#ELLGE19 Election Preview: Poplar and Limehouse – ‘I’m voting Labour – never Tory in Tower Hamlets’

Limehouse station pic: Tom Mcghie

Bookended as it is by the imposing skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf financial district on one side and the beautiful streets of Greenwich on the other, Poplar and Limehouse is a melting pot of culture and diversity.

More than two thirds of the population of Tower Hamlets, in which the constituency lies, belongs to ethnic minority groups. It is this multiplicity which defines Poplar and Limehouse – its diversity is celebrated, rather than something which might be railed against in other parts of the country.

In the 2016 Referendum, 65.79% voted in favour of remaining in the European Union. And yet, it is also historically one of the most deprived areas in London, with currently the highest levels of child poverty in the city.

Despite this, the Isle of Dogs is now a pocket of immense wealth since its intense redevelopment in the 1980s. With the arrival of global banks and corporations, and the construction of ultra-modern, almost Star-Trek-esque buildings like One Canada Square, it is now the country’s financial epicenter.

Poplar and Limehouse. Pic. Mapit

However, just a stone’s throw away from the glossy office blocks, wards like Poplar, Shadwell and Blackwell are afflicted by poverty and unemployment – with statistics showing that levels of deprivation are only getting worse.

Voices from the street:

“I’m voting Labour – never Tory here – not in Tower Hamlets!”

Jem Colmer, 35, Technical Support Assistant

“The way Apsana has been treated by the media is appalling, really horrible. But it’s like that all over country with Labour”

Bex Appru, 58, Market Stall Owner 

Although Poplar and Limehouse as a constituency was only created in 2010, earlier seats covering the Isle of Dogs were consistently dominated by the Labour Party since the 1920’s.

Jim Fitzpatrick has held the constituency for Labour with a strong majority since 2010 but is not seeking re-election. He is likely to be succeeded by Apsana Begum, despite allegations of anti-Semitism, and consistent criticism from the Tower Hamlets Conservatives regarding her previous employment under the ousted ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Candidates for 2019 General Election:

Begum was born and raised in Shadwell. She got involved in politics because of her own familiarities with the deprivation and inequalities people experience in the area.

Before she stood for Labour candidacy, Begum served as a CLP Equalities Officer for Tower Hamlets Council. Her main pledges are supporting worker’s rights, increased funding for education, and improving social housing. Begum told Eastlondonlines: “I’ve consistently supported a new kind of politics – building trust among ethnically diverse and working-class members.”

Begum’s biggest competition is the Liberal Democrat candidate Andrew Cregan, who saw a late surge in the polls last week.

He was originally a Labour Party member before he defected to the Liberal Democrats in 2016, following the Brexit referendum and his frustration with Jeremy Corbyn’s stance over Europe.

Cregan views the future of Britain through the paradigm of Brexit and believes that a second referendum, backed by party leader Jo Swinson, is crucial.

Cregan told Eastlondonlines: “The way that [Jeremy] Corbyn has acted over Brexit is pathetic, and if they can’t decide on how to deal with what we have to do to survive this political turmoil, how are they going to run the country?”

Sheun Oke is the Conservative candidate. Speaking on Channel S, for a live TV hustings alongside her rival Begum, Oke said: “My mission is to have a system here in Tower Hamlets where you can create a breach between the rich and the poor – it is my mission to open doors.”

Catherine Cui is the Brexit candidate and has support from BAME and ethnic minority groups in Poplar and Limehouse. If she were to win the seat on December 12, she would become the first female Chinese MP in the history of Britain.

Cui told Eastlondonlines: “I want what everyone wants in Tower Hamlets. No more corruption. An end to poverty. More investment in the area and a reduction of crime.”

Full list of candidates:

  • Apsana Begum, Labour Party
  • Andrew Creegan, Liberal Democrats
  • Sheun Oke, Conservative Party
  • Catherine Cui, Brexit candidate
  • Neil Jameson, Green Party
  • Andy Irlam, Independent

2017 General Election results:

Result: Labour HOLD (Majority: 27,712, 47.2%)

Turnout: 58,814 (67.3%)

Labour Jim Fitzpatrick 39,558 67.3 +8.7
Conservative Chris Wilford 11,846 20.1 -5.3
Liberal Democrats Elaine Bagshaw 3,959 6.7 +2.5
Independent Oliur Rahman 1,477 2.5 N/A
Green Bethan Lant 989 1.7 -3.1
UKIP Nicholas McQueen 849 1.4 -4.7
Independent David Barker 136 0.2 N/A

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