Remember 2002? In the first round of directly elected mayors, Hartlepool (the then stomping ground of Peter Mandelson) elected a non-mainstream candidate … a bloke in a monkey suit promising free banannas.
Now in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets the first barred-from-being-Labour candidate, then Labour-chosen after reinstatement candidate then kicked-out-from Labour candidate Lutfur Rahman has massively beaten Labour after running as an independent. Lots of other serious people have blogged this already – Luke Akehurst and Jessica Asato as well as regular tower Hamlets watchers Andrew Gilligan and Ted Jeory. I can’t add much but I will say the 25% turnout meant that the winner was able to mobilise about a tenth of those eligible, hardly a ringing endorsement but no doubt inflated by the victim status he claimed which the happy-to-stick-theknife-into- Labour far-left latched onto, the Ken Livingstone endorsement (surely treasonable?) and general apathy.
The Labour party shouldn’t be a vehicle for factionalism and egos who can buy up membership but the whole thing looked awful to an observer and lessons must be learned. I personally do not believe Tower Hamlets will turn into an Islamic Republic now but the car crash we’ve just witnessed puts me off the idea of directly elected mayors – do we really need another layer of expensive and needless bureaucracy? – I speak as an unelected Deupty Mayoress myself.
According to wikipedia the Hartlepool Monkey has so far had a Tony Blair-like thrice election winning run. Let’s make sure this is not repeated in Tower Hamlets.