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Labour's Biggs in Tower Hamlets win

Published 12/06/2015

Lutfur Rahman was forced to step down after a judge found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices
Lutfur Rahman was forced to step down after a judge found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices

Labour's John Biggs has become the directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets in a rerun election called after the previous mayor was booted out for corruption.

There were cheers as it was announced the London Assembly member had taken the End End borough's top post, winning 32,754 votes on a second preference vote to take the job previously held by Lutfur Rahman.

Mr Biggs was runner-up last year to Bangladesh-born Rahman, who was removed from office in a high-profile Election Court case in April for "corrupt and illegal practices" during a campaign marred by allegations of vote-rigging and voter intimidation.

There was a strong police presence at polling stations yesterday and the overnight count at the London ExCel conference centre.

Rabina Khan, a former member of Rahman's Tower Hamlets First party, who stood as an independent, came second with 26,763 votes, with Conservative Peter Golds third on 5,940. Turnout was 37.73%.

Mr Biggs, who was the target of a slur campaign that claimed he was a racist in last year's election, had been confident of victory throughout the evening, having earlier echoed football manager Brian Clough by telling reporters he believed he was in the "top one".

He paid tribute to the "by-and-large" positive campaigns of other candidates and said he would be a mayor for all the community.

He said: "What is important in Tower Hamlets is that we recognise the events of the past year or more have caused enormous tension and friction in our great borough and we need, under the new mayor, to pull things back together again.

"Without dwelling too much on the past we should remind ourselves why we are in this position; there was bad behaviour. We need to overcome that, we need to move forwards, we need to recognise that Tower Hamlets is actually quite a magical place ... where people come with traditionally quite little and build their dreams."

In the end the count in the cavernous ExCel passed without incident.

Mr Biggs won 27,255 votes in the first round of voting, with Mrs Khan taking 25,763 to join him in the second round. The vote used the single transferable vote system which means voters can nominate a second candidate to get their vote if their first choice is knocked out.

In the second round Mr Biggs gained an extra 5,499 votes to take his total to 32,754. Mrs Khan added 621 to end up with 26,763 votes.

Earlier this week fresh allegations of malpractice emerged concerning this year's campaign. Problems with postal votes being assigned to empty flats, voter bribery and "dirty tricks" were among claims made by members of several parties.

Scotland Yard said before the vote it was assessing 16 complaints of electoral malpractice this time around.

Last year's election was marred by allegations of vote tampering and intimidation at polling stations.

Rahman was barred from office for five years in April after Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, sitting as an Election Court judge at the High Court, found him ''personally'' guilty of wrongdoing and ''guilty by his agents''.

Local campaigner Andy Erlam, who led the court action that brought down Rahman, stood for his own Red Flag - Anti-Corruption party and gained 1,768 votes.

Mrs Khan, who is a Tower Hamlets councillor and executive member for housing, said: "I have been proud to have been delivering a number of progressive left initiatives, they should really have been delivered many years back.

"All I want to say is that the last four weeks have shown that an individual can actually tackle a political apparatus and the fact that we didn't win on first preference, we did have to go to second preference, means that a woman can do this very much on her own as well."

Also standing were John Foster (Green) with 2,678 votes, Elaine Bagshaw (Lib Dems) with 2,152, Nicholas McQueen (Ukip) with 1,669, Hafiz Abdul Kadir (independent) with 316, Vanessa Hudson (Animal Welfare Party) with 305, and Md Motiur Rahman Nanu (independent) with 292.

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