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Disgraced fraudster former Tower Hamlets mayor set to be RE-ELECTED – as Tory bloodbath in London sees strongholds Westminster and Wandsworth both fall along with Barnet

  • Labour has put on a strong showing in the capital, with the Conservatives ravaged by sleaze and Partygate  
  • Perhaps biggest blow to Boris Johnson’s party will be Wandsworth – Margaret Thatcher’s favourite council 
  • Labour also won up Barnet, which has a large Jewish population, suggesting turnaround on anti-Semitism 

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A former London mayor who was kicked out of office for electoral fraud is poised to win his old job back in today’s elections – as Tories suffer a bloodbath in the capital. 

Lutfur Rahman was banned from running for public office for five years in 2015 after being convicted of polling offences when he first ran in Tower Hamlets.

But having served his ban he is running again in the east London borough. He was ahead of the current Labour mayor, John Biggs, by 12,000 votes after the first round of counting, putting him just short of the 50% mark needed to win.

A victory for the Bangladesh-born politician in an area with a large Bengali community would be highly controversial. 

The former Labour councillor, became the first directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets when he stood as an independent in 2010.  He was re-elected in 2014, but became the first such mayor to be removed when the result was declared null and void. 

In 2015 an election court found Mr Rahman personally guilty, or guilty by his agents, of charges including making false statements about a candidate, of administering council grants in a way that constituted electoral bribery and of spiritual intimidation of voters.

One of Rahman’s rivals, Andrew Wood, an independent councillor for Canary Wharf, said that Rahman had managed to unite his Bengali supporters and white working class voters unhappy at new low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which limit the movement of traffic in residential areas.

‘Elections are won or lost, depending on how the British Bengali community decide to allocate their vote,’ Mr Wood said.

‘If Lutfur wins, it’s because of a combination of that and the white working class votes, because of the LTN issue in particular.’ 

It came as a string of Labour victories in London turned the capital’s political map even more red – with the traditional Tory strongholds of Westminster and Wandsworth among Sir Keir Starmer’s conquests. 

Labour have also snapped up Barnet, which given its large Jewish population may be seen as a sign the party has turned the corner on the anti-Semitism rows which dogged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Boris Johnson‘s Tories will be the loss of Wandsworth. It turned blue in 1978, a year before Margaret Thatcher’s election and was reputedly her favourite council, noted for its low taxes.

Meanwhile, Labour are in control of Westminster for the first time since its creation in 1964. A triumphalist Sadiq Khan said that ‘history has been made’ as the mayor celebrated the victory in the early hours of Friday morning. 

Two other London councils – Croydon and Tower Hamlets – are not due to declare until the early hours of Saturday morning and Saturday evening respectively. 

But there was a sliver of good news for the Tories as they took Harrow, in north west London, from Labour late on Friday afternoon. 

But elsewhere, Labour lost Hull to Sir Ed Davey’s resurgent Liberal Democrats. It was a similar story for the Green Party who chipped away at Conservative and Labour seats in England.

Lutfur Rahman was banned from running for public office for five years in 2015 after being convicted of polling offences when he first ran in Tower Hamlets.

Lutfur Rahman was banned from running for public office for five years in 2015 after being convicted of polling offences when he first ran in Tower Hamlets.

Sir Keir was beaming during his visit to Barnet today, but outside London his party enjoyed fewer successes

Sir Keir was beaming during his visit to Barnet today, but outside London his party enjoyed fewer successes 

The under-fire Prime Minister is now facing a backlash from local Tory leaders as his party lost major London authorities to Labour and suffered setbacks across England to Sir Keir’s party.

Conservatives have blamed the Partygate drama for the party’s electoral losses overnight, with John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, urging backbenchers to write to Sir Graham Brady to trigger a vote of no-confidence against Mr Johnson after Labour took control of Cumberland.

Mid-term elections are always difficult for a governing party, although as many of the English seats were last contested in 2018 during Theresa May’s chaotic administration, opportunities for opposition parties to make further gains may be limited.

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis insisted Mr Johnson remained the right person to lead the party, amid speculation that a bad set of election results – coupled with any further revelations about No 10 lockdown-busting parties – could see more Tory MPs submitting letters of no confidence.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told Sky News: ‘I absolutely think we can win the next election, and I do think Boris Johnson is the right person to lead us into that.’

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told the BBC: ‘The further away you get from London, our sense is that the picture is better for us.’

Labour’s campaign has been hit by Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether Sir Keir broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election – something he has dismissed as ‘mudslinging’.

The Tories have also complained about a secret pact between Labour and the Lib Dems to maximise Conservative pain in marginal seats, something denied by both opposition parties.

While Labour enjoyed success in London, there was a mixed picture elsewhere – with the loss of Hull blamed on local issues but the party insisting it was winning back support in Brexit-supporting areas.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, said it was a ‘turning point’ for the party.

‘After the disastrous results of 2019, these early results are showing the progress we have made thanks to Keir’s leadership. Labour is making headway in England, Scotland and Wales, taking over key Conservative councils and winning in vital Parliamentary battlegrounds across the country,’ she said.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth acknowledged there was a mountain to climb for the party following the 2019 general election.

‘It’s climbable, but my god it’s a big mountain because we got an absolute hammering in 2019, the worst result since the 1930s,’ he told the BBC.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour party MP Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan react after Labour win Wandsworth Council

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour party MP Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan react after Labour win Wandsworth Council 

Jubilant scenes as Labour take control of Barnet Council at this year's local elections. New council leader Barry Rawlings is seen centre

Jubilant scenes as Labour take control of Barnet Council at this year’s local elections. New council leader Barry Rawlings is seen centre

Labour Party candidates and supporters celebrate after the Labour gain of Westminster City Council during local elections

Labour Party candidates and supporters celebrate after the Labour gain of Westminster City Council during local elections

Labour Party candidates and supporters celebrate after gaining Westminster City Council during the local elections

Labour Party candidates and supporters celebrate after gaining Westminster City Council during the local elections

Labour Party supporters celebrate a win announcement amid the counting process at the Westminster City Council local elections, at Lindley Hall in Westminster, May 6, 2022

Labour Party supporters celebrate a win announcement amid the counting process at the Westminster City Council local elections, at Lindley Hall in Westminster, May 6, 2022

Jubilant scenes as Labour Party supporters celebrate their electoral wins at Barnet, May 6, 2022

Jubilant scenes as Labour Party supporters celebrate their electoral wins at Barnet, May 6, 2022

A man wearing the rosette of the Labour party reacts during an announcement amid the counting process at the Westminster City Council local elections, at Lindley Hall in Westminster, May 6, 2022

A man wearing the rosette of the Labour party reacts during an announcement amid the counting process at the Westminster City Council local elections, at Lindley Hall in Westminster, May 6, 2022

Two candidates wearing rosettes of the Conservative party stand during the counting process at the Westminster City Council local election

Two candidates wearing rosettes of the Conservative party stand during the counting process at the Westminster City Council local election

A British Labour Party candidate celebrates a win announcement amidst the counting process at the Westminster City Council

A British Labour Party candidate celebrates a win announcement amidst the counting process at the Westminster City Council

Rutland Tory council leader RESIGNS from party as polls close and accuses government of ‘ignoring’ his county 

A council leader has resigned from the Conservative Party after accusing the government of ‘ignoring’ his county.

Oliver Hemsley says he will continue leading Rutland County Council as an independent after announcing his resignation from the Conservative Group shortly after local election polls closed.

Mr Hemsley said inequalities in Rutland have been ‘compounded year-on-year’ because of council tax and accused the government of ‘ignoring and sidelining’ the council despite repeated requests for help.

The next elections for Rutland County Council won’t take place until next year, though the Lib Dems won one seat being contested on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Marc Bayliss, the Tory leader of Worcester City Council, told reporters he was heading home early from the election count and is anticipating a disastrous night for his party.

Mr Bayliss blamed partygate and said the public had found the government’s performance ‘wanting’.

He added: ‘I think it is fair to say we are having a bad night.’

His comments were echoed by the leader of the Conservatives on Sunderland Council, Antony Mullen, who called for Boris Johnson to step down.

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The Liberal Democrats focused on making further inroads in Tory heartlands – the ‘Blue Wall’ in southern England – following recent Westminster by-election successes in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘I am optimistic that thanks to their hard work, the Liberal Democrats will gain ground in areas across the Blue Wall where voters are fed up of being taken for granted by the Conservatives.’

The new Labour leader of Wandsworth council said his party’s victory signalled it was ‘time for change’ at the top of the Government.

Wandsworth’s new Labour leader Simon Hogg said: ‘We are going to build a compassionate council that truly listens and keep that same low council tax.

‘But when we were calling around on voters we didn’t even have to raise partygate, we didn’t have to mention Boris Johnson. People have formed their own views on this Government, so I am afraid it is time for change at the top as well.’

London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan said that ‘history has been made’ with the Labour victory in Wandsworth.

Ravi Govindia, leader of the Wandsworth Tories, said: ‘Let’s not be coy about it, of course national issues were part of the dilemma people were facing.’

After results were declared from 53 councils, the Tories had lost control of two authorities and were down 55 councillors, Labour had a net gain of one council and 21 councillors, the Lib Dems had one authority and 31 more seats while the Greens had put on 19 councillors.

Wandsworth boasts one of the lowest average council tax rates in England, with Boris Johnson pointing to the low rates as an example of Conservative party competence in local office.

A Labour party source described the loss as ‘monumental’ for the Conservatives.

‘This was the Tories’ jewel in the crown,’ they added.

The borough’s new Labour leader Simon Hogg promised to ‘build a compassionate council that truly listens, and keep that same low council tax’.

He added: ‘When we were calling around on voters we didn’t even have to raise partygate, we didn’t have to mention Boris Johnson. People have formed their own views on this Government, so I am afraid it is time for change at the top as well.’

Barnet council has only ever been in Conservative control since it was created in 1964.

In 2014, Labour came close to gaining control, but the Tories retained a narrow majority.

In 2018 the gap between the ruling Conservatives and the Labour opposition widened, with concern among the north London borough’s large Jewish population about the Labour antisemitism scandal cited as a reason.

Ahead of the result, leader of the Labour group on Barnet council Barry Rawlings told the BBC: ‘I’ve been feeling confident for a while, I think we’ve had a very good campaign, got good candidates, it feels good on the streets.’

He said the ‘stain’ of anti-Semitism had been removed from the party under Sir Keir, who launched his party’s London election campaign in Barnet. 

Sadiq Khan celebrates a win announcement amidst the counting process during local elections, at Wandsworth Town Hall

Sadiq Khan celebrates a win announcement amidst the counting process during local elections, at Wandsworth Town Hall

London's Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan said that 'history has been made' with the Labour victory in Wandsworth

London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan said that ‘history has been made’ with the Labour victory in Wandsworth

A Conservative Party supporter reacts to the counting process during local elections, at Wandsworth Town Hall,

A Conservative Party supporter reacts to the counting process during local elections, at Wandsworth Town Hall,

No official result has yet been announced for Westminster, though the Conservatives are increasingly pessimistic about the situation in the council

No official result has yet been announced for Westminster, though the Conservatives are increasingly pessimistic about the situation in the council

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Source: Daily Mail

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