I have just spoken to Oliur Rahman, one of EIGHT, not seven, councillors who attended a campaign meeting for Lutfur Rahman in Brick Lane last night (the other was Ohid Ahmed).
Oli was Respect’s first ever councillor, elected back in 2004. He fell out massively with George Galloway and Abjol Miah, the then group leader on Tower Hamlets council in 2008 and retains a strong resentment to them to this day.
Here’s what he told me:
“I’m supporting Lutfur because he has been chosen as teh Labour party candidate by the members of the Labour party and the Labour party is only as strong as its members.
“As a Labour party member, and not as a councillor, I feel that the NEC and the regional London party should acknowledge that support. It’s very important that the party doesn’t forget the members.
“Therefore I’m standing by the decision that the members have taken. I don’t feel that expells me from the Labour party and it is still my home and the party for the working classes and trade unions. Ed Miliband reflects my aspirations.
“Respect is finished, but it can support whoever it likes. But I feel they have deliberately damaged Lutfur Rahman by supporting him because his opponents in Labour will now use that against him.”
I’ve known Oli for several years now, throughout the time he agonised about leaving Respect and the insults they then hurled at him. He is in no way linked to IFE. Perhaps he is someone who’s made his bed, but his position gives the whole anti-Lutfur campaign a different slant.
That momentum Lutfur is gaining will take on a whole new dimension after the Labour conference in Manchester when the likes of Cllr Marc Francis will probably announce their intentions to stay or go.
On the question of expulsions, here’s a comment from an official Labour spokesman:
“Anyone who supports a candidate standing against the party automatically expels themselves.”