Respect’s lawyers are preparing a legal challenge against Tower Hamlets council over a decision by the returning officer to exclude three Respect candidates from the ballot in St Katherine’s & Wapping ward.
If an electoral court rules in favour of Respect the election in the ward will be re-run, which could mean Labour losing control of the council.
The ward currently has one Tory and two Labour councillors, one of whom is Denise Jones, tipped to be leader of the Labour group.
The three Respect candidates – Foyaz Ali, Sultana Begum and Mohammed Hassan – had earlier won a court case against the council. But this judgement was overturned in the appeal court.
Nevertheless, the appeal court ruled that a further appeal would probably succeed if the St Katherine’s & Wapping result materially affected the outcome of the election.
“There is no doubt that it did materially affect the outcome,” said Respect MP George Galloway, “and that it provided New Labour with its overall majority. We are confident that this contest will have to be re-run.”
Foyaz Ali, Sultana Begum and Mohammed Hassan sent in their nominations to stand as Respect candidates in the St Katherine’s & Wapping ward of the borough.
But the council’s returning officer ruled that the nomination papers were incorrectly filled in.
This ruling came despite the fact that election officials had previously assured the election agent that the papers were in order.
The judge in the original case ruled that the candidates were treated unfairly by the returning officer, Christine Gilbert, and that the three candidates had a “legitimate expectation” that their forms would be checked in time for any corrections to be made.
The judge added that the Respect candidates were treated inconsistently by the returning officer compared to candidates for other parties in the ward.
George Galloway has called for the resignation of Christine Gilbert, the borough’s chief executive and returning officer
Respect is also preparing a legal challenge in up to four other wards in Tower Hamlets – Bethnal Green South, Mile End East, Spitalfields & Banglatown and St Dunstan’s & Stepney – over cases of suspected postal vote fraud uncovered during the election.
Other cases of suspected postal vote fraud took place in Limehouse ward, where two entire blocks of flats had their votes stolen. Respect has announced that it will back any legal challenge in Limehouse – despite the party winning two of the ward’s three seats.