Lutfur Rahman was deposed as mayor of Tower Hamlets in April 2015 when he was found guilty of bribery, of undue spiritual influence/injury, to be in breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which forbids false statements against an opposing candidate’s personal character during a campaign period. He was also found not to be a credible witness.
Recently Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly was roundly condemned for an election leaflet that referenced a shifting religious demographic in North Belfast, in a nakedly sectarian (thus un-Republican) play for a Westminster seat, and it is unlikely he would have faced the same charges. Rahman sympathisers allege the difference between one being prosecuted and the other ignored delineates along the same lines as difference of skin colours i.e. essentially racial reasons.
Leaving aside the incomplete nature in mentioning racism in the context of a mayor from a 34% of population ethnic minority who appointed a cabinet only made up of this 34% grouping, could there be another reason?
I would contend that Rahman is an individual whose oleaginous qualities meant that few of many accusations levelled against him over the years could stick. For example, when it is alleged his supporters shouted homophobic abuse at council members during meetings, he could deny association. When it is alleged he sold council properties below market value to companies owned in part by supporters of his, it was under powers delegated to the mayor, nothing illegal there. When it is alleged he oversaw paying millions of pounds of council money to Somali and Bengali charities, it just showed what a giver he was, and the political support he received in return was unexpected. When it is alleged he donated public money to Bengali language TV station who then gave him gushingly favourable coverage it was coincidence. The list goes on, but his opponents could only go with what they could prove in a court.
But if you are a leftist like Mick Hall there is no list, and its more an issue of right or left than right or wrong. Rahman is a leftist. Perhaps the likes of Hall view the ‘diversions’ of the £1.1 billion Tower Hamlets budget, and the wrecking of the functions of office via nepotism, as anti-state?
Hall’s article states:
So lets get things straight, Lutfur Rahman an elected Mayor of one of the most economically deprived boroughs in the United Kingdom can be removed from office under an ancient and discredited law…What a sorry excuse for a democracy the UK is, a nation in which unelected politicians and judges can make the laws and the democratic will of the people can be trampled upon.
Omitting the smallish issue that the democratic will expressed at the election was influenced by corrupt and illegal practices such as vote rigging, seeking undue spiritual influence through local imams, and incorrectly branding a Labour rival as racist. Issues so serious that the result was rendered void.
Darling of the left Naomi Woolf noted George Bush supporters intimidating people outside the voting centres in the 2000 US Presidential elections, comparing the chino wearers to Hitler’s brown shirts in her book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. It formed part of her contention that America was becoming a fascist state. What then could be said of Rahman supporters, who were alleged to have gone one step further by standing over vulnerable women as they voted in the booths, and spitting in the face of someone who voted ‘incorrectly’? The judge found this to be common law intimidation, but there was not enough proof for criminal level sanction.
It should be clearer by now why the prosecution went with what they could and it is utterly depressing (and utterly predictable) to hear Mick Hall reduce this to an argument of race or class. Rahman’s accusations of racism against his opponent were tested in court and found to be false, this issue is not in contention for anyone fair minded.
Admittedly the depression lifts somewhat with gems such as the concept of a
“mockney” trial. I imagine the transcript of it’s something along the lines of:
Rahman you been bleedin’ caught telling pork pies and tealeafing!
Im innocent Guv’!
Are you mugging me off sunshine? To the rusty nail wiv ‘im!
I for one will enjoy seeing how the police now deal with the other Rahman allegations. But always remember who tried shutting the debate down, who shielded power from scrutiny.