As we all wait for Shelina Akhtar to decide whether she has the dignity to resign as a councillor before being automatically barred from office in 28 days’ time, let’s play that ever interesting Tower Hamlets game of Speculation Politics.
One prominent councillor tells me that the “likely runners” in the almost certain Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election are:
Gulam Robbani (Lutfur/Independent)
Tarik Ahmed Khan (Labour)
Abjol Miah (Respect)
Richard Macmillan (Lib Dems)
Matt Smith (Conservative)
If so–and I’d be surprised–it will be very interesting to see how Robbani and Abjol Miah, the former Respect group leader, play this one out.
Robbani and Abol are relative big guns and effectively Lutfur allies: they could end up splitting the anti-Labour vote and letting Labour in. In the last Spitalfields by-election in snowy December 2010, after Lutfur was required to give up his seat when he became Mayor, Respect’s Fozol Miah beat Labour on a 17 per cent turnout. In that contest, there was no Lutfur/Independent candidate.
Traditionally, the ward was controlled by Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman. The former still holds one of the three seats, along with Fozol and Akhtar.
The timing of the election will also be interesting. The more Ahktar strings out her decision on whether to appeal, the closer we get to the London Mayor elections in May. Common sense and the desire to save taxpayers money (the two rarely go together in Tower Hamlets) should dictate that the two elections are held on the same day, which would mean a higher turnout that favours Labour.
In that case, how would Spitalfields voter Lutfur Rahman cast his votes that day? One for Labour’s Ken Livingstone, of course–the latter rules the former–and another for an anti-Labour candidate? As ever, the Mayor will be in two minds…
As for Tarik Ahmed Khan, he is the secretary of Labour’s branch in the ward and the elder brother of Cllr Anwar Khan, who represents Bow West for Labour. He is thought to be a Josh Peck loyalist.