Why I don’t think we should elect a mayor

THE nightmare surrounding Labour’s choice of a candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets in the election tomorrow (Oct 21) is an example of the American model which is politically corrupt.

The electorate is being asked to vote for a system that many do not wholly understand.

That’s hardly surprising, given that the details of the new system were issued just a few months ago and have never been debated in Parliament.

Kevin D’Arcy in two thoughtful articles extols the virtues of an “independent non-political mayor” recognising the dangers of cronyism (East London Advertiser, May 20 and September 9).

Yet he recognises the enormous powers of an executive mayor who is “the top manager, with a fixed term of four years and with powers to set the budget.”


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Ad to that, there are no restrictions on salaries or expenses and the mayor chooses the Cabinet from two to nine councillors with power to delegate almost all functions and services to them or to council officers.

The personal character of candidates running for mayor can be more important with this potential for absolute power than their political party, allowing for second preferences.

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Of the two main parties, the Conservatives have chosen a non-councillor without any relevant experience in local government and for Labour—however it is glossed over—we sadly now have two candidates.

The belated choice of Helal Abbas as Labour’s official candidate has no democratic legitimacy. Not for the first time the party’s centralised selection for the leadership was carried out without any input from the local party branches.

The ploy of allegations made by the favoured candidate—that a subsequent investigation finds has no substance—is all too common. There must be an enquiry following tomorrow’s poll.

In 1997, eight of us Labour councillors at Tower Hamlets voted against unnecessary cuts in the social services and the levying of high charges for the Telehelp service for pensioners and the vulnerable, half of whom returned their phones including my aunt who subsequently lay on the floor for nine hours after collapsing in her home.

All eight of us were initially barred from standing for election again in 1998. In my case a familiar, totally fraudulent dossier was drawn up and another which was ‘economic with the truth,’ repeated again in 2002. I never stood again.

Belle Harris

Wilmot Street

Bethnal Green

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