Labour is the leading party in representing London’s diverse society in the East London Line constituencies. Rushanara Ali became Britain’s first Bangladeshi MP in Bethnal Green and Bow, a development described as ‘historic’ by her rival Liberal Democrat candidate. In all the East London Line constituencies Labour have five women MPs, and two are from ethnic communities, far outstripping the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the struggle by all parties to fairly reflect London’s multi-cultural reality.
London is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities with 300 languages spoken and 50 non-indigenous communities with a population of more than 10,000. According to 2007 figures 31 per cent of Londoners are from ethnic communities (defined as non-white) and 42.3 per cent belong to groups described as other than white British.
There were triumphant scenes in Tower Hamlets on Friday when Rushanara Ali stormed to victory to become MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. The historial implications do not resonate simply as a result of her Bangladeshi background, much celebrated by their London community. Ms Ali has also become the first Muslim female MP for the Labour Party. She went to state schools in the East End and won a place to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University. She worked for the research institute and think tank, IPPR, and has had a successful career at the Foreign and Commonwealth and Home Offices.
Greeting the lively waiting press and her supporters Ms Ali spoke warmly about her Bangladeshi roots and her commitment to the East End.
Tower Hamlets has one of the largest Bangladeshi communities in the UK. According to the latest council figures it is estimated at over 30% of the local population.
Ms Ali achieved an eleven thousand majority over her nearest rival, Liberal Democrat Ajmal Masroor (10,210 votes). Respect came in third with 8,532 votes. Former MP of Bethnal Green and Bow, George Galloway, was not present at the declaration after failing to win Poplar and Limehouse for Respect. Full results can be found here .
Rushanara Ali’s acceptance speech in full:
Sarah Corke’s report on the elections in Tower Hamlets: