Excerpts from The Mawrey judgment on Tower Hamlets
This entry is utterly unlike most of the stuff on this blog, but may be of interest to students of British politics and religion. It consists of excerpts from the astonishing and damning judgment against Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets in East London, who has had his election voided by a judge, Richard Mawrey QC, who sits as the election commissioner. As the very first excerpt explains, there is in British law a provision that allegations of electoral malpractice go up to a special court where the judge can overthrow the results of an election. This may seem unsatisfactory, but what other solution can there be to a problem of democratic corruption? I have to write about this, so I read the entire judgment rather than the newspaper summaries. Here are the bits I pulled out in Skim. I am particularly interested in the obscure offence of “Spiritual Influence”, which Mawrey defends in thought-provoking ways.
- Highlight, page 6
First the resolution of disputed elections by the courts is not a power the judges have arrogated to themselves. It is a task laid upon them by Parliament, a task, what is more, that the judiciary originally resisted tooth and nail. As the history of election courts set out in Woolas in the Divisional Court shows, when, in 1868, it was proposed that election disputes should be referred to the courts, the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn Bt (ironically the country’s leading expert in electoral law), wrote a stern letter of protest to the Lord Chancellor and earned himself an unflattering cartoon in Punch for his pains4. All to no avail. The reason is obvious: if, as Parliament believed, and has continued to believe, politicians cannot be trusted to resolve election disputes fairly, then who is left but the judiciary? Election courts have thus lasted from 1868 to the present.
- Highlight, page 6
If a candidate is elected in breach of the rules for elections laid down in the legislation, then he cannot be said to have been ‘democratically elected’. In elections, as in sport, those who win by cheating have not properly won and are disqualified
- Highlight, page 13
An election court is, in some ways, a unique tribunal. Election petitions are presented and pursued in a very similar manner to claims made in the civil courts and, procedurally, the basic rules to be applied are those of the Civil Procedure Rules (‘CPR’). Accordingly election proceedings have an adversarial character. Nevertheless, election petitions differ in a number of ways from civil actions.
- Highlight, page 14
In my judgment in the Birmingham Election Case, I reported that the wholesale falsification of postal votes had not been confined to the wards of Aston and Bordesley Green, the subject of the Petitions, but had been widespread in those wards of Birmingham where the Labour Party was attempting to counteract the collapse of the Labour vote in the Muslim Asian community following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
- Highlight, page 15
the court must apply the criminal standard of proof, namely proof beyond reasonable doubt.
- Highlight, page 16
I shall apply the criminal standard of proof to the issue of whether there has been general corruption and the civil standard of proof to the issue of whether it may reasonably be supposed to have affected the result.
- Highlight, page 21
The ease of postal vote fraud and the difficulty of policing it led to such a great upsurge in personation that, in the Birmingham Case, the number of false votes was virtually half of all votes recorded as having been cast for the winning candidates.
- Highlight, page 25
In my judgment in the Slough Election Case, I used the term ‘ghost voters’ to encompass people whose names were entered on the electoral register where either they did not reside at the address stated or, in some cases, did not exist at all.
- Highlight, page 28
This is a relatively unusual ground for setting aside an election.
The relevant parts of s 106 read as follows: (1) A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which- (a) before or during an election, (b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election, makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he
The first point to note is that it is an offence and an illegal practice for anyone to make a false statement about a candidate under s 106(1). The person making the statement does not need himself to be a rival candidate or otherwise concerned in the election. The normal rule, however, that a candidate is responsible for the defaults of his agents is limited in the case of s 106 by s 106(2). If the false statement is made by the candidate himself or his election agent, then, clearly, he remains liable for it. In cases where the statement is made by his agents in the wider sense of the term, it must be shown that (2) can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, the statement to be true.
- Highlight, page 29
The first point to note is that it is an offence and an illegal practice for anyone to make a false statement about a candidate under s 106(1). The person making the statement does not need himself to be a rival candidate or otherwise concerned in the election.
- Highlight, page 50 (From a letter sent out by Irish bishops in a Meath election in 1892)
Now Parnellism strikes at the root, and saps the very foundations of the Catholic faith … all the successors of the Apostles have solemnly warned and taught their respective flocks that Parnellism was unlawful and unholy, that it was in distinct, direct, and essential antagonism with the principles of Christian morality, and even dangerous to their faith as Catholics, and consequently that they should shun and avoid it. They who refuse to accept that teaching or that principle on the unanimous authority of the whole Irish hierarchy deprive themselves of every rational ground or motive for believing in the truth of any of the other doctrines of religion … [N]o intelligent or well-informed man can continue and remain a Catholic so long as he elects to cling to Parnellism… I earnestly implore you then, dearly beloved, to stamp out by your votes at the coming election, this great moral, social and religious evil.
- Highlight, page 52
A strong case can be made out for saying that the rule against misuse of religion is even more necessary in a country which prides itself on being a secular democracy than it might be in a state where there is a universal and dominant religion which is part of the fabric of society. It is noticeable that other democratic countries, such as France, operate rules against the misuse of religious influence on electors.
- Highlight, page 52
Time and again in the Irish cases it was stressed that the Catholic voters were men of simple faith, usually much less well educated than the clergy who were influencing them, and men whose natural instinct would be to obey the orders of their priests (even more their bishops). This principle still holds good. In carrying out the assessment a distinction must be made between a sophisticated, highly educated and politically literate community and a community which is traditional, respectful of authority and, possibly, not fully integrated with the other communities living in the same area. As with undue influence in the civil law sphere, it is the character of the person sought to be influenced that is key to whether influence has been applied.
- Highlight, page 72
Mr Rahman, both in his evidence before the court and in his conduct as Council Leader and later as Mayor, has shown himself to be someone who perceives racism everywhere. Any criticism or any opposition is necessarily racially motivated, whatever the context. Any organisation with which he is in dispute is, equally necessarily, ‘institutionally racist’, whether it is the Labour Party or the BBC. This attitude has been adopted by his close associates, for whom a cry of ‘racist’ is usually the first reaction to any criticism of Mr Rahman.
- Highlight, page 77 (On the way in which the Labour party attempted to be rid of Rahman in 2010)
A resolution was passed to suspend Mr Rahman, unseen and unheard. Next, the NEC decided, then and there, to select and impose a new candidate. There was no suggestion that the Tower Hamlets Labour Party might be consulted, still less that there might be a new ballot. It was not even suggested that, as Mr Biggs had come second in the original ballot, he might, so to speak, move up to become the candidate. The NEC simply decided ad hoc that it would vote, then and there, between Mr Biggs and, of all people, Mr Abbas, whose accusations could have been, for all the NEC knew about it, a complete tissue of malicious falsehoods. 16 voted for Mr Abbas and 2 for Mr Biggs. The upshot of the meeting was thus that Mr Rahman, completely unaware of the accusations and given no opportunity to counter them, was summarily sacked as candidate and his accuser substituted.
- Highlight, page 77
Although this judgment will have to be critical of Mr Rahman in many respects, in the matter of his deselection the court cannot but sympathise with him. His treatment by the NEC was, by any standards, utterly shameful and wholly unworthy of the Party which, rightly, prides itself on having passed the Human Rights Act 1998 … Whatever else may be said of Mr Rahman – and much will be said – his courage and resolution in standing and winning the 2010 deserves considerable admiration.
- Highlight, page 81
Mr Rahman’s power as Mayor is greater than that of any other elected executive mayor in Britain. This power is consolidated by the fact that his cabinet has been chosen from his close cronies, some of whom, it must sadly be said, have little to recommend them beyond blind loyalty to their leader.
- Highlight, page 81
Mr Choudhury was a very unsatisfactory witness. He was arrogant, indeed cocky, and did not hesitate to tell bare-faced lies in the smug assurance that the mere lawyers listening him would not have the wit to see through them. He also came over as an immature man who possessed, and did not shrink from expressing, outrageous views.
- Highlight, page 82
In describing Mr Choudhury as Mr Rahman’s right-hand man, perhaps the slang term ‘hatchet-man’ would be more appropriate. The modus operandi of the two men would be that Mr Rahman would retain a statesmanlike posture, making sure that he always said the right thing – particularly in castigating electoral malpractice – while what might be called ‘the dirty work’ was done by Mr Choudhury. This was especially apparent in the campaign against Mr Biggs which will be discussed below, in which, on the surface at least, Mr Choudhury would be responsible for the attempted character-assassination of Mr Biggs while Mr Rahman claimed to have had no input into – indeed, on occasion, not even to have read – the press releases put out in his name.
- Highlight, page 83
The bald fact is that all the defecting Councillors were Bangladeshi. The Mayor’s unofficial party was seen as being a Bangladeshi party and, it must be said, (contrary to the protestations of the Mayor and his witnesses), the party came to see itself as the Bangladeshi party. Although stoutly denied by Mr Rahman’s partisans in evidence, the reality is that the focus of the Mayor and his cabinet became more and more on the Bangladeshi community.
- Highlight, page 86
in Tower Hamlets, if the EDL did not exist, like Voltaire’s God, it would be necessary to invent it.
- Highlight, page 90
The financial arrangements were even more bizarre. It can be said that because the Commission rubber-stamped the application for registration it may be inferred that the Commission was satisfied. All one may say, with the greatest of respect for the Commission, that the enquiries into the structures of THF cannot have been excessively rigorous. The reality is that there was no responsible financial scheme whatsoever. Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury admitted quite freely in evidence that the party had never had (or even proposed to have) a bank account. The court was told an elaborate rigmarole of how party donations were logged in some kind of Excel spreadsheet and they were called off in kind rather than in cash by asking ‘donors’ to pay the party’s bills.
- Highlight, page 91
the financial affairs of THF were, at best, wholly irresponsible and at worst, dishonest. While documents were produced apparently showing that ‘donors’ had paid some expenses of the party, those payments had obviously not passed through the treasurer or been recorded in any books of account.
- Highlight, page 92
In both opening and closing they submitted that the reality of THF was that it was a vehicle for re-electing Mr Rahman as Mayor and for obtaining as many Councillors as possible who would be linked to him by personal loyalty alone. Is this fair? The starting point must be the history of the ‘defections’ from other parties to Mr Rahman during the course of his first Mayoralty. These defections were not wholly from the Labour Party and many of the ‘defectors’ had had a varied political history, including membership of the Respect Party and (in one case) of the Conservative Party. Even before THF was formally registered, it would have been hard to detect any factor linking the informal grouping of ‘independent’ Councillors beyond personal support for Mr Rahman. Again, it is very difficult to ascertain any coherent policy being followed by Mr Rahman and his supporters beyond promoting the interests of the Bangladeshi community. Insofar as Mr Rahman’s politics can be crudely categorised as ‘right’ or ‘left’, they are clearly on the mid- to far-left of the spectrum. To that extent, it would be virtually impossible to distinguish them from the policies that Mr Rahman and his colleagues pursued when they were the controlling Labour group on the Council or from the policies (absent the Bangladeshi element) that would have been followed if Labour had won the Mayoral election in 2010. It was certainly not any discernible ideological programme that bound the ‘independent’ group together. Again it must reluctantly be said that the ‘defections’ were not without an element of personal ambition as a number of the defectors ended up with cabinet posts which would have been unlikely to come their way had the Labour Party remained in power.
- Highlight, page 94
In reality, the selection of candidates was made by Mr Rahman personally on the basis of the prospective candidate’s commitment to Mr Rahman personally. Tellingly, in the course of his evidence, Mr Rahman, more than once, referred to THF’s candidates as ‘my candidates’ and that is what, in reality, they were.
- Highlight, page 95
The evidence in this case all points in one direction. THF was the personal fiefdom of Mr Rahman. He directed its operations, he selected his candidates, and those candidates campaigned on the basis that their job, if elected, was to give personal support to him. THF had no other aim, objective or ideology beyond the continuation of Mr Rahman in the office of Mayor of Tower Hamlets. The accusation of the Petitioners that THF was a one-man band has been fully made out by the evidence, much of that evidence coming from Mr Rahman himself and from his witnesses.
- Highlight, page 96
Although faced with searching, hostile and, it must be said, occasionally mildly offensive questioning, Mr Rahman was unfailingly courteous and polite. With regret, that is the only positive thing that can be said about his evidence … Faced with a straight question, he proved himself almost pathologically incapable of giving a straight answer. He was also extremely discursive so that his non-answer to the question would often ramble on until interrupted by a repetition of the question or, occasionally, an attempt (normally unavailing) for the court to obtain an answer by re-phrasing the question … Sadly, it must also be said that he was not truthful. In one or two crucial matters he was caught out in what were quite blatant lies.
- Highlight, page 98
There were, however, one or two witnesses for whom the interpreter was obviously a tactical manoeuvre. These witnesses are always easy to detect because they cannot stop themselves from showing that they have fully understood the question in English before any translation is provided. Often they forget entirely and answer the question (in English) before the interpreter has had the chance to open his mouth. Employing an interpreter, however, gives such a witness the opportunity to assess the question and to work out his answer in, so to speak, slow-motion rather than having to come out with it immediately where hesitation or an unguarded reply might adversely affect the evidence. It may be necessary to indicate when dealing with such a witness’s evidence whether this tactic was employed, though it must be said in this context that when an interpreter was requested by the editor of a newspaper which publishes in English, one felt that one’s credulity was being pushed to its outermost limits.
- Highlight, page 119
It was a claim, rightly or wrongly, of what Mr Penny, with great daring in the circumstances, referred to as ‘pork-barrel politics’. The court will adopt that term faute de mieux.
- Highlight, page 121
On 23 August 2013 Mr Rahman had organised a letter to be published in The Guardian demanding that the Home Secretary ban the proposed EDL march. The letter had a great number of signatories, including local Members of Parliament, clerics of various religions other prominent citizens. Mr Rahman took good care however to ensure that Mr Biggs was neither informed of the letter nor asked to be a signatory.
- Highlight, page 124
Tower Hamlets has a very large and very active Bangladeshi press in both English and Bengali as well as no fewer than eight television channels broadcasting in Bengali. These media are all strongly, vehemently and occasionally intemperately supportive of Mr Rahman and hostile to his political opponents.
- Highlight, page 131
To imply that a man has been guilty of a hate crime and that this has been endorsed by a body such as the EHRC clearly meets the test of being a statement about the candidate’s personal character and conduct. And it was false. And Mr Choudhury knew it was false. To use the admirably robust term employed by Thomas LJ in Woolas, it was dishonest.
- Highlight, page 135
When Professor Keith saw the press release, he hit the roof. The following day he said publicly:
To dredge up out of context comments that were made almost twenty years ago to smear someone’s character scrapes the gutter. I’ve known John Biggs for decades and, while we have had our differences at times, there is no doubt in my mind that he works for the benefit of the whole community in Tower Hamlets. To try to paint him as a racist is a cynical act of electoral dirty politics. He is the best candidate to represent all the communities of the borough in these difficult times and I am happy to support him.
Inevitably, having been given the Lie Direct by Professor Keith, Mr Choudhury did not issue a retraction. He let the press release do its work. As it did. The media loved it. Social media had a field day. And there was credible evidence that canvassers on the doorstep and THF activists at polling stations were saying ‘John Biggs is a racist’ to anyone (particularly in the Bangladeshi community) who would listen.
- Highlight, page 137
Consequently the claim that Mr Biggs was a racist was always false and, put in that stark form, Mr Rahman knew it was false. For what it is worth, the court has grave doubts as to whether even Mr Choudhury ever really believed Mr Biggs was a racist. He made exaggerated and ever more absurd allegations in the witness-box and his astonishing outburst in the Council Chamber in the ‘black cardigans’ episode equally shows him to be lacking in self-control. The court has no doubt, however, that, in compiling the press release of 23 April 2014 Mr Choudhury knew exactly what he was doing and what he was doing was deliberately concocting a wholly dishonest case for proclaiming Mr Biggs a racist, based on a distortion of a nineteen-year old document. The court is satisfied, therefore, to the requisite standard that the press release of 23 April 2014 contained false statements concerning the personal character and conduct of Mr Biggs and that Mr Rahman did not have a genuine belief in the truth of those statements and neither he nor Mr Choudhury had any reasonable grounds for belief in their truth.
- Highlight, page 139
In respect of the payment of canvassers evidence by the four witnesses listed above, the court is satisfied that there was a breach of s 111 of the 1983 Act.
(At the end of the judgment he makes clear that he is not sure it should still be illegal to pay canvassers. But it clearly is.)
- Highlight, page 140
a) a high proportion of grant decisions were made by Mr Rahman personally, aided by one or two close associates, normally Mr Choudhury and Councillor Asad; b) in an abnormally high number of instances, the decisions substantially altered or completely ignored the results of the investigation and recommendation procedures carried out by officers of the Council; c) enormous sums of public money had been paid to organisations in excess of that which Council officers had recommended and, in many instances, to organisations that had not even applied for grants; d) the reason offered by Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury for these discrepancies was that they were applying ‘local knowledge’, though what that ‘local knowledge’ involved other than local knowledge of the needs of their own political careers was never made clear to the court; e) the processes by which the final figures were reached were largely undocumented.
- Highlight, page 141
PwC analysed the increases between officer recommendations and the final sums fixed by the Mayor in two maps of the Borough by ward showing which wards had had their grants increased (in some cases massively increased) and which wards had had their grants reduced from officer recommendations. A comparison of those maps with how people voted in 2014 shows an interesting correlation between how much money was channelled to the ward and how many voters turned out for THF. In Stepney Green, the total recommended by officers was £99,708. By the time it had been signed off by Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury, the grant total had become £258,500 (an increase of over 150%). Of course, it may be pure coincidence that Stepney Green happened to be the ward where Mr Choudhury was the THF candidate. Shadwell’s grant increased from £204,386 to £460,750. Shadwell returned two THF candidates, one of whom was Ms Rabina Khan. Bow East, on the other hand, saw its grant reduced from the officers’ recommendation of £99,397 – cut by roughly a third to £67,000. But then, Bow East returned three Labour Councillors.
- Highlight, page 144
Unfortunately for Ms Cohen, (a whistleblower) her identity was revealed to her employers: the programme-makers had engaged a young woman of Bangladeshi heritage to act as an undercover reporter, posing as a grant applicant or similar. At one point they sent this woman a copy of the material they had obtained from, amongst others, Ms Cohen, whom the material named. The woman seems to have decided that her loyalty to the Bangladeshi community translated into loyalty to Mr Rahman and she turned the material over to his office.
- Highlight, page 146
Having heard the evidence of Ms Cohen, Mr Rahman, Mr Asad and Mr Choudhury on these incidents, I had not the slightest doubt that Ms Cohen was telling the court the truth and that the three men were quite deliberately lying.
- Highlight, page 147
The importance of her evidence, however, goes beyond the narrow issues of the two incidents described. Faced with evidence about incidents which might, on one view, be peripheral to the central case, the men involved could have attempted to explain them away or to adopt Mr Penny’s line of questioning the importance or relevance of the incidents. They did not choose to go down this route. Instead they chose to lie and lie blatantly and to instruct counsel to make wholly gratuitous allegations of perjury and forgery against a blameless civil servant. Given that, on these and other issues, the court has been asked to accept the evidence of Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury as being truthful, it is not without significance that they have been caught out in obvious and, ultimately, unnecessary falsehoods.
- Highlight, page 149
Clearly by any ethical or moral standards this is bribery: but is it bribery contrary to s 113 of the 1983 Act? It is this which has greatly exercised the court’s mind.
- Highlight, page 152
the court is satisfied that the conduct of Mr Rahman and his agents Mr Asad and Mr Choudhury in making grants does amount to the corrupt practice of bribery under s 113 of the 1983 Act.
- Highlight, page 154
in relation to payments to the media, Mr Rahman was guilty of bribery.
- Highlight, page 166
Obviously a court will be very wary of disbelieving evidence given on oath by a cleric, especially a senior cleric, of any faith. The external evidence, however, strongly indicated that Mr Hoque [Chairman of the local Council of Mosques] had not told the truth about these events. The evidence he gave about the next element was also very unsatisfactory. Sadly, the court was not able to treat Mr Hoque as a reliable witness. What did become clear was that Mr Hoque was a friend and associate of Mr Rahman who lent himself willingly to Mr Rahman’s re-election campaign. It may be the case – indeed the court assumes it is the case – that Mr Hoque genuinely believed that it was in the best interests of the Muslim and, in particular, the Bangladeshi community for Mr Rahman to be re-elected. What is apparent from the history of the two events (and earlier events such as the EWG dinner) is that Mr Hoque and Mr Rahman were working hand-in-glove and that, at the very least, Mr Hoque’s activities on behalf of Mr Rahman were carried on with the latter’s knowledge and consent.
- Highlight, page 169
Although written in a foreign language by clerics of a different faith, Dr Nulty would have had no difficulty in recognizing this document. It is a pastoral letter, remarkably similar to his letter to the faithful of County Meath and published in the Drogheda Independent on 2 July 1892. In other words it is a letter from an influential cleric – in this case 101 influential clerics – informing the faithful as to their religious duty. As with the Bishop, the Imams’ message is clear; our religion is under attack, our enemies despise us and wish to humiliate us; it is your duty as faithful sons and daughters of the [Church][Mosque] to vote for candidate X: only he will defend our religion and our community. As the Imams’ letter puts it ‘[our opponents are] spreading jealousy and hatred in the community. We consider these acts as abominable and at the same time condemnable’. The Bishop could not – indeed did not – express it more succinctly.
- Highlight, page 170
There is a world of difference, however, between what might, if unkindly, be termed a general ecclesiastical bleat about how politics has gone to the dogs, and a specially targeted letter aimed at one particular body of the faithful, telling them their religious duty is to vote for candidate A and not for candidate B.
- Highlight, page 170
there is a substantial body of credible evidence that the Imams’ message that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman entered the general campaign, with religious duty being mentioned in canvassing before the poll and to voters attending polling stations on election day (see below under ‘intimidation’).
- Highlight, page 172
hough it is true to say that the world has moved on considerably since 1892, there is little real difference between the attitudes of the faithful Roman Catholics of County Meath at that time and the attitudes of the faithful Muslims of Tower Hamlets. To some extent the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If Dr Nulty had not known his target audience well, he would not have couched his pastoral letter in the terms he did. If those responsible for the Imams’ letter had not thought that it would have a significant influence on the votes of the Bengali-speaking devout Muslim voters of Tower Hamlets, they would not have gone to the considerable trouble of organising the letter and obtaining 101 signatures to it. One cannot put a document of that kind into the public domain and then say ‘I didn’t think it would have any effect.’ If that were the case, why do it?
- Highlight, page 178
Groups of supporters would approach voters, particularly Bangladeshi voters and harangue them in a manner that appeared to some onlookers to be rather aggressive. Several witnesses from different polling stations used the phrase ‘running the gauntlet’ to describe their passage into the polling station. Others spoke of feeling ‘harassed’. Both English and Bengali speaking witnesses attest to THF supporters shouting, amongst other things, that a) it was the duty of Bangladeshi voters to support Mr Rahman: this was normally expressed as support for Mr Rahman rather than for THF as a party; b) similarly it was the religious duty of all faithful Muslims to support Mr Rahman; c) Mr Biggs was a ‘racist’; d) the Labour Party was ‘racist’ and ‘Zionist’63; e) anyone voting Labour had been brainwashed against Islam.
- Highlight, page 179
Quite obviously Mr Rahman and his team had rounded up a large number of sympathetic voters and had handed them pro forma witness statements with only the name of the witness and of the polling station to be filled in. Witnesses whose command of English turned out in the witness box to be rudimentary nonetheless produced polished English prose in their witness statements containing words that appeared to baffle them in cross-examination. The occasional witness claimed to have typed out his witness statement himself, oblivious to the fact that its appearance was absolutely identical to that of other (allegedly unconnected) witnesses. The nadir came when one witness gave a graphic account of how he had attended a polling station to cast his vote and found it a haven of tranquillity, only to be confronted by Mr Hoar with absolutely incontrovertible evidence that the witness had, in fact, voted by post well before polling day and could not have voted in person on the day.
- Highlight, page 183
Policing Tower Hamlets under its current political régime is not an easy task. Many in the Police feel that the imputation of ‘institutional racism’ made by the Macpherson Enquiry, albeit 16 years ago, still dogs the Force and they are conscious that, in Mr Rahman, whose personal control of the Borough is tight, they are dealing with a man whose hair-trigger reaction is to accuse anyone who disagrees with him of racism and/or Islamophobia. In the circumstances it would be unreasonable to expect of the police anything other than an approach of considerable caution.
- Highlight, page 188
If a fair campaign had been mounted against Mr Biggs or if the Mayor had not sprayed public money round his core constituency or if he had not enlisted the help of the Muslim clergy to put unlawful pressure on Muslim voters, the result would have been very different.
- Highlight, page 190
To bring an election petition as a private citizen requires enormous courage. If things go wrong and the petition is dismissed, the Petitioners face a potentially devastating bill of 190 costs which, unless they are very fortunate, may well bankrupt them. There is no access to public funding: Parliament has left the policing of fair and democratic elections to the chance that concerned citizens will become involved at their own expense. Whether that is an appropriate and sufficient way to protect democracy is open to question.
- Highlight, page 191
he court expresses surprise that this Petition was not brought by the Labour Party. The Mayoral campaign had been directed throughout towards destroying the reputation of Mr Biggs, its official candidate, and many of the votes obtained by THF candidates in the wards would otherwise have gone to Labour. Labour was (and is) the most likely 191 beneficiary of any decision avoiding the election and disqualifying Mr Rahman from standing in the new election.
- Highlight, page 199
The real losers in this case are the citizens of Tower Hamlets and, in particular, the Bangladeshi community. Their natural and laudable sense of solidarity has been cynically perverted into a sense of isolation and victimhood, and their devotion to their religion has been manipulated – all for the aggrandisement of Mr Rahman. The result has been to alienate them from the other communities in the Borough and to create resentment in those other communities. Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury, as has been seen, spent a great deal of time accusing their opponents, especially Mr Biggs, of ‘dividing the community’ but, if anyone was ‘dividing the community’, it was they. The Bangladeshi community might have thought itself fortunate to have been the recipient of the Mayor’s lavish spending but in the end the benefits were small and temporary and the ill effects long-lasting. It was fool’s gold.
- Highlight, page 200
Events of recent months in contexts very different from electoral malpractice have starkly demonstrated what happens when those in authority are afraid to confront wrongdoing for fear of allegations of racism and Islamophobia. Even in the multicultural society which is 21st century Britain, the law must be applied fairly and equally to everyone. Otherwise we are lost.