Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Erlam to stand for Mayor, Biggs pays tribute to petitioners

By on April 27, 2015 in Mayoral Election 2015, Politics

Andy Erlam, one of the four victorious election petitioners, has announced that he will stand as an anti-corruption candidate in the Mayoral re-run and Labour candidate John Biggs AM has paid tribute to the petitioners.

Andy Erlam, anti-corruption candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Andy Erlam, anti-corruption candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets

According to the Daily Mail 64-year old Mr Erlam has been approached by many people to stand as Mayor and has now thrown his hat into the ring.

“For many years, the people living here have suffered under a corrupt leadership. Unless someone stands up to it, there is a danger that Rahman’s cronyism and corruption will just continue in another form.”

Good point.

“We have an opportunity to change things,” said Andy speaking to LW this evening. “I want to shake things up – we seek power in order to share it.”

THF decapitated but wriggling

The recently decapitated Tower Hamlets First party have yet to choose their candidate but to be honest any THF candidate is the same as any another and we can be certain that the bloc votes previously used to get Lutfur Rahman elected will be used for whoever is chosen.

It is not known if the Conservative’s Chris Wilford will stand again or that Cllr. Peter Golds may step forward although Cllr. Gold’s standing seems more likely.

Another Tory option is Dr Anwara Ali according to Trial by Jeory (which I suggest you read on a regular basis if you want proper analysis of Tower Hamlets politics).

Victory established credentials

Although Mr Erlam has, by winning the historic court case last week, established his credentials he does not have the benefit of a party machine to help him campaign as do THF, Labour and the Conservatives.

But then Tower Hamlets Labour were soundly out-manoeuvred in last May’s electoral election so maybe their political machine needs some oil – if not a complete MOT – and Andy Erlam could win because he is the insider, the precedent for this being Martin Bell in 1997.

Tension between Erlam and Biggs

There does seem to be a certain amount of tension between Andy Erlam and John Biggs as this tweet from Andy (@redflagac) illustrates:

“John Biggs has allegedly claimed he brought [the] Election Petition. The truth is he was merely one of over 100 witnesses and a reluctant one.”

In a later press statement Andy Erlam detailed this issue as below:

“I understand that you claimed on LBC yesterday that YOU had brought Lutfur Rahman to court. If so, you know that this is an untruth.

I remind you of the facts: 

1. You refused to be a Petitioner and indeed you were very reluctant to make any sort of a statement.

2. You sought on numerous occasions to control the petition, volunteering yourself as a chair of a steering committee we did not want.

3. I remind you that you sneered at the Petitioners on several occasions about the prospect of them loosing their houses, if they lost the case.

4. You were, for reasons of your own which are yet to emerge,? an extremely reluctant witness until such time as you thought the Petition would succeed.”

LW cannot find any reference to the alleged comments by John Biggs – if anyone has one please let us know.

John Biggs, Labour Mayoral candidate

John Biggs, Labour Mayoral candidate

In response to the press release John Biggs gave LW this response:

“I pay tribute to the four petitioners. None of them was a ‘lead’ petitioner, as there is no such thing. I note also that Andy’s behaviour during the petition increasingly alienated the other petitioners. However, Andy does deserve proper respect as, although he is sometimes difficult to deal with, without his doggedness the petition would have had far more difficulty getting off the ground. That was in June. His evidential contribution after that was however not very great, in my view. The petition was, in other words, a team effort by many people, including of course helpful witnesses, of whom I was one.

As regards his claims:

2.1 I have never said that.

2.2 I was never asked to be a petitioner. If I had been I would probably have declined, for several reasons but not least that it would simply have been seen as the action of a bad loser. Aggrieved voters from a cross-section of the community, without a direct vested interest in it, were a far better and more convincing group of petitioners, and this is what happened. As regards statements, I spoke regularly with Francis Hoar, the barrister, and with others. I wrote my first statement fairly quickly (about 20 hours including research) at his request. I spent about a week producing the second statement, which amounted to about 50 pages  (plus appendices). I issued a brief third statement in response to later submissions by other witnesses. I attended court twice as a witness and was cross-examined the first time for the best part of a day, and for the second for an hour or so. It was a comprehensive and thorough piece of work in each case.

2.3 I did suggest that liaison between the petitioners and well-wishers should be by way of a ‘steering group’ of some kind, as the range of conversations and points of contact was getting quite disorganised, and on occasions fractious, and it seemed to be wasting time, including mine. Two of the petitioners were happy with the idea. I never offered to chair it, nor would it have been appropriate for me to do so. However, that is academic, as it was never formed. However, a group of supporters did convene as a sort of support group but I understand that this largely collapsed because of disagreements, primarily, with one of the petitioners . The purpose of such a steering group it would I imagine have been to liaise with the petitioners and take some of the strain off them, for example with coordinating fund-raising or managing communications, and not to ‘control’ the petition.

2.4 I did not actively encourage anyone to lodge a petition both because of my obvious possible self-interest, and because of the financial risk that any petitioner would open themselves to. It would be wrong to recommend to anyone a course of action that would potentially cost them everything. Indeed Debbie Simone, a petitioner who is a friend of mine told me she was up to something but only revealed her involvement after the petition was lodged.”

So it seems to be little chance of a ‘rainbow coalition’ between them.

Whatever the facts of the matter no doubt both Andy Erlam and John Biggs would much prefer to get on with fighting the election.

THF to win Mayoral election again?

THF have yet to announce their Mayoral candidate but LW does not believe that the identity of the specific individual matters.

Whoever is chosen the bloc votes that previously went to Lutfur Rahman will go to the THF candidate.

Some seem to think that with Rahman and Choudhury out of office that THF is finished.

Absolutely not. The THF machine is still at work.

The other matter that needs to be resolved before the Mayoral re-run starts is how many of the current Tower Hamlets First councillors are eligible to stand or indeed are Councillors.

This from the judgement last week, paragraph 635:

“Given the nature of THF as a ‘party’*  and the reality of its control by Mr Rahman, this means that the election of all THF Councillors must be taken to have been achieved with the benefit of the corrupt and illegal practices found by this judgment to have been committed.”

(*THF was not and is not a political party.)

Mr Mawrey QC was quite clear on this point and LW seems to remember him saying that if all the other THF ‘Councillors’ had been named in the election petition they would all have been barred from office too.

Pity.

End car crash politics

LW’s view is that the role of directly-elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets should be abolished and so stop the car crash politics that seems to pass for business as usual in the East End.

Who knows, then the politicians could just get on with helping people.

In the words of Ted Jeory, I think I need to lie down….

 

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  1. Andy Erlam says:

    Biggs was invited to be a petitioner by myself and declined. He also sought to manage the petition and offered ‘big money’ if we switched back to Shamash, Labour’s solicitor who was sacked by a majority of Petitioners. Biggs knows nothing about the strengths and weaknesses of the petitioners and the point is we made it while he sneered at the prospect of us loosing our homes in costs. Thanks John, it’s the sort of comradeship I have come to expect. Your written apology said it all. I will take no lessons in people skills from John Biggs. If there is any more of these untruths I will present irrefutable evidence which proves my version of the truth. I suspect that Labour High Command wanted the Petition to fail because they feared correctly that it would expose the dirty deal between Lutfur and Balls/Miliband to bring him back into the fold behind the membership backs. No support from the Labour MPs, Leader of Labour Group. And you wonder why I left Labour? The voters will decide.

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