This is our truth, tell us yours
The judgement on Lutfur Rahman’s reign at Tower Hamlets, and how he achieved his victory, is as shocking as it is comprehensive.If you have the time, and the patience, the full 200 pages of the judgement are here. It is, as is usually the case with such judgements, a mix of exposition of existing law, a narrative of events relevant to the decision, and of legal reasoning supporting the decision. It’s a long read, and it’s hard not to imagine the slightly superior, slightly sarcastic, sometimes impatient voice of its author.
It is however a masterclass in electoral law delivered by an expert.It is also an even handed digest of the litany of complaints against Rahman’s regime, and it is as damning as any report can be of the spineless way in which the officers of Tower Hamlets allowed an elected dictator (Rahman) to simply ignore the law. Make no bones about it, between the council, the DCLG and the Electoral Commission, there are any number of public officials who turned a blind eye to such things as breaches of local government law and the irregular way in which Rahman’s party conducted itself. Tower Hamlet’s appeared to become, quite literally, a lawless place where the only law was the Mayor’s word.
And yet the far left are queuing up to denounce the judgement. Leninists like Richard Seymour and Jen Izaakson are as craven in their defence of Rahman as they are shallow in their arguments. What possible interest does a Leninist like Seymour have in propping up a corrupt communalist like Rahman?
The far left have been rightly excoriated since the Iraq war by the likes of Nick Cohen for their shameless adherence to the principle that my enemy’s enemy must be my friend.It’s a nonsense, a corrupting and facile nonsense that has seen Seymour and his colleagues take up cudgels on behalf of Rahman, who would never return the compliment to Seymour and whichever motley crew ofLeninists he’s hanging out with these days.
Calling a literate, well read man like Seymour shallow and facile is always risky ground. However, he made the bullets, so it’s my chance to fire them. Jen Izaakson said, approvingly re-quoted by Seymour Sitting in judgment was one man only – not a qualified judge, only a barrister (assumed by the media and even myself, to be a Judge)
Now, as the judgement makes clear, the role of the Election Commissioner is a curious one that the judiciary did not particularly want. Under the liberal notion of the separation of powers (which was of course anathema in the courts of Lenin and Stalin’s Russia) the judiciary and parliament are separate, and should not meddle in each other’s business. Nevertheless, parliament, which is sovereign, decreed that the courts must decide on matters of electoral law and its application, and parliament decreed that in such cases the person appointed is an electoral commissioner. Richard Mawrey QC, who decided Rahman’s case, first sat as a judge in 1981, as an Election Commissioner in 1994, and a Deputy High Court Judge in 1995. What’s more, Richard Seymour, king of the authoritative footnote could have found this out with fifteen seconds research but instead chose to repeat a lie (that Mawrey wasn’t qualified to be a judge) to make his case.
Why on earth is Seymour so keen to support Rahman? Why does he side with Jen Izaakson’s febrile knee jerk reaction to a judgment that is so damning of Rahman? Why doesn’t Seymour welcome with open arms the ruling on spiritual influence as a potential weapon for the left and for women against priests who use abortion as an excuse to interfere at election time? Why doesn’t Seymour question just why businessmen from outside the area were willing to lie to the council and the courts to fabricaet qualifications to stand for Rahman’s party?
There is much that is wrong with electoral law, especially in relation to the burdens it imposes on small parties, but Lutfur Rahman was not guilty of being slapdash; he simply ignored inconvenient laws and his own party’s rules and constitution in pursuit of his own aggrandizement. And Seymour wants us to praise him and support him? The conclusion inescapable; far from being a banner carrying leader of the left, Seymour is at best a weather vane being blown about by the political winds that he neither controls nor understands.