Bethnal Green & Bow

2015 Result:
Conservative: 8070 (15.2%)
Labour: 32387 (61.2%)
Lib Dem: 2395 (4.5%)
Green: 4906 (9.3%)
UKIP: 3219 (6.1%)
TUSC: 949 (1.8%)
Others: 998 (1.9%)
MAJORITY: 24317 (45.9%)

Category: Safe Labour seat

Geography: Greater London. Part of the Tower Hamlets council area.

Main population centres: Spitalfields, Banglatown, Whitechapel, Stepney, Bethnal Green, Bow.

Profile: An East End seat dominated by povery, unemployment and racial tension. The area has a long history of immigrant communities, racial conflict and radical politics. Down through the centuries it has been a home to Huguenots, Jews and now the Bangladeshi immigrant community - in the 2011 census a majority of the seat was non-white. The West of the constituency is undergoing gentrification, with rising house prices in Spitalfields and the galleries and artists of Whitechapel becoming increasingly fashionable. Despite this the seat remains one of the most deprived in the country. The constituency covers Spitalfields, Banglatown, Whitechapel, Stepney, Bethnal Green and Bow and includes Brick Lane, renowned for its curry restaurants, the East London Mosque, Victoria Park and the Royal London Hospital.

Politics: Traditionally this was a solid Labour area, the seat and its predecessors had all been reliable Labour seats since the war. This picture was transformed by racial politics and the impact of the Iraq war on Labour`s Muslim support. In 2005 the seat fell to the firebrand former Labour MP George Galloway under the banner of the Respect party. Having said he would stand for only one term Galloway stood (and lost) elsewhere in 2010, allowing the seat to return to the Labour party. At a local level, however, the area remains a shifting battleground between Labour and the supporters of the Independent former mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman.

Current MP
RUSHANARA ALI (Labour) Born 1975, Bangladesh. Educated at Mulberry School for Girls and Oxford University. Former researcher and civil servant. First elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010. She was one of the first three female Muslim MPs, all elected at the 2010 election.
Past Results
Con: 7071 (14%)
Lab: 21784 (43%)
LDem: 10210 (20%)
Resp: 8532 (17%)
Oth: 3131 (6%)
MAJ: 11574 (23%)
Con: 6244 (14%)
Lab: 14978 (34%)
LDem: 4928 (11%)
GRN: 1950 (4%)
Oth: 15907 (36%)
MAJ: 929 (2%)
Con: 9323 (24%)
Lab: 19380 (50%)
LDem: 5946 (15%)
GRN: 1666 (4%)
Oth: 2155 (6%)
MAJ: 10057 (26%)
Con: 9412 (21%)
Lab: 20697 (46%)
LDem: 5361 (12%)
Oth: 8655 (19%)
MAJ: 11285 (25%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
MATTHEW SMITH (Conservative) Educated at Oxford University. Solicitor. Contested Cardiff Central 2011 Welsh Assembly election.
RUSHANARA ALI (Labour) See above.
TEENA LASHMORE (Liberal Democrat)
ALISTAIR POLSON (Green) Educated at Glasgow University. Barrister.
M ROWSHAN ALI (Communities United)
JASON PAVLOU (Red Flag Anti Corruption)
ALASDAIR HENDERSON (Whig) Educated at Oxford University. Barrister.
ELLIOT BALL (30-50 coalition) Educated at LSE. Student.
GLYN ROBBINS (TUSC) Educated at Wanstead High School. Housing and regeneration consultant.
Comments - 133 Responses on “Bethnal Green & Bow”
  1. Low swing against Peter Shore in the old constituency, Bethnal Green and Stepney, in 1983.

    Only down 1% or so, and a slight increase in numerical votes against the 1979 notional.

    I am not quite sure what the 1979 swing was – I think a Liberal aswell as a Con increase, but I can’t remember whether the Con swing was low or about average – they were still second.
    A Liberal rise would have been well against the overall trend.

    Nevertheless, some slightly better news for Labour in 1983. There were a number of seats in inner London in 1983 where Labour didn’t do too badly.

    Perhaps in 1983 the economic problems of 1979-81 were still having an affect, and it was too early for much development of the type we’ve seen since.

  2. I have the 1979 notional for Bethnal Green & Stepney as Lab 53.9% / Lib 16.2 and the 1983 result as Lab 51.0% / Lib 30.4%.

    Bow & Poplar was 1979 Notional Lab 59.0% / Lib 13.7% and 1983 Lab 49.6%/ Lib 31.3%….so the swing away from Labour in the West of Tower Hamlets was less than the East.

  3. Bow & Poplar would probably have had a lower ethnic minority population than Bethnal Green. The Liberals were very effective at running borderline racist campaigns in TH and capturing much of the WWC vote, which has almost completely disappeared from the area now.

  4. ” There were a number of seats in inner London in 1983 where Labour didn’t do too badly.

    Perhaps in 1983 the economic problems of 1979-81 were still having an affect, and it was too early for much development of the type we’ve seen since. ”

    Demographic change, namely and increase in non-white voters, would have helped Labour between 1979 and 1983.

  5. Also the closure of the last remaining docks in 1980-81 was still a big issue in 1983, in both Tower Hamlets and Newham. There was major resentment especially within WWC communities along the river. By 1987 some of these voters were clearly prepared to vote for Thatcher, in Newham South particularly, but in 83 most stayed with Labour.

  6. It was commonly believed that the extraordinary strong performance of the Conservatives in Newham South was down to redevelopment and gentrification. While the is some evidence of this it may have been more to do with massive WWC support in the traditional Victorian terraces further North. Pete has calculated that it would have reverted to being a safe Labour seat had it still existed. Much of the WWC population has moved out of the Victorian terraces and much of the riverside developments and now dominated by buy to let and look fairly run down now.

  7. Thanks – good points all.

    By the way, I used to know a lady called Jane Emerson who used to put in an energetic fight for the Tories in the 1990s. She stood in Peter Shore’s seat in 1992 and used to hold quite entertaining social events in St Katherine’s Dock, where I see she almost won a seat in 1998. Gradually the Con vote moved up in parts of the area, and has done since.

    I don’t know what happened to her – politically, career, maybe family.

  8. I agree with all those points.

    Bow and Poplar would have been more white in the early 80s than Bethnal Green which contained Spitalfields and Whitechapel, which even back then was fairly heavily Bangladeshi. In part, one can blame Tower Hamlets Council for this division as it was the way in which they housed people which caused the division.

    The same has to be said for Newham. Newham Council housed most of the ethnic minorities who moved into the borough in Stratford, Forest Gate, bits of Plaistow and Upton Park thus leaving the extremely working class Canning Town, Custom House, North Woolwich and South East Ham largely White. This explains why the Tories did so well in Newham South towards the end of Thatchers tenure and had nothing to do with the Newham Docklands gentrifying. Those people who managed to get jobs in the then new Canary Wharf complex either lived very close to the site or in Essex or other parts of London. Very few moved into Newham.

  9. The Conservative Party is investigating sectarian pro-Muslim leaflets by Newham Conservatives. Political Scrapbook has the leaflets. They pledge free parking outside Mosques, no betting shops etc. Another leaflet criticises gay white Council officers and Labour Cllrs “caught with their pants down.” Newham Tories admit they have ex Respect members standing for them. Indeed, a Tory leaflet says “We Want Respect” [for Muslims] confusingly.

  10. Ex-Respect people standing for the Conservatives? What kind of political gymnastics does that involve for goodness sake?

  11. The common factor is of course hatred of the Labour Party, or perhaps a failed attempt to be selected for a council seat for Labour which is often a reason for defection to other parties. Myself, I can’t really get my head round it. Can you imagine me joining the Tories if I failed to get selected for somewhere? My principles or ideology are there & won’t be changed.

  12. There was some time ago a Left List (SWP) councillor who defected to the Conservatives. There’s a former Lib Dem standing for the BNP, and today while out canvassing in Broomhill we met a voter who was voting Green in the locals and UKIP in Europe.

    Strange things do happen, and personalities who feel they “deserve” selection can make irrational moves if it doesn’t happen.

  13. The Greens at locals/UKIP at Europe at least makes abit more sense – sounds like a protest voter more than anything. But quite clearly it’s a huge leap from Respect to the Conservatives. Could well be jaded would-be candidates.

    If there’s one type of politician I truly despise, it’s the people who defect after having failed to get selected as candidates, and then usually have the cheek to claim the defection was actually a matter of political principles. I’m thankfully never to have known someone like that first-hand, but I know of people who have, and I feel for them having to deal with some disgusting behaviour.

  14. I do wonder why former Respect people criticise being gay (referring to Lancs Observer’s post) when even Galloway voted in favour of same the sex marriage bill at the 2nd reading. Or do they have no clue he did?

    As for weird political defections, there’s been a couple of them in Rotherham. Perpetual BNP candidate Marlene Guest used to be a Lib Dem and so did the English Democrats’ David Wildgoose. If you consider the image of those parties, it seems like the weirdest political journey of them all. Especially as the Lib Dems were seen as the most ‘bleeding heart’ types of the three main parties.

  15. Re the Greens being voted for at one type of election but not another, that partly explains how they’ve got local representation in a few places that don’t seem to have the bohemian type demographic as Brighton. The weirdest place they have councillors in is Chelmsley Wood which is a spillover estate from Birmingham and is located in Solihull. There’s also an odd councillor (or two) in Nuneaton, Dudley, Braintree and Rochford.

  16. And the most remarkable thing about the Green in Chelmsley Wood is that it’s a ward where not too many years ago, the BNP were doing very well. I can’t remember whether they actually won a council seat there once, or cam very close to winning one.

  17. No UKIP in Chelmsley Wood. As Adam says this is a classic alienated WWC electorate, which has moved from Labour through Liberals and BNP to the Greens. Even the Conservatives have won in Chelmsley Wood.

    If UKIP were to get their act together they would win easily – the Green vote is pure protest.

  18. Yes, I agree that Green/LD to UKIP/BNP or vice versa is just anti-establishment individuals. Respect>Tory is VERY odd, but then Tower Hamlets Bengali politics is. IIRC one Cllr has been in 5 Parties if you count Ind.

  19. A short round up of how the betting has been going for the Tower Hamlets Mayoral election.

  20. BBC – Tower Hamlets have given up counting the Bromley ward.

    Coming back tomorrow.

  21. Tower Hamlets council currently stands at Lab 18, Tower Hamlets First 18, Conservative 4:

    Popular votes with 2 wards to declare:

    Lab 29,588 (34.41%)
    THF 26,136 (30.40%)
    Con 9,560 (11.12%)
    Green 7,685 (8.94%)
    LD 5,250 (6.11%)
    UKIP 4,485 (5.22%)
    TUSC 1,890 (2.20%)
    Ind 1,002 (1.17%)

  22. A first-hand account of recent events at the Tower Hamlet count:

  23. It’s depressing how TH is seemingly being transformed into some kind of mini-Sylhet.

  24. Rubbish. Only your over active imagination thinks it is. You shouldn’t believe everything you read.

  25. Ouch.

  26. AM – I have no knowledge of the borough. Seeing your response to Neil, and having read the Gilligan article in the Telegraph, what aspects of the article are wrong in your view?

  27. Two people arrested in Tower Hamlets in connection with electoral irregularities – Grauniad reporting. Report here:-


  28. Nothing out of the ordinary there then. I’m surprised allegations of electoral fraud are even considered news worthy in the Banana Republic of Tower Hamlets.

  29. AM never replied to Chris K’s post.

    I, for one, would never be putting off voting in person at a polling station atall.

  30. A very interesting seat what with the emergence of Tower Hamlets First. I think something like this may be possible:
    LAB 41
    THF 23
    CON 12
    GRN 11
    LD 10
    UKIP 5

  31. I would probably put a margin of error of +/- 4% on it due to the unknowns of how the Respect voters will go and how much and from whom Tower Hamlets First will draw in a GE.

  32. Will THF stand here? And would they really get that close to Labour?

  33. They have a popular Mayor and did very well in the locals. I feel they may be a longer-term, more dug in replacement for Respect.

  34. Why on earth would the Greens get 11%?!?!
    And I think that 10% will probably be beyond us, particularly if THF stand.

  35. Great shame that there’s so much corruption and underhand ‘ tribal/village politics’ in this seat and across this borough

    Hard to believe that one of the main financial centres of the world is in this borough.

  36. Iain – almost all his predictions have a grossly inflated Green vote. I am not sure whether Tower Hamlets First regards itself as more than a purely municipal party yet – they may or may not stand in a general election.

  37. I’ve noticed, but it is normally with the excuse that ‘the Lib Dems did well last time so the Green vote is bound to grow’.

    What’s the excuse here?

  38. Current prediction for 2015-
    Ali (Labour)- 51%
    THF- 18%
    Conservative- 12%
    Liberal Democrat- 8%
    Green- 6%
    Respect- 3%
    UKIP- 2%


    Lutfur Rahman accused of postal ballot fraud, accusations being submitted to the high court tomorrow.

  40. I have zero sympathy for Labour on this. They have frustrated and opposed all attempts to tighten up the ludicrously lax postal voting on demand system which they themselves introduced. And to be frank, when Mayor Rahman and his acolytes were in the Labour party, far from petitioning against these practices, Labour allowed them to go on (not just here, but in other places such as Birmingham), and launched blistering attacks on opponents for suggesting fraudulent activity. Labour have been hoist by their own petard, their chance of success on this blunted by their own sorry history of postal vote fraud, and the success of the Harriet Harman approach of deeming it unacceptable to question whether certain Asian communities are prone to “industrial scale” electoral fraud. Serves them right.

  41. hard to argue with any of that

  42. I think HH is probably spot on with this.
    I was just thinking the same earlier on.

    The whole thing is an utter disgrace, whoever is doing it.
    Electoral fraud in central London with the wet liberal media classes tut tutting at anyone who dares suggest it.

  43. I have to say I’m not aware of all the details of this – it’s such a catalogue I don’t read it all – but I’m open to it being true.

  44. Matthew Smith selected by Tories in Bethnal Green & Bow:

  45. Mr. Smith has a bright future ahead of him after the Tories jump from fourth to second almost by default.

  46. Yes, a safe Tory seat beckons for him…

  47. It’s not quite as easy as that to find a safe Tory seat I think. Some very good candidates spend decades trying to find one without success. The same is true for the other parties.

  48. It was meant in a slightly light-hearted way.

    I do think we might hear more about Matthew Smith in the future though- I think the future Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire and later Bromley and Chislehurst Eric Forth contested his first electoral contests in the old Bethnal Green seat.

  49. The Respect Party will only be standing in this seat if Tower Hamlets First does not.

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