The hugely delayed election results from Tower Hamlets became rather a running joke as Sunday evening stretched into Monday morning, with all sorts of jokes about how Tower Hamlets had just finished counting the AV referendum or was about to start on its 2015 general election count.
But more substantively, some of the accounts emerging from inside the count are deeply troubling about a democratic system that nearly collapsed and raising real doubts about the independence and competence of the administration of the election. The Conservative Peter Golds wrote:
I was, for obvious reasons, at both omnishambles. We were asked to attend the Mile End Leisure centre at 2pm, Sunday for the council counts with the European count commencing at 4pm. We were let in at 3pm and then the chaos started.
Any checks on people attending soon collapsed, particularly when the Supreme Ruler, Mayor Lutfur, was instructing his fan club from across London to walk in and enjoy the panto.
However, ex Councillor Kabir Ahmed (Tower Hamlets First, Weavers ward) was barred from entering the count as he had revealed details of the first figures on his facebook page. Presumably he stayed at home in Gants Hill, Redbridge.
There were arguments, threats, and chaos at the counting tables. Tower Hamlets First supporters were challenging vote after vote, forcing supporters of other candidates away from the tables. They often made their points (excuse the pun) with pencils and pens, against ballot papers.The supreme ruler smiled, whilst checking town hall staff were not stopping his supporters from doing exactly what they wanted.
Former Cllr Mohammed Shahid Ali (defeated Mile End) was bawling in Bangla down a mobile phone at a counting table. He was asked by a (female) officer to stop and he shouted that she ( emphasise she) had no right to tell him to stop doing anything and that she (emphasise she) should go away. I drew this to the attention of the returning officer and Shahid Ali then needed to be restrained from attacking me.
Tower Hamlets has interesting rules on the media at counts. Mainstream journalists can only be on the counting floor if they are escorted by a member of the town hall staff at all times.
The special media, that supports the supreme ruler, is excluded from this, so, far example everywhere I went I was stalked by a weird old trot who kept taking flash photographs of me in my face and then grinning. He declined to say what organ he reported for.
He was not afraid of expressing his views as he shouted the short version of “see you next Tuesday”, during one of the declarations.
Despite everything we had been told, the count was a shocker. There was a a 21% discrepancy in the votes in Island Gardens between the first two counts.
Issues regarding our count process that I raised as far back as 2009 were ignored and there was no change at all; despite the fine words of the electoral commission.
I will be writing to them on Tuesday, with more details and will make my letter public.
The Electoral Commission must investigate what went on as a matter of urgency, and if necessary there should be a follow up by a Commons Select Committee, with evidence required in public and on the record from all the participants.