Fellow candidates concerned by Mayor Lutfur Rahman's no-shows

By Rob Virtue on May 9, 2014 10:06 AM |

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Mayor Lutfur Rahman has come under fire after failing to attend the first Tower Hamlets hustings and pulling out of a live broadcast debate at the 11th hour.

Four candidates took part in the public debate last Wednesday but Mr Rahman was not there despite "numerous requests" by organisers.

It came just two days after the mayor cancelled a TV debate with Labour candidate John Biggs, Conservative Chris Wilford and Lib Dems' Reetendra Banerji on ATN Bangla.

Mr Biggs said: "The mayor of Tower Hamlets will control a budget of over a billion pounds. It is shocking that Lutfur Rahman refuses to open himself up to questions from voters. We all know he loves his photo-ops but people are increasingly asking 'where is Rahman?'

"To work democracy needs candidates who do not hide from the voters. Does he have nothing to say, or has he already given up?"

Conservative Mr Wilford said it had been frustrating not being able to debate with Mr Rahman.

"Residents have the right to hear what all of the candidates have planned for our borough should they win the election in May," he said.

"It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process for candidates to engage in debate, hold their platform up for scrutiny and then let the electorate decide. While it is all very well broadcasting achievements and visions, they also need to be challenged and debated in the round."

The hustings took place at the Tower Hamlets Community Church in Poplar and featured the candidates from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Ukip parties.

Organiser Tony Uddin told the audience the group repeatedly invited the mayor before being told a few days before the event that he had a prior engagement.

Earlier in the week, Mr Rahman and Mr Biggs were due at Bangladeshi speaking TV station ATN Bangla for a debate. However, Mr Biggs said the mayor pulled out just half an hour before the event.

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Mr Rahman has come under constant criticism for refusing to answer questions in council meetings.

No-one from the Mayor's Office was able to comment.

The next hustings will take place at St Margaret's House in Old Ford Road, E2, on Wednesday, May 14. It is being organised by Tower Hamlets Wheelers cycling group.

The group said the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems, Green and Ukip candidates would appear but it had not yet heard from the mayor.

For more details on the hustings go to towerhamletswheelers.org.uk

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