The Tower Hamlets Labour councillors met last night at Westminster. According to several of those present, they voted:
– to ban their members from joining Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet or acting as paid advisers to him.
– to oppose Lutfur’s and all his supporters’ readmission to the Labour Party.
– to ask Labour’s National Executive Committee to investigate the role of Labour Party members in Lutfur’s election campaign and to treat them all equally.
This last bit is clearly aimed at Ken Livingstone, whose action in campaigning against Labour and for Lutfur continues to appal many members of the Labour Party.
But the first is perhaps the most significant. Lutfur knows that he needs to enlist some mainstream political figures (and some non-Bengalis) to give his administration even a breath of credibility. This motion makes it much less likely that he will manage that. It treats him as a pariah from democratic, secular politics.
He will probably now have to form a cabinet from the ranks of his existing eight ex-Labour councillor supporters – a deeply problematic bunch including few with any kind of managerial skills, some who are, shall we say, greedy and another councillor, Alibor Choudhury, who appeared in court in 2006 on charges of violent disorder.
The trial was stayed – Alibor insists because of “abuse of process,” though has always refused to discuss with me exactly what the supposed “abuse” was. Others have said it was because key witnesses backed out. Alibor also has very close links to the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe. More about Alibor, and Lutfur’s other supporters, on this blog in the days to come!
One of those present at last night’s Labour meeting said it was “one of the most comradely meetings” of the Tower Hamlets Labour group he could ever remember – with deep relief at having got rid of the eight Lutfurites, who were forces for instability within the group.
Lutfur could still get one important non-Bengali fig-leaf to join him: Labour’s Cllr Marc Francis, who was a member of the last cabinet and is strongly rumoured to be thinking about a post as Lutfur’s deputy mayor. Mr Francis did not openly support Lutfur, but was seen little on the Labour campaign trail, reportedly turned up at the count without a Labour rosette and voted against the motion above last night.
Unlike almost all Lutfur’s other allies (and indeed Lutfur himself) Mr Francis is widely seen as competent. His presence would help the good ship HMS Rahman avoid sinking straight away. Many expected him to have jumped already by now – the fact that so far he has not is a signal of just how risky he must know his move would be. His Labour career would be at an end; he would be under intense scrutiny from the likes of me; and he must know that the Rahman experiment is likely to end in tears and the destruction of the reputations of all those involved in it.
Mr Francis declined to comment to me today, but I’ll let you know as soon as I hear his decision.