The man defeated by disgraced mayor Lutfur Rahman in the Tower Hamlets election declared void by a High Court judge has said he “hopes to stand” in the re-run ballot.
London Assembly politician John Biggs welcomed the judgment of an Election Court which has exonerated the Labour politician, following smears in the election campaign and in court hearings, that he was a “racist”.
After the sensational verdict Mr Biggs said: “I welcome today’s judgment even though I did not seek this matter being decided in this way.
“For the last year my reputation has been on trial and in recent weeks I have had to defend my good name and integrity in court, in what has been a bruising experience.
“I am relieved that serious but false allegations and smears made against me have been dismissed by the Election Commissioner and were in his opinion ‘deliberately dishonest’.
“I am also pleased that the Commissioner took the view that ‘no rational person could think Mr Biggs was a racist or anything of the sort’.
“These allegations were deliberately made, in order to polarise opinion and influence the result of last May’s Mayoral election in Tower Hamlets. I am pleased that when tested in court, they have been dismissed by the Commissioner and I have been completely exonerated.
“Like most politicians, I am well used to the rough and tumble of politics, but the nature of the allegations made against me in court and in last year’s Mayoral campaign, were personally hurtful and unpleasant, and were all the more distressing because they were baseless.
“Today’s ruling more generally, is a victory for honest politics. By setting out to break the rules and going to extraordinary lengths to win last May’s Mayoral election, Lutfur Rahman and his allies, robbed the people of Tower Hamlets of the free and fair mayoral election they deserved.
“People from across our community have been badly let down by the mayor. After five years of abuse of public funds and public trust, it’s time that residents have a council that is again on their side; that restores faith in free and fair elections and heals divisions in our community.
“The election will now be rerun. It will be an opportunity for all the people of our borough to vote to reject once and for all, the kind of corrupt politics, that the petitioners, this Election Court, and the Commissioner’s judgment has exposed.
“I will do anything I can, to help restore trust and confidence in local democracy in Tower Hamlets and bring about reconciliation in our diverse community, to heal the rancour and bitterness that has built up in the borough in the last five years.
“For too long the borough has been dragged down by the unseemly conduct of Lutfur Rahman’s administration and has become a byword for all the wrong things. Enough is enough, it’s time to get democracy and accountability back in Tower Hamlets and restore trust and confidence in our politics.”
Mr Biggs was Labour’s candidate in last year’s mayoral election in Tower Hamlets. In that election he received 27,643 first preference votes (32.82%) and 6,500 second preference votes (receiving 34143 votes in total). He lost to Lutfur Rahman by 3,252 votes.
Following the verdict, one of the petitioners and also leader of the Red Flag - Anti-Corruption party, Andy Erlam said he was delighted with the result and "doesn't feel at all sorry for" Lutfur Rahman.
He said: "It’s a fantastic result. Now we are looking to the new election. We have had assurances from the police that they will be watching closesly. Obviously everybody will be.
"There needs to be a change in the law - nationally as well a locally. This kind of practice we have seen here is something I have never seen anywhere else.
"I do want to praise our barrister, Francis Hoar, who we have not been able to pay what he deserves - he’s a brilliant barrister who has a strong moral drive."
The borough's Green Party, which has always opposed the executive mayor position, has also given its reaction to the outcome of the case today.
Tower Hamlets Green Party chair Dan Lee said: "Just when the people of Tower Hamlets need committed, dedicated representatives, the internal battles of the local Labour Party has left our borough without any leadership once again.
"The victims are, as ever, the people who trusted and voted for Mr Rahman and the long suffering residents. Beset by the failing austerity policies of the coalition government, we need a new start for our borough.
"In any upcoming election, we will continue to argue for the abolition of the post of executive mayor and for the return of power to the people of this borough where it belongs.
"We will work with everyone to unite our borough once again. To put power back in the hands of residents, and restore the reputation of our community."