Lutfur Rahman, the Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council backed by radical Islamists, has lost his job. At last night’s Labour group meeting, he was replaced as leader by another Labour councillor, Helal Abbas. Abbas is the man who protested last year that Tower Hamlets council was controlled by the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), based at the hardline East London Mosque.
Mr Rahman is the latest casualty of the Telegraph/ Channel 4 Dispatches investigation earlier this year into the IFE’s grip on east London politics. One of the Labour MPs for the area, Jim Fitzpatrick, told us that the IFE had infiltrated his party like Militant in the 1980s. On camera, Mr Rahman squirmingly refused to deny that the IFE had helped secure his election as leader. Many other Labour councillors told us that he and his administration were heavily influenced by the IFE.
The IFE, which believes in transforming Western democratic government into Islamic government, campaigned heavily against Mr Fitzpatrick – but he comfortably secured re-election. Most of the Islamist-influenced figures we identified in the film have since suffered a rapid deterioration in their careers.
As well as Mr Rahman, Lutfur Ali, the IFE-linked assistant chief executive of the council, lost his job as a result of the programme. The Respect party’s Abjol Miah, an activist in the IFE, came third with 16 per cent of the vote in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency – and is no longer a councillor. Respect, which won 12 seats at the 2006 council elections, is now down to just one seat. Respect’s George Galloway, who boasted that he “owed more than I can say” to the IFE, was humiliated, also coming third in Poplar and Limehouse and failing even to turn up to the count.
The fight is not over. Later this year, Tower Hamlets will hold its first election for a directly-elected mayor. The IFE described in undercover footage taken by Channel 4 how it was organising to “get one of our people in” to the job. It will now be pouring all its resources into the effort to secure victory for its candidate. But given the way it has been pushed back this week, the auguries look hopeful.