Could this disgraced mayor take thirty seats from Labour? As Sir Keir's party ... trends now
Amid the sea of flag- waving pro-Palestinian protesters marching past Parliament last week was an obscure local mayor whose presence will have gone almost unnoticed.
Afterwards, the mayor issued a statement declaring his commitment to the cause. ‘I was heartened to march with 500,000 people in solidarity with the people of Gaza,’ it read. ‘Amid the darkness of the past three weeks, it was an important and powerful display of humanity.
‘People across the world are demonstrating to demand a ceasefire now. World leaders must listen and work together to find a political solution to this crisis. There must be an immediate ceasefire.’
They are words to chill Keir Starmer’s heart. For the individual who issued them is Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. And, ominously for the Labour leader, they show Rahman is flexing his muscles just as the Opposition tears itself apart over Gaza.
He has form in causing trouble for the party. A former Labour mayor of Tower Hamlets, he was removed as the party’s candidate in 2010 over allegations of links to a fundamentalist group and voting irregularities. Rahman then inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Labour machine last year when he ousted its elected mayor in Tower Hamlets.
Ominously for the Labour leader, Lutfur Rahman (pictured, centre) is flexing his muscles just as the Opposition tears itself apart over Gaza
Labour’s position over Gaza marks Starmer’s gravest crisis since his tenure began. He has been forced to walk a political tightrope between showing his support for Israel against Hamas terrorists and responding to growing calls from party members for a ceasefire — something he opposes
The 58-year-old’s controversial Aspire Party swept to power to take control of the council for the first time.
All 24 Aspire councillors are Bangladeshi Muslims, and their victory makes the East London borough the first Muslim political stronghold in Britain.
But Tower Hamlets is far from the limit of Rahman’s ambitions. He is said to be considering fielding Aspire candidates to challenge Labour incumbents at the next election. Specifically, there is talk that Aspire is targeting 30 parliamentary constituencies where Muslim voters hold the balance of power.
Should Rahman carry out the threat, it could potentially derail Starmer’s dream of being the first Labour leader to win a general election since Tony Blair in 2005 as Muslim voters reject the leadership’s stance on the Middle East.
Labour’s position over Gaza marks Starmer’s gravest crisis since his tenure began. He has been forced to walk a political tightrope between showing his support for Israel against Hamas terrorists and responding to growing calls from party members for a ceasefire — something he opposes.
Sixteen frontbenchers have joined the rebellion, and the growing public row has caused alarm at the highest levels of the party.
Just yesterday, the Labour leaders of Burnley and Pendle councils in Lancashire called upon Starmer to resign over his failure to back a ceasefire, with Burnley leader Afrasiab Anwar claiming Starmer had ‘not stood up for Labour values’.
Starmer, with a 20-point lead in the opinion polls, thought he was cruising to victory.
A former Labour mayor of Tower Hamlets, Rahman was removed as the party’s candidate in 2010 over allegations of links to a fundamentalist group and voting irregularities. Pictured: At a rally in 2014 alongside ex-mayor of London Ken Livingstone and former MP George Galloway
Sixteen frontbenchers have joined the rebellion against Starmer, and the growing public row has caused alarm at the highest levels of the party. Pictured: Demonstrators hold banners on October 31
But he is now struggling to contain bitter divisions as more than 60 MPs have gone public with their demands for a ceasefire. In addition to those 16 frontbenchers, some of the party’s most senior politicians, including Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, have joined in.
The revolt has also spread deep into Labour’s local government base with more than 350 Muslim Labour councillors signing an open letter calling for an immediate ceasefire. There have been