Week to go for Whitechapel by-election to replace jailed housing fraud councillor Shahed Ali
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:18 02 December 2016
Preparations are under way in the final seven days for the controversial Whitechapel by-election in London’s East End to replace a councillor jailed for housing fraud.
Shahed Ali—a cabinet member in banned former Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s discredited ‘Tower Hamlets First’ administration—was sent down for five months in October for cheating the council’s social housing allocations for his own gain.
He was first elected in Whitechapel in 2006 for ousted MP George Galloway’s Respect party before switching to Labour, then finally Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First group.
But he was caught out applying for and taking a council flat without declaring that he owned two properties in the area and a restaurant at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex—nor that he was living with his family at Upney in Barking, miles outside the boundary of Tower Hamlets council for which he was elected.
Six political activists—all living locally—are vying for the seat Ali held for 10 years.
Labour, which controls the council, wants to recapture the ward with their candidate Victoria Obaze, from Mile End.
She faces a door-to-door canvassing battle in the run-up to next Thursday’s polls with Conservatives who are one of three Opposition groups on the council, the Liberal Democrats who once controlled the Town Hall in the 1990s but are currently unrepresented, the Greens and Ukip who are also not currently represented and an independent.
Labour’s competitors are Lib Dem’s Emanuel Andjelic from Bethnal Green, Ukip’s Martin Smith from Poplar and the rest from Shadwell—Tory Will Fletcher, Greens’ James Wilson and independent Shafi Ahmed.
Council electoral officials are under pressure to make sure voting doesn’t fall into chaos after the ballot-rigging, mass registration frauds and polling station intimidation of the 2014 election that was later overturned in the High Court after it had returned a corrupt Lutfur Rahman as mayor, which eventually led to his ban from office last year.
They have gone through the Whitechapel electoral rolls with a fine toothcomb to make sure all the voters this time are legitimate.
Five polling stations open from 7am to 10pm, at the John Smith children’s centre in Stepney Way and four local primary schools—Kobi Nazrul in Settles Street, Harry Gosling in Fairclough Street, English Martyrs in St Mark Street and Shapla in Wellclose Square.
The ballot count starts after 10pm at the Town Hall in Mulberry Place, Blackwall, with the result expected in the early hours of December 2.