Lutfur Rahman has devalued the struggle for racial justice and equality, and for that I hate him

The disgraced mayor's sins against democracy are as despicable as his transgressions against those he claims to defend

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Sunday 26 April 2015 18:19
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Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman leaving The  High Court
Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman leaving The High Court

Lutfur Rahman, the deposed mayor of Tower Hamlets, is defiant. Says it ain’t over. One of his acolytes adds: “This is not the end of the matter in any way, shape or form.” No it isn’t. I really don’t give a damn about Rahman or the tricks he might play or the legal shenanigans he promises to pursue. And he doesn’t give a damn about how his dirty politics will rebound on us Asians who value democracy and live honest lives.

Many of these good citizens of Tower Hamlets are braced for the fallout. Because of Rahman and his dodgy “independent” party, Tower Hamlets First (THF), millions of fellow citizens will now suspect we are all at it. Trust in multiracial coexistence will plummet. Who can blame them?

Rahman’s downfall came after four voters, Andy Erlam, Debbie Simone, Angela Moffat and Azmal Hussein – a Muslim, known locally as the curry king – petitioned for an investigation into the mayor and his office. Richard Mawrey QC, the Election Commissioner, was given the job. His report was damning. Rahman was found guilty of vote-rigging, seeking “spiritual influence”, and wrongly branding Labour’s John Biggs a “racist”.

Rahman funnelled public money to Bangladeshi community projects. Nothing wrong with that if the cash was meeting real needs. But these were bribes to get bloc votes. Grants were handed over to local Bangla TV stations, which, of course, were duly enthusiastic and gave full support to their generous benefactor. Allegations of voter intimidation were made. White and non-Bangladeshis did not matter in Rahman’s power games. He got senior clerics to instruct worshippers in mosques to vote for him.

Bloggers, journalists, decent politicians and individuals who know the borough and the ex-mayor have waited a long time for his comeuppance. An acquaintance who was born and raised in Bethnal Green – too scared still to be identified – shared her relief: “It was like we were living under the Mafia. My husband is Muslim but not Bangladeshi, and Rahman’s thugs used to abuse us because we supported the Labour party. To them I was a prostitute – both personally and politically. When anyone disagreed with him, he called them racists and Islamaphobes. Both are real problems here, but now because of him, no one will believe the victims. I hate him and his horrible THF. We moved out of the area.”

I hate him too because he has devalued the struggle for racial justice and equality, invigorated fascists and extreme right-wingers. All those who opposed him were dismissed as “racist” or English Defence League (EDL) supporters. As Mawrey said: “Truly, in Tower Hamlets, if the EDL did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.” Rahman also stained the left and grossly betrayed its fundamental tenets. And yet this “socialist” imposter – who got himself a mayoral Merc and chauffeur – garners much leftish support.

Ken Livingstone, who cultivated an inner circle of useful “ethnic” friends, still supports the fallen mayor. The left’s goodwill is too easily given to those who ill-deserve it. In some ways these groupies are as gullible as the mosque voters. Asians who know better despair of such mindless loyalty. We are angry – with Rahman and with those who still stand by their man.

Rahman knows immigration is becoming a toxic issue, that Islamicist radicalisation is undermining social cohesion, that more Britons are becoming wary of diversity, that racism, a light sleeper, is up again, that the country is going through seismic political realignments. Did any of that make him stop and think and mend his ways? No. His sins against democracy are as despicable as his transgressions against those he claims to defend – namely Asian Britons, Muslims most of all.

Lutfur Rahman in Bethnal Green in 2010 after being elected Tower Hamlets mayor for the first time. The investigation was launched after his second victory last year

Rushanara Ali, Labour’s candidate (and previously MP) for Bethnal Green and Bow, is having to deal with furious white voters who are (understandably) outraged and now must suspect that black and Asian politicians are all venal and corrupt. This scandal comes soon after three East End Bangladeshi schoolgirls went off to join Isis. Ali, a Bangladeshi, grew up in the area, a working-class woman who got to Oxford and fought hard to win her seat from George Galloway. Asian candidates in other areas are also likely to have a harder time than they do already.

In the past week, this case has prompted savage online attacks on “multiculturalism”, anti-discrimination laws, on the “race relations industry”, on “political correctness”, and so on. I too am apparently guilty of something and everything because of this ousted mayor. Right-wingers are using this report to discredit reliable evidence of racism. Such complaints are slurs, they claim – deadly weapons used by black and Asian people to protect their interests. Genuine victims, thanks to Rahman, will now be disbelieved by countless Britons.

White politicians have also been found out being corrupt and improper. Some have encouraged bloc votes and dreadful “community leaders”. But Asians are disproportionately involved in bad politics. Too many do not understand the ethics that underpin a functioning democracy. They are in it for themselves. Unfortunately most of them are either of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin, though some Sikhs and Hindus have been caught with hands muddied by impropriety. I taught at a college in Tower Hamlets in the 1990s and saw the corruption and dishonesty of ethnic politics myself. Nationwide, the worst cases involve postal vote fraud, communal voting, expenses scandals, direct and indirect bribes.

Rahman’s supporters have threatened protests this week. Maybe the four petitioners can organise a multiracial counter demonstration. It is time to stop these blackguards and save democracy.

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