Unsuccessful comeback of the year: Lutfur Rahman
One of the most disturbing political news stories of the year had to be the takeover of Tower Hamlets council by central government after the spectacular conviction by an electoral court of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, for electoral fraud. The local authority, under his directly-elected mayoralty, had been converted into a rotten borough worthy of a whole issue of Private Eye.
Unceremoniously stripped of office, the court found him guilty of attempted nobbling of votes, unfairly favouring Bangladeshi community organisations above others for grants, propagating untruths about his opponent John Biggs, and a number of other counts.
And so it was that the chutzpah-laden former Mayor had his friends organise a rally, supported by those doughty supporters of the underdog, the Unite union leadership, to try and build support for a comeback for Rahman: an appeal. The utterly damning judgement, of course, was clearly all a horrid plot by racists and Islamophobes.
Indeed at the rally, Unite’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray – Stop the War stalwart and now part of Jeremy Corbyn’s kitchen cabinet, of course – even claimed the support of his boss, the redoubtable Len McCluskey, for the disgraced mayor.
Sadly for Rahman, a couple of days later, the same McCluskey was forced to write to the Guardian, “clarifying” his position, i.e. roughly translated, that even a far-left firebrand could see that Rahman was political poison and would likely not do his cause, of attempting to appear moderate in the run-up to the general election, any good. And so hastily back-pedalled on Murray’s commitment to his support.
And thus, with the withdrawal of powerful union support, did the fraudulent former mayor’s comeback fall flat on its face. It has all gone remarkably quiet since.
Civic pioneer of the year – Jim McMahon MP
Last year we gave this award to Sir Richard Leese, who continues to put the powerhouse into the north with his work as leader of Manchester City Council. This year we give it to someone who has recently left local government and leadership of one of the local authorities in the same combined authority as Manchester, Jim McMahon.
Nothing defines McMahon’s local government tenure like his departure. His impressive and pragmatic transformation of Oldham smashed to smithereens UKIP’s hopes of securing a second MP via the recent by-election in this northern town. McMahon proved that a working class hero is still something to be and Uncut looks forward to him bringing his can-do spirit and resolve to Westminster.
Overseas Inspiration: Justin Trudeau
For a moment, it seemed that Isaac Hertzog was to lead the Israeli Labor Party, like a phoenix from the ashes, back to government, while the steadfastness of Francois Hollande in the face of one of France’s darkest hours is commendable. But Tradeau – not only blessed with film star looks but elected to PM on a pro-immigration, pro-investment platform – now, as Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli ascendency continues and Hollande struggles to fight off the far right threat of Marie Le Pen, seems a rare rock of sanity in a mad world.
Trudeau is fiscally hawkish enough to have attacked the outgoing Conservative PM Stephen Harper for having run deficits – “Harper turned a decade of Liberal surpluses into eight straight years of deficits” – while insisting, “the key to fiscal responsibility is targeted investment, job creation, and economic growth”. In a parallel universe, the UK voted Labour in May 2015 having been reassured by the hawkishness of Labour on current spending and won over by a credible dividing line on capital spending (investment). Then we might have a PM big hearted enough to use his Christmas message to encourage his fellow citizens to welcome Syrian refugees.
There is something of the Ivory Towers and Ed Miliband about Trudeau’s predecessor as leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, who lead his party to an arguably even more calamitous defeat in 2011 than Miliband managed in 2015. In another parallel universe, a Tradeau type figure then assumed the Labour leadership, catalysing Labour recovery between 2015 and 2020 as spectacular as that which Tradeau brought about in Canada between 2011 and 2015.
But does Labour now possess leaders with the audacity and warmth to say – as Trudeau has – that, “Conservatives are not our enemies, they’re our neighbours”?
The Jose Mourinho Award for Sharp Fall: Chuka Umunna
Six months ago, Mourinho was widely respected – if not liked – as a tactical genius, having brought another premiership title to Stamford Bridge, while Umunna was the next leader of the Labour party – maybe even the Justin Tradeau type leader that we elsewhere in these awards daydream of Labour having had available to call upon after May 2015. Now Mourinho is out of a job. And Momentum want to put Umunna out of his job as MP for Streatham too.
Mourinho’s stock previously fell towards the end of his tenure at Real Madrid, only to rise again at Chelsea, and the likelihood of a further uptick in his record is strong enough that he now being linked with Manchester United and even a return to Real. Uncut is confident that Umunna can turn things around too.
The genius – if that is the word – of Mourinho’s anti-football is to minimise the risk of errors by his team and to maximise the chance of his team seizing on mistakes by his opponents. His teams may have lower possession statistics than most top sides but slips like those of Steven Gerrard rarely go unpunished. It’s about biding your time and having the game intelligence to know when to strike. There may be a lesson for Umunna in this.