Following the referendum in May there will be the election of a directly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets on October 21. The Conservative candidate is Neil King. His victory would not only been good for the Conservatives but for the whole political process in Tower Hamlets – currently tarnished by fraud, intimidation, anti semitism and the buying off of sectional interests.
Of course the odds are stacked against Neil but the Labour Party is in disarray – the former Labour Council leader, the extremist Lutfur Rahman is standing as an independent. Eight Labour councillors have been expelled for supporting him. Ken Livingstone has failed to endorse the official Labour candidate Helal Abbas. Lots more about the background on Andrew Gilligan's Daily Telegraph blog.
Interviewed by Dave Hill in The Guardian, Neil gave a flavour of some of the issues. In seeking votes from the Bengalis (35% of the electorate) his message is that "many, many members of the Bengali community," are recognising that their values – "pro-business, pro right-to-buy and pro-family" – are aligned with Tory ones, especially when they've been served by a Tory Councillor. Labour's approach was rather more crude:
"Pensioners clubs that were predominantly attended by whites were being cut, and yet funding for groups like the Jagonari Women's Centre, which is for women from the Bengali community, was being increased."
Housing subsidies don't go to those in greatest need. He mentions:
…a resident who lives in subsidised housing that poorer people would be very pleased to move in to: the Labour peer Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green, who was among those who spoke in support of Rahman at the party celebrating his short-lived adoption as Labour's candidate. Her place was just round the corner, they explained. Ouch.
Neil cut wasteful spending to tackle Labour's £56 million local budgetary black hole and lower Council Tax, Also he is backing more schools becoming academies.
"If I were to list one thing in my decade of living in the borough that I think the Labour Party did out of spite and political malice, it was when Goldman Sachs offered to build them a city academy that would have come with work placements and mentoring schemes, and they turned it down on ideological grounds."
Neil has lived in Wapping since 2001, and works as a criminal barrister in London. Neil studied at Oxford University and has served as a Royal Naval Reserve Officer.
What should Conservatives do with their second preference, should they wish to exercise it? The Lib Dems don't seem to have a shout so no point giving it to them. If I lived in Tower Hamlets I think I would use my second preference for the official Labour candidate, Helal Abbas. It might be politically convenient for Labour to lose to an independent but for Lutfur Rahman to be elected would be an appalling prospect for the borough.