Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is under pressure to sack one of his rising stars in Birmingham after city councillor Ayoub Khan failed to overturn a judge’s ruling that he behaved in a “scurrilous” manner by attempting to smear a Labour opponent when giving evidence in an election court.
Coun Khan, who is a cabinet member in Birmingham and his party’s prospective candidate for Ladywood at the next general election, hoped to clear his name after Elections Commissioner Timothy Straker QC found that he had made up a “sordid” story in an attempt to falsely accuse Aston Labour councillor Muhammed Afzal of witness nobbling.
Mr Straker, in an election trial in Birmingham last year, also found that Coun Khan, who is a barrister, made up a “unpleasant and unsubstantiated” claim that Coun Afzal’s supporters were responsible for an arson attack on a Range Rover owned by a Liberal Democrat supporter.
More than two years after the trial, Coun Khan (Lib Dem Aston) finally exausted grounds for appeal when two High Court judges ruled against an application for a judicial review into Mr Straker’s findings.
Lord Justice Leverson and Mr Justice Wilkie said there was “no sensible basis” for Coun Khan’s claim that Mr Straker’s findings were perverse or unsubstantiated by evidence. His assertion that Mr Straker’s judgement was flawed was “barely even arguable”.
The High Court ruling prompted an immediate attack by city council Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore, who has written to Mr Clegg urging him to “take immediate action” against Coun Khan.
In a letter to the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Albert said: “Can you please explain why the Liberal Democrats call on others to hold high standards in public office but have taken no action whatsoever against a man who is running for parliament under your party banner after he was described by a judge as bringing forward a scurrilous and unwarranted allegation whilst under oath in an Election Court and was reported to the High Court for that conduct.
“The public will see the case of Coun Khan is a test as to whether you are serious about the need for politicians to take urgent action to restore public trust.
“If you fail to take urgent action against this leading local Liberal Democrat, we will know that your public statements are no more than hollow rhetoric.”
Sir Albert added: “Now that both the election Court and the High Court have found decisively against Coun Khan, are you going to ignore the judgements of the court or follow through your professed principles?
“A Liberal Democrat inquiry has been claimed to be going on in the case of Coun Khan since last May. Nothing has been reported and it appears to have been buried in the long grass because, despite being the subject of the most serious adverse findings in the High Court, Coun Khan remains your party’s prospective candidate for Ladywood.”
Coun Khan now faces a possible unprofessional conduct hearing, which could result in his suspension as a barrister.
He was reported to the Bar Standards board by Coun Afzal, who alleges that Coun Khan broke the Bar’s code of conduct.
Coun Khan remains determined to fight on in an attempt to clear his name.
He said: “I am disappointed at the judgement. But I was elected by the people of Aston just two weeks after this case in the face of these allegations from my rivals.
“I will continue to fight to clean up Asian politics in Aston and believe Labour are making these complaints because they know they face a fight to hold onto Ladywood.
“For Labour to accuse me of anything in Aston is the pot calling the kettle black.”
“I was treated as a party rather than a witness but was never in a position to defend myself. Now I will be able to present a full defence to the Bar Standards Board.”