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Tower Hamlets election - Labour's Mr Biggs wins
John Biggs, long standing Labour right-winger and veteran of the witch-hunt against supporters of the Militant newspaper (forerunner of the Socialist) in Tower Hamlets, has been elected mayor of the borough with executive powers. His victory means he will try to continue and deepen the devastating cuts in services dictated by the government.
Biggs beat Rabina Khan, a supporter of undemocratically removed former mayor, Lutfur Rahman. No doubt the commissioners sent in by the previous Con-Dem government to run the borough when Rahman was deposed will be taken out, with a 'safer pair of hands' now in charge.
Biggs was elected on an alternative vote system with a majority of over 6,000, but on first preference votes he was neck and neck with Khan. He needed the second preference votes of Tories and others to win clearly.
Rabina Khan's campaign was in the face of a venomous propaganda storm from the establishment press unleashed after the court judgement. She was also disadvantaged by the fact that one unelected QC had ruled not only that the election of Lutfur Rahman was void but that Tower Hamlets First was no longer allowed to be a registered party, and so she stood as an independent.
Nonetheless, if, as the Socialist Party argued, she had campaigned on a bold anti-austerity programme, promising to fight the government if elected, this could have mobilised the community and reached out beyond her core Bengali vote.
Such an approach could also have undercut the racism and division that followed the establishment onslaught on Lutfur Rahman. As it was, the turnout was sharply down on the previous mayor election with 17,000 fewer electors voting, and Khan got very few second preference votes.
A new campaign now needs to be built against the cuts, on the streets and electorally. Many of the left activists from the former Tower Hamlets First, closed down by the Electoral Commission, who supported Rabina Khan, will now be looking for a way to fight back. The councillors now form a minority group on the council. The Socialist Party locally will be pushing in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to approach them to discuss building an anti-cuts opposition on the council which can help to create a new working class, anti-austerity movement.
In The Socialist 17 June 2015:
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