Nick Cohen looks at the way Lutfur Rahman exploited leftwing ideas to protect his own personal power.
[H]e rigged the vote by using “undue spiritual influence”, an accusation unheard of in a British court since the 19th century. Rahman persuaded clerics to go far beyond saying they thought he was the best candidate. Islam is under threat, they said in so many words. It was the duty of all Muslims to vote for Rahman. If Bangladeshi voters did not, they would be siding with their Islamophobic enemies, perhaps even defying god’s will.
We are used to thinking of racism as Nigel Farage or the Tory tabloids egging on their readers to see the Aids-afflicted foreigner as the enemy. Indeed, it often appears that this is the only way we can think about it. The mirror image is just as foul and its foulness reached a nadir in London. The worst of Rahman’s corruption was not the purloined money, but the way he corrupted leftwing values.
Anyone who criticised the mayor was a racist. When councillors said the mayor must answer questions, his supporters accused them of “racism”. When an opponent appeared at a meeting in a black cardigan – the poor woman was in mourning for her dead husband, incidentally – Rahman’s fixer roared that where once the East End had been terrorised by Blackshirts, it was now terrorised by Blackcardigans.
Nick won a big award last weekend. He’ll never let us forget it, either. It was the European Press Prize, Commentator division. Chiz chiz Nick.