An inquiry by Labour’s national executive committee into Tower Hamlets Labour Party has found that there was “membership abuse,” with a “concerted effort” to add fake members to the party. Last October, the inquiry found, 149 members of the Tower Hamlets party were not on the electoral register at the address they gave and in 75 of these cases there was no evidence that they ever had been on the register.
“It is membership abuse to claim to be a member at any address where you do not live,” the report concluded. “The number of cases strongly suggest that this would not have come about through accident or through individuals acting alone to abuse the system. The evidence outlined above is sufficient to suggest a concerted effort to add people to the membership list in Tower Hamlets was being undertaken by one or more individuals.”
Last year, one Tower Hamlets Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, told this newspaper and Channel 4’s Dispatches how the Islamic extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), based at the hardline East London Mosque, was infiltrating the local Labour Party in the same way as Militant did in the 1980s. Our investigation showed how Labour membership in one of the Tower Hamlets constituencies, Bethnal Green and Bow, had more than doubled between 2006 and 2008, at a time when Labour membership nationally was sharply falling. Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, in a constituency which is only about 50% Asian.
Dozens of the new “members” joined on the same day, with up to eight “members” purportedly living in the same two-bedroom flats. Some of the new members were people with the same names as individuals we can link to the IFE. When we called to these places, we found that the actual residents often had no knowledge of the people who claimed to be living there.
In one of the clumsiest attempts at spin I have ever seen, one far-left, Lutfur-supporting Tower Hamlets resident, Jon Lansman, headlines his blog: “Tower Hamlets: membership inquiry reveals no conspiracy.” But he then goes on to give precisely the same passage about a “concerted effort” to recruit fake members which I just quoted! It’s the neatest demonstration for some time of the fantasy world inhabited by people like Mr Lansman, where words mean nothing beside political allegiances.
Seventy-five fake members would probably not have been enough, on their own, to swing Labour’s mayoral selection for the IFE’s chosen candidate, Lutfur Rahman. But Labour’s NEC has called for further investigations, and the inquiry isn’t complete. It does not, for instance, seem to have addressed some of the other membership abuses we uncovered – that people who are real and who do live where they claim to live were nonetheless signed up, without their agreement, as members of the Labour Party by Mr Rahman. These allegations played a part in getting Lutfur sacked as the Labour candidate for mayor. With the enthusiastic help of the IFE, he later won election as an independent.
The inquiry also takes someone’s presence on the electoral roll as proof of their existence. But you can manufacture fake electors just as easily as you can manufacture fake members of the Labour Party, indeed perhaps more easily. Just like the Labour Party membership roll, the Tower Hamlets electoral roll has gone up and down like a yoyo from year to year, depending on whether there are significant elections that year. And there were some very interesting results indeed at the 2008 mayoral election.
Some on Labour’s hard left are still trying to rehabilitate Lutfur – he’ll be speaking at the Labour Briefing AGM this weekend, a bizarre new direction for a man who supported David Miliband for the party leadership less than four months ago. But the deadly embrace of the Dave Spart crowd will probably only seal his exclusion from the party.
Also today, as Ted Jeory reports, there has been a new outbreak of hostilities between Tower Hamlets Labour and Lutfur. He won’t be getting back in the Labour Party any time soon, methinks.