Political battle in Tower Hamlets sees police called amid claims of threats of violence

 

To Abjol Miah, the intense battle on polling day in the "politically hyperactive" Tower Hamlets area of east London is the sign of a healthy democracy. "Everyone wants to come out and vote. There is competition but people want ownership of the area's governance," he said.

Some might have thought the competition had gone a little too far , though, when police were called to intervene in an altercation between rival candidates and party activists amid allegations by a Green Party candidate that a rival supporter threatened to "punch his lights out".

Chris Smith, who is standing for the Greens in the London Assembly elections, said he was threatened after complaining about the other parties' activists handing out flyers at one of the busiest polling stations.

The area has gained a reputation in recent years as a hotbed of some of the darker electoral practices, with the Metropolitan Police launching an investigation into alleged electoral fraud during this election campaign. Residents told the Independent this week of their frustration at the ease with which the postal voting system could be hijacked. And an anonymous party activist admitted  that collecting postal ballots from the homes of voters - an illegal practice used to boost the vote in hard-fought constituencies - is commonplace. "Once one party has started it, what choice do the others have?" he asked.

While many of the smaller polling booths were quiet  afternoon, manned only by a single security officer from the council, a coterie of activists - mainly from the Labour, Respect, Liberal Democrat and Green parties - vied for the attention of a steady stream of voters at others, lining the streets outside.

Some voters leaving the polling stations said they found the experience intimidating. Sayeda Begum, 20, said: "they are all in your face as you come up the street, it is intimidating.

"If you come out of the house you have already decided how you are going to vote so I just tell them what they want to hear to shut them up."

Kunu Miah, 58, said he was pleased the police and council staff were there to keep order. "You never know how it is going to go when the different parties are campaigning on the street," he said.

Mr Miah added: "if you are going to have candidates walking around the we need police around; you don't know what could be next."

Tower Hamlets council has made cleaning up the election system a priority as reputation of the Borough - one of London's most financially impoverished - has worsened. Security staff man the stations, in some cases with police, to make sure the activists do not harass voters.

The council has begun electronically scanning each postal ballot and rejecting any with signatures which do not appear to match.

One activist for the Respect Party admitted that the Borough's reputation could make it more difficult to canvass but said he believed media reports had picked up on negative stories and insisted that people were keen to engage.

"Here you have to be seen in the community more than in other places, you have to become very well known and it is a case of building up loyalty over a long time," said Green candidate Alan Duffell, who added: "I think (the reputation) drags down people's motivation to vote but, now that there are police around, maybe people will think it is safe to come out without being harassed."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Permanent post for a Key stag...

Geography Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Geography Teacher urgently ...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering