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Tower Hamlets First was a British political party represented in Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, which was launched to contest the 2014 local elections in the Borough. During its existence it was the second largest party on Tower Hamlets Council and the fifth largest political party out of all London borough councils.

Tower Hamlets First
LeaderLutfur Rahman
Founded18 September 2013
Dissolved29 April 2015
IdeologySocial democracy[1]


Tower Hamlets First was established by Lutfur Rahman on 18 September 2013. The party stood candidates in the 2014 Tower Hamlets Council election,[2][3] where it won 18 out of 45 seats, becoming the second largest party on Tower Hamlets Council, and the fifth largest political party out of all London borough councils.

Nick Cohen in The Guardian described the party as a cult of personality surrounding Lutfur Rahman.[4] The party was suspended in 23 April 2015, after an Election Court report that found Rahman "personally guilty of 'corrupt or illegal practices' or both" with the party labelled as a "one-man band". The party was removed from the list of political parties maintained by the Electoral Commission on 29 April 2015.


Tower Hamlets First faced ongoing accusations of using intimidation, fraud and bribery to gain votes and having divisive policies.[5][6][7] In April 2014, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, ordered an investigation into suspected governance failure, poor financial management and fraud in Tower Hamlets.[8] The Tower Hamlets council, led by Tower Hamlets First, launched a legal appeal to try to prevent the review but the appeal was rejected, being described as "hopeless" by a High Court judge.[9] The subsequent investigation by the Department for Communities and Local Government carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers,[10] found a "culture of cronyism" but no fraud at the council. Pickles determined the council was not meeting its "Best Value duties", and sent in commissioners to run the council's grant-making system and approve any disposals of council property until March 2017.[11][12]

In September 2014, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, accused the party of being socially divisive and having sectarian politics.[13]

Dissolution and aftermathEdit

In April 2015, following an Election Court ruling, the party was removed from the register of political parties by the Electoral Commission. It was stated that the party was not operating a responsible financial scheme and the running of the party did not follow the documentation given in the party’s registration.[14][15]

The finding against Lutfur Rahman was the subject of numerous controversies.[16] In April 2015, he was said to be "personally guilty of corrupt or illegal practices, or both", and of having "breached the rules governing elections." The result of the 2014 mayoral election result was nullified, thereby requiring a new election to be held from which Rahman was banned from standing; The ban has similar effect until 2021.[17][18] A council by-election in the ward of Stepney was also called.[19]

Following the judgement of the Election Court, the Electoral Commission released a statement confirming that Tower Hamlets First had been removed from its register of political parties owing to a failure to implement the financial scheme that was submitted to the Commission upon registration of the party.[14][15] Individuals previously associated, affiliated, or identified with Tower Hamlets First subsequently stood as independent candidates in this subsequent double by-election, but Labour gained both the mayoralty[20] and the council, by an overall majority of 1.[21]


Following the dissolution of the party, its 17 remaining councillors continued to serve on Tower Hamlets London Borough Council. Most stayed together forming the Tower Hamlets Independent Group (THIG), which later (February 2018) formally registered as Aspire, with Rahman still a key figure. It is the largest and the main political opposition with elected councillors at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in London. The party announced that former deputy mayor under Rahman, Cllr. Ohid Ahmed, would contest the 2018 Tower Hamlets Mayoral election against Labour's John Biggs alongside a team of 45 councillor candidates as done by Tower Hamlets First in 2014.[22]

Several former THIG members had defected to sit as independents.[23] A group led by Cllr. Rabina Khan formed the separate People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets group, which was formally registered as a political party on 26 February 2018.[24]

At the 2018 local elections, Labour re-gained every council seat Tower Hamlets First had won in 2014, except for one seat won by Rabina Khan for the People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets.

Election ResultsEdit

Council electionsEdit

Tower Hamlets First stood candidates for the first time in the 2014 election, winning 18 councillors and becoming the second largest group on the council after the Labour Party. A by-election for the ward of Stepney Green was held on 11 June 2015, after the sitting Tower Hamlets First councillor, Alibor Choudhury, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices by an election court.[25] It was won by the Labour Party candidate, giving Labour overall control of the council. After the de-registration of Tower Hamlets First, its councillors continued in office as independents.

Election Votes Seats Position Role in Council
# % #
2014 28,170 30.4
18 / 45
  2nd Opposition

Mayoral electionsEdit

Incumbent Mayor Luftur Rahman was re-elected as the Tower Hamlets First candidate in 2014, having been first elected as an independent in 2010. His victory was overturned by an election court in 2015, following allegations of electoral fraud. Lutfur Rahman was found personally guilty by the court of making false statements about a candidate, bribery, and undue spiritual influence. The court also found Rahman guilty by his agents of personation, postal vote offences, provision of false information to a registration officer, voting when not entitled, making false statements about a candidate, payment of canvassers, bribery, and undue spiritual influence.

A finding that corrupt and illegal practices for the purpose of securing Rahman's election, and that such general corruption so extensively prevailed such that it could be reasonably concluded to have affected the result was also returned.[i] As a consequence of the findings, the 2014 mayoral election was deemed void. Rahman was barred from holding elective office, voting or being registered as a voter for five years as bribery and undue influence constitute corrupt practices.

Year Candidate Popular vote Position Majority
1st Pref 2nd Pref
2010 Luftur Rahman 23,283 N/A #1 12,029
2014 Luftur Rahman 36,539 37,395 #1 3,252


  1. ^ Hill, Dave (12 October 2010). "Tower Hamlets: interview with independent mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2010. I believe in social democracy
  2. ^ "Local Elections - Thursday, 22nd May, 2014". Tower Hamlets Council. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Manifesto 2014" (PDF). Tower Hamlets First. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2014.
  4. ^ Cohen, Nick (25 April 2015). "Tower Hamlets: how a dictatorship flourished in the East End". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 December 2016. Tower Hamlets First, his political party, was nothing more than a cult of the personality. If you wanted a safe seat on the council, you had to show a lapdog loyalty to Rahman.
  5. ^ "Tower Hamlets election case witnesses 'intimidated'". BBC News. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Lutfur Rahman 'secured Tower Hamlets election win with curry house threats and bribes'". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  7. ^ "First fake voters, now police look into 'bogus' councillors in Tower Hamlets". 14 June 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Inspectors appointed to investigate London borough of Tower Hamlets". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Caroline Davies (16 April 2014). "Police find no evidence of criminality by Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Eric Pickles sends in commissioners to Tower Hamlets". BBC. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  12. ^ Richard Johnstone (17 December 2014). "Pickles names Tower Hamlets commissioners". Public Finance. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  13. ^ "Theresa May uses Tory conference speech to hit out at Tower Hamlets council's 'divisive politics'". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  14. ^ a b Mike Brooke (29 April 2015). "Rahman's 'Tower Hamlets First' is removed from Electoral Commission's party register". The Docklands and East London Advertiser. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Media statement on removal of Tower Hamlets First from the Electoral Commission's register of political parties". Electoral Commission. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Lutfur Rahman: some facts the Guardian forgot to mention". News - Telegraph Blogs. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  17. ^ Tower Hamlets election fraud mayor Lutfur Rahman removed from office, BBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation, 23 April 2015, retrieved 25 July 2015
  18. ^ Mike Brooke (29 April 2015), Rahman's 'Tower Hamlets First' is removed from Electoral Commission's party register, The Docklands and East London Advertiser, retrieved 25 July 2015
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Tower Hamlets election: Labour's John Biggs named mayor". BBC News. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  21. ^ Mike Brooke. "Labour snatches back Stepney Green in Tower Hamlets by-election". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Fraud-Free Zone". Private Eye (1410). 22 January 2016. p. 18.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Tower Hamlets election fraud mayor Lutfur Rahman removed from office, BBC News, 23 April 2015
  1. ^ EWHC 1215 (QB) (2015) ¶ 672 & 673

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