The proposal to change the status of the borough from one with a leader and cabinet to one with an executive mayor was initially opposed by all the main political parties and was an initiative only proposed and supported by the Respect Party. Respect and Islamic Forum Europe organised a petition to trigger a referendum for this change. Council officers stated that almost half the signatures were invalid, with entire pages bearing the same handwriting. Despite the flaws in the petition, there were sufficient valid signatures for the council to accept it, and a referendum was held on 6 May 2010 simultaneously with the voting in the United Kingdom general election. The referendum was passed after an intensive campaign.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets Referendum
6 May 2010
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph on 17 October, Andrew Gilligan represented the forthcoming election as the first big test for the recently elected Labour leader Ed Miliband, given the possibility of an independent candidate defeating the official Labour candidate in a strong Labour borough. Gilligan also said that it raised concerns over the political power of radical Islam in the UK, because of candidate Luftur Rahman's connections with Islamic Forum Europe. The latter, along with local business interests which had supported the petition and referendum to have a mayor, prominently backed Rahman's campaign. Labour's former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, also campaigned in support of Rahman, in breach of Labour Party rules.
Councillor Rabina Khan initially announced that she would stand as the Tower Hamlets First candidate. However, as a result of findings in the election court case against Luftur Rahman, Tower Hamlets First was removed from the register of political parties by the Electoral Commission as the party was not operating a responsible financial scheme and the running of the party did not follow the documentation given in the party’s registration. Khan subsequently said she would stand as an independent candidate.
Andy Erlam is a writer and film-maker who led the legal action against Rahman that saw the previous election declared void. He previously stood as a Parliamentary candidate for Labour.