I write this blog in personal capacity. It is only my opinion and not that of my employer or any other organisation I work with.
It’s a serious time in the politics of the East End. A significant event like this will be noted in history and has changed the political arena in Tower Hamlets forever.
I am interested in this because it is the community I am part of and involves my subject of interest - politics and religion, the overlapping of these is fascinating to study.
To quickly introduce my theoretical obsessions: John Rawls’s political liberalist assertion of overlapping consensus failing to produce stability. I will explain these theoretical matters in a separate post along with Tariq Ramadan’s concept of a universal Islam and its apparent incompatibility in the context of East London-based Islamic movements.
‘The Muslim Mayor’
This is a problematic term and used by either side of the political spectrums very naively.
Firstly, for the right and centre-right labelling on Lutfur Rahman as a Muslim mayor helps them overlook any other personal, professional and political qualities he may have. A certain audience will visualise him as the ‘Muslim’ Mayor, as though a Muslim cannot or should not be a Mayor and if they do, you must watch out for their crimes.
Secondly, the Muslims themselves become romantic and emotional that a man’s ability to serve the people is irrespective and his religious identity becomes the subject of pride and prejudice so much so that they are blinded to see any of his wrongdoing.
Both of these approaches are unhelpful and unhealthy for a democratic society. The community in Tower Hamlets is deprived of an honest debate and scrutiny of the policies and priorities the so-called Muslim Mayor was devoted to.
Therefore I think it is of immense importance that we don’t jump on the bandwagon and rather read between the debates and search for truth and facts. We should not let our prejudices, community and religious convictions or our passion for or against the national or local establishment overshadow our judgment. Reading the 200 page judgement gives us a good place to start including the PwC report from earlier this year.
I would like to analyse and highlight the judgement given by Richard Mawrey QC and summarise it for the readers of this blog. Many of my friends and associates from both Lutfur ‘s camp and the Labour’s camp are also keen to know what I think about this extraordinary development.
Those who have patience and are keen to read the whole judgement instead of my blog may find the full judgement in the link below , I warn you again it is a mighty read at 200 pages!
What was the task?
Following the petitioners application, the task of the court was to determine that the candidate Lutfur Rahman has, by himself or his agents (read the definition of ‘agent’ below), are guilty of corruption or illegal electoral practices.
Who is the judge?
|Richard Mawrey QC|
Let me challenge the naïve perceptions and rumours beginning to surface on the streets Tower Hamlets and in restaurants of British Bangladeshi community that Richard Mawrey QC is of Jewish origin or has Zionist leanings and has been somehow assigned to this task by the ‘establishment’. A bizarre claim against a professional lawyer with 45 years of professional legal experience and this, mostly in cases relating to local government and electoral fraud. Please just Google it and read his biography. His CV includes leading the election court in Birmingham City Council in 2004 and Slough Borough Council in 2007.
What needed to be proved?
A. the Mayoral election of October 2014 for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election, that Lutfur Rahman committed any corrupt or illegal practices or illegal payments, employment or hiring
B. The illegal practices prevailed so extensively that they may be reasonably supposed to have affected the result of the election. In other words, that Lutfur Rahman won the election due to these illegal practices and payments
Who are Lutfur Rahman’s ‘Agents’?
Canvassers are agents, as are supporters who are equipped with rosettes or T-shirts and sent off to campaign outside polling stations. And, as will be seen, members of the wider community who commit themselves to the re-election campaign and work alongside Mr Rahman and his close associates and may properly assume the status of agents for electoral purposes.
The consequences for a candidate of being found guilty by himself or his agents of corrupt or illegal practices are serious. In addition to having the election declared void, under s 160 that person is incapable of:
Being an elected MP, Mayor or Councillor in the UK and paying for all the expenses involved in the whole petition process.
What is Tower Hamlets First (THF)?
The evidence in this case all points in one direction; THF was the personal fiefdom of Mr Rahman. He directed its operations, 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.
The accusation of the petitioners that THF was a one-man band has been fully proved by the evidence, with much of that evidence itself coming from Mr Rahman and his witnesses themselves.
Personation and voting offences
The questions were first how widespread were the offences of personation and other voting offences were and secondly, could it be shown that they had been committed by Mr Rahman or those considered by electoral law to be his agents.
‘’False registration is often the first step in vote-rigging. Ghost voters are registered which are, as said above, either fictitious names or persons who exist but who do not reside at the address concerned. The latter category comprises those who have no connection at all with the property at which they are registered and those who have a connection with the property but are not resident there in the sense that the law requires.’’
The judge then gave detailed evidence of it involving Mr Rahman’s agents and concluded:
The false registrations are sufficiently numerous to demonstrate that false registration was not the random action of over-enthusiastic members of the public. The false registrations must have been organised.
As the beneficiary of the organisation was THF, both Mr Rahman and his candidates in the wards, it would be wholly unrealistic to hold that the organisation of these registrations was other than in the hands of THF supporters, ‘agents’ as termed in electoral law.
‘’Anyone who votes in the name of another person who is falsely registered commits personation. Anyone who has falsely registered himself and then votes commits an offence under s 61(1) of the 1983 Act.’’
The judge gave detailed evidence and findings concludes that:
It follows that the court is satisfied that false registration, false voting contrary to s 61(1) and personation by persons who are in law the agents of Mr Rahman has been proved to the requisite standard.’’
With regard to the unlawful completion and use of voting documents by third parties, the court was satisfied that both corrupt and illegal practices had taken place and had been committed by persons who were, in electoral law, the agents of Mr Rahman.”
To make my personal conclusion let us go back to the Judge’s intial method:
‘’HOW WIDESPREAD were the offences?’’
Were the voting offences and personation significant enough that it gave Lutfur Rahman a majority of 3252 votes!! It cannot be proved it was this high therefore inconclusive and this reflects some limitation of the legal procedures.
In my next post I will highlight findings of the court with regards to the false statements made against Lutfur Rahman’s rival candidate John Biggs, who was portrayed as ‘racist’ as an deliberate election strategy to mislead voters.