It was a hope, perhaps fanciful, that the Lutfur Rahman saga, albeit long and painful during its active years, would quickly pass into the history books, flagged up as a lesson in what can go wrong when accountability becomes synonymous with racism.
However, as Sir Eric Pickles’ hard-hitting report into Mr Rahman’s electoral perversions makes clear, the Tower Hamlets scandal might become a watershed moment, signalling the end of a voting system based on trust.
But radical reform of electoral procedures is the least shocking aspect of Securing The Ballot .
What remains “astonishing” and “surprising” (in Sir Eric’s words) is the performance of the Metropolitan Police before the wrongdoing was exposed and since the time it was sensationally and forensically examined in court.
Rare that a former Cabinet minister, a High Court judge and Labour London mayor would share similar views on a cherished public service but Sir Eric, John Biggs, Richard Mawrey QC and a legion of other observers, including Tower Hamlets MP Jim Fitzpatrick, have all come to the same conclusion – something is definitely wrong.
The Met Police’s statements over the lack of convictions themselves lack conviction. The response that the civil court requires a lower level of proof than a criminal court fails to convince when Judge Richard Mawrey stated explicitly that he was working to criminal standards. His brilliant and lucid investigation presented all the evidence required to investigators and prosecutors.
He gave it to Scotland Yard on a plate and still they failed to act – an accusation that pre-dates the High Court hearing and is sewn into the very fabric of the Rahman scandal.
It doesn’t help that a leading police chief admitted, in a meeting with Cllr Peter Golds, that she hadn’t read the full report – perhaps glossing over the sections which included Judge Mawrey’s legal clarifications or the bit where he accuses the Met of acting like “the three wise monkeys”.
Again, this is not a discrete pocket of irritation about a small, local matter. As Sir Eric makes clear, faith in the rule of law and faith in public institutions is central to community cohesion and integration.
It is not inconceivable to draw a line between the gross abuses of the Lutfur Rahman regime, the “repeated inaction by the Met Police” and the most pressing law and order issue of our age – the radicalisation of disenchanted Britons in disenfranchised communities.