Iâve been around the block a bit, I think. Iâd like to say I have seen most of the more bonkers behaviour of the human race, so that nothing much can surprise me. But life can still surprise, and my âghastâ has been well and truly âflabberedâ.
Last week the electoral court disqualified Lutfur Rahman from acting as Mayor of Tower Hamlets after finding a host of examples of bribery, vote rigging and various offences. A link to the judgment can be found here: The High Court Judgement on Lutfur Rahman. I have read the judgment (of Mr. Richard Mawrey, QC) in some detail. It is long, but a masterwork of clarity, realism, balance, understatement and at times dry wit.
Last weekend I opened my Sunday Times to find this: Christina Shawcroft, a member of Labourâs ruling national executive committee, is incandescent at the appalling treatment of the saintly Rahman. As the judge in the case noted, Ms ShawcroftÂ can be regarded on the far left of the party, and a long-standingÂ supporter of Mr. Rahman. By the way, she actually gets a decent review from the judge â unlike Labourâs NEC. According to the Sunday Times, she claims he has been a victim of âIslamophobiaâ and the judgment of the court was âa complete travestyâ. She allegedly continued: âThe whole weight of the British Establishment seems to be crashing down on Tower Hamlets for no other reason than it had the temerity to elect a Bangladeshi mayor. It is disgusting, absolutely disgusting.â Perhaps she should read the judgment. But perhaps it wouldnât make any difference, just as there are people who believe the earth is flat, on resting on pillars of turtles, and all pictures from space which might indicate the contrary are the manipulations of space lizards.
In any event, leaving aside the litany of malpractice, lies, false evidence, bribery and intimidation which the judge set out in coruscating detail, that is a rather odd conclusion. âThe Establishmentâ appears to have been more than turning a blind eye to unlawful practice. The case was not brought by the Electoral Commission, or a political party, not even the Labour Party (which the judge criticised for many matters, not least its unwillingness to do so when its own candidate, Mr. Biggs, had been falsely accused of being a âracistâ). No, the case was brought by four individual citizens of Tower Hamlets who had the guts to put themselves and their financial future on the line, and had to do so precisely because âthe Establishmentâ did not want to get involved. But it wasnât this that set me off. No, it was the seemingly perverse behaviour of the Metropolitan Police.
First off, they get a side swipe in the judgment. One of the issues in the case was the raucous picketing of polling stations by Rahmanâs supporters. This came very close to outright intimidation. There were two sides to this. There was clearly a huge amount of pressure. Rahmanâs case is that there was a happy, festive, carnival atmosphere. The petitioners said it went far beyond that. This from the judgment starting at paragraph 556:
â556: As the court commented perhaps somewhat wryly, listening to the evidence would convince anyone other than a hardened judge that the witnesses had been describing two entirely different elections or, perhaps, the same election but in parallel universes.
577: The Petitionersâ witnesses painted a picture of rowdy mobs of THFÂ [Rahmanâs party] supporters at polling stations, in red T-shirts or with THFÂ rosettes and sustained by food and drink handed out from the boots of campaign cars, haranguing voters, obstructing entry to polling stations and generally putting as much pressure as they could on voters who were Bangladeshi (or otherwise appeared to be Muslim) to do their duty to their community and their faith by voting for Mr. Rahman and THF.
578: The witnesses called for Mr. Rahman, on the other hand, painted a picture of a jolly family atmosphere at the polling stations with everyone in high spirits, excited to be voting, friendly and welcoming.â
Here are some examples taken from the judgment…
â596: Ms Janet Digby-Baker OBE, who had worked in the Borough for over fifty years and had been honoured for services to children and families, told the court of overt harassment outside the polling station at Cyril Jackson Primary School mentioned above (as well as misconduct in polling booths). She felt sufficiently outraged to write an article about it for the East London and Docklands Advertiser, only to be subjected to a torrent of abuse from partisans of Mr. Rahman on that newspaperâs website. The court had no hesitation in accepting her evidence and, to be fair, Mr. Penny made no submission to the contrary.â
â603: At the Tiller Leisure Centre the Petitioner Ms Moffat actually saw a young Bangladeshi man in tears after being told that he would not be a good Muslim unless he voted for Lutfur Rahman.â
Of all of this, The Met and relevant authorities seemed blissfully unaware. At paragraph 579 the judge wryly observed: âWith a few exceptions, the witness statements for the returning officer covering events outside the polling stations (mainly police officers) and inside (mainly polling staff) described an atmosphere of hushed, almost cloistral, calm. In the light of the two other groups of statements, an unkind person might remark that the policemen and polling staff had appeared to take as their role models the legendary Three Wise Monkeysâ
Anyway, with the litany of unlawful behaviour found AS A FACT by the judge, one might expect the Met to get their act together and be having a word with Rahman and his cronies. Well, certainly they are hot on the trailâ¦but not of Rahman. The suspect Plod wants to have a word with is the lead petitioner in the case, Mr. Andy Ehrman. Even as the electoral judge was delivering his damning and detailed judgment, he got an e-mail asking him to come in to be interviewed by El CID. Indeed, a week before the case the police had turned up on Mr. Ehrmanâs doorstep in an attempt to arrest HIM for âperverting the course of justiceâ. His crime: allegedly asking a witness to give false evidence. Exactly the opposite of what the judge found had plainly been going on in the case, with false evidence being manufactured on Rahmanâs behalf.
Here is a link to an article in the Sunday Telegraph, and it is disturbing reading…
The judge concluded with these damning but accurate remarks:
âOn past form, it appears inevitable that Mr. Rahman will denounce this judgment as yet another example of the racism and IslamophobiaÂ that have hounded him throughout his political life. It is nothing of the sort. Mr. Rahman has made a successful career by ignoring or flouting the law (as this Petition demonstrates) and has relied on silencing his critics by accusations of racism and Islamophobia. But his critics have not been silenced and neither has this court. Events of recent monthsâ¦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.â
Quite so. It is a curious world we live in. I hope the Metâs investigation into a brave citizen who took on the intimidating Rahman machine will be conducted in the full glare of publicity. In the meantime, evening all. It should that be âEid, yâallâ?