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Tower Hamlets mayor election rivals in tug-of-war as ‘breach of protocol’ row erupts

PUBLISHED: 12:23 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:50 07 March 2018

Battle of Glamis Hall... Ohid Ahmed clashes with rival candidate for mayor Rabina Khan. Picture sources: Dave Sinclair (LBTH), Mike Brooke & Google

Battle of Glamis Hall... Ohid Ahmed clashes with rival candidate for mayor Rabina Khan. Picture sources: Dave Sinclair (LBTH), Mike Brooke & Google

Mike Brooke, LBTH & Google

Two rival opposition leaders on Tower Hamlets Council vying to be mayor in May’s local elections have had their first spat days after their political groups each gained official Electoral Commission recognition.

Rabina Khan speaking against knife crime at 2017 Whitechapel rally after Syed Islam's killing. Picture: Mike BrookeRabina Khan speaking against knife crime at 2017 Whitechapel rally after Syed Islam's killing. Picture: Mike Brooke

Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed—both competing against Labour’s John Biggs—nearly came to blows over a tug-of-war with pensioners at the Glamis Hall community centre in Shadwell.

Cllr Ahmed walked into the hall to meet pensioners over the future of another community centre half-a-mile away in Wapping, Raine’s House, only to be confronted by Cllr Khan holding her weekly surgery.

One pensioner said she was grabbed by the arm as the two started a shouting match at each other.

Cllr Ahmed stormed out, taking the petition the pensioners had given him back to the town hall.

Cllr Khan, running for mayor for her People’s Alliance, called a news conference later where she slammed the rival Aspire party candidate, claiming he broke protocol by disrupting her surgery session.

Ohid Ahmed picks up pensioners' petition with plea not to be priced out of Raine's House community centre in Wapping. Picture: Mike BrookeOhid Ahmed picks up pensioners' petition with plea not to be priced out of Raine's House community centre in Wapping. Picture: Mike Brooke

“I was shocked to see Cllr Ahmed talking to my residents and then walking out with them,” she fumed. “No-one should walk into a surgery and cause distress.

“He shouted and wagged his finger. I told him I would call the police and report him to the election monitoring officer.”

But Cllr Ahmed hit back, accusing Rabina of blowing the incident out of proportion.

He tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser: “It’s very childish what she’s done. I didn’t want to take it serious—but she went to the press.

“I never knew Cllr Khan was holding a weekday surgery and just went to Glamis Hall to pick up the petition when Rabina came out shouting and screaming—I didn’t break any election protocol.”

Ohid Ahmed's 'election for mayor' poster showing Lutfur Rahman's endorcement (ringed). Picture source: Advertiser readerOhid Ahmed's 'election for mayor' poster showing Lutfur Rahman's endorcement (ringed). Picture source: Advertiser reader

But Cllr Khan, who runs weekly surgeries at Glamis Hall, claims he staged the incident with two of his fellow Aspire councillors, having met the pensioners at Wapping the day before “when he could have been handed their petition”.

She insisted: “Ahmed’s behaviour is unacceptable. Candidates should be able to campaign free from harassment.”

She is sensitive about “security” since the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2015 who lived in Wapping, a mile from Glamis Hall.

Cllr Khan confirmed to the Advertiser today that she has formally lodged a complaint to police and is waiting to be interviewed and has also informed the town hall’s election monitoring officer.

Her People’s Alliance and Cllr Ahmed’s Aspire group were each formally recognised as political parties by the Electoral Commission before Thursday’s clash, to fight May’s local elections for mayor and council.

Both have had links with ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman who was barred from office in the High Court in 2015 for election fraud and malpractice the year before. Rabina Khan was lead member on housing in his cabinet.

Ohid Ahmed has been a visible Rahman supporter since 2010, backing his successful bid to be Tower Hamlets’ first elected executive mayor. Rahman is currently endorsing Ohid’s campaign for mayor in May and has appeared on his 2018 election leaflets.

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