It’s been a funny old morning so far. Funny as in unusual, most certainly not as in ha ha. For a while we worked in the hen-runs in bright sunshine, and those who like to display their tattoos and biceps were in their element. Having neither I kept my waterproof on, a wise move since an hour later we had rainfall a la Amazon forests before man decided to chop the trees down. But there were eggs a plenty, and the ‘mayor’ set off to gift them to every hard-up family we know, that covers most people in these parts.
George has been part of our gang from the start and is popularly known as ‘mayor’ on the grounds that he once held that office in his local borough. So far as we can gather it lasted for a year and involved wearing a chain and visiting every local function and club. George is a bit taken aback by the new craze for elected mayors whose role is somewhat different. According to the government they transfer power to the people, the reality is somewhat different and can be decidedly sinister.
Once elected by what is usually a small percentage of the electorate, an elected mayor cannot be sacked by other than the electors, and that only every four years. He or she is in effect a dictator with control over financies , policy and senior appointments. Councillors only control relates to the annual budget, for which an elected mayor needs a two-thirds majority. So we can forget the long-held principle of our local councillor acting for us.
This may be a reasonable wheeze in a large city like London where everything mad Boris or grumpy Ked does is scrutinised by the media and national government on a daily basis, but in less publicised areas sinister things can happen. Take as an example the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
Just 13 per cent of the electorate appointed as elected mayor Lutfur Rahman, a man closely linked to a Muslim extremist group, The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). Twelve months before his election undercover reporters filmed an IFE activist, Abu Talha, discussing IFE plans. “The mayor is going to have a lot more control. That’s why we need to get someone, one of our brothers, in there. Which we will do,” he said.
The IFE, which believes in turning Britain into an Islamic state under Sharia (Islamic law), used a law stating that if more than 5 per cent of the local electorate petitions for a referendum on having an elected mayor, a vote has to be granted. Another IFE activist, Abjol Miah, also a councillor for George Galloway’s Respect party, organised the petition with a local businessman, Shiraq Haque. More than 99 per cent of the signatories on the petition were Asian, in a borough that is two-thirds non-Asian. Almost half of the signatures were declared “invalid” but enough passed muster and the election was duly held.
Since his election Mr Rahman has sought to “Islamicise” Tower Hamlets, clamping down on strip clubs, a reputably gay pub and various other activities. He has channelled large sums of public money to IFE front organisations, appointed key IFE activists to council posts and rewarded his backer, Mr Haque, by making him chairman of a council-sponsored festival. Mr Rahman’s face is to be seen on dustcarts, lamp posts, stationary and a weekly newspaper that is delivered to every house. His advisers are paid up to £1000 a day, his office has doubled in size and he has acquired a Mercedes and chauffeur at taxpayer’s expense.
Many of the cities now facing a referendum have populations of around 300,000, little more than Tower Hamlets. All must be vulnerable to dictatorship. In Salford one candidate regarded as a front runner is Paul Massey. He has 25 convictions for offences includimg violence and possessing an offensive weapon. In 1999, he was jailed for 14 years for stabbing. and is under investigation for moneylaundering.
The point here is not that Mr Massey shouldn’t be allowed to stand, but that the vast majority of the electorate is unlikely to vote. That is what happened in Doncaster which, like Tower Hamlets, already has an elected mayor. Their mayor is a member of a fringe nationalist party called the English Democrats and such has been the friction that a referendum is to be held next week to decide whether to abolish the post.
In all but the very largest electorates (London has 7 million) the idea of elected mayors is beginning to look like a recipe for dictatorship by people with a cause to which few subscribe. It increasingly begins to look like yet another coalition wheeze that hasn’t been carefully thought through.
A simple way to establish real governance would be to rule that 51 percent of the total electorate must vote in favour at any referendum forced under the present law!
SEB IN CLOUD CUCKOO LAND?
With less than 100 days to go to the Olympics, Londeners are dreading the traffic and travel chaos whilst millions of others are wondering why a 2-hour opening ceneromny should have to cost over £100 million.
But Lord Seb Coe claims that there has “never been such a consensus about a national cause”. Two World wars and one World Cup Final in 1966 seem to have escaped his notice!