There is “no chance” that the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, will be readmitted to the Labour Party, sources close to the London regional party have said. A move by Ken Livingstone to propose Lutfur’s readmission at the 30 November meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee has also been blocked, the sources said. Livingstone, radical Islam’s single most important supporter in British politics, has met Ed Miliband to press for Lutfur’s rehabilitation after openly campaigning for Rahman during his election, against the official Labour candidate.
“The message has been passed to Ken very clearly from Ed Miliband that Lutfur will not be allowed back in to the party,” a senior Labour source said. “He has been told to shut up.” Livingstone himself was indeed notably back-peddling in today’s Evening Standard, now saying merely that “there is a lot to be said for letting all this calm down and seeing how Lutfur performs.” Livingstone also said he could not “put a timescale” on Lutfur’s readmission. The Labour Uncut blog, which broke the story of Livingstone’s move yesterday, quotes his spokesman as saying that Ken will now not be raising the issue of Lutfur Rahman at the NEC meeting on 30 November.
Two Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets, Shahed Ali and Kabir Ahmed, tonight pledged their “support for working with” Lutfur Rahman, though it’s not quite clear what this actually means. Mr Ali sent an email about 30 minutes ago to Labour members insisting that he has “not resigned from either the Labour Group [on the council], or the Labour Party.” I think that if you take a job with Lutfur, that’s exactly what you have done, Shahed!
I can quite understand why Mr Ali is a little confused by the matter of party allegiance. Like several of Lutfur’s other councillor defectors, this will be the third party identity he has enjoyed in less than four years. He was first elected for Respect, then defected to Labour (around the time that Lutfur became leader if my memory serves me right) and has now re-defected to the Independent camp around Lutfur. Party loyalties in Tower Hamlets are delightfully fluid – a year or two ago, one councillor defected straight from Respect to the Tories!
Over the last two weeks, Lutfur’s been waving around job offers to literally everyone in sight (even the Lib Dems and the Tories). The opportunity to receive lucrative special responsibility payments, er sorry the opportunity to bring all communities together in One Tower Hamlets, was bound in the end to net a few – though tonight’s two are not especially credible catches. As Winston Churchill said, you can rat, but you can’t re-rat.
More interesting are the strong rumours that Marc Francis, Lutfur’s closest supporter in the Labour group, may also announce his defection to Lutfur tomorrow. Mr Francis was a cabinet member and would break the, so far, 100 per cent Bangladeshi make-up of Lutfur’s ruling cabal. Let’s just hope he reads the first two paragraphs of this blog before he makes his decision, shall we?