Now that Newham's imperious Mayor has secured a comfortable win and there is an absolute majority for Labour on the council, it will be interesting to see whether Sir Robin Wales - a man notorious for his political vengefulness - will pursue threatened legal action against mayoral opponent Alan Craig over campaign material issued during the election.
The row centres on a advert by the Christian People's Alliance (right), which alleges that a parking space reserved for disabled drivers had been designated for the Mayor because it was closest to the lifts and stairs to the offices in the council's new building, Newham Dockside. The photo used in the advert seems to back up this claim and the issue has been presented as a metaphor for the way that Sir Robin Wales runs the council.
Alan Craig reported on his blog on 26 April that the Mayor had instructed his solicitors to issue a threat of legal action. A letter to the Christian People's Alliance (CPA) said, “it will be understood by those reading (the leaflet) that the Mayor has put his own interests above those of disabled drivers and (it) makes derogatory comments on the Mayor’s motives and values... (It) will undoubtedly cause serious and ongoing damage to the Mayor’s reputation, feelings and chances of re-election.”
The letter went on to make eleven demands, including the disclosure of all the names and addresses that CPA leaflets had been distributed to, the publication of a full apology, the payment of the Mayor's legal expenses and the donation of £5,000 to a charity of his choice.
In the Newham Recorder on 28 April, the Mayor denied any involvement in re-designating the parking bay and added:
Craig rightly points out, however, that the advert had also been included in a council booklet sent to every voter in Newham and had therefore been approved by the council’s Chief Executive, Returning Officer and Head of Legal Services. Approval is not automatic - over in Hackney, Conservative candidate Andrew Boff is hopping mad that his election address was excluded from the borough's mayoral booklet because of his reference to the salaries of Hackney's mayor and cabinet.
"I am offended by this allegation. A lot of claims are made in politics and you have to develop a thick skin. However, the Alliance leaflet is beyond the pale and untrue. They are playing politics with disability and that is shameful."
Had Alan Craig been elected, I suspect that Newham Labour would have gleefully reported him to the Standards Board for a breach of the code of conduct on treating others with respect. However, the CPA lost all its council seats on 6 May and that opportunity for revenge is unavailable.
Perhaps the wipe-out of the CPA will seem like punishment enough - but I wouldn't put it past the Great Helmsman to vindictively continue with legal action if his demand for the repayment of his legal fees and a public apology are not forthcoming.
Private Eye reports that mayoral candidate Andrew Boff called Hackney council himself, after hearing that the voters who phoned the to check whether he was standing were told, wrongly, that he was not.
Without giving his name, Boff recorded a conversation with an unnamed council worker who clearly said – after checking with the council’s elections office – that "He’s not [a candidate] because he didn’t submit valid paperwork on time".
Now the council has threatened legal action against community newspaper the Hackney Citizen for including an audioclip of this conversation on its website. You can listen to the recording here.