One of the four petitioners whose legal action toppled Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman has accused the Metropolitan police of corruption. Andy Erlam told BBC Radio 4 that the police seemed at times to be protecting Mr Rahman. He has also accused the Electoral Commission of not doing enough to prevent corruption in Tower Hamlets.
“Neither the Electoral Commission nor the police were very helpful,” Mr Erlam told the Today programme.
“In fact at times it seemed that the Metropolitan Police has been protecting Mr Rahman over the years. Their investigation of electoral fraud seemed as if they were going through the motions.”
Mr Rahman was removed as mayor of Tower Hamlets on Thursday after being found guilty of corruption, bribery and using “undue spiritual influence” over voters, and the results of last May’s mayoral elections have been declared void. He will be banned from standing for re-election to the vacant mayoralty.
Mr Erlam, who stood as a candidate in Tower Hamlets council elections taking place on the same day last May, said that he was stunned by the corruption he witnessed in the run up to polling day, the Telegraph has reported, so much so that he was determined to have the vote overturned.
By law, four voters are required to challenge the results of an election in court. Mr Erlam was therefore joined in his petition by Ukip member Angela Moffat, Brick Lane restaurateur Azmal Hussein, and Debbie Simone, a Labour candidate in the council election who felt she too had been cheated out of votes thanks to Mr Rahman’s bully-boy tactics.
Had the quartet lost their case, they would have been liable to find costs of £1million for the private case, leaving them “financially ruined”.
Mr Erlam said: “We could not get the support of the political parties and in the end, we did not want that support because we wanted to fight the case independently and we had to do that as private individuals
“(The authorities) were partly afraid of being accused of racism and I also believe there are strong elements within the local police that are corrupt.
“People have known for years what has been going on in Tower Hamlets but no one wanted to act. We knew weren’t fighting for any financial advantage. We have got nothing against Mr Rahman, It was not about Mr Rahman, it was about the process.
“We felt that the whole democratic process had completely collapsed in Tower Hamlets
“The verdict vindicates our action and the judge was quite clear in saying that the process had completely collapsed in the borough.
“One of the things we will be asking the commissioner today is to carry out a completely new investigation into electoral fraud that took place last May.”
Ruling on the case, Judge Mawrey said: “It is guaranteed Mr Rahman will denounce this judgement as racist and Islamophobic. It is nothing of the sort… the natural sense of solidarity (of the Bangladeshi community) has been subverted.”
But deputy mayor Councillor Oliur Rahman (no relation to Lutfur Rahman), has insisted that racism within the London borough is being ignored.
“If people say there is no racism in Tower Hamlets they are very much mistaken,” he said.
“There is institutional racism that goes on and if people want to turn a blind eye that is their decision but they are very much mistaken if they say there is no racism in Tower Hamlets and that people are not judged because of their skin colour and their religion.
“I respect the judge’s decision and his view but in the community people might have a different view.”
He added that Mr Rahman is taking legal advice and plans to seek a judicial review.