What Happens Next In Tower Hamlets?

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 47 months ago
What Happens Next In Tower Hamlets?

Tower Hamlets has a bit of everything — history, modernity, rich, poor. Photo by Andy Worthington via the Londonist Flickr pool.

The decision yesterday to oust Lutfur Rahman from his post as mayor of Tower Hamlets after he was found guilty of election fraud sent shockwaves through the whole of London. But what are the consequences of yesterday's ruling in the borough itself? We answer the questions people are likely to ask.

Who's in charge now?

Until the election, deputy mayor Oliur Rahman (no relation to the former mayor) will assume the role at the top of the authority.

When will the mayoral election take place?

The election will take place on June 11.

Who are the contenders to replace Rahman?

We're still waiting to officially hear from the parties, but Labour's John Biggs — who lost to Rahman at the last election by 3,000 votes — has already said he wants to stand.

What happens to Lutfur Rahman now?

Banned from office for five years (and from his office — his pass to the council building has been rescinded), Rahman's political reputation is in tatters. Electoral commissioner Richard Mawrey systematically tore apart a man who he described as an "evasive witness", who repeatedly used the "race card" to intimidate and silence dissent. He described Rahman's political party, Tower Hamlets First, as little more than an extension of the man himself.

The Met has confirmed it is considering the 200-page report as it's being urged to consider the five-year tenure of the mayor to see if there's any evidence of criminality. It previously has not found any evidence.

A family solicitor before embarking on his political career, Rahman has been reported to the Solictors Regulation Authority which could bar him from practising.

However, Rahman remains a popular figure among parts of the community. Long-time supporter Ken Livingstone has been vocal in his defence of the former mayor, telling BBC London yesterday that if Rahman had really done something wrong, the police should be taking action, not a bureaucrat, who he accused of overturning the democratic process.

Is anyone else in hot water?

In his ruling, Mawrey discredited Tower Hamlets First (THF), saying: "The evidence in this case all points in one direction. THF was the personal fiefdom of Mr Rahman. He directed its operations, he selected his candidates, and those candidates campaigned on the basis that their job, if elected, was to give personal support to him. THF had no other aim, objective or ideology beyond the continuation of Mr Rahman in the office of mayor of Tower Hamlets."

However, only Rahman's right hand man, Cllr Alibor Choudhury, was declared guilty of corrupt practices. He was forced to leave office immediately. Mawrey said he wouldn't be able to ban other THF councillors from office because they weren't named in the petition which started this case. The position of councillor for the Stepney Green ward will remain vacant, until it is filled at the June 2015 election.

What about the people of Tower Hamlets?

This is the most important question. Now is the time to take race out of politics in Tower Hamlets. For too long — way before this most recent distasteful episode — the borough's political narrative has been dogged with racial division. Whoever the next mayor turns out to be needs to rid the council chamber of such futile distractions when there's so much that needs to be done for the citizens of the borough.

Will things that Rahman implemented while in office be scrapped?

No — the decisions that were made will still stand. A council spokesman said: "The decisions made by the former mayor of Tower Hamlets during his term of office will all stand. This includes decisions relating to the mayor’s education awards and key areas of work including housing, education, the environment and health and wellbeing.

"The provision of grants to third sector groups also continues, under the management of government-appointed commissioners.

"All services delivered by the council to local residents, schools and businesses will also continue as usual."

Last Updated 24 April 2015