Olive branches offered between Biggs and Rahman but will Tower Hamlets unite?

By Rob Virtue on May 28, 2014 12:01 PM |

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Can Labour work together with re-elected mayor Lutfur Rahman?

After the bloody battle between the successful Tower Hamlets First candidate and his beaten rival John Biggs there were signs of hope as the pair swapped tweets promising to work together.

However, actions speak louder than words and, with the pain of a bitter election campaign still apparent, there's some way to go before we see a united Tower Hamlets.

Speaking to The Wharf, Mr Biggs, who is a London Assembly member for City and East said: "I'm happy to work with him as I have been before. Unfortunately over the last three years he has decided to cancel every meeting we have had arranged. It's not a constructive background to go on but the offer remains.

"I'm an elected member of City Hall and I'm happy to work with the mayor on matters concerning Tower Hamlets."

And there is also the issue of unfounded racist slurs made against Mr Biggs by Mayor Rahman's team in the run-up to the vote. In a press conference following his election in the early hours of Saturday morning, he refused the chance to clear Mr Biggs' name.

That and other accusations made against the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets mean councillors and MPs in the borough will find it more difficult to work with the re-elected mayor.

"Tower Hamlets Labour have to see how they can work with Lutfur Rahman," said Mr Biggs. "There's still profound unhappiness on how the campaign was conducted by Lutfur Rahman's team and supporters."

It followed an arduous day and evening of counting at the Troxy in Limehouse last Friday, which saw an emotionally drained, re-elected Mayor Rahman break down on the verge of tears.

In a rare press conference, he made an impassioned speech for support from the public and the media. It followed claims made by BBC documentary Panorama, and looked into by Eric Pickles Government office, he financially favoured Bengali groups.

"For people to unfairly judge me, to say I'm a racist and a sectarian, it saddens me," he said. "I grew up with black kids, white kids, Jewish kids, Christian kids, kids with no faith, and to corner me unfairly, for the sake of politics, just for my colour, because I'm a Muslim, which I'm proud of, is wrong.

"I'm sorry I'm getting emotional. I'm emotional because I seek from you fairness."

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The mayor would also dodge a question on what he would do if Labour asked him to return.

Whatever happens the mayor has a mandate to continue following the closely fought battle.

Mr Biggs recorded 27,643 first preference votes in last week's election, enough to take the count to second preferences.

However, with just 6,500 second votes, he fell short of the current mayor's total of over 36,539 first votes and 854 seconds.

In the local elections, Tower Hamlets First made big strides with Labour recording their lowest number of councillors in the borough.

Two late seats in Bromley South, gave Labour the edge with 20 seats. However, this is down from 41 in 2010. THF picked up 18 seats.

The Conservatives are down from eight to four, after taking a hit on the Isle of Dogs, where they now have just two councillors.

However, three seats are still up for grabs on the Island in the Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward by-election, which is due to take place next month.

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