Bethnal Green and Bow’s history is firmly rooted in that of London. From the 1381 Peasants Revolt against Richard II, to Jack Ripper. From the Kray twins in the Blind Beggar pub to hipsters in coffee bars and vintage shops in Brick Lane.
Centuries of immigration has defined it: from Eastern European Jews in the late nineteenth century, to the Bengalis in the 1960s and an influx of gentrification and young professionals in the last two decades.
Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest areas in the city. According to the Generic Financial Advice scale, 71 per cent of its postcodes have high levels of financial vulnerability and low levels of capability.
In the last few decades, some areas have been given a facelift. Spitalfields and Brick Lane are the destination for sustainable fashion brands pop-ups, bars with lightbulbs used as cocktail glasses, and coffee shops selling flat whites more expensive than a flight to Finland. Whereas other areas, like Whitechapel, have not had extensive economic investment.
Voices from the streets:
“Tower Hamlets has had a lot of regeneration, but it hasn’t been spread out. Gentrification can be a good thing, but not when it isn’t spread out.”
Elliott Weaver, 32, a business analyst who lives on Columbia Road
“I’m voting Conservative because we need to fight Labour and the red propaganda. I think theft by the council has been going on for too long…Labour has been in power here for years and years, it’s a living hell every day. The council protects corrupt people.”
Martin Louza, 38, a banker from Whitechapel
“Tory cuts have devastated our community. Schools are on their knees and 57 per cent of children live in poverty. Now we are looking to make sweeping cuts to Special Education Needs Budgets in a borough with a higher than average amount of children with SEND. Rushanara has fought our case for nurseries in Parliament.”
Candace Reading, 40, a freelance marketer from Stepney Green
Since the constituency’s formation in 1997, it has had three MPs. Between 1997-2005, Oona King held the office, making her the second black woman elected to the House of Commons, following from Diane Abbott in 1987.
After her defeat in 2005, George Galloway capitalised on the Muslim vote and was elected for the Respect Party, after his expulsion from Labour. King said that the 2005 election was “one of the dirtiest…we have ever seen in British politics.”
Galloway held the seat until 2010, when Labour’s Rushanara Ali, who emigrated from Bangladesh when she was seven, was elected with a strong majority. She was the first person of Bangladeshi origin to be elected to the Commons.
Ali told Eastlondonlines that her campaign was focusing on pushing for a People’s Vote on Brexit, fighting against the privatisation of the NHS, pushing for greater funding for local schools, more affordable homes, and tackling air pollution.
However, the mumour of allegations and convictions of corruption surrounding Tower Hamlets Council may threaten the size of her majority.
Nick Stovold, the Conservative Party candidate, told Eastlondonlines: “Tower Hamlets council and Labour have taken people for granted for too long. There’s a huge degree of corruption and ineptness, it’s really quite disturbing and needs to be addressed.”
In the not so distant past, the ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman was convicted of voting fraud, and recently ex-Councillor Mohammad Harun was jailed for housing fraud. Apsana Begum, Labour candidate for neighbouring Poplar and Limehouse, faced allegations of links to Rahman and of anti-Semetism.
The opposing candidates:
Stovold is a shipbroker, and his campaign will be focusing on supporting local businesses, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, affordable housing, and greater democracy at a local level.
Dr Shahrar Ali is the Green Party candidate; a Professor at Barts and the London Institute of Health Sciences Education. He told Eastlondonlines that his campaign is focusing on the environmental problems the borough is facing.
Josh Babarinde is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, who is Founder of Cracked It, a social enterprise that helps young ex-offenders into employment. Alongside this, he works with the Tower Hamlets Stop and Search Monitoring Group.
He told Eastlondonlines his campaign focuses on stopping Brexit, tackling the climate emergency, giving children the best start in life, building a fairer economy, and investing properly in mental health services.
Also in the running is Vanessa Hudson for the Animal Welfare Party, and David Axe for the The Brexit Party.
General Election 2017 results:
Labour HOLD (Majority: 35,393, 59.2%)
|Liberal Democrat||Will Dyer||2,982||5.0%||+0.5|
|UKIP||Ian de Wulverton||894||1.5%||-4.6|
Full list of candidates:
- Rushanara Ali for the Labour Party
- Nick Stovold for the Conservative Party
- Dr Shahrar Ali for the Green Party
- Josh Babarinde for the Liberal Democrats
- Vanessa Hudson for the Animal Welfare Party
- David Axe for the The Brexit Party