openDemocracyUK

A new coup is unfolding in the East End

The smear campaign against Rabina Khan that the media won't discuss.

Charlotte Gerada
10 June 2015
khahn.jpg

Rabina Khan. Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Some rights reserved.

Over a month ago the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was removed from office by an election court on charges of corruption. In the subsequent by-election, sixteen allegations of election fraud are already being investigated by police. As tends to be the case with Tower Hamlets, the news is receiving regional and even national coverage. Perhaps this is because Tower Hamlets politics is used to confirm both the right's worst fears about 'imported corruption' and 'Islamisation', and the left's worst fears about political witch-hunts and institutional racism.

The main allegation, reported in the Evening Standard and BBC Sunday Politics, is that Rabina Khan (an independent candidate and sitting Cabinet Member for Housing) had her leaflets handed out inside the newsletters of the Council's housing agency. The evidence for this is amateur footage from blogger Mark Baynes, who mysteriously has a camera ready in his hand when a leaflet is apparently pushed through his door. Khan denies any knowledge of this canvasser and many in her camp suspect a stitch-up. Baynes, meanwhile, has accused Khan of lying about her disabled child's hospitalisation as a reason for not attending a hustings. His sole evidence for this is a picture posted on Twitter of her during the hustings by a colleague - as if it is unheard of for people to post pictures of earlier events. Khan holds that by refusing to remove false statements about her, Baynes is committing the same election offence that Lutfur Rahman was barred for.

None of this context has made it into the Express, BBC, ITV or Evening Standard's reporting.

Other allegations include postal vote fraud and bizarrely, 'using council resources to sell heroin.' These have been lodged by Andy Erlam, a man who also submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Town Hall demanding to know if the Returning Officer was a Freemason.

Also remaining defiantly unreported are multiple allegations of election fraud reported about the Labour Party, who are portraying themselves as in the best position to 'clean up' Tower Hamlets. A millionaire donor has been reported to the police for 'treating' voters with free food at an event. This donor was harshly criticised when he supported Lutfur Rahman in the past (notably over his fraud conviction), and yet now he supports Labour, the local press have ignored this. A report of postal voting fraud and a second report of treating, as well as a report of misusing council property have also been lodged against the Labour Party. In spite of the intense media focus on the Tower Hamlets election, these remain unreported.

So do other dirty tricks and smears by Labour - including a divisive bandwagon of commenters joining Baynes in claiming that Khan has been lying about her disabled child (or, as claimed by a senior Labour official, that having a child with complex needs makes one unfit to be mayor.) A Tory campaigner who appears on their mayoral candidate's leaflet meanwhile launched a bizarre racist rant on Facebook. She stands accused of not caring about the LGBT community, despite pledging to support the reopening of the Joiners Arms, a much-loved local LGBT venue, for no discernible reason other than her Islamic faith.

The silence on the smear campaign against Rabina Khan is deafening.

So too is the silence on the actual politics of the debate. Khan's campaign insists that she is the only candidate committed to preserving the unique support that Tower Hamlets currently offers people, including a £400 grant to students in further education that Labour's candidate says he 'cannot guarantee' the survival of. She boasts of a record that includes creating more affordable homes than any other borough in the country, opening a £2.2m Preventing Homelessness Fund and subsidising residents following the Tories' bedroom tax that hit 2500 local families. She promises to be 'a mayor for Generation Rent' as well as a 'mayor for women' and a 'mayor against austerity.'

She has not asked much of the media - only that they focus on her vision, rather than claiming she is 'controlled by the men around her', in her words. This does not seem to have been met.

When Lutfur Rahman lost his court case and figures including a professor of law, human rights lawyers, the Spectator's associate editor and a Church of England canon raised concerns about the way he had been treated, they were dismissed as defending the indefensible. Those who claimed that the campaign against him had been informed by racial prejudice and contempt for a left-wing anti-establishment politician were held as evidence that a delusional section of the radical left supports Islamism and corruption.

We are now seeing another independent candidate subjected to a host of flimsy corruption claims in what looks like a desperate attempt to stop her winning Thursday's election by legitimate means. It might be time to finally have a more sensible and sober debate about East London politics, and more broadly about the ability of prejudice, selective reporting and carefully-curated smear campaigns to create scandals from thin air.  

 

OurKingdom doesn’t have a billionaire proprietor telling us what to write - we rely on donations from readers like you. Please support us if you can.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData