In a withering judgment, Richard Mawrey QC, sitting as an Election Commissioner, said Mr Rahman had “driven a coach and horses through election law – and didn’t care”.
The judge said the former mayor, who was elected to a second term last year, had focused his electoral machine on the borough’s large Bangladeshi community – effectively bribing voters by targeting them with generous grants and using the influence of a senior cleric to tell Muslims it was their duty to vote for him.
DAILY MAIL COMMENT: A duty to the nation
Lately we’ve grown so used to stunning economic news that there’s a danger of seeing it as nothing out of the ordinary.
But let’s not forget it’s thanks to sound policies that two reports yesterday predicted robust growth in the second quarter, putting us on course for a world-beating performance over the year.
At this 11th hour, the Mail makes one final plea to Ukip sympathisers: don’t let your vote help Ed Miliband wreck the country we all love.
Miliband will bring back uncontrolled migration: Stark warning from Cameron as he urges Ukip voters not to hand Labour power
- Cameron has issued to plea to Ukip voters not to allow Labour into power
- He said that he understands people’s fears and worries’ about immigration
- PM said votes for Ukip could halt Conservatives chance and may result in no referendum for Europe and with it a return to uncontrolled immigration
Save our bacon
Don’t swallow his porkies and keep him OUT
TODAY The Sun exposes Ed Miliband’s lies and asks YOU to vote Tory to insure that his wreckless socialism does not put a halt to Britain’s recovery.
Unless you are in Scotland!
STATS LIKE THIS SHOW THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS RIGGED.
VOTES PER MP ELECTED:
UKIP : 3,881,129
Greens : 1,157,613
LIB : 301,968
Labour : 40,290
Tory : 34,244
SNP : 25,972
PENCILS USED TO VOTE.
When filling our forms in how many people used pencil? I did as that is what was provided by the polling office, I thought to myself at the time why use the one and only thing that is erasable? I am not the only one to think this. In 2012 a spokesperson from the Irish Department of the Environment told TheJournal.ie that pencils are “more sustainable and, above all, more reliable. In the event of the ballot papers getting wet before the count, pencil marks will remain. Pen marks may not.” But pencils can be erased therefore they are easier to manipulate whereas pens are impossible to remove and hide, I believe protecting the ballots from manipulation is more important than protecting them from water and I am also pretty sure most cheap pens would remain even if they do get wet.
MORE ON THE TOWER HAMLETS SCANDAL THAT ALSO INCLUDED THE DOCTORING OF POSTAL BALLOTS (ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HOW EASY IT SEEMS TO BE TO MANIPULATE VOTES)
Mr Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets. This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.”
The former mayor, who had denied the allegations against him as “invention” and “exaggeration”, said the judgment was a “shock” and suggested he was considering seeking a judicial review of the findings. In a statement, THF said: “This result has been surprising to say the least.”
Mr Rahman, a solicitor specialising in family law, had emerged from the vexed politics of Tower Hamlets, where George Galloway’s Respect party scored a number of notable victories over Labour in the wake of the Iraq War, as an urbane and independent mayor after falling out with Labour himself in 2010.
But his critics complained that rather than uniting one of Britain’s most diverse boroughs, Mr Rahman had surrounded himself with a “clique” of THF councillors. Along with his allies, Mr Rahman was accused of securing a second term with the help of measures including the doctoring of postal ballots and intimidatory tactics on election day which left one young woman in tears.
Mr Mawrey said Mr Rahman, whom he described an “evasive” witness, was a man who “perceives racism everywhere” and along with his lieutenants had repeatedly used accusations of racial prejudice or Islamophobia as a stock response to criticism.
The judge found that the former mayor had run a “ruthless and dishonest” campaign to portray his Labour rival in 2014, John Biggs, as a racist and also worked “hand in glove” with the head of the borough’s council of mosques to ensure that Muslims were told they had a duty vote for Mr Rahman.
A key tool in Mr Rahman’s electoral armoury was “bribery by grant”, under which he and a small number of aides took control of deciding the sums to be donated to community groups, the judge found.
Mr Mawrey said grants were substantially increased for some groups in defiance of recommendations by Tower Hamlets’ officials and other grants, such as that to the Alzheimer’s Society, slashed to free up funds for previously ineligible recipients. In one case, grants totalling £100,000 were handed out to ten Bangladeshi or other Muslim groups for lunch clubs when none had even applied for funding.
Noting that the “lion’s share” of grants went to Bangladeshi organisations, the judge found: “The main thrust of Mr Rahman’s political campaigning… was to target the Bangladeshi community and to convince that community that loyalty to the community meant loyalty to him.”
The controversial mayor lost his powers over grants last year when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sent in commissioners to take over a number of functions in Tower Hamlets council. Mr Pickles said yesterday’s judgment was a “vindication” of that decision.
Andy Erlam, one of the quartet of voters who brought the case and whose “exemplary courage” in doing so was praised by Mr Mawrey, said: “It is a fantastic result for democracy. There will have to be a new election for mayor. Mr Rahman cannot stand.”
A new ballot may be held as early as June.
One of Mr Rahman’s closest aides, Alibor Choudhury, was also found guilty of corruption and illegal practices.
Mr Mawrey said the case proved the need for those in authority to challenge wrongdoing even when there were concerns it could lead to counter-allegations of racism.
He said: “Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury… spent a great deal of time accusing their opponents of ‘dividing the community’, but if anyone was ‘dividing the community’, it was they.”
The judgment: ‘ruthless ambition’
“The evidence laid before this court, limited though it necessarily was to the issues raised in the petition, has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets. This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.
“The real losers in this case are the citizens of Tower Hamlets and, in particular, the Bangladeshi community. Their natural and laudable sense of solidarity has been cynically perverted into a sense of isolation and victimhood, and their devotion to their religion has been manipulated – all for the aggrandisement of Mr Rahman. The result has been to alienate them from the other communities in the borough and to create resentment… Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury… spent a great deal of time accusing their opponents, especially Mr Biggs, of ‘dividing the community’ but, if anyone was ‘dividing the community’, it was they.
“The Bangladeshi community might have thought itself fortunate to have been the recipient of the mayor’s lavish spending but in the end the benefits were small and temporary and the ill effects long-lasting. It was fool’s gold.
“Central government has already had to intervene once, and, on 4 November 2014, the Secretary of State, Mr Eric Pickles, announced the appointment of commissioners to take over a number of functions of the mayor and council, particularly in relation to grants. It is obviously not for this court to… recommend any further course of action but it seems likely that the governance of this borough will have to be examined in the not too distant future.
“On past form, it appears inevitable that Mr Rahman will denounce this judgment as yet another example of the racism and Islamophobia that have hounded him throughout his political life. It is nothing of the sort. Mr Rahman has made a successful career by ignoring or flouting the law (as this petition demonstrates) and has relied on silencing his critics by accusations of racism and Islamophobia. But his critics have not been silenced and neither has this court.
“Events of recent months in contexts very different from electoral malpractice have starkly demonstrated what happens when those in authority are afraid to confront wrongdoing for fear of allegations of racism and Islamophobia. The law must be applied fairly and equally to everyone. Otherwise we are lost.”
TWEETS FROM #THANETRIGGED
Kent Police reject claims of electoral fraud in South Thanet where Farage failed to become an MP
- Tory Craig Mackinley beat Ukip leader Nigel Farage by 2,800 votes
- Ukip supporters claimed the result was rigged after party won council
- But Kent Police said initial inquiries suggested there is ‘no evidence’
Police have rejected conspiracy theorist claims that the election in South Thanet was rigged to stop Nigel Farage becoming an MP.
Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay won the seat in Thursday’s election, beating the Ukip leader by 2,800 votes.
The margin of the Tory win sparked claims that the result had been fixed, but Kent Police today said that ‘initial inquiries’ suggest there is ‘no evidence’ of electoral fraud.
THE SCOTS SEEN IT COMING!
General election fix? Anti-rigging campaigners issue last-minute tips to save SNP
Published time: May 06, 2015 17:13
Judge upholds vote-rigging claims
The councillors deny the allegations
A judge investigating vote-rigging in Birmingham’s local elections has ruled there was widespread fraud and has ordered new elections.Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC upheld allegations of postal fraud relating to six seats won by Labour in the ballot of 10 June last year.
The results have been declared void and the polls in two wards must be rerun.
“The system is wide open to fraud and any would-be political fraudster knows that,” Judge Mawrey said.
Judge Mawrey said evidence of “massive, systematic and organised fraud” in the campaign had made a mockery of the election and ruled that not less than 1,500 votes had been cast fraudulently in the city.
The deputy high court judge said the system was “hopelessly insecure” and expressed regret that recent warnings about the failings had been dismissed by the government as “scaremongering”.
He criticised the government’s insistence that the current postal voting system was working, adding: “Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising.”
Mr Mawrey had heard petitions lodged against six Labour councillors, who all strenuously deny that they abused the postal ballot system.
The first petition was brought by the People’s Justice Party (PJP) against three representatives of the Bordesley Green ward, Shafaq Ahmed, Shah Jahan and Ayaz Khan.
They walked out of last month’s hearing on the first day after Judge Mawrey refused an application for an adjournment to allow them further time to prepare their case.
The second petition was raised by Liberal Democrat supporters against three Aston representatives, Mohammed Islam, Muhammed Afzal and Mohammed Kazi.
During the hearings, which were held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute and lasted four weeks, Judge Mawrey heard how the trio were caught operating a “vote-rigging factory”.
The police described how they found Mr Islam, Mr Afzal and Mr Kazi handling unsealed postal ballots in a deserted warehouse in the city.
The Aston councillors were found counting votes at a warehouse
The petitioners also accused the city’s returning officer and chief executive Lin Homer of failing to discharge her duties in accordance with electoral law.
Judge Mawrey said that Ms Homer “threw the rule book out of the window” to deal with overwhelming numbers of postal vote application forms received.
Solicitor Chaman Salhan, who represents two of the councillors, said the men had not been given enough time to prepare their defence.
“They are victims of circumstance – in effect we have had a criminal trial under civil procedures,” Mr Salhan said.
West Midlands Police told BBC News that they were currently not pursuing a criminal inquiry.
A spokesman for the force said: “We will review the judgement and see if any issues need to be addressed. Nothing relating to the case is in progress at the moment.”
Speaking outside court, a spokesman for the People’s Justice Party called for postal voting to be outlawed at the general election.
“The commissioner has confirmed our fear that there is every likelihood that the forthcoming general election will be blighted by postal vote fraud,” he said.
The Electoral Reform Society said urgent action was needed to protect and maintain confidence in the voting system.
Mr Mawrey ordered that none of the six councillors be allowed to stand for the vacant seats at the next election.