Election Petition Judgement : Tower Hamlets 2014
 EWHC 1215 (QB)
The formation of THF
- In the summer of 2013 it appeared that Mr Rahman and the Councillors who
supported him were not going to be invited to re-join (or, in some cases, to
join) the Labour Party in the immediate future. It was therefore decided that
the unofficial party of Mr Rahman and his team ought to be constituted as a
formal political party in order to contest the 2014 Mayoral and Council
elections. Although the name chosen was Tower Hamlets First the constituent
documents of the party made it clear that it was the party of Lutfur Rahman and
that its primary objective was to secure his re-election as Mayor.
- The requirements for registration of a political party are laid down in the
Political Parties, Elections Referendums Act 2000 ('PPERA'). Section 22
provides that no person may stand as a candidate on behalf of a party unless
that party is registered with the Electoral Commission. The relevant parts of
- For each registered party there shall be-
- a person registered as the party's leader;
- a person registered as the party's nominating officer;
- and a person registered as the party's treasurer;
but the person registered as leader may also be registered
as nominating officer or treasurer (or both).
- The person registered as a party's leader must be-
- the overall leader of the party; or
- where there is no overall leader of the party, a person who is the leader of
the party for some particular purpose.
- The person registered as a party's nominating officer must have
responsibility for the arrangements for-
- the submission by representatives of the party of lists of candidates for
the purpose of elections;
- the issuing of such certificates as are mentioned in section 22(6);
- the approval of descriptions and emblems used on nomination and ballot
papers at elections.
- The person registered as a party's treasurer shall be responsible for
compliance on the part of the party-
- with the provisions of Parts 3, 4 and 4A (accounting requirements and
control of donations, loans and certain other transactions)
- unless a person is registered as the party's campaigns officer in
accordance with section 25, with the provisions of Parts V to VII (campaign
expenditure, third party expenditure and referendums) as well.
- Section 26 of PPERA states:
- A party may not be registered unless it has adopted a scheme which-
- sets out the arrangements for regulating the financial affairs of the party
for the purposes of this Act; and
- has been approved in writing by the Commission.
- The scheme must in particular determine for the purposes of this Act whether
the party is to be taken to consist of-
- a single organisation with no division of responsibility for the financial
affairs and transactions of the party for the purposes of Part III (accounting
- a central organisation and one or more separate accounting units, that is to
say constituent or affiliated organisations each of which is to be responsible
for its own financial affairs and transactions for the purposes of that
- In the latter case the scheme must-
- identify, by reference to organisations mentioned in the party's
constitution, those which are to constitute the central organisation and the
accounting units respectively; and
- give the name of each of those organisations.
- The scheme must in every case include such other information as may be
prescribed by regulations made by the Commission.
- Where a draft scheme is submitted by a party for the Commission's approval,
the Commission may either
- approve the scheme, or
- give the party a notice requesting it to submit a revised scheme to them, as
they think fit.
- Under s.28, in order to be registered, a party must send to the Commission
an application complying with Schedule 4 to the Act and accompanied by a
declaration under s.28(2) that it intends to contest one or more elections.
Under s.28A the party may include a request for the registration of up to 12
descriptions to be used on nomination papers or ballot papers (though the
Commission has the power to disallow inappropriate or misleading descriptions)
and s.29 permits a request for up to three emblems to be used on ballot papers,
Section 41 provides
- The treasurer of a registered party must ensure that accounting records are
kept with respect to the party which are sufficient to show and explain the
- The accounting records must be such as to-
- disclose at any time, with reasonable accuracy, the financial position of
the party at that time; and
- enable the treasurer to ensure that any statement of accounts prepared by
him under section 42 complies with the requirements of regulations under
subsection (2)(a) of that section.
- The accounting records must in particular contain-
- entries showing from day to day all sums of money received and expended by
the party, and the matters in respect of which the receipt and expenditure take
- a record of the assets and liabilities of the party.
- Schedule 4 sets out the requirements for an application. It must state the
party's registered name and the address of its headquarters. It must give the
name and home address of the leader, the nominating officer and the treasurer
and (if there is one) the campaigns officer. Importantly, the application must
be accompanied by a copy of the party's constitution and a draft of the
financial scheme proposed to be adopted under s.26. The leader, the nominating
officer, the treasurer and (if applicable) the campaigns officer must all sign
the application and, if anyone has two capacities it must be made clear that he
is signing in both capacities.
- Given that THF had indubitably been registered as a political party by the
Electoral Commission on 18 September 2013, during cross-examination questions
were directed to Mr Rahman about this. After all, if Sch 4 had been complied
with, he must at least have seen and signed the relevant documentation.
- Accordingly the court asked him about the party's constitution and received
As I understand it, an application for registration must be
accompanied by a copy of the party's constitution?
So, there is a constitution?
I do not believe there is a constitution, so I do not know how
they got over that. (Laughter)
There is no constitution?
There may be aims and objectives set out, I do not believe there
is a constitution.
- Mr Rahman was equally numb and vague about the existence of a financial
scheme under s.26.
- When it was explained to him that there must have been some kind of
constitution and financial scheme for the Commission to have permitted
registration, Mr Rahman replied blandly that he had left everything to Mr Alibor
- Eventually the constitution and financial scheme were unearthed and Mr
Choudhury gave evidence about them.
- What may be said with certainty is that whatever the documentation necessary
to be produced to satisfy the Electoral Commission to permit registration, that
documentation formed no part of the running of the party. At all times the party
had two officers and two officers only: Mr Rahman, the leader, and Mr Choudhury,
the treasurer. When asked who the nominating officer was, Mr Rahman said it was
Mr Choudhury. Reference to s.24 of PPERA above will show that it is permissible
for the leader to be nominating officer or treasurer (or both) but it does not
permit the treasurer to be nominating officer. Thus the party should have had a
separate nominating officer if Mr Rahman was not prepared to undertake the task,
and it is a sign of the complete disregard for PPERA manifested by Mr Rahman and
Mr Choudhury that these formalities were not even paid lip service.
- The financial arrangements were even more bizarre. It can be said that
because the Commission rubber-stamped the application for registration it may be
inferred that the Commission was satisfied. All one may say, with the greatest of
respect for the Commission, that the enquiries into the structures of THF cannot
have been excessively rigorous.
- The reality is that there was no responsible financial scheme whatsoever. Mr
Rahman and Mr Choudhury admitted quite freely in evidence that the party had
never had (or even proposed to have) a bank account. The court was told an
elaborate rigmarole of how party donations were logged in some kind of Excel
spreadsheet and they were called off in kind rather than in cash by asking
'donors' to pay the party's bills. Although donations and expenditure are
statutorily required to be made through the treasurer, this rule was
- Despite frequent requests made by Mr Hoar and the polite raising of judicial
eyebrows at the apparent lack of documentation, neither Mr Rahman nor Mr
Choudhury produced any books of account or even the much-mentioned Excel
- In short, the financial affairs of THF were, at best, wholly irresponsible
and at worst, dishonest. While documents were produced apparently showing that
'donors' had paid some expenses of the party, those payments had obviously not
passed through the treasurer or been recorded in any books of account. True
returns of expenses were made to the Electoral Commission (incomplete as it
turned out in the case of the party's most generous donor) but beyond a few
invoices addressed to people who were not officials of THF, which they seem to
have paid, the finances of THF were shrouded in mystery.
- Again, the excuse given for the chaotic nature of the party's structure and
finances was that re-admission to the Labour Party was just around the corner so
it wasn't worth bothering for a couple of months or so. Although the court
accepts that Mr Rahman would like to be re-admitted to the Labour Party, it does
not accept that, in the summer of 2013 -- or indeed at any time thereafter until
the election in May 2014 -- Mr Rahman or Mr Choudhury had entertained any
serious belief that the invitation would arrive. As will be seen, they embarked
on a political campaign, largely targeting the Labour Party, their principal
rivals, which their own counsel described as 'dirty'. No rational person,
viewing the campaign waged by THF against Labour in 2013-4, would have regarded
it as a campaign designed to achieve a reconciliation with the Labour