The Islamophobic witch hunt against Tower Hamlets council came to a head last week as Labour’s John Biggs was elected mayor of the east London borough.
He was elected with 32,754 votes including second preferences. Independent candidate Rabina Khan won 26,384.
Biggs stood as Labour candidate for mayor last year but lost to Lutfur Rahman of Tower Hamlets First.
This month’s election was triggered when an electoral court ousted Rahman for “corrupt and illegal practices” and banned Tower Hamlets First. This was done on the basis of contested and flimsy evidence.
The people who started the formal process have been presented as ordinary voters. But they include Angela Moffat, a member of the racist Ukip party. Shamefully, Labour tailed the Islamophobia.
The council led by Rahman did more than any Labour one to oppose austerity.
Khan had been a member of Rahman’s cabinet responsible for housing—and stood firmly on a left platform.
She spoke out in favour of LGBT and migrants’ rights, and against cuts.
After the vote she said in a statement, “There’s no election on, but there is still a housing crisis, there are still cuts and there is still so much that needs fixing. Let’s keep working together.”
Khan’s campaign drew support from wide sections of the community. Activists say they now have to build on the networks they made—and fight against Labour cuts.
Local trade unionist John McLoughlin told Socialist Worker, “We’ll have to see what John Biggs is going to do. The budget on 8 July is set to announce even more local government cuts.
“If he simply passes on these cuts there’s bound to be resistance.
“Rabina Khan’s vote represented a real desire to resist austerity. We need to build on that and make ourselves part of demonstrations on 20 June and beyond.
“And we have to build on this locally in campaigns in defence of public services. We should take this spirit into the struggles in the coming months.”
During the election Khan’s opponents ran a filthy smear campaign against her.
It included claims that she lied about her disabled child’s hospitalisation to miss a hustings.
Labour members tried to position themselves as the ones to clean up a “corrupt” Tower Hamlets. They geared up to continue the smears if Khan had won.
Reports of postal voting fraud, “treating” voters and of misusing council property have been lodged against Labour. Since Biggs’ victory there has been no mention of corruption.
Shahidul from Bethnal Green said, “The result is very disappointing. Labour played divide and rule, but it was right to take a stand against the lies. We are going to have to keep on doing it.”