Labour’s John Biggs has become the directly elected mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets, in an election called after the previous mayor was removed from office.
Mr Biggs won 32,754 votes, including second preference votes, to beat independent Rabina Khan. He said the borough now needed to move forwards. Speaking after the overnight count at London’s ExCel conference centre, the new mayor 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… to pull things back together again.
The Labour win in Tower Hamlets marks, for many here, the beginning of a new start. Branded a “rotten borough” just seven weeks ago when Lutfur Rahman was removed for corrupt election practices, this is a council that’s been mired in accusations of murky leadership.
So John Biggs has a huge job on his hands to rebuild faith in local politics and redeem the damaged reputation left behind by the former executive mayor. But this victory means even more to Labour than that, because Tower Hamlets is safe Labour territory in terms of parliamentary elections and yet the party had lost control of the borough in 2010 to a man who had for many years been one of their own councillors.
With Lutfur Rahman now out of the picture and the Tower Hamlets First Party he formed no longer allowed to operate under that banner, the candidate he endorsed – Rabina Khan, who stood as an independent – was unable on election night to galvanise the kind of support that Rahman once drew in.
Without dwelling too much on the past we should remind ourselves why we are in this position; there was bad behaviour, Mr Biggs added.
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.
He was elected with fewer votes than he received in the election he lost to Rahman last year. The disgraced former mayor Mr Rahman falsely branded Mr Biggs as a racist in the 2014 mayoral election which has since been declared void.
Ms Khan, a former member of Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party, received a total of 26,384 votes, including second preferences, while Conservative Peter Golds was third with 5,940. There was a strong police presence at polling stations and at the overnight count.