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Court hearing over Tower Hamlets election to go ahead after challenge fails

An election court will be convened in August to hear a petition over whether the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ elected mayor should be unseated.

The High Court dismissed a claim brought by mayor Lutfur Rahman that the case should be thrown out as an abuse of process.

Andy Erlam, who stood for the council in May’s elections for the Red Flag Anti Corruption Party, brought the petition seeking to annul the mayoral election.

He and three other voters alleged that votes were cast by people not entitled to be on the electoral register, voting papers were improperly acquired and paid canvassers campaigned outside polling stations for independent candidate Mr Rahman.

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The petition also claimed that returning officer John Williams allowed campaigning inside polling stations.

Mr Rahman was re-elected as mayor, defeating Labour’s John Biggs. In the simultaneous council elections, Labour secured 22 seats, Mr Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First group 19 and the Conservatives five.

The court did though dismiss an application that the hearings should be held outside the borough for fear of witness intimidation.

Mr Justice Supperstone said further evidence must be submitted by 18 August and the commissioner would then set a date for a hearing.

A Tower Hamlets spokesman said: “We welcome the decision of the High Court to require the petitioners to submit full details of their allegations by August 18. We look forward to responding to those allegations in due course.

“We are glad that the judges rejected the petitioners' application for the election court to be held outside the borough and agreed that there is no reason why it should not be held in Tower Hamlets where it will be convenient for local people.

“We have made clear that we strongly reject the allegations in the petition about the returning officer's conduct of the election. The returning officer’s role is neutral and non-political and the aim is to provide free and fair election results.”

Mark Smulian

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