The future of Brick Lane matters. The future of our borough matters more.

Anyone apart from the Wapping Mole and myself has anyone else noticed something? That there seems to be far more interest in the fate of Brick Lane than there is in how Tower Hamlets is governed? If there is any meaningful debate asking if we need the directly elected Mayor system to continue or not we must have missed it.

In contrast it is very difficult to avoid the outcry over the proposed development of the Old Truman Brewery, today. Which is fine as it is an important issue. But how we are governed matters far more.

Brick Lane

On Thursday 6th May the Tower Hamlets governance model referendum will ask Tower Hamlets voters to choose how they think the borough should be governed in the future.

This is the same day as the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Mayor of London elections, as well as a neighbourhood planning referendum on the Isle of Dogs.

For our Mayoral thing the question we will be asked is simple.

How would you like Tower Hamlets Borough Council to be run?

  • By a mayor who is elected by voters. This is how the council is run now.


  • By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

That’s it. Mayor elected by voters runs the borough or a system known as the Leader and Cabinet model runs the borough.

Simple huh?

You wish.

In reality the voting next Thursday is a proxy contest between Rahman and Biggs.

Vote neither thanks very much

The actions of both the former Mayor Lutfur Rahman and the current Mayor John Biggs have amply demonstrated why we should reject the current system and vote for the second option, the Leader and Cabinet model.

Both of these men have shown what happens when too much power is concentrated in the hands of one person.

Political commentators outside the borough seem to think that Rahman = bad, Biggs = good.

This shows their ignorance. From continued observation, analysis and investigation of the administrations of Rahman and Biggs since 2014 I have come to the firm conclusion that there is no difference between the two.

Ignore this view if you want but that’s what the evidence and seven years experience tells this author.

Two sides of the same coin

Mayor Biggs and Tower Hamlets Labour Party are only too keen to portray Lutfur Rahman as the personification of evil whose return to power must be resisted at all costs.

This conveniently ignores the fact that both these men are from the Labour Party. Rahman believed he was being unfairly treated so he created a new party, Tower Hamlets First, but its goals and philosophy were not that different from Labour.

Lutfur Rahman and John Biggs are two sides of the same coin.

We have no words. Apart from the ones we added to the image.

They share political supporters in the community who switch from one to the other depending on what is best for their own pockets and they share the same political beliefs.

In the 2015 Mayoral election John Biggs made much of how he was the only candidate who could be trusted to clean-up the borough after the Rahman years.

We bought that lie like everyone else.

Reality is that Biggs cleaned up nothing. He just said he did. The same networks of corruption strangle our borough now as they did before 2015.

For more on this please check out the Poplar Papers.

We know this because we are still actively investigating these networks. Why do you think we have not been publishing much recently?

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government isn’t bothered that the same criminals are doing the same thing in the same way, but we are. 10 Downing Street, the Metropolitan Police, Counter Terrorism Command, MI5 and MI6 aren’t bothered either. Us? Just plain stupid probably.

Actually we are just plain scared having discovered a few things recently. We don’t normally do scared, but this stuff is different.

More on this soon (or later).

Lutfur’s done his time

He’s back!

Rahman was kicked out of office in 2015 and barred from standing as an elected official for five years.

He has done his time and now has every right to challenge Biggs for the role of directly elected Mayor and challenge him as surely as night follows day.

The governance referendum plays right into the hands of Rahman as he can use it as an indicator of the strength of support for him and then make his decision as to if he stands or not.

Current Mayor Biggs does not have the luxury of being able to decide his own fate.

If the referendum result is to continue with the existing system it is not down to Biggs to decide if he wants to run for Mayor again, he has to contend with the internal squabbling of Tower Hamlets Labour Party which will almost certainly mean he will have to survive Labour’s trigger ballot process, essentially a full reselection process.

It is a mark of Biggs unpopularity among his own councillors and local Labour Party members that it may well be that he would not survive a trigger ballot.

Whatever the result of the referendum the point is that Biggs does not get to choose if he wants to be Mayor.

If the current directly elected Mayor system is not rejected next week (did I mention it really, really should be? Yes? Good.) then the next Tower Hamlets Mayoral election will not be a straight fight between Lutfur Rahman and John Biggs, apparently there are other people who would like to do the job.

No, seriously.

Moley has tried to find out if Cllr. Rabina Khan (Shadwell, Liberal Democrat) would run for Mayor as she has done before. And believe me he has tried.

It would be very high amusement value if there was a Biggs / Rahman / Rabina Mayoral contest in future as there is absolutely no love lost between these three.

An awkward man bereft of ideas

‘My hair is pink under this veil’

Trouble is there seems no reason whatsoever why Rabina Khan would want to be Mayor as she seems quite happy doing her councillor thing in Shadwell and has, in marked contrast to most Tower Hamlets councillors, career options other than local politics.

She has a book being published soon and has, much to the annoyance of Biggs, become the public voice of the borough through her numerous national media appearances.

That must really grate don’t ya think?

The media’s preference for Cllr. Rabina Khan to comment on Tower Hamlets over its directly elected Mayor is damning and reinforces John Biggs public persona as an awkward man bereft of ideas with less and less political support with each passing day.

He does have a flat cap though.

If Biggs is not selected by Labour as its Mayoral candidate then it seems highly likely that one of Labour’s elders, probably from the Bangladeshi group, will be chosen and so drag Tower Hamlets Labour backwards.

Not that it is going forwards now of course.

But let us please not get to a situation where anyone competes with anyone else to be directly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets because we will all be much better off without one. Of any party.

To vote for a directly elected Mayor is to vote for more corruption, more lies, more tribal politics, more mismanagement, more cuts. While the politicians indulge themselves the needs of the people will be, as they are now, ignored. Those who have the least will suffer the most.

The council will be run for the benefit of the Mayor and his political party, nobody else.

The only choice to make is to vote for the ‘leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors’ option. This system is not without it’s problems but it is not a Mayoral system and that is the most important thing.

No directly elected Mayor for Tower Hamlets. Not Biggs, not Rahman, not anyone.

But hey, what do we know?

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As community journalists we do exactly what it says on our tin – we work for the community.

In Tower Hamlets, which covers most of London’s East End, that means we spend a lot of time investigating allegations of political corruption.

It is an unfortunate fact that the poorest local authority in the country is still beset by the highest levels of corruption.

As Love Wapping we were instrumental in exposing the electoral corruption of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.