Spiral Notebook: Rahman's insult to Tower Hamlets
By Giles Broadbent
Tower Hamlets Council has endorsed an investigation by Tower Hamlets Homes and the police into the curious case of the "Rahman canvassers".
This follows reports that bogus representatives from the social housing company were using their access to residents in Wapping to flog Mayor Lutfur Rahman's re-election bid.
New: Mayor's response below
All this at a time when allegations of misuse of the mayor's office have surfaced yet again relating to the use of branded letters, contrary to council rules.
And what did the man himself have to say about all this at a recent council meeting when challenged? Furious denial? Tearful apology? The mayor said nothing. Being made to answer to the people "is contrary to his human rights".
To the rest of the world, this continuing policy of silence is a joke, a punchline to a risible tale of East End lunacy. To the residents of Tower Hamlets, it is a serious and barbarous insult that damages their prosperity.
Compare Tower Hamlets to Newham. Both struck by terrible social and structural problems. Yet Newham - far from perfect - is at least outward looking and positive. It has embraced the Olympics and the Docks in order to share the dividends of growth.
Mr Rahman's Tower Hamlets is backward, self-indulgent and dim. It is ripped apart by factionalism and stymied by cronyism. And the mayor, who sits atop this stinking pile, has nothing to offer but a sulk - truly a slap in the face for the residents who crave a future, not a
It is to be hoped in the 2014 election the man who has tried so hard to undermine the principle of democratic accountability will feel the potency of its sting.
Giles Broadbent is editor of The Wharf. Follow him on Twitter: @MediaGulch
Update: Following the publication of this post, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets has asked for a right of reply.
While we have made it clear that we stand by the post and do not accept that the comment contains "gross inaccuracies", we are running the Mayor's reply as it came to us it to allow people to make up their own minds.
It should also be noted that the Mayor's rebuttal of the allegations to Cabinet, which came too late for last week's paper, features here.
The Mayor writes:
"Your column, 'Spiral Notebook'; 'Rahman's insult to Tower Hamlets', contains a series of gross inaccuracies and unfair innuendoes.
Surely, The Wharf has a responsibility to report and comment fairly? On the basis of this particular column it would appear that neither you nor your newspaper intends to do so in the run up to the Mayoral and local government elections in May.
You made no attempt to contact this council's communications department or me, before publishing what amounts to a series of gross inaccuracies and innuendoes.
You have made direct allegations relating to the use of branded letters.
Such allegations are very serious and potentially imply a breach of electoral law.
The actual complaint relates to unbranded, council acknowledgement letters sent pursuant to casework.
The allegations that bogus representatives from the social housing company were using their access to residents in Wapping to flog [my] re-election bid are also completely untrue.
Cllr Alibor Choudhury categorically refuted these allegations, also made by the local Labour Party, in Full Council on 27 November. I also categorically refuted these claims in Cabinet on Wednesday 4 December. My rebuttal and that of Councillor Choudhury were carried in the East London Advertiser on Monday 2 December.
How, in these circumstances, you could run with these heavily contested
and baseless allegations, let alone print them without putting them to me, is beyond me.
Similar claims have been made before, and the resulting police investigations have consistently found them to be baseless and a waste of police time.
Your comparisons between Tower Hamlets and Newham are insulting and inane. You may be interested to learn that not a single question has been asked of Mayor Sir Robin Wales, in any meeting of full council in the past seven months. In Tower Hamlets most of the political parties are represented. In Newham, all sixty councillors are from Sir Robin Wales' party.
Perhaps The Wharf prefers a 'one party borough' solution?
I have never claimed that answering questions would 'breach my human rights' as you claim. I simply delegate the business of council to lead councillors, as is common-place in other local authorities.
I attend hundreds of public meetings where I am directly accountable to electors (rather than to opposition parties who were roundly rejected at the last election but by mere virtue of the electoral cycle continue to boast a majority in the chamber) and hold frequent press conferences where you and other journalists are welcome to hold me to account.
As a regular contributor to The Wharf, I had come to expect a whole lot better from your newspaper. I do hope that normal service may be resumed shortly.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman