Tower Hamlets and Progress

The electorate of Tower Hamlets will head to the polling station today. 

Now, normally that sentence would arise little interest or passion outside of those with an intimate knowledge of East London politics, but on this occasion it is national news. Ever since disgraced former Mayor Lutfur Rahman was stripped of office, having been found to have "driven a coach and horses through electoral law", there has been a question reverberating around the country: how could this have happened? 

To many, it is simply baffling how an electoral fraud on this scale could be committed - this is the sort of criminal denial of democracy that you find in third world countries with far shakier political processes than ours. After some reflection, however, it can actually be construed as a form of progress.

The uncomfortable truth is that, because Lutfur Rahman and his co-conspirators were of Bangladeshi origin, he was most likely allowed to get away with this blatant disregard for democratic process for far longer than he should. We still, in this country, fear upsetting the PC brigade: we so often hear of criminal and civil complaints being swept under the rug in a misguided effort to appease the left wing voices who are swift to shout 'racist' at any accusation levied toward a minority group. The most shocking example of this, of course, was the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, but with justice eventually served there, and with the example set by the citizens in Tower Hamlets who took down Rahman, it seems we are finally learning that a crime is a crime, no matter the race of the perpetrator. That is progress.

On the political side of the issue, Chris Wilford (the beaten Tory candidate in that cursed 2014 election) eloquently points out in his piece for ConservativeHome that whilst there will always be flaws in our democratic system - that's unavoidable - we should take hope from the outcome in Tower Hamlets. For a collection of citizens to realise that something was horribly wrong, and then come together to collect evidence (in the face of, one can imagine, local hostility) and take it to the proper authorities, well that is progress too.

Look, reform will always be needed as the political cycle creaks on, and yes, there will always be crooked chancers like Rahman who will try bend democracy (or smash it into pieces, in his case) for their own ends. However, with more and more of the British public trading apathy for attentiveness when it comes to grass roots politics, it can only strengthen our democracy, and indeed our country.