Lutfur Rahman: finally, this story is picking up steam

The mosque in Walthamstow
The mosque in Walthamstow

I said on Thursday night that the fundamentalist ally Lutfur Rahman’s election as mayor of Tower Hamlets might be terrible news for the borough, but it was great news for us hacks. And indeed, one of the silver linings of the disaster is that it does seem to be triggering more interest in the story, and the wider issue of Muslim fundamentalism in east London.

Over the last few days, for the first time, mainstream media outlets other than the Telegraph have started to cover it. LBC radio has got involved. The Evening Standard did a double-page spread, far from flattering to Mr Rahman, on election day and another big chunk on Friday.

The Standard’s deputy political editor, Paul Waugh, wrote that “Neil Kinnock spent years in the Eighties trying to break the London Labour Party from the grip of the ‘loony Left.’ Today’s leader’s problem is how to root out corruption and extremism among some Bangladeshi supporters.” And the paper’s leader article called Lutfur’s election “a new low for London’s most rotten borough.. plagued by Islamist extremists.”

This morning, the Guardian’s Julian Glover joins in, calling the election of the “discredited” Rahman “a modern local government catastrophe.” The paper’s interest is particularly welcome, since the Guardian’s London blogger, Dave Hill, has sometimes seemed a little out of his depth on this story. We can credit Ken Livingstone – bless him – for some of the interest. His amazingly ill-judged endorsement of Lutfur last week had the effect of raising the temperature substantially (more on this blog about Ken in a day or two, I hope).

As he seeks to form a cabinet, Lutfur is reported to be putting out feelers to people from other parties. But anyone tempted to join him in his “unity administration” should remember their tin hat. For me, and I get the feeling some other journalists too, the fun has barely started.

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