Tory power exposed inside Tower Hamlets Council

The Spectator did a piece last year ‘Eric Pickles interview: Multiculturalism is to blame for Tower Hamlets electoral fraud’ – Pickles of course being the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who oversaw the audit investigation through to Lutfur Rahman’s removal from office. One quote stands out as a compelling piece of evidence as to why Pickles began the Tory invasion into the council: ‘It was regarded as a beacon authority’ … ‘When I first arrived I was told I should go and have a look at it because it was a very well run borough’.

So what led Pickles to poke around?

‘There were people like Peter Golds […], people I absolutely trusted telling me things were wrong.’


Almost one year on and the costly Commissioners sent by Pickle’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) still remain. While they say their role is to ensure that the council is a Best Value authority, their goals have no distinction between Conservative ideology and Best Value practice.

An example of this would be a letter one Commissioner wrote to Mayor Biggs detailing his concern over the continuation of local paper East End Life, while there had been concerns over the balance of political views expressed within, it was hardly necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water. This has happened because council leaflets and papers are under attack nationwide by the DCLG, and local authorities such as Lambeth have fought to keep them. Mayor Biggs on the other hand has complied with their wishes and scrapped what is undoubtedly a necessary form of outreach to residents, which also in it’s demise resulted in the loss of jobs.

On 17 March 2016, in a letter to the now Secretary of State Greg Clark, Mayor Biggs wrote: ‘The work of the Commissioners in helping us to get to this stage has been helpful, although we are impatient for their intervention to end.’ The Mayor offers bullet points outlining ways to change the authority for their approval, such as an: ‘aim to drive total rental income from £3.5 million in 2015/16 to £4.5 million in 2016/17’ and ‘We are now taking a more corporate approach to procurement’ – music to Tory ears.

The Lead Commissioner, Sir Ken Knight, is only marginally impressed by Mayor Biggs and offers only an ultimatum: ‘It is important not to be overly optimistic about the time required both to do what is necessary and to evidence the embedding of change. Unless this is achieved, it will put at risk exit from the Direction regime’.

Historically, has a regime ever ended itself?

Yet we shouldn’t feel sorry for Mayor Biggs since it has been exposed that Cllr Peter Golds campaigned to his supporters to give Biggs their second preference vote and vice versa. To do a deal with a Tory councillor who has the ear of the DCLG has certainly come at a price, whether it is the cost of Biggs’ principles is debatable – for the taxpayers in Tower Hamlets, it is evident.

The Commissioners sole objective is to see through those Directions outlined by the DCLG. One of which was to appoint a Chief Executive whose responsibilities and power are indistinguishable from that of the Mayor. The previous administration removed this position from the budget, which will cost the council almost £200k annually. In the Directions it stated that should the council not make the appointment before 27 August 2015, it would take them in breach of government directions and may be subject to ‘criticism and enforcement action by the Secretary of State.’

The Commissioners, cutting it fine,  called an extraordinary meeting on 26 August 2015 to rally councillors to the chamber to vote for the candidate. However, things did not go smoothly, as for their consideration was a deeply concerning issue surrounding the Commissioner’s preferred applicant, Will Tuckley.

An email sent on 21 August, six days before the deadline, warned the Commissioners and Mayor Biggs that Tuckley was subject to an investigation by the police, regarding misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and gross misconduct.

Sir Ken Knight had corresponded with a very high ranking officer of the Metropolitan Police, Assistant Commissioner Helen King, who confirmed that the Met was indeed preparing to submit a report to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if there was sufficient evidence against Tuckley to support a prosecution.

Sir Ken Knight (remember the leading Commissioner), rather surprisingly emailed Mayor Biggs saying: ‘Personally, don’t think this changes much.’

Just to pause here to recap what just happened. The government sent Commissioners to Tower Hamlets Council because a whistleblower said there was corruption. Lutfur Rahman, the executive mayor, was removed from office by a judge on hearsay evidence of election fraud and other bogus claims and has since been cleared by Scotland Yard. The Commissioners are now recommending a chief executive, who they have been contacted by a whistleblower saying Will Tuckley is corrupt. If your head isn’t spinning from the flagrant hypocrisy, one might suggest you check your prejudices by flipping the scenario.

Will Tuckley was once the CE of Bexley Council, and he defended himself in an email during this hiring process describing the whistleblower, Mike Barnbrook, as belonging to a group of people who failed to be elected into office and was simply a ‘vociferous critic of the council’.

Whatever anyone has to say about Mike Barnbrook, the fact remains that he is a retired police officer, who was the complainant against Ian Clement, the former Leader of Bexley Council, who, in his role of Deputy Mayor of London, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. That is not nothing, and this wasn’t the only politician Barnbrook has blown out of office.

The Commissioners at this point had already informed the Secretary of State that a candidate had been selected, this was before the email by Mike Barnbrook informing them that Tuckley was being investigated for gross misconduct. Either too embarrassed to U-turn, or they already knew and didn’t care for favourable reasons, they proceeded to employ someone who could scandalise the borough.

On the day of the meeting, Tower Hamlets Independent Group (THIG) were given an hour to consider these troubling issues. The Tory and Labour councillors inexplicably decided to vote in favour of hiring Will Tuckley, which is a majority, so regardless of how THIG vote, he is their new Chief Executive – therefore, to vote against him would be starting off on a catastrophically bad foot. THIG decided that they weren’t given enough time to make an informed choice, and abstained from voting at the full council meeting.

All in all a very bizarre and troubling episode of Tower Hamlets Council in the Tory-Labour coalition. There was of course other candidates available at the time, so arguably more reasons behind the push to hire Will Tuckley than to just get the post filled.

In the Leading Commissioner’s response to Mayor Biggs’ proclamation that they have fulfilled the letter of the Directions, Sir Ken Knight rewarded the Mayor’s efforts with a patronising paragraph on how ‘it is now possible to see and evidence tangible signs of progress’ which is ‘since your Chief Executive, Mr Tuckley, took up post’. This is later contradicted by criticism that the Mayor has yet to commit ‘delegation of specific powers to the Chief Executive’.

So well done Biggs for hiring the man we told you to hire, now give him more power or we will never leave. If that sounds a little dramatic, let me put it in Sir Knight’s words: ‘Appropriate powers for the LB Tower Hamlets Chief Executive are, in our view, a fundamental change marking the difference between your administration and that of your predecessor which led to the intervention by the Secretary of State.’

In efforts to impress the DCLG and the Commissioners, Mayor Biggs has actioned cutting public services, closing nurseries, closing youth centres – the beast that is the Tory tax pincher is always hungry for more.

Mayor Biggs and his cabinet voted in a highly controversial decision to give pay rises to councillors and the mayor himself, announced at the annual council meeting. All in the backdrop of the closure of some 18 youth centres, which is perfect timing for summer holidays.

THIG members argued against this pay increase at the annual council meeting, although they were outnumbered by the opposition vote. The most insulting of all is the 40 per cent pay increase for Cllr Golds, which is the highest pay rise.

Interesting point in Sir Knight’s letter to Mayor Biggs is this alarming claim:

‘It is also of concern that Commissioners are still contacted by whistleblowers who do not have the confidence to approach the Council direct to alert it to what appears to be credible evidence of wrongdoing and malpractice’.

It would seem that Cllr Peter Golds is still putting in the hours, suppose that pay rise will cover it.

“The common good is the aspiration of all of us” – Jeremy Corbyn

‘Prioritise excellent public services to deliver cleaner streets, better schools and reduced anti-social behaviour’ – John Biggs’ pledge during 2015 mayoral election

Attack dogs Cllr Rachel Saunders & Cllr John Pierce

What with the Tory sent commissioners overseeing operations alongside their appointed Chief Executive, Will Tuckley, (£200k per annum) it is hard to see whether Mayor Biggs has any influence on the Council at all. The cuts to public services in the latest budget shows compliance to the Conservative government austerity line. We know Biggs’ party leader Jeremy Corbyn is against cuts, but perhaps Corbyn isn’t the man who he is trying to please, and after Biggs took Rachel Saunders to meet Conservative MP and Secretary of State Greg Clark (why not Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam?), with still no invitation from Mayor Biggs for Corbyn to visit, it does pull into question whose side are they on?

Tower Hamlets Labour have made a budget that will see redundancies, cuts to front line services, a reduction in employment opportunities previously made for impoverished and minority groups, a reduction in children’s health and education services, an end to burial subsidy services, cuts to elderly care and abolishing entire funding for Police officers.

How will John Biggs deliver cleaner streets when 10 environment officers are made redundant?

Is cutting £4.3m from Children Services, that will likely see the closure of Queen Mary Nursery, bettering schools?

Is taking £270k from Police conducive to reducing anti-social behaviour?

It is perplexing to try and understand Biggs’ politics when on the 22 February he put out a press release from his office as member of GLA City and East (his second job), complaining that the London mayor is stretching Tower Hamlets Police force into neighbouring areas, he wrote:

“The Mayor’s cuts (Boris Johnson) have meant neighbourhood police teams in Tower Hamlets have already lost 224 uniformed officers since 2010.”

What is more baffling about the budget is the unnecessary spending and lack of initiatives to raise money, as pointed out by Tower Hamlets Independent Group’s (THIG ) alternative budget, where they note that £140k on fireworks is far too much, especially when they are cutting £20k on burial subsidies, taking £50k from school trips and £41k from incontinence laundry services. The council itself owns properties and yet they’ve set aside £20k for hiring external venues, not to mention the £100k kept for catering when hosting events. How can we as a society celebrate festivities without insuring the wellbeing of everyone?

The worst of Biggs and his cabinet’s budget are the cuts to Child, Adolescent and Mental Health Services and cuts to Social Care and Learning Disability care users, our truly most vulnerable citizens. Perhaps children, the elderly and the incapacitated are not pulling their weight enough, and therefore until they have the get-up-and-go to start paying their way, don’t deserve services like everyone else.

From the £71m Lutfur Rahman kept in reserves to counter government cuts, John Biggs is using £25 million and still planning to cut £17 million of services on top of £4 million that he has already signed off. This was brought up by Hugo Pierre who petitioned at the budget council meeting, to not make any cuts to public services. In order to avoid discussing this point, the most vicious Labour councillors took the opportunity to attack Pierre for not winning local elections as a TUSC candidate (watch video).

When Biggs was campaigning for mayor, there was a lot of talk about Lutfur Rahman’s advisors and personal staff – where as Biggs has kept £605k for his office and advisors, recently appointed Head of Marketing for £100k, as well as an extra £25k for publicity. Which brings us to the scrapping of East End Life – how are the council supposed to inform Tower Hamlets residents of changes to services? Are they expecting the whole of Tower Hamlets to attend council meetings? Not everyone has the internet, nor the inclination to find out information that should be sent to them. This certainly does not feel like transparency, without the paper the workings of the council is practically invisible.

Cllr Oliur Rahman THIG leader

An alternative budget was presented by THIG which had found savings, fund raising opportunities and reserves meaning no one has to have their services cut, or a 4% tax increase for that matter. This might be hard to believe with all the scaremongering out there about government debt but rest assured that the Chief Financial Officer at Tower Hamlets found THIG’s budget proposal to be ‘cost neutral’ and the Monitoring Officer wrote that the budget ‘contains savings and spending proposals which balance each other out and consequently achieves the requirement for a balanced budget.’

With so much resources available to the council for innovation, planning and improvement for the future, the budget decided on for Tower Hamlets is at best uninspiring and at worst a reversal of every progress it had going.

Rich Mix “still running up losses”

There appears to be a sudden media blackout on the Rich Mix debt write-off gifted by Mayor John Biggs, and nary a post of previously concerned local bloggers parroting the outcry of Labour members – pressing for Tower Hamlets to wave off the £850k debt with no-questions-asked.

The clamorous drama between Tower Hamlets council and Rich Mix has in an instant become a silent mystery. So quiet that one felt compelled to check that this entire episode of the borough’s history even ever existed.

Ted Jeory, east London’s very own Danger Mouse, wrote an article in 2006 for the East London Advertiser about a leaked report exposing financial problems with Rich Mix. A report he chided was “deemed too confidential and sensitive to be scrutinised in public – so really, Ted has been documenting developments and conflicts surrounding Rich Mix for almost a decade. Back in 2010, Ted was very skeptical of the arts centre calling it back then the “who’s who of the east London Labour Party” and generally critical of the remit to serve a broad community – as Cllr Denise Jones hoped to attract “the white working class from the Isle of Dogs and the Bengali boys from the Boundary Estate.” Ted observed at the time that Rich Mix was filled with “Shoreditch types” with Apple Macs and lattes – and expressed shock and outrage that the borough still hadn’t claimed the £850k debt owed by Rich Mix and at the time “had gone begging to the council” for more money. Ted concluded that Rich Mix was in a cycle of debt and cash dependency due to “the total lack of proper scrutiny by Labour councillors which caused the mess in the first place.” You can’t fool Danger Mouse.

Almost a complete parallel to our Battle of Tower Hamlets blog entry that documented a confidential report that led to a call-in at the overview and scrutiny meeting with members voicing concern about value to the community and its financial solvency.

Ted U-turned in 2015, writing he changed his mind about Rich Mix: “this is now hipster country and it will eventually spread into the southern stretches of Brick Lane. Maybe it’s better to embrace and accept than be a bunch of King Cnuts.” With this rather meagre rationale of don’t-be-a-spoil-sport combined with utter resignation makes me wonder what happened to the old Danger Mouse?

Even if Ted Jeory made a deal with the devil – since he expressed strongly his feelings against the Tower Hamlets V Rich Mix litigation – where is the jubilant “hurray Biggs saved the day!” blog post? Equally, where are the back-slapping tweets from Labour councillors cheering “woo-hoo we saved Rich Mix!”? Where in the local press is there any announcement of this even happening? Is there no duty to the age-old convention of storytelling to have an ending? As revelatory the story of Lutfur Rahman’s desk was, for local bloggers this surely is second in significance? 

Apparently Danger Mouse and his sidekick Ernest Penfold (strange parallel here; people often mistake Mark Baynes for a mole when actually, like Penfold, he’s a hamster) were invited by Cllr Pierce to attend an Overview and Scrutiny meeting to give their opinions on how the council could stop being career fodder for local bloggers.

Speaking of U-turns, Ken Livingstone who once backed the creation of Rich Mix, made a comment on LBC (audio provided) about his disappointment on its outcome and subsequent decision to give £1.5m, he said: “I find it breathtaking because, it started back in 2000, here we are 15 years on and it’s still running up losses”. I suppose you are now wondering why you never heard of this public condemnation from Ken Livingstone on the handling of Rich Mix – join the club.

A rather entitled response from Mayor Biggs, who defended the secrecy of the decision, he said: “there was confidentiality because there was legal actions, which I wanted to stop because I felt they were unnecessary and that’s my right” – perhaps one day Mayor Biggs could educate the rest of us as to why he felt it unnecessary to pursue a debt owed to the community and also why he is giving away more of their money – we shall await to see if we have that right.

A spokesperson from the Independent Group, formerly Tower Hamlets First, Cllr Shahed Ali was also interviewed on LBC and gave this statement, he said: “I have no doubt in my mind that every media outlet out there would have been talking about how Lutfur is literally handing out money to organisations that haven’t even applied for it”.

Organisations that did apply for grants attended workshops earlier this year, seeking advice and information on how to make applications in order to meet requirements for funding. Once their applications were received they were marked against a 10 point criteria, if approved the organisation then receives money in segments and are expected to provide evidence of meeting targets and value for money with quarterly check-ins and reports in order to continue receiving the grant.

Half the applications made for charity grants were rejected for not meeting the criteria, while Rich Mix is awarded £1.5m in a secret document authorised by John Biggs, evading any scrutiny and monitoring from the commissioners. The yearly budget for third sector grants is £3.2m, these include local services such as educational support, lunch clubs for the elderly, improving employability and advice centres. This means that Rich Mix has received almost half of this years budget without applying for funding through commissioners at the council who oversee the grant allocation process.

One of the stipulations made for the allocation of funds is: “the grants should not include a profit element. Grant agreements should reinforce that payments are made on an “as cost” basis and do not include profit.” Without any scrutiny and best value applied to Rich Mix, there is no certainty that Rich Mix will meet this criteria. With half the number of lunch club applications denied, those that were agreed will be under the watchful eye of the commissioners, as stated in the Commissioner Decision Report: “There will need to be some negotiation around the outcomes with some of the providers which will be a condition of grant and robustly monitored.” As no evaluation of Rich Mix’s business plan and community strategy has been made, it is a guess game where the money will be spent and with no quarterly business reports handed over, no one will even know.

On the bright side, in a full council meeting Mayor Biggs admitted to not frequenting the Rich Mix centre on the basis that he isn’t much of a “luvvy”. So at least we can be rest assured that this decision is an entirely selfless act to serve only the interests of his Labour chums. 

How to Win Friends and Influence People


If a politician runs a campaign outlining their manifesto targets, then once elected they fulfil those pledges – does that sound like corruption?

If an elected Mayor of Bangladeshi heritage funds organisations of which, benefit some Bangladeshis – is that corruption?

If a Labour Mayoral candidate in the run-up to election, meets with an organisation run by former Labour politicians, who are undergoing litigation with the council, then becomes elected, agrees to scrap the litigation and supply further funding for that organisation – is that corruption?

Is this just how democracy works, or is there a grey area that lies between appealing to voting blocs and corruption?

In the run-up to the general election the Conservatives made a campaign to get the voting bloc of pensioners, private companies and high earners. They used their influence on the right-wing media to distort facts on the proportion of money spent on welfare and immigration, whilst omitting figures on tax evasion of big business. By making the “economy” the number one issue, their narrative of fear is possibly one of the reasons those on a lower income chose the Conservatives.

What this demonstrates is firstly how the democratic system enables politicians to create policies and campaigns targeting groups, in order to garner votes. Which makes perfect rational sense, your politics will appeal to certain groups – unless of course you’re a career politician, then your politics is all about finding votes – and your policies will be shaped accordingly.

Secondly, it shows how power influences and constructs the spread of information in the media and permeates through to public opinion.

As we have seen with the press coverage of the politics in Tower Hamlets, the right wing media has not only represented a negative perception of the previous administration but also a false one. As the acting judge Mawrey said, “there isn’t a shred of evidence linking Lutfur Rahman to extremists” – and yet he continues to be described as the extremist-linked Mayor in some of our mainstream press, i.e. The Evening Standard and The Telegraph.

Another element to the behaviour of our press is that shock-value sells and Islamic extremism is hot topic. The covert decision to write-off the Rich Mix debt of £850k with a £1.5million top-up, under a white Labour Mayor – does not play a part in the established media narrative of extremism and corruption. Even the Conservatives in Tower Hamlets are holding back on condemning the back-door deal between Mayor Biggs and Rich Mix. Corruption becomes acceptable when it is carried out in a way that supports certain values, such as allocating funds to an organisation that attracts affluent residents to the area, and restricting money to community services to those less privileged.

Looking at this political landscape shows the difficulties people of Tower Hamlets face in trying to discern the facts for themselves, especially when they are hidden from view. Regardless of your views on Rich Mix, whether you think they provide a service to the community or not, what has been concealed in that confidential report is a decision to relinquish a debt and pay funds amounting to almost £2.5million of money paid in tax by the residents of Tower Hamlets. If there are valid reasons for this, then why can’t the public see them? Surely there isn’t need for discretion – it’s a cinema, not a women’s refuge.

Mayor Biggs did attend the Overview and Scrutiny meeting, much to the applause of his supporters but I wonder if so did Labour member Cllr Denise Jones, who happens to be a board member of Rich Mix? The public are not privy to such information since this discussion happened in private. Another issue of conflicting interests is that the Chair of Rich Mix is former Tower Hamlets Labour leader, Prof. Michael Keith and former MP Baroness Oona King is it’s patron.

What we do know is that Rich Mix made a counter-claim against Tower Hamlets Council, that the council owed Rich Mix £1.5million from the initial contract between them. The High Court dismissed their claim to this money in July 2014, and the litigation continued without Rich Mix’s counter-claim. Since these contracts come with conditions, one can conjecture that the High Court decreed that Rich Mix did not fulfil the terms of these conditions – terms likely to be about providing sufficient services to the community.

If we cannot rely on our media to report fairly and accurately, we do still have a democratic system where you the public can enter questions to the Mayor and his cabinet – if you want to know why Mayor Biggs is giving this money away – perhaps pop down to the next council meeting and ask him yourself. I heard he is taking questions.

The Richer Mix

Jurassic_World - Bengali

At last week’s council meeting, Tower Hamlets First was blamed for causing the PwC report that cost the borough over £1million. One wonders whether they should do a “Best Value Inspection” on their own inspection, as to whether it was in the best interests of the borough to pay for it – however in the current climate, who has £1million to throw away? Apparently, Tower Hamlets council does.
Just over ten days after John Biggs won the mayoral election he published a restricted document titled “101 Rich Mix Litigation”, all 18 pages of this decision unavailable to view by the public and councillors. No rationale, no value for money and no business report. Since a date has been set for the litigation to go ahead on July 20th, without knowing what is inside this document means if Biggs has decided to not continue legal proceedings, then the £850k owed by Rich Mix will be written off.
The Independent group have called-in the mysterious contents of the decision, and an Overview and Scrutiny meeting will take place on July 7th – although all they will be able to do is challenge the secrecy of it. As we know the chair of the OSC is Labour Cllr John Pierce – whose ward, Weavers, is where Rich Mix lies. What with the very conception of Rich Mix pertaining to the Labour Group, it could be said that it is highly contentious for Biggs to be secretive about his decision, and for scrutiny to be handled by his comrade.
On the lead up to the mayoral election, London Labour published this (alongside a pretty outdated picture of Biggs *snort):

“Labour candidate John Biggs has today committed to putting openness and transparency at the heart of his campaign to be the new Mayor of Tower Hamlets – saying for too long, people have been ‘pushed out of the decision making process.’”

Rich Mix initially set out to be a cross-cultural hub, attracting all members of the community to come together in their mutual appreciation for arts and culture. What it has achieved in reality is a cinema that plays mainstream films, a bar with live music and a cafe. There are art pieces that line the walls on your way to see Jurassic World, so it’s sort of an ambient art experience.
Rich Mix has made an information pack, seeking to appoint 2 board members for their governing board, claiming “We are going through an exciting period of growth”. Looking at their turnover or £2.7m and net assets of £15.2m, it seems that they have established a good business model. They do also provide work spaces for local creatives and rehearsal rooms for musicians – in short, hipsters. Not to say there is anything wrong with that, it is clear that Rich Mix has helped emerging artists and it’s not easy to serve the interests of a broad group of people.

An arts centre that serves the interests of another group of people, is the Kobi Nazrul Centre, as it says online: “the council’s flagship Bengali arts and cultural centre”. Looking for their annual turnover isn’t available, but their net assets are £1.5k. It may not be a business, but not all community value should be measured by money in crude terms.
Tower Hamlets Labour group proposed at this years budget meeting a £100k reduction of funding for the Kobi Nazrul Centre. It appears that Tower Hamlets Labour group are not only seeking to remove funding from a genuine community arts centres but are bank rolling a flourishing business.

Without any information as to why this decision has been made, it means that other council funded services, like Kobi Nazrul Centre, have no understanding as to why Rich Mix gets preference; nor can the opposition contest it.

Come on you reds!

This week’s council meeting was a hot event, rammed with evangelical Labour supporters hooting and applauding the end of sentences. Anyone who didn’t know the context of this scene, would likely think they were bearing witness to a phenomenon of group hysteria.

Before the revelry was dialled up to full power, an instruction from Mayor John Biggs was made for the five Conservative councillors to sit at the front bench, a place previously held by the largest opposition, the Independent Group (THF).

This public display of alliance between Labour and Conservatives continued as the nominations came in for the chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Cllr John Pierce, from Labour, and Oliur Rahman, from the Independent Group, were the nominees. The hired in help from the public gallery – the ex-Labour councillors and failed Labour candidates – turned what should have been a democratic process into a farcical spectacle. Bringing a new definition to the term political football, they cheered on their team who made disparaging remarks of Cllr Oliur Rahman, an all-in-all uncivilised performance. Cllr Oliur Rahman made a case for himself as a member of the leading opposition, to chair the OSC, acknowledging the conflict of interest that would be imposed on Cllr John Pierce. Or at least he tried to, over the cries from the public gallery and also from councillors in the chamber. The votes ruled in favour of the Labour councillor, following a crowd pleasing speech by honorary Labour pet, Cllr Peter Golds.

Mayor John Biggs tried to distance himself from the behaviours, meekly saying at one point that the council ought to “find a way to work as a council”, apparently incapable of condemning his agents’s disregard to the democratic process.

Meanwhile, away from the giddy cries of the Labour group, figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government, indicate that Tower Hamlets created more affordable homes since 2010 than anywhere else in the country. A write up in the Wharf said: “In spring, the council secured £24.8million from the Government’s New Homes Bonus.” Whatever the reasons are for not mentioning that the success of this is down to the Independent Group and more specifically, Cllr Rabina Khan – taking a quote from a four-day-old mayor is simply at odds with reality.

In the election court, Lutfur Rahman was ladened with the responsibility of the actions from his supporters, no matter how tenuous his relationship with them. Perhaps the same standards should also apply to Mayor John Biggs, to bear the responsibility of the actions and behaviours from his councillors and invited public.

What is open and transparent is that Mayor John Biggs is leaving scrutiny to his Labour councillor and an impotent Conservative front bench, whilst his agents single-mindedly obstruct the opposition.

To the victor belong the spoils

This is the first post for the Battle of Tower Hamlets, a blog set-up to provide a service for the loony-left.

So while Ted Jeory posts pictures of an office with a desk in it and Love Wapping looks for a new hole to crawl into, let’s delve into some of the more pressing issues.

The week commenced with the newly elected mayor, John Biggs, and his councillors, officially taking over Mulberry Place Town Hall. Reports have emerged that John Biggs will be continuing with his remaining nine months as a London Assembly Member, and announced that he will be taking what looks like half his wages for his role as mayor of Tower Hamlets. One can conjecture that this is a reflection of the time he is able to commit to the position – half the time – and perhaps gives an explanation for the highly unusual allocation of three deputy mayors.

With the future of the country in the hands of an austerity-crazed government, our attention should be drawn to where these cuts will fall for Tower Hamlets, especially when our local Labour government are already suspected of doing back-room deals with the Tories.

Articles printed in Tory newspapers with titles such as “End Austerity Now? What Austerity?”, and a tabloid press obsessed with vilifying and shaming those who receive welfare, it could be said that not only are the political left and right not on the same page, but are not even reading the same book.

A local and recent example of the press distorting the facts, can be seen in the coverage of the run-up to the mayoral elections in Tower Hamlets by the Evening Standard. A dubious video emerged on the Love Wapping blog, filmed by blogger Mark Baynes himself, showing a man posting housing leaflets with Rabina Khan campaign leaflets wrapped up inside. In the video he approaches the leafleter and asks for a leaflet, then cuts to him pulling the leaflet through a letterbox (confusing continuity, I know) and then cuts to him going through recycling bins where there exist more of the same leaflets, already packed diligently away inside. Ignoring the question of “why go through bins when you can just ask your neighbours?” I contacted a journalist at the source verification service, Storyful, to ask what he made of it. His response was that the agenda of the person who posted the video would be the first thing to consider. Almost a month later the story was run in the Evening Standard titled “Police investigate ‘abuses’ in re-run of Lutfur Rahman election vote in Tower Hamlets”. While no one was quoted in the report using the word ‘abuses’, even more misleading was how there was no indication that the so-called police investigation was based solely on accusations made by the very individual who made the video. An individual with a blog that is a polemic against those he accused, where he muses the possibility that the leafleter is from the Islamic Forum of Europe. To his credit, the leafleter does have a beard.

The Evening Standard article was echoed throughout the mainstream news media and Mark Baynes even made an appearance on the Sunday Politics Show. Meanwhile no one was interviewed by the police and a counter-report to the authorities was made by Rabina Khan’s campaign team who claimed they were being framed.

Remarkably, despite the defamatory exposure, Rabina Khan received an impressive 26,000 votes, moving the count into second preferences. Which is even more impressive when considering the money and influence behind the Labour machine that marched through the borough, parading their most well-known London MPs at the vanguard of their walk-abouts. The sort of posturing that turned a lot of voters off during the general election and had the potential of being intimidating, were it not merely an army of nerds with clipboards.

After Labour winning the battle, what remains of Tower Hamlets First is the Independent Group, in the form of 17 councillors. They leave behind a record that resisted austerity cuts, the only borough in the country with Education Maintenance Allowance and one of the first boroughs to introduce the London Living Wage. With some boroughs in London failing to build one home for social housing, Tower Hamlets delivered 3980 affordable homes and 1262 affordable/social rented homes.

While Tower Hamlets Labour group celebrate this week, the people of Tower Hamlets will wait for their futures to be fought over in council chamber meetings and hope to not be the next victims of a Labour victory.  A lot depends on what flavour of Labour John Biggs is, fingers-crossed, it’s not Conservative-Lite.