Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist-linked Labour councillor, has again been barred by the Labour Party from the shortlist for the Tower Hamlets mayoralty – even though it was his threat of legal action which prompted them to re-run the shortlisting process in the first place.
In the revised shortlist drawn up last night, members will now choose between Helal Abbas, Rahman’s successor as Tower Hamlets council leader, John Biggs, the deputy leader of the London Assembly Labour group, Michael Keith, another former Tower Hamlets council leader, a TH councillor, Shiria Khatun, and another woman, Rosna Mortuza.
Cllr Rahman achieved the leadership of Tower Hamlets council in 2008 with the help of a fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which lobbied and pressured councillors on his part. Under his leadership, the council showed clear signs of coming under Islamic fundamentalist influence. My exposure of this in the Telegraph and a Channel 4 documentary appears to have been fatal to Cllr Rahman’s political career. The last straw was probably his using a solicitor linked to the pro-terrorist group al-Muhajiroun to make his legal threat!
The interesting question now is whether Lutfur will stand as an independent, or for George Galloway’s Respect party. He does have some rich backers – local businessmen who gave him a celebration meal when the original shortlist was overturned – and he does have a vote-bank in his own neighbourhood; but the odds must be against him winning the mayoralty of the entire borough from such a position.