You may not be familiar with Kazim Zaidi. He is the man who cost Exeter University substantial amounts in costs and damages after writing a chapter in a book it published which comprehensively libelled many people in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party. (Read the university’s grovelling apology to them here.)
Mr Zaidi is now, as he was then, political adviser (a council appointee and publicly funded post) to the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. Now his unique communication skills are going to land him in further difficulty.
Desperate to stop the widespread concerns about voter intimidation which have completely ruined his boss’s great re-election triumph, Mr Zaidi has today written a quite extraordinary post on the Trial by Jeory blog saying: “If those who still seem unable to accept the result continue as they are, it will spill out onto the streets where even the cleverest machine politicians will not be able to manage it.”
He will no doubt say that this is not a threat, but a prediction. The truth is that whatever his intentions it will be read as a threat.
We saw Lutfur Rahman’s ability to mobilise a crowd at the count on Friday, when a huge group of 2,000 Rahman supporters gathered outside the count centre, effectively barricading Rahman’s opponents inside.
As the count dragged endlessly on late into the night, Labour’s London campaign director, Sadiq Khan MP, and many others were told by police that they could not leave the building. The returning officer pleaded with those inside not to pass count details to the crowd for fear of them invading the premises.
We saw Rahman’s ability to mobilise a crowd at the polling stations on Thursday, when despite the promises of police many stations were picketed by groups of Rahman supporters, through whom voters had to push to reach the ballot box. There are disturbing stories of these crowds following some voters right into the ballot booth to insist that they marked their vote in the correct box.
Most of Mr Zaidi’s article is a cunningly worded pitch for Labour to readmit Rahman. That is, of course, the mayor’s great hope of redemption – and there are a few in the Labour group who actually believe it would be sensible to join up with him. There are many reasons why it would not be.
It would be a betrayal of all those voters who only last week put their trust in Labour as a force for non-racial, clean and democratic politics. It would place Labour locally in a position of enormous weakness, signalling that they were prepared to accept Rahman and his cronies running the show and signalling their consent to the council’s dodgy practices.
The fatal weakness of some in Tower Hamlets Labour is to believe that the Rahman camp are essentially decent people with whom it is possible to compromise. As Team Rahman have surely shown in the last four years, they are vicious and ruthless people who treat compromise as surrender.
It would also be highly damaging for the party nationally. At the moment Rahman is a problem only for Tower Hamlets, not the Labour Party. If Rahman were allowed to rejoin, or any Labour councillors allowed to serve under him, every act of his administration would become Labour’s problem.
The mayor is a man whose council is under police and Government investigation for corruption and misuse of funds. The manner of his election win has actually further tarnished him, shaming Tower Hamlets before the country and bringing its extraordinary political culture to much wider national attention than before.
And if any more proof were needed of Rahman’s unsuitability for readmission to the political mainstream, today’s words from Mr Zaidi ought to provide it.
For a summary of the case against Rahman, click here.
For a detailed account of his Muslim favouritism, click here.
For a full transcript of my 2010 Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Rahman and his extremist backers, click here.
For a chronological account of his career to 2013, click here.