Toynbee Hall has distanced itself from “all political parties” after Lutfur Rahman was spotted at a Tower Hamlets Independent Group (THING) meeting at the venue on Monday night.
The borough’s former mayor was booted out of office last year after being found guilty of electoral fraud and he is barred from standing again until 2021.
But Rahman turned up at Toynbee Hall to take part in a meeting to decide THING’s 2018 mayoral candidate – later announced as his former deputy mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed.
A spokesperson for Toynbee Hall said: “Last night a meeting with clear political purposes was held at the Toynbee Hall Community Wellbeing Centre in Tower Hamlets. Our Community Wellbeing Centre exists to promote and support the wellbeing of older people in the Tower Hamlets community.
“Toynbee Hall was not told of the political nature of that meeting which was described to us as a community meeting to discuss local issues. As a charity seeking to support the whole Tower Hamlets community, as a matter of principle, we do not support any political parties or causes at any time.
“As a result we must disassociate ourselves from last night’s meeting and ask that photographs featuring our logo and name not be used in any publicity materials or on any form of social media.”
Prior to the charity’s reaction, Ohid Ahmed said in a statement: “I am very humbled and honoured to get the support of my colleagues and have decisively won the contest to become the Independent Group’s candidate for the 2018 Tower Hamlets mayoral election.
“I would seek to represent all of Tower Hamlets and fight to make a real difference. I will devote all my energy in bringing Tower Hamlets together as one community and will not rest until winning back the mayoralty for the community.
“My top priority if elected would be to tackle Tower Hamlet’s housing crisis, ensuring genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy.”
Ahmed also vowed to “focus on improving education, employment and training opportunities for all, as well as ensuring community safety”.
Rahman, who has maintained a low profile in the aftermath of the vote-rigging scandal, released a statement endorsing Ahmed. It read: “As one of my key former cabinet colleagues and deputy mayor of Tower Hamlets, I know Cllr Ohid Ahmed has the experience and passion to make a genuine difference to improving the lives of everyone in Tower Hamlets. I will do everything I can to help him win back the mayoralty.”
What this all means for THING councillor Rabina Khan, who has already declared her intention to run for the mayoralty in 2018 following an unsuccessful tilt last year, remains unclear.
Khan did not attend the meeting at Toynbee Hall, and she is yet to respond to a request for comment.