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‘The time has come’: People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets disbanding to join forces with former Liberal Democrat rivals

PUBLISHED: 12:06 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:40 30 August 2018

Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrat chairman Ed Long with Shadwell Cllr Rabina Khan. Pic: JON KING

Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrat chairman Ed Long with Shadwell Cllr Rabina Khan. Pic: JON KING

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The People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets has announced it is joining forces with the Liberal Democrats.

The announcement was made at a packed meeting in Nida House, Sutton Street, on Wednesday (August 29). Pic: JON KINGThe announcement was made at a packed meeting in Nida House, Sutton Street, on Wednesday (August 29). Pic: JON KING

Abul Assad – former PATH chairman – made the announcement last night at a packed meeting in Shadwell. He explained how his party wanted to join a mainstream former rival whose Brexit concerns aligned with PATH’s.

“The time has come now not to be partners any more, but to integrate as one party,” Mr Assad said before he was applauded after announcing PATH was being dissolved.

PATH’s only Cllr Rabina Khan, who becomes a Liberal Democrat as a result of the move, said: “My joining the Liberal Democrats is about making sure we take a stand together against Brexit, making sure that the people’s vote counts, making sure we can work together for a consolidated vision for Tower Hamlets, not just for now but for generations to come.

“The Liberal Democrat Party is the right place [for PATH] to go to in a time of crisis, in a time of Brexit.”

At the last local elections Labour increased their share of seats in the borough by 20 from 2014 taking 18 from rival party Tower Hamlets First, now dissolved. Labour now dominates the council with 42 out of 45 seats after winning 46 per cent of the May 2018 vote.

Lib Dem Elaine Bagshaw – who ran against Cllr Khan in the last mayoral race – said: “It’s been a turbulent few years in Tower Hamlets politics with a lot of game playing done to fracture communities.

“This is a big step away from that,” she added.

Ed Long – chairman of the borough’s Liberal Democrat Party – told the audience of Lib Dems and PATH supporters in Nida House, Sutton Street: “The Conservatives and Labour are pursuing a damaging exit at all costs. In Tower Hamlets voters voted to remiain in the EU.

“It is vital we hear residents’ concerns.”

He added that the Lib Dems and People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) shared a common mission: “It’s important for parties to be able to work together on shared goals.”

Asked if Lutfur Rahman would be welcomed as a Lib Dem, Mr Long said no. “We hope his time and influence is in the past,” he said.

On past accusations of racism over campaign leaflets made against the Lib Dems in the 1990s Roderick Lynch – on the party’s London region executive – told the audience any race issues were in the past.

The borough’s Labour mayor John Biggs ignited a row on social media following the announcement warning the Lib Dems that any party welcoming her in “needs to face up to her legacy” in reference to her role in disgraced former mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet.

Cllr Andrew Wood, leader of the Conservative Group on the council, said PATH and the Lib Dems joining forces would have little impact on Brexit because it was a national issue.

“The main issue in Tower Hamlets is the dominance of Labour. I don’t see this having any impact on that. It will be up to the electors at the next election, which is a long way off,” Cllr Wood said.

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