Labour’s John Biggs has been elected the new mayor of Tower Hamlets just weeks after Britain’s first directly-elected Muslim mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was ejected from office by an election court judge.
Biggs beat the Rahman-backed candidate, Rabina Khan, into a close
second place in a campaign conducted amid intense police and media
It followed an investigation after which Rahman was found guilty of systematic and widespread electoral fraud and banned from office.
Biggs, the Labour candidate, received 27,255 votes in the first round compared with Khan’s 25,763, winning 39% of the vote compared with 37%.
Because no candidate achieved 50%, votes from the other eight candidates were redistributed. Biggs won with 32,754 while Khan had 26,384, giving Labour a majority of 6,370.
Labour MPs including leadership favourite Andy Burnham visited the borough en masse as the party sought to ensure that Biggs made it into office.
It also appears that the other main parties made a sort of electoral alliance with Labour to keep Rabina Khan out of power.
A Labour Party press officer told Eastlondonlines: “It’s no secret that all the other parties are secretly backing Labour, because they all want to stop Rabina.” He added that he believed all the other parties want to see the mayorship go to a “mainstream” party candidate.
During his acceptance speech, Biggs thanked Khan and emphasised that the two would need to work together under his mayorship. He said that he was looking forward to “getting [Tower Hamlets] out of the headlines for the wrong reasons and getting us into the headlines for the right reasons.”
After her defeat Rabina Khan said: “Thank you so much to those 26,000 people who voted for my vision of a fairer Tower Hamlets, and all those who worked hard campaigning for me over the last few weeks. Thank you also to those opposing candidates who were able to offer their own positive vision.
“It was always going to be a difficult election – on one side were the combined resources of the Westminster parties, aided by right-wing tabloids and powerful institutions, and on the other side were local activists.
“Turnout fell, and we need to ask why no-one received the mandate that was granted last year, and why people feel disengaged from politics. I suspect it is still that people feel they are unable to genuinely influence what happens.
“What we need now is a road map to principled and effective opposition to the Labour-Tory alliance in Tower Hamlets. There’s no election on, but there is still a housing crisis, there are still cuts and there is still so much that needs fixing. Let’s keep working together.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that detectives are examining 16 allegations of electoral malpractice, including the use of “ghost” voters and improper distribution of election literature.
Khan has reported Labour supporters for “treating” – offering gifts in exchange for votes – and alleged postal vote fraud.
Rahman’s supporters have said he plans to launch a judicial review to challenge the court judgment.