Alongside elections for London borough councillors, there have been contests for a number of elected Mayors: Robin Wales was the first to be returned, in Newham. But the one everyone was watching was Tower Hamlets, where Labour candidate John Biggs was looking to unseat incumbent Lutfur Rahman. Here, street politics and the press-generated spectre of Scary Muslims came together.
And out there on the right, one pundit was in no doubt that Rahman was A Very Bad Person Indeed: step forward Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, who penned “Lutfur Rahman: 30 things you need to know about the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets” on the eve of poll. He forgot to tell his readers that the link between Rahman and extremism was made by Himself Personally Now.
Gilligan has made the supposed exposure of Scary Muslims into a personal – some might say obsessional – Crusade (and, yes, I know that word is loaded when it comes to followers of The Prophet). But his cheap and nasty smear campaign, laced with routine dishonesty, counted for nothing: Tower Hamlets voters are way too sophisticated to be taken in by Bozza’s gofer.
The Gilligan whoppers in the run-up to the election even included the assertion that the Guardian’s Dave Hill was Rahman’s “cheerleader”. The sin committed in order to earn this smear was to report in a manner which did not meet with Gilligan’s approval. The fact of the matter was more mundane: Hill backed Rahman’s opponent John Biggs. It wasn’t the only Gilligan unpleasantness.
“Tomorrow thousands of real voters – plus, if past Tower Hamlets elections are any guide, quite a few fake ones – will deliver their verdicts” he ventured, but then, the investigations never do back the Telegraph man’s bluster. He then reeled off “my Top Thirty facts about this great democrat, socialist and human being”, and offered “detailed analysis of Lutfur's Muslim favouritism”.
The result was exactly what Gilligan’s sniping deserved: Rahman was re-elected, beating Biggs after a second count by 37,395 votes to 34,143. The Panorama expose, all the other adverse publicity, and the constant sniping of Mr Transcription Error came to naught. But no election that goes against the wishes of The Great Gilligan can remain uncontested.
So, after a period of quiet reflection, Gilligan will return to tell his readers – some of whom are just as credulous as he would like – how the rotten Scary Muslims somehow stole the Tower Hamlets Mayoral contest by doing Very Bad Things. All manner of allegations will be made. Most likely none of them will ever be investigated, let along proved. And so it goes on.
The only surprise is that a mainstream newspaper gives this fraud houseroom.