Scotland Yard detectives have been called in to investigate claims that ‘bogus workers’ have been canvassing Tower Hamlets residents in the run up to the mayoral election this coming May.
It is alleged that people believed to be supporters of Mayor Lutfur Rahman, the current Independent Party representative for Tower Hamlets, acted illegally by posing as staff from local housing association, Tower Hamlets Homes.
Tower Hamlets resident Mark Baynes has accused the staff of distributing campaign literature in support of the Mayor. Speaking to the Evening Standard, Baynes said: “Three very smartly dressed ladies knocked on my door and said, ‘Hello, we are from Tower Hamlets Homes and we are wondering how the mayor can help you’.”
Baynes went on to claim that he was presented with a leaflet promoting the support of Rahman: “They seem to be working through an electoral roll list — as any canvasser would.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said of the dispute: “Police in Tower Hamlets have received allegations of electoral fraud relating to the campaign of a local mayoral candidate. A formal record has been made of all the complaints. Enquires are ongoing and no arrests have been made.”
The investigation follows an uproar from Labour representatives at a Tower Hamlets meeting last November, when councillors threatened to call for a police investigation. During the meeting, attendees passed a motion which raised concerns over people claiming to be from an
unnamed local housing association, while canvassing for the Mayor in the run up to the elections.
Shahed Ali, the Independent councillor for Whitechapel, defended Rahman saying that Love Wapping, the website used to express the allegations: “Is nothing near to a national newspaper” and that people should not believe what they read.
Tower Hamlets Homes were included in the motion of the November meeting, which read: “We have had reports that people claiming to be staff from ‘Tower Hamlets Homes’ are knocking on doors”. However, their internal investigation found that the canvassers were imposters who did not represent the organisation.
Labour’s Mayoral candidate John Biggs said: “If people are impersonating housing officers that is a scandal. This is a murky issue and we need to get to the bottom of it.”
There have been mixed reactions over the investigation from local residents on Twitter. Glen McCarty, a Tower Hamlets resident, said: “Yet more mayoral candidate impropriety. I wonder if this will be a clean race?”
London-based writer, Grenville Mills said: “I ask all Tower Hamlets 2 assess the honestly & integrity of Mayor Lutfur Rahman after reading this latest revelation.”
This is not the first time that Tower Hamlets Council have been accused of voting-based fraud. In all cases the accusations were found to be without foundation. The investigations continue.