Disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman faces a setback in his quest to return to the political scene.
The Electoral Commission has rejected the registration of Tower Hamlets Together, the planned new party that Mr Rahman had assembled to front his renewed ambitions.
The commission ruled that the rejection was on the grounds that it would “likely to mislead voters as to the effect of their vote”, a standard response that covers organisations with similar names.
In a letter to Cllr Peter Golds, who had raised the issue of duplication, the Electoral Commission said: “The Commission is of the opinion that if the applied-for party name appeared on a ballot paper, an elector is likely to think they are voting for, or a party connected to or endorsed by, Tower Hamlets Together, which is the name of a partnership of local health and social care organisations.
“It is open for the party to submit a new application to be registered. The details of any new application will be published on the commission’s website in line with the commission’s usual process.”
The ruling, therefore, did not specifically reference Mr Rahman’s past and doesn’t automatically mean that all future Rahman applications will be rejected. However there was extensive lobbying of the commission about Mr Rahman’s history in party politics which suggests further attempts will come under the closest scrutiny.
Mr Rahman’s previous party, Tower Hamlets First, was disbanded by the Election Court after it engaged in illegal and corrupt practices to secure the mayoralty for Mr Rahman. He was also booted out of office and banned for standing for five years, a ruling he is currently challenging.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “This was clearly nothing but a cynical attempt to re-register the disgraced, discredited and disqualified Tower Hamlets First.
“A court ruled these councillors were corruptly elected and disbanded their party. Instead of standing down and admitting their wrongdoing, Lutfur Rahman’s former colleagues seem set on doing it all over again.”
Petitioner Andy Erlam said: "It is clear that this proposed new political party would likely have misled many voters, if approved. If Rahmanite candidates wish to stand they will have to stand as independents and their vote gathering methods will naturally be under very close scrutiny."
The rump of Tower Hamlets First is still represented and it is likely that Mr Rahman will still have his candidate – Cllr Ohid Ahmad – in the 2018 mayoral election. However, unless a new party is registered, it is likely Cllr Ahmad will have to stand as in independent without the association with Mr Rahman that Cllr Ahmad considers an election asset.
The Election Court uncovered various abuses in the establishment of Tower Hamlets First which appeared to be little more than a convenient construct dreamt up by Mr Rahman and his associates which failed to fulfil the requirements of party registration including a constitution.
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