told the East London Advertiser: “We take any suggestion of fraud or improper activity very seriously. Our local protocol makes it clear the police and the council will investigate all allegations of irregularities robustly, promptly and fully.”
The 10 candidates campaigning to replace Rahman include the man he defeated in 2014, London Assembly’s budget chairman John Biggs running for Labour, who faces the ex-mayor’s former housing cabinet member Rabina Khan, now independent but backed by Rahman on her election leaflets.
Labour brought out its party grandees such as Andy Burnam yesterday for an 11th hour bid to win any remaining undecided voters, following last weekend’s Whitechapel rally including Asian MPs rolled out to support Biggs.
Labour is desperate to retake its historic East End heartland if it is to maintain any crebility after five years in Opposition to Rahman’s corrupt minority administration.
But Khan us no push-over, rallying the Rahman supporters on her walkabout tours in strongholds like Whitechapel and Shadwell after he “anointed” her his successor at a rally in Mile End last month.
They both face a serious challenge from anti-corruption campaigner Erlam, buoyed by his High Court victory which brought Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First adminstration crashing down. He has kept up the pace with his “dossier of deceit” handed to Scotland Yard with 17 witnesses prepared to give evidence of fraud and malpractice.
Erlam is just as critical of Labour which he claims is in a backroom “stitch up” with Tories for second preference votes in a bid to keep out Rahman’s proxy.
Tower Hamlets’ Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds, the man who in the council chamber has constantly exposed “dodgy land deals” and corrupt voting going back five years and more, has been cansassing on the blue ticket as the alternative to Biggs and Khan. Conservatives polled a respectable 21,000 votes in the two East End constituencies in the May 7 General Election, coming second both times to Labour.
For the Greens, financial journalist John Foster has been out with party leader Natalie Bennett meeting stallholders in Whitechapel concerned about the potential impact of Crossrail on the traditional street market and small businesses.
The Greens, coming third in Tower Hamlets in the General Election, don’t expect to win outright for mayor today, but hope second preference votes might pave the way.
They are also using their “localism” manifesto to target the Stepney Green by-election for a council seat, made vacant by Alibor Choudhury’s downfall who was named by a High Court judge as Rahman’s “henchman” doing his “dirty work.”
The Lib Dems after their May 7 ‘wipe out’ are banking on a revival with a banking regulator. Elaine Bagshaw is a Financial Conduct Authority regulator at Canary Wharf hoping to get the keys to the Mayor’s Office and control of Tower Hamlets’ £1.2 billion budget.
Animal welfare campaigners took their bid for the Mayor’s Office on the road with a red double-decker “battle bus”.
Vanessa Hudson waved to weekend shoppers with her ‘animal costume’ supporters, but took no passengers. Her ticket to tackle the planet’s ills shows the East End as a down-to-earth example of how things go wrong—like poor diet with one-in-four children obese by the time they’re 11, high rates of diabetes, younger-than-average cancer deaths, younger-than-average heart disease deaths, more strokes than you can shake a stick at and the worst life expectancy in London.
Hudson blames a huge rise in meat and fish consumption since the 1950s, feeding and watering a rapidly-growing livestock as a major contributor to global warming, but hopes today’s voters have an appetite for a better living environment for people and animals.
Husband-and-wife team Nicholas and Paula McQueen have been adding to the election frenzie, waving the flag for Ukip. He’s running for mayor while she runs the car to chauffer him on the campaign trail. He came a respectable third at Poplar & Limwehouse in the General Election and she came fourth at Bethnal Green & Bow.
They have been trailing around the East End, joining their rivals at hustings including BBC London’s drive-time show coming live from Bethnal Green last Thursday and also turning up at Kelly’s pie’n’mash shop in Bethnal Green Road yesterday for the radio station’s Breakfast Show.
LIST OF 10 CANDIDATES
John Biggs – Labour, 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 cabinet member for housing after defecting from Labour.
Andy Erlam – Red Flag Anti-Corruption, took Lutfur Rahman to the High Court for election malpractice.
Peter Golds – Conservative, Opposition leader on Tower Hamlets Council.
John Foster – Green, journalist, former Parliamentary candidate in 2010.
Nicholas McQueen – Ukip, came 3rd in May’s General Election at Poplar & Limehouse.
Elaine Bagshaw – Liberal Democrat, a regulator with the Financial Conduct Authority.
Vanessa Hudson – Animal Welfare.
Hafiz Abdul Kadir – Independent.
Motiur Rahman Nanu – Independent.