Lutfur Rahman, standing as an independent, won the Tower Hamlets mayoral election last week—trouncing the Labour Party.
He won 52 percent of the vote, more than double that of the imposed Labour candidate Helal Abbas.
Lutfur was originally chosen by local members as Labour’s candidate. But he was then removed by the party’s national executive (NEC) and replaced by Abbas, the bureaucracy’s favourite.
Eight Labour councillors broke ranks and backed Lutfur, and have since been expelled. The Socialist Workers Party and Respect supported Lutfur. Labour Party London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone was also seen with Lutfur while he campaigned.
Despite his sizeable win, much of the mainstream media have presented Lutfur’s victory as evidence of a “Muslim threat”. The Daily Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan described him as a “fundamentalist ally” and wrote he hoped the election would trigger “more interest in the… wider issue of Muslim fundamentalism in east London.”
Councillor Oliur Rahman, one of the expelled eight, said that the NEC’s actions “made people fight back”.
“The Labour Party has to realise that it cannot give democracy to the membership, then not respect it,” he said.
He went on to condemn Gilligan: “The right wing media have used the election to attack the Asian community in Tower Hamlets. Gilligan has called Tower Hamlets an ‘Islamic Republic’ because people elected the candidate of their choice. It is an attack on the whole community.”
The voters who put Lutfur in office will now look to him to head up the battle against cuts, racism and Islamophobia.