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Electoral fraud case takes twist

The court proceedings against the current elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets has taken a new turn.  Accusations of electoral fraud against the returning officer for Tower Hamlets Council have been withdrawn. Many of the observers are now thinking this could be a major turning point to weaken the electoral allegations of any wrongdoings by the current Mayor.Mr Williams was accused of mismanagement of the vote and miscounting of ballot papers.He said, “I welcome the decision of the petitioners to withdraw any allegations against myself and my staff.“I have always maintained that those allegations were without foundation.“This was a hotly contested election run in challenging circumstances. As returning officer I am politically neutral and my only concern is to run an efficient, free and fair election.“I am pleased that the petitioners accept that this election was conducted in accordance with the law and that I acted in an entirely professional manner throughout.“I will continue to do anything I can to assist the court in determining the remaining matters that it has to consider.”Duncan Penny QC, representing Mr Rahman, told the court: “There is little if any evidence of personal wrongdoing by Lutfur Rahman.” He described the allegations as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false.”Allegations against returning officer John Williams, described by Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, the judge in the case, as a “sideshow to the main war,” were withdrawn.Duncan Penny QC also cited a BBC interview with Sunday Politics in September 2013 when Mr Biggs pointed out all of Mr Rahman’s cabinet were “Bangladeshi” and favoured that particular community in its policymaking.Mr Biggs admitted he was “clumsy” in the BBC interview but refused to apologise for it despite requests from Mr Penny.Mr Penny also probed Mr Biggs on others claims, made by the mayor’s Tower Hamlets First party, which it said pointed to a “questionable record on race issues”.Regarding an internal Labour conflict in the mid-1990s, which saw an allegation made by former candidate Prof Michael Keith against Mr Biggs on race, the former mayoral candidate denied any impropriety but added he couldn’t remember the context of the claims.“The Labour Party were involved in a bitter civil war and slugging it out,” he said. “But I’m a very different John Biggs from the one in 1994. I didn’t have the subtlety then.”Mr Penny said: “So you accept you may have said something clumsy back then?”“I worry this is a dredging up of ancient history that doesn’t relate to the last mayoral election in Tower Hamlets,” replied Mr Biggs.He also denied speaking out against the campaign to rename Spitalfields Banglatown in 1998, another allegation made by Tower Hamlets First during the election run-up.“I said the loss of Spitalfields was a loss to the great fabric of Tower Hamlets and didn’t mention Banglatown,” said Mr Biggs.In the day-long questioning of Mr Biggs, who is a Greater London Assembly member, Mr Penny also asked him why he had not brought the election petition himself in light of the claims made in his witness statement that he had been unfairly labelled a racist.“There are two reasons I wouldn’t do that,” said Mr Biggs. “There’s quite a lot of rough and tumble in politics particularly in east London and you just get on with it.“The second reason is I don’t have the resources.”Mr Rahman was in court to hear Mr Biggs’ evidence.

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