It is almost exactly a year since Lutfur Rahman was elected mayor of Tower Hamlets after being sacked from the Labour Party for his links with the Islamic extremist group, the IFE, and a controversial local businessman, Shiraj Haque. His term so far has indeed, as I predicted, been a “slow-motion car crash.”
The latest row, the other week, was caused by his council’s decision (now reversed) to hire out the Merchant Navy War Memorial gardens for City bankers’ Christmas piss-ups. Here are the other highlights of Lutfur’s recent political career: let me know if I’ve missed any.
March 1 2010: The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches reveal that Lutfur, then the Labour council leader, achieved the position with the help of the IFE, which works to create an “Islamic social, economic and political order” in Britain. In a filmed interview, he refuses to deny the charge. Under Lutfur, large sums of council money are diverted to IFE front organisations, a man with close links to the IFE is made the council’s assistant chief executive despite being unqualified for the job, and the respected white chief executive is summarily sacked. In undercover filming, senior IFE activists boast of their “consolidated… influence and power” over the council. The local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, tells us that his party has been “infiltrated” by the IFE.
May: Lutfur is replaced by the Labour group as council leader. The IFE-linked assistant chief executive is forced to resign. However, the IFE now aims to “get one of our brothers” into the powerful new directly-elected mayoral post that is to replace the council leadership in October.
July/August: Lutfur is excluded from Labour’s shortlist for the mayoral candidacy, but goes to court to force his reinstatement. The solicitor he uses was closely connected to the al-Qaeda-supporting group, al-Muhajiroun, and signed a fatwa calling for a “full-scale war of jihad” against Britain and the US.
September 3: In filmed interviews (transcripts here), local residents tell how Lutfur has personally signed up their entire families as sham Labour members to win selection as the party’s mayoral candidate.
September 4: Lutfur is selected as the Labour candidate.
September 15: Evidence is submitted by one of the defeated candidates and others to Labour’s National Executive Committee detailing Lutfur’s links with the IFE and Shiraj Haque and alleging massive fraud in the selection.
September 18: Lutfur is accused of failing to declare thousands of pounds in donations from Shiraj Haque – a criminal offence, if true. We have been asked to point out that Lutfur was later sent a police letter saying that there was “no case to answer.” However, the complainant, Cllr Peter Golds, insists that the police never investigated the matter seriously. (See PCC adjudication here.)
September 21: Labour’s NEC sacks Lutfur as the candidate.
September 25: Lutfur stands as an independent. Under Labour Party rules, he is automatically expelled from the party. Six of the people who sign his nomination papers have the same names as senior office-holders and trustees of the IFE.
October 15: Thousands of copies are distributed of publicity material smearing Lutfur’s Labour opponent as a wife-beater and an enemy of Islam. The chief coordinator of Lutfur’s campaign, Bodrul Islam, later says that the material was produced by people “embedded” in the Rahman campaign and with its full knowledge.
October 19: Ken Livingstone, Labour candidate for mayor of London, who has also benefited from IFE support, and been personally paid money by Lutfur’s council, campaigns for Lutfur against his own party’s candidate.
October 21: Lutfur Rahman elected mayor. The chief coordinator of his election campaign, Bodrul Islam, later says that the new mayor had a “strategic relationship” with the IFE and “most of [Lutfur’s] campaigners during the election were either Respect or IFE activists.”
October 28: Lutfur furious as the council votes to deny him a 98 per cent pay rise, awarding instead a 71 per cent rise. One of his key supporters, Cllr Oli Rahman, describes it as a “cynical” attempt to “undermine the mayor.”
November 3: Tower Hamlets places CDs of sermons by an extremist Islamic preacher, Abdurraheem Green, in the Town Hall reception area. Green believes that “Islam is not compatible with democracy” and that a husband should have the right to administer “a very light beating” to his wife.
November 10: Lutfur appoints Alibor Choudhury, a former employee of an IFE front organisation with a long track record of encounters with the police, to the key post of cabinet member for finance. Alibor was committed for trial for violent disorder in 2006, but the case was dropped due to what he insists was an “abuse of process.”
November: Lutfur’s publicly-funded political adviser at Tower Hamlets, Kazim Zaidi, anonymously writes a chapter in an Exeter University report attacking Lutfur’s critics and libelling six senior figures in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party and the local Labour MP as racists. The university is forced to withdraw the report and issue a grovelling apology.
December-February: At council meetings, Shiraj Haque and a crowd of other Lutfur supporters shout homophobic abuse at the mayor’s opponents from the public gallery. They abuse Peter Golds, the Tory leader, as “Mrs Golds” and a “poofter.” They heckle another gay councillor, Labour’s Josh Peck, and a gay local resident speaking at the meeting with animal noises and cries of “Unnatural acts! Unnatural acts!”
January 27: An official Labour Party inquiry finds a “concerted effort” to add fake members to the party during the campaign to select Labour’s candidate for the Tower Hamlets mayoralty.
February 23: Lutfur’s voting bloc on the council passes a motion to “campaign against the pariah state of Israel.”
March 8: Lutfur gives a character reference on Town Hall notepaper for Zamal Uddin, a minicab driver who had six weeks earlier pleaded guilty to a serious sexual assault on a woman passenger. When the press finds out, he claims that he did not know the nature of Uddin’s crime before agreeing to provide the reference.
March: Shiraj Haque is appointed chair of the advisory board for a major council-subsidised festival, the Baishakhi Mela. The council had previously removed him from all involvement with the festival and severed relations after allegations, which he denies, of massive financial irregularities.
April 4: Shiraj Haque’s premises are raided by police investigating a major counterfeit wine ring.
April 5: Disclosure logs reveal that the council is paying £50,000 a month of taxpayers’ money to three front organisations for the IFE.
April 12: One of Lutfur’s key supporters, Cllr Shelina Akhtar, is charged with fraud.
April 17: The council’s official propaganda newspaper, East End Life, runs a series of adverts for a training centre closely connected to Anjem Choudhury, the al Qaeda supporter who runs the extremist group al-Muhajiroun.
April 27: Lutfur takes a number of council staff paid by the taxpayer to campaign for the Labour Party in a parliamentary byelection. The District Auditor is called in.
May 8: Lutfur and Shiraj Haque turn the taxpayer-funded Baishakhi Mela festival into a platform for Ken Livingstone, who makes the keynote speech attacking Boris Johnson.
June 8: Defying a new local authority publicity code against taxpayer-subsidised council “Pravdas,” Lutfur rules that East End Life will continue publishing, at a cost to the public purse of around £1.3 million a year.
June 17: As the council passes budget cuts of £70 million, Lutfur spends £115,000 to refurbish his personal office and treble it in size.
July 4: One of Lutfur’s cabinet, Oli Rahman, appears on a platform with a group campaigning for the “unacceptability of homosexuality.” Lutfur has earlier pledged “zero tolerance” against a wave of homophobic attacks in the borough.
July 14: Lutfur acquires a luxury Mercedes and council-employed chauffeur at a cost to council taxpayers of up to £60,000 a year. No other elected mayor in London, Boris Johnson included, has an official car.
July 22: Tower Hamlets loses its second chief executive in two years as its top official, Kevan Collins, quits for a lower-paid job. He praises councillors (but not Lutfur) in his resignation statement.
August 7: It is revealed that Shiraj Haque has been given a Tower Hamlets council house at the subsidised rent of £135 a week, even though he is a multi-millionaire owning at least eight properties worth around £5 million.
August 8: As riots sweep London, Tower Hamlets’ enforcement officers are given the day off.
Sept 12: Lutfur scraps the official car of the borough’s ceremonial mayor and tells him to travel to functions, in his robes and gold chain, by taxi.
Oct 10: Tower Hamlets hits the front pages after hiring out its war memorial garden for City bankers’ Christmas parties. The decision is reversed after a storm of protest.
Oct 12: The council’s official newspaper, East End Life, promotes an extremist preacher previously banned from speaking on council premises.