The acting mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets has appeared to blame the vote-rigging scandal that brought down Lutfur Rahman on “institutional racism”.
Oliur Rahman – no relation to Lutfur – told the BBC there was deep-seated racism in the borough.
“If people say there is no racism in Tower Hamlets, then they are very much mistaken because there is institutional racism.
“If people want to turn a blind eye to the racism then that’s their decision but they are very much mistaken if they turn round and say there is no racism in Tower Hamlets, and that people are not judged because of their skin colour and their religion.”
Bangladeshi-born Lutfur Rahman was removed as mayor of Tower Hamlets on Thursday after electoral judge Richard Mawrey QC found that he and his supporters had rigged the 2014 mayoral election by forging postal votes, bribing Muslim voters with hand-outs, using religious intimidation against them and branding opponents as “racists”.
He also found that all the councillors in Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party had been elected through corrupt practices.
The Daily Mail quotes Peter Golds, who leads the Conservative group on Tower Hamlets council, as saying: “Oliur Rahman ought to be hanging his head in shame and apologising to the borough, but I don’t think he gets it.
“It’s ludicrous to play the race card again. They roll out this hoary old chestnut every time anything happens. The real unpleasant racism has come from the ranks of Tower Hamlets First.
“They’ve got one cracked record, that any criticism of them is Islamophobic and racist. Now they’re playing it again, despite the court case. Nothing has changed.”
The election will now be re-run in June, with Lutfur Rahman banned from running, or even voting, for public office for five years.
One of the four voters who launched the petition that brought the mayor down also said Rahman’s supporters were “in denial”. Andy Erlam said: “They are still claiming Rahman didn’t do anything wrong despite a devastating judgement by a respected High Court judge who spent six weeks considering the dreadful evidence.
“It makes me shudder to think they were in charge of a £1.3billion budget of taxpayers’ money.”