Redbridge councillor Mohammed Iqbal jailed for giving false address and later lying to police – but party’s regional office had stepped in to protect him from member complaints, despite photographic evidence submitted of his crime
Former councillor Mohammed Iqbal was jailed yesterday for 68 weeks for electoral fraud and attempting to mislead police. He was found guilty of registering a false home address in order to be eligible to stand for election to Redbridge council in 2018.
Iqbal, who lived in Barking at the time, registered an Ilford address and when police began to investigate, he encouraged a former tenant to give a false statement to police on his behalf. She has left the country and is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant. Iqbal has been ordered to repay more than £28,000 he received in expenses and election costs.
However, local Labour members say that they complained to the party over a period of months about right-winger Iqbal’s ploy – even providing photographic evidence to the party that he was making a false claim about his address. But they say that no action was taken on their complaints over a period of many months.
Worse, when the constituency party (CLP) held its meeting to choose a panel to oversee the selection of its candidate for the 2019 general election, members say that a representative of Labour’s London regional office overruled members’ objections that Iqbal should not be allowed to participate in the meeting because he didn’t live in the constituency.
In her summing up, the judge at Iqbal’s trial noted that he had joined Labour in 2007 with the ambition of becoming a councillor, then joined the Tories when that seemed a better option – and then went back to Labour after that didn’t work out.
Even after he was charged, the Labour council group’s whip was not withdrawn. Iqbal was one of the Redbridge Labour councillors who ‘circled the wagons‘ around council leader Jas Athwal, supporting him as leader of the council after Athwal was suspended over allegations of sexual harassment. The party’s case against Athwal was subsequently dropped after officials concluded that not enough evidence had been presented by Labour’s ‘GLU’ investigation team.
The Iqbal case is not the first time that Labour’s London office has protected right-wing figures, or been accused of doing so. Last July, it stepped in to fend off press enquiries sent to Haringey councillors accused of racism – even one who had already been suspended by the national party over complaints of antisemitism and threats and was therefore no longer a Labour councillor.
When further complaints of racism were made in Haringey last August, the regional office again ignored them – but the complainant was suspended because of a complaint about an old social media post he insists were doctored.
And when London MP Virendra Sharma and Ealing council head Julian Bell faced personal court action for a large unpaid bill, London Labour paid it and the associated legal costs totalling around £15,000 to get them out of trouble, without consulting the party’s National Executive Committee.
London Labour’s press office has been contacted for comment.
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