Tower Hamlets Labour Party announced last week that it had expelled five councillors for supporting Lutfur Rahman, the borough’s extremist-linked mayor. The five – Kabir Ahmed, Rofique Ahmed, Abdul Asad, Shafiqul Haque and the tax-dodging Shahed Ali – campaigned for Lutfur’s candidate, Ghulam Robbani, against the official Labour man in a rather controversial byelection in April. (More news about the many voting irregularities at that byelection shortly).
The slightly odd thing is that four of those expelled in fact first got into bed with Lutfur almost a year ago, when they joined his council cabinet – purely for the good of the community, no doubt, and I’m sure the extra “responsibility allowances” had nothing to do with it. Why weren’t they kicked out then? Presumably because one Ken Livingstone (remember him?) was still on the scene at the time, with an embarrassing campaigning-for-Lutfur history of his own. If Ken had won the mayoral election, he would almost certainly have exerted pressure to bring Lutfur back into the Labour Party, something he’s long sought. But, of course, he didn’t win.
I think the wider meaning of these expulsions is two-fold. First, London Labour’s forces of sanity are gaining the upper hand. The party is moving away from the electoral suicide of Livingstone, who couldn’t win an election in a left-wing city, in a double-dip recession, with the Tories 19 points behind. And second, Lutfur is further away than ever from his dream of coming back into Labour.
Shahed and the rest have been making the inevitable and desperate cries of racism. Why, they plead, haven’t Lord Sugar and my fellow Telegraph scribe Dan Hodges, both of whom called for a vote against St Ken, been expelled? (Answer: neither of those illustrious figures was elected to public office on a Labour Party ticket.) The expelled councillors’ real problem, of course, is that they have stepped on entirely the wrong bandwagon.