Lutfur Rahman

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Lutfur Rahman
Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 October 2010
Majority 12,029 (27%) [2010]
3,252 (4%) [2014]
Personal details
Born September 1965
Sylhet, Bangladesh
Nationality British
Political party Independent
Labour (until 2010)
Residence Spitalfields, East, London, United Kingdom[1]
Alma mater City University London
Religion Islam[2]
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Website Mayor of Tower Hamlets webpage

Lutfur Rahman (born September 1965)[3] is the first directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, in London. He was elected to the role in 2010, having previously been the leader of Tower Hamlets London Borough Council from 2008 to 2010. He was re-elected at the 2014 mayoral election.

Personal life[edit]

Rahman was born in Bangladesh, and then moved to the United Kingdom at a young age. He grew up in Tower Hamlets and attended the Marner Primary School in Bow, the Lawdale Junior School in Bethnal Green and Bow School.[4]

Rahman resides in Spitalfields, East London, and is married with a son and daughter.[1]

Career[edit]

Legal career[edit]

After gaining a law degree at City University London, Rahman worked as a solicitor at Maxwells Solicitors from 1993 to 2002. From 2002, he specialised in family law at McCormacks law firm, becoming a partner of the firm from 2005 until 2010.[1][5][6] He was a member of The Law Society Advanced Children’s Law Panel, and was chairman of Tower Hamlets Law Centre from 1996 to 2001.[7]

Political activities[edit]

Rahman has taken part in local civil society initiatives including Member and General Secretary (1987–89) of Progressive Youth Organisation, Spitalfields and Founding Member and first Treasurer (1990) of Keen Students Supplementary School (KSS).[7] He was General Secretary of Community Alliance for Police Accountability (CAPA).[7] Rahman has also been a Non-Executive Director of Barts and The London NHS Trust.[8]

Rahman was elected as a Labour Councillor for the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He has been part of the leadership of Tower Hamlets Council, serving as Lead Member for Education for two years and, from 2006–07, Lead Member for Culture. In February 2007, Rahman announced his intention to be the prospective Labour Party candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow. However, he came second to Rushanara Ali who went on to win the Parliamentary seat.

In April 2008 he was elected Leader of the majority Labour Group on Tower Hamlets Council, and therefore Leader of the Council, replacing Denise Jones.[9] After the local elections In May 2010, at which Labour increased their number of councillors, Lutfur Rahman was replaced as Leader by Helal Uddin Abbas, in part due to a Channel Four investigation which linked Rahman to the Islamic Forum of Europe.[10]

Directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets[edit]

In September 2010, Rahman was selected[11] by the Tower Hamlets Labour Party as its candidate to be the first directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets. However, his candidacy was controversial and his placement on the shortlist of preferred Labour Party candidates was withdrawn on several occasions before it was finally confirmed following legal action on behalf of Rahman.[12][13][14] He was finally elected as Labour's Mayoral candidate by Tower Hamlets Borough Labour Party members receiving 433 votes, compared to John Biggs with 251 votes and Helal Abbas with 157 votes.[15] He was declared as the winning candidate by Ken Clark, Director of London Regional Labour Party. However, after allegations that he was closely linked to an Islamic fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, and that he had personally signed up fake members in order to win the selection, he was removed as Labour's candidate by the Labour Party's National Executive Committee and replaced by the 'third man' Helal Uddin Abbas.[14][16]

He was at first said to be considering urgent legal action to be reinstated,[17] but declared on 23 September that he would stand as an Independent candidate.[18] The Respect Party declared its support for him.[2]

Rahman presents himself as a social democrat, but to the left of the official Labour candidate.[2] A Labour councillor described Rahman's campaign as 'a hugely well-financed operation,' but Rahman stated he had met all his own costs from his earnings as a solicitor, including the launch event at the Troxy and the printing of election leaflets.[2][19]

He was elected with over 51% of the vote receiving 23,283 votes. Labour's candidate came second with 11,254, Conservative 5,348, Liberal Democrat 2,800, Green 2,300.[20] He became Britain's first Muslim executive mayor.[5]

Rahman invited councillors from mainstream parties to join his cabinet, but only five did so, all former Labour members. In February 2011 a Guardian blog report covering his early performance as Mayor concluded that he had proved "highly adept at political jujutsu - drawing strength from his enemies' attack", including unfair branding of the borough as "Islamist" in the tabloids, and was working with the local Labour MPs to resist the Government's cuts.[21]

Later a Labour Party investigation report stated that 16 members not registered in the constituency had participated in the selection, but which candidate they voted for was not known, and in any event these would not have changed the outcome of the selection process.[21]

He was re-elected at the 2014 mayoral election, which had a turnout of nearly twice that of the 2010 election. He represented the new political party Tower Hamlets First, of which he is the leader.[22][23]

Controversies[edit]

Rahman's mayorship has drawn attention for controversies.

Departure of Chief Executive[edit]

Rahman's leadership came under criticism in June 2009, when he reportedly stated that he had no confidence in Tower Hamlets' Chief Executive, Martin Smith, and told him to ‘go home and consider your future.’[24] The news came on the eve of voting for the European elections, which Smith nevertheless attended as the council's returning officer. For his departure, reported to be over a personality clash, Smith's terms of employment, negotiated when the council was under the Labour Party leadership of Cllr Denise Jones, entitled him to a payout reported to be between £300,000 and £500,000.[24][25] The exact reasons and terms of his departure were not made public; Rahman characterised it as by mutual agreement.[26]

Subject of Channel 4 Dispatches documentary[edit]

Andrew Gilligan in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary in March 2010, and in a series of Daily Telegraph blogs and articles, accused Rahman of achieving the council leadership with the help of the Islamic Forum of Europe.[10][27][28] The IFE was accused by the local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, of infiltrating the council and the Labour Party.[10] It was further stated by Gilligan that during Rahman's leadership of the council, millions of pounds of public money were paid to organisations run by the IFE, and that the results included stocks of extremist literature being made available in public libraries.[19] However, Rahman denied in October 2010 that he was in league with the IFE.[2] IFE issued a statement denying Rahman was a member of the IFE and stating that Abbas, Labour's replacement candidate, had also had public and private meetings with the IFE.[29] In 2011, Rahman complained to the Press Complaints Commission about his description by Gilligan and the Telegraph as "extremist-backed" and as having "close links" to the IFE. The Commission rejected the complaint, saying that the description was "not misleading." [30]

Allegations of financial irregularities in electioneering[edit]

Conservative councillor Peter Golds asked the police and the Electoral Commission to investigate Rahman for alleged undeclared donations from Brick Lane restauranteur Shiraj Haque to fund Rahman's legal action against the Labour Party.[21][31] Interviewed for the Guardian in October 2010, Rahman dismissed the complaint and insisted that, like the electoral campaign, he meets all his own expenses and legal costs.[2] Subsequently the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by Rahman against Andrew Gilligan for repeating these allegations in the Daily Telegraph without stating that the police had decided that there was no case to answer, causing the reporting to be "inaccurate and misleading".[30]

Vanity office spending[edit]

In 2011, the Evening Standard newspaper reported that Rahman had been accused of spending £115,000 on a "vanity office" for himself. The project increased the office space available for the new directly elected mayor, the council cabinet, and opposition parties.[32] Later that year it was reported that Rahman hired a Mercedes E-Class saloon at a cost of £72 a day, in addition to the cost of being chauffeur-driven by council staff,[33] and he was criticised for not using public transport or his own car as other mayors do.[34]

Selling council artefacts (Henry Moore Sculpture)[edit]

In November 2012, Rahman overruled the recommendation of his councillors that Henry Moore's Draped Seated Woman, donated by the artist on the understanding that it would be permanently available for public appreciation in a socially deprived area of London, should not be sold.[35][36] Council officers had recommended the work should be sold, as there was no safe council property to locate it, making it uninsurable.[37] Ultimately, it was found that the sculpture was actually owned by the London Borough of Bromley because, although residing in Tower Hamlets, when the Greater London Council had been wound up, and after that, the London Residual Body had been wound up too, all remaining GLC assets had been gifted to Bromley, and thus the sculpture was theirs – and they didn't want it sold.[38]

Association with criminals[edit]

Mayor Rahman has been known to have associated with two convicted criminals; one convicted fraudster; the multi millionaire housing association resident Shiraj Haque[39][40] and one convicted sex offender; Zamal Uddin.[41] Mayor Rahman later apologised for providing a court character reference to Zamal Uddin stating that he had been misled by the defendant's family.[41] In 2014, Rahman provided a "glowing" court reference to Mohammed Ferdhaus also known as Mahee Jalil, a convicted insurance fraudster who was then sentenced to three years in jail for money laundering.[42]

Panorama documentary[edit]

In March 2014, a BBC Panorama documentary alleged that Rahman diverted over £3.6 million of grants to charities run by Bangladeshis and Somalis in return for political support. It also claimed that the council had paid money to Channel S, a local Bangladeshi TV channel, and one of its reporters, in return for politically biased coverage; and that the council-funded local newspaper was also strongly politically biased. The documentary also alleged that Rahman had failed to answer questions at ten council Overview and Scrutiny meetings.[43] The programme featured Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who subsequently sent fraud investigators in for a full investigation.[44] The Times reported "A beleaguered mayor raised the spectre of civil war in his borough as government inspectors swooped on his offices hunting for evidence of fraud, favours and unlawful spending"[45]

Both Tower Hamlets Council and Lutfur Rahman published statements denying the allegations. They state that in the latest grants round, 16.5% of grants were awarded to organisations with a Bengali or Somali chair, CEO or applicant in an area where that ethnic group consists of about 36% of the population.[46][47]

On 16 April 2014 the Metropolitan Police said there is "no credible evidence of criminality" to substantiate allegations made against Rahman, so they are not carrying out an investigation at this stage. The Department for Communities and Local Government investigation, being carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, is continuing.[48][49] Andrew Gilligan later reported that the police were in the early stage of investigating an alleged fraud involving a grant to the Brady Youth Forum, and claiming that the local police had a "cosy relationship with Lutfur’s council".[50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Saba Salman (22 January 2013). "Tower Hamlets mayor: the day I have to make cuts, it'll break me". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hill, Dave (12 October 2010). "Tower Hamlets: interview with independent mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  3. ^ "LUTFUR RAHMAN". Companies in the UK. Retrieved 24 May 2014. "Date Of Birth: Sep-1965" 
  4. ^ "About me". Lutfur Rahman 2010 mayor election campaign. 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Hill, Dave (8 November 2010). "Britain's first Muslim executive mayor vows to 'reach out to every community'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "MCCORMACKS SOLICITORS LLP". Companies in the UK. Retrieved 8 May 2014. "Lutfur Rahman 1 May 2005 ⇒ Present LLP Member // Dissolved on 8 Nov 2011" 
  7. ^ a b c "Biography – Mayor Lutfur Rahman". Tower Hamlets council. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Minutes of the open Trust Board, December 2007, Barts and The London NHS Trust
  9. ^ Saini, Angela (22 May 2008). "A shake-up at the Town Hall". Community Life. BBC. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Gilligan, Andrew (11 May 2010). "Islamists are crushed in Tower Hamlets". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  11. ^ Hill, Dave (22 August 2010). "Tower Hamlets: Labour selects its mayoral candidate". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  12. ^ Hill, Dave (27 July 2010). "Tower Hamlets mayoral race: Labour's selection confusion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  13. ^ Hill, Dave (12 July 2010). "Tower Hamlets: Labour's new mayoral shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  14. ^ a b Hill, Dave (23 August 2010). "Tower Hamlets: Lutfur's Rahman removed as Labour mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  15. ^ "Breaking News - Press Release 21st September 2010". Labour Briefing. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  16. ^ Eaton, George (22 October 2010). "A bad night for Labour in Tower Hamlets". New Statesman. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (22 September 2010). "Lutfur Rahman: Galloway jets in". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Rahman to stand as independent in Tower Hamlets mayoral race". East London Advertiser. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  19. ^ a b Gilligan, Andrew (17 October 2010). "Tower Hamlets extremist vote poses Ed Miliband's first big election test". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  20. ^ Lutfur Rahman wins Tower Hamlets mayoral election, BBC News, 22 October 2010
  21. ^ a b c Hill, Dave (11 February 2011). "Tower Hamlets: Lutfur, Labour and beyond". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  22. ^ "Lutfur Rahman wins Tower Hamlets mayoral election". BBC. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  23. ^ "Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election - Thursday, 22nd May, 2014". Tower Hamlets Council. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  24. ^ a b Council exec's £500k after ‘falling out with leader’, Evening Standard, 22 June 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Tower Hamlets Council's chief executive resigns after two years". East London Advertiser. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  26. ^ Gemma Collins (15 July 2009). "Council leader under fire in row over Town Hall chief's exit". Tower Hamlets Recorder. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  27. ^ "Britain's Islamic Republic". Channel 4. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  28. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (2 March 2010). "Transcript of Channel 4 interview with Lutfur Rahman". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  29. ^ "Islamic Forum of Europe: Response To Statement of Helal Abbas". Islamic Forum of Europe. 15 October 2010. ATC479. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  30. ^ a b "Adjudicated - Mr Lutfur Rahman v The Daily Telegraph". Press Complaints Commission. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  31. ^ "Police asked to probe Rahman mayor election expenses". East London Advertiser. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  32. ^ Nadia Sam-Daliri (17 June 2011). "Mayor of poorest borough spends £115,000 on new 'vanity' offices". Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 February 2012. 
  33. ^ Nadia Sam-Daliri (13 July 2011). "Council forks out £72 a day to drive mayor around in top-class Mercedes". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  34. ^ Andrew Gilligan (14 July 2011). "Lutfur Rahman charges taxpayers £72 a day for luxury Mercedes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  35. ^ Amelia Hill (7 November 2012). "Henry Moore sculpture decision raises fears for public art". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  36. ^ Mike Collett-White (7 November 2012). "London council to sell Henry Moore work to pay bills". Reuters. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  37. ^ Laurence Dodds (28 September 2012). "Valuable sculpture isn't safe here, council told". EastLondonLines (Goldsmiths, University of London). Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  38. ^ Henry Moore’s ‘Old Flo’ sculpture withdrawn from auction, London24, 21.12.12 [1]
  39. ^ "Lutfur’s Shiraj Haque convicted". Ted Jeory. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  40. ^ "http://trialbyjeory.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/lutfurs-heavyweight-backer/". Ted Jeory. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  41. ^ a b "Tower Hamlets Mayor told to say sorry to sex crime victim after his testimonial to her attacker". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  42. ^ http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/460480/Tower-Hamlets-mayor-Lutfur-Rahman-court-praise-for-Channel-S-fraudster-Mohammed-Ferdhaus
  43. ^ "London borough of Tower Hamlets could face inspection". BBC. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  44. ^ http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/tower-hamlets-eric-pickles-sends-fraud-inspectors-to-investigate-mayor-lutfur-rahman-9237712.html
  45. ^ http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4055169.ece
  46. ^ "Panorama statement - post broadcast". Tower Hamlets Council. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  47. ^ Lutfur Rahman (31 March 2014). "BBC Panorama: fact and fiction about Tower Hamlets Council". Lutfur Rahman. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  48. ^ Caroline Davies (16 April 2014). "Police find no evidence of criminality by Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  49. ^ Andy Ricketts (17 April 2014). "'No credible evidence of criminality' by Lutfur Rahman, say police". ThirdSector. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  50. ^ Andrew Gilligan (16 April 2004). "Lutfur Rahman and police denials fall apart. There is a criminal investigation of Tower Hamlets". The Daily Telegraph. 

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