Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Tower Hamlets: End of an Era

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 12th June, 2015

John Biggs 1Lutfur RahmanAt 4.30 this morning, one of the most controversial periods in the chequered history of Tower Hamlets politics came to an end. The designated successor to ousted Mayor Lutfur Rahaman, Rabina Khan — standing as an Independent, as the Election Court that convicted Mr Rahman had also banned his party “Tower Hamlets First” — failed in her attempt to win the mayoralty, which instead went to the longstanding local Labour politician (and London East member of the Greater London Assembly) John Biggs. The Conservatives vote share stayed steady, both the Greens and UKIP were down and the Liberal Democrats slightly up, while a variety of other non-mainstream candidates also attracted some votes. Alongside the mayoral poll yesterday there was a by-election in Stepney Green ward, where a close associate of Mr Rahman’s had also been forced to stand down; in that by-election, Labour gained the seat. This gives them a single seat majority in the Council, which together with Mr Biggs’ win means the era of Tower Hamlets First has come to an end. I shan’t rehearse the arguments put forward by the election court to condemn what went on in the Borough since 2010, but would add the caveat that some of it was undoubtedly sensationalised by some of the Tory Press and certain things such as schools performance (doubtless aided by the LibDems’ pupil premium) improved during his tenure. Nonetheless, there is a huge sense of relief among many of us residents in Tower Hamlets that maybe now we will have a return to more normal politics that is perceived to be less skewed towards the priorities of a particular section of the population. It was interesting that Bengali voters did not turn out to vote in droves to enable Ms Khan’s succession and indeed the overall turnout was a rather measly 37% — well down on 2014. And given past history, with Councillors swapping sides unusually frequently, we cannot be certain that stability has been restored. We can but hope. And now it will be up to all the other parties — including Cllr Khan and her “independent” colleagues — to hold John Biggs and Labour to account.


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