CARL SHILTON checks out the credentials of the controversial Liberal Democrat candidate seeking to win Sutton and Cheam from the Conservatives
Hina Bokhari, the Liberal Democrat General Election candidate for Sutton and Cheam who has been accused of libel during her campaign, has a past that is shrouded in some mystery and is a subject which she seems to prefer to be off-limits in her campaign.
Her CV is effectively only what the blurb on her LibDem profile says – a teacher for 20 years, former broadcast journalist with BBC London, and the co=founder of a charity for children.
While Bokhari often tells audiences of voters that she is a teacher, in Merton, where she is a councillor in West Barnes ward, her register of interests lists her occupation simply as a self-employed consultant for two charities that were set up by her and her brother, Harris Bokhari. It makes no mention of her being in teaching currently.
Yet Bokhari claims to have taught at three schools in Sutton. She has not said when this was, despite regular questions to her via social media.
Her husband, Martin Cooper, certainly is working as a teacher, at Collingwood School, a £9,000-a-year private prep school in Wallington.
Bokhari is a parent governor at Hatfeild Primary, a local authority-funded school in Morden.
Education observers in Sutton have expressed surprise that Hatfeild allowed one of its governors to use its children and premises in Bokhari’s campaign videos for her efforts to be selected as a LibDem candidate for the Greater London Assembly, and then in her general election video.
In previous campaigns, Bokhari told LibDem members about her charity work and how she used it to introduce young people to politics but emphasised that she introduced youngsters to the Liberal Democrats.
If she is, or has ever been, a teacher, then it is to be hoped that Bokhari’s specialist subject isn’t geography. It doesn’t appear to be her strong suit when running her political campaigns, or in selecting people to advocate her qualities as a candidate.
In her Sutton and Cheam candidate video, Bokhari featured a LibDem party activist, associated with her charities, to give her an endorsement. The activist in the video, Jack McAteer, says, “We want an MP who…”. By implication, he is talking about the people of Sutton and Cheam. Yet he is, in fact, an undergraduate in York who comes from Watford.
He might be able to vote in Watford, or York, but he almost certainly is not a Sutton voter. The same activist also appears in a photo from her West Barnes Merton ward.
Bokhari’s brother, Harris, was honoured with the OBE for his widely recognised work in encouraging children from poorer backgrounds to engage in politics and culture. Hina Bokhari co-founded one of these charities, the Naz Foundation, in honour of their father.
Harris Bokhari is no stranger to controversy, either. In 2010, he was recorded in a Tooting mosque urging voters not to vote for Nasser Butt, as he was an Ahmadiyya Muslim, but to vote for Sadiq Khan instead.
Hina Bokhari has refused to say what her views are on the status of Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Yet embarrassingly for Bokhari, her brother Harris attended both Sutton hustings last week, where he was seen by audience members clapping loudly and enthusiastically – for his sister’s opponent, Tory Paul Scully.
Bokhari’s own friends on Facebook have posted on topics that are certainly far more questionable than the Twitter posts she has dug up in her attempts to smear senior Sutton Conservatives such as council opposition leader Tim Crowley.
One friend of Bokhari used a swastika in a graphic on a Facebook political group (which was removed by moderators), while another has posted that, “India is a terrorist state”.
Of course, it would be unfair and churlish to suggest that Bokhari believed everything her Facebook friends believe, but that is exactly the kind of line she has tried to use against Crowley.
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