ON 5th MAY, London’s voters will be going to the polls. All local council seats are up for election – as are Directly Elected Mayors, in those boroughs which have them. We have looked at Labour’s and Aspire’s candidates for Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Now we look at Cllr Rabina Khan, candidate for the Liberal Democrats.
First, let’s distance ourselves from the gutter misogyny being directed at Cllr Khan. Whether you agree with her policies or not, whether you agree with her choice of political parties over the last few years or not, whether you support the Lib-Dems or not… there is no excuse for the disgusting sexist criticisms on social media which mock and belittle Cllr Khan herself in a manner which no woman deserves.
Second, however, we have to acknowledge that Cllr Khan’s candidacy is fraught with contradictions. Despite anti-Labour statements such as “We need to turn our back on service decline and Labour’s neglect”, Cllr Khan may help to deliver the second preference votes which could return John Biggs to office. And that matters.
Politics and history
The political basis for Cllr Khan’s campaign is set out on the Lib-Dems’ website. It consists of a short political biography concentrating on anti-racism and equality. Cllr Khan tells us that she joined the Liberal Democrats in 2018 in order to “contribute towards a safer, more prosperous, and inclusive borough”. That sentiment has gone down very badly with those who remember the Lib-Dems’ record in office (1986-1994), when their slogan was “local homes for local people” (nudge, nudge – geddit?) and they considered accommodating homeless people on a boat (in the Thames, though – not Rwanda). The racism that this approach endorsed (aided by some of Labour’s publicity too) prepared the ground for the election of the first BNP councillor in the UK in 1993.
Times have moved on, and the current Lib-Dems would probably disown the Lib-Dems of the 1990s – which just underlines how changeable the Party is, and how hard it is to trust it. Cllr Khan makes some detailed policy pledges on the Lib-Dem website, but are these really consistent with Lib-Dem policies? Who knows? A charitable view is that the Lib-Dems are tolerant of a wide range of opinions, but a cynic might say that they are an umbrella under which the politically homeless can take shelter.
Where do the votes go?
The Lib-Dems tell us that it is possible that they can win the mayoralty, but it seems an unlikely outcome. Where they may have more influence is in the second round of counting, which will take place if no candidate gains over 50% of first preference votes. If Labour’s John Biggs and Aspire’s Lutfur Rahman are the top two candidates after first preferences are counted, the second preferences of all the other voters will be added to those first preferences and will decide the winner. As the Lib-Dems, and their mayoral candidate Cllr Rabina Khan, have not commented on which of these two their supporters should mark as their second preference, it’s all to play for.
John Biggs will be hoping that Lib-Dem voters stick in the rut of mainstream parties and push him to the winning post. Lutfur Rahman’s supporters will be hoping that Lib-Dems will be attracted to his radical manifesto and give their second preference votes to him. Never have the second preference votes of those who support the “why don’t we have a nice tidy up?” party been so important. If they return John Biggs to office, there will be many old-timers saying that the leopard doesn’t change its spots.
●The candidates for Mayor of Tower Hamlets are:
John Biggs, Labour & Co-operative Party
Pamela Holmes, Independent
Rabina Khan, Liberal Democrats
Hugo Pierre, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Lutfur Rahman, Aspire
Elliot Weaver, The Conservative Party
Andrew Wood, Independent
●To read Cllr Khan’s political statement, go to:
Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats
●To read about other mayoral candidates, go to:
And they’re off!
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