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. This seat along with Poplar and Limehouse could both be gained by Tower Hamlets First in May and be Labours only losses outside of Scotland. I think Candidates have been selected through as its not 100% I won’t name them. (A friend knows the likely candidate for this seat through family connections but is not sure if they have been confirmed yet. Same friend also source for information below). This seat is the most likely of the two (Galloway won this but couldn’t win Poplar) through who knows. Mayor Rahman having his victory overturned certainly would help TH First/Independents chances as they can play victim status. Especially if a new mayoral election clashes with the election (Through this is unlikely as the court hearing is not to the end of next month and there is then appeals and such stuff before an election can be called.) Rushanara Ali Is quite well liked I believe through I have been informed there is an element in her personal life which wouldn’t affect votes in most other places but does have the potential to affect them here. I am not sure if this ‘issue’ existed at the last election or was known about then but I believe it is fairly well known here now and has cost her some but not a great amount of support. In a tight contest this could matter. But on the current circumstances because the best wards for TH First are split between both seats I am predicting a tight Labour Hold here and slightly bigger hold next door but local circumstances may well change this.

  2. The other Communist Party MP was here… Phil Piratin from 1945 to 1950 when it was the seat of Mile End.. also not mentioned in the profile..

  3. My personal view is that this borough was best divided East and West as it was between 83 and 97 because the whole of the old Poplar Borough (Bow and Poplar) was in one constituency.

    The old Borough of Stepney (Mile End, Whitechapel and Limehouse) is sadly divided.

  4. Mayor Rahman electoral trial has began. As there at least 100 witness I believe any overturning of the result lt will be too late for a mayoral election on the same day as the general.and may not even decide before the general anyway. This trial however does the impact of making it quite possible who ever is the TH first/ a pro Rahman independent candidate to win this seat especially as personal issues make Rushanara Ali quite unpopular among the Bengali community here I am reliably told.
    The trial has the potential to cause some serious violence depending on the result which may also impact on this seat may result. I would say TH first have around a 35% chance of winning through events at the high court could quite easily increase it

  5. I don’t see how successful High Court action can do anything other than harm Tower Hamlets First. They won’t be able to employ the same methods again for a start & some of their supporters will not continue to support them.

  6. Remember in this seat there will be able to run a legitimate campaign simply saying the establishment is racist and anti Muslim and they will keep 97% of their actuals supporters and probably find a few more as he is generally popular in this seat. Many people will be putting their fingers in their ears if they told of voting problems.
    They can get 100% turn out of their supporters while Labour cant. Maybe not enough to win but it will be quite close. Green party also have a chance of some support. Quite a few trendy people scattered around here. Would split the vote and help TH First.

  7. Such a campaign was one of the main bedrocks of Galloway’s campaign and that worked.

  8. I smell a big pile of horseshit (and wishful thinking).

    Labour to easily retain a 5 figure majority here.

  9. It isn’t wishful whatever else it is – I happen to know that BM11 is a Labour supporter, albeit an overly pessimistic one.

  10. Perhaps he’s wishful in the sense that he wants the result here to be interesting….it won’t be.

  11. I do still predict a Labour Hold through under present circumstances but no more than a 5000- 7000 at the best. Her ‘personal issues’ are well known in this seat and will sadly cost her quite a few votes from the Bengali community. TH first could also be helped by the Tories have a white candidate this time compared to a Bengali candidate previously as there is a Bengali Tory vote here who may move to other parties due to ethnicity of candidates. . UKIP will stand a chance with some of the remaining WWC as well through they have only about a 30% chance of saving their deposit.

  12. BM11 – What are you refering to when you mention Ali’s ‘personal issues’? How will they cost her votes?

  13. Her love life, apparently.

  14. “Lutfur Rahman’s Allies Are Considering Running For Parliament

    Candidates associated with the controversial Tower Hamlets mayor could stand against Labour under the Tower Hamlets First banner in the upcoming general election”:

  15. Even if they run and split the vote it will be between Labour and THF. That’s based on an assumption that the Respect votes will not go to the Tories. Tory 2010 vote a poor fourth. I’d still back Labour to win it.

    Only question I would have is what sort of Lib Dems are the ones in this seat? Closet Tories, stick-in-the-muds or progressives?

  16. Probably a bit of both regarding the Lib Dems. They ran the council in the 1990’s with one of the their main policy’s being dispersing immigrants throughout the borough and preventing them living in small isolated blocks so you can tell from that where many of they votes came from(Through many of this group would never vote Tory on class grounds) but equally there are many ‘trendy’ people scattered around this seat including lots of students(Queen Mary’s Uni is based here.) Equally a third group of Lib Dems would be Bengalis and the relatively few other Muslim groups who deserted over Iraq.
    I doubt many Respect votes would go Torry especially as the Tories have a white candidate. Quite a few of the 2010 Tory and Lib Dem voters could go easily to TH First simply on grounds of ethnicity.

  17. 1997 in this seat was utterly bizarre. A pro-Tory swing (possibly a racial thing) but also a very strong showing from the BNP and a saved deposit for the continuing Liberal Party.

  18. You’re right Mr. Nameless. In 1997 Labour won this with a majority of about 11, 000. Although that’s a good result under normal circumstances that pretty poor for Labour in 1997 in a seat of this nature. I expected the majority for the 1997 Election here to be at least 15,000.

  19. Oona King was black and female, the Tories selected a well connected muslim.

    The BNP’s first ever council seat was won nearby a few years before 1997. Their result was no surprise whatsoever, given the substantial dockland WWC vote which still existed then (though it’s almost completely gone now).

  20. Teena Lashmore has been selected as the Liberal Democrat PPC for Bethnal Green and Bow

  21. I wouldn’t say the dockland WWC vote had completely gone. By some accounts it is responsible for at least some of the relative Tory strength on the Isle of Dogs wards.

  22. There’s a curious tendency to over-emphasise the size of the Bangladeshi community here. The constituency was just over a third Muslim at the 2011 census, and some of these are Somali.

    There are still plenty of white voters, both in the Docklands and in Bow – more than there are Bangladeshis.

    Yes ethnic affiliation is an important factor in voting, but partly because of this I can’t see Labour losing. Rushanara Ali is of Bengali descent, and the Conservatives, and these days the Liberals, are beyond the pale for many of the electorate here.

  23. Rushanara Ali however is not the most popular person among the Bengali community as I have said before due to so called issues with her personal life and her strong criticism of Lutfur Rahman will not help her. I predict a lower majority than last time but she will most likely hold.

  24. UKIP:

    Bethnal Green & Bow: Pauline McQueen.
    Poplar & Limehouse: Nicholas McQueen.

  25. Some interesting candidates in this constituency, including someone claiming to have revived the Whig party:

  26. Whig Party candidate Alasdair Henderson is standing here.

  27. No kidding nty see the candidates list above?

  28. l’m rather surprised that Tower Hamlets First haven’t stood in the 2 seats in the borough, nor has any Independent with strong links to them. lt looks like 2 much easier Labour holds than could have been the case. l was campaigning with Rushanara Ali in a key marginal 2 days ago & she looks completely unworried, perhaps not surprisingly.

  29. Even stranger that Respect aren’t standing….are Respect and THF basically the same thing now?


    Rahman has been removed from office and the mayoral election has been declared void after he was found guilty of electoral fraud. The Tower Hamlets mayoral election will be re re-run.

  31. I just hope come 2018 we see the back of Rahman and THF. What is it with Tower Hamlets and voting for nasty parties?

  32. ”What is it with Tower Hamlets and voting for nasty parties?”

    I ask myself this all the time. The backwards ‘village’ politics of this council and parliamentary constituency (and Poplar and Limehouse) is shocking! Such a shame as it has some significant London attractions/districts i.e. Canary Wharf, Brick Lane and a part of hip ‘n’ happening Shoreditch.

  33. I wonder if at least some of the local council races should be rerun too. l think one of the THF councillors who was Lutfur Rahman’s agent has also been removed from office, so there’ll be a by-election.

  34. In answer to H.Hemmelig, they are de facto the same in Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets First was basically an amalgam of Respect and independents allied to the (now ex-) Mayor.

  35. If there are any by elections I hope the results get Labour back into this borough and the nasty THF kicked out they are as bad as the BNP as far I am concerned.

  36. LAB hold 14000

  37. Election for Mayor is today.

    A 2 horse race – John Biggs who was behind by 9% on
    first votes last time (2014 May). But when you add 1st and 2nd votes for Biggs, he was only 3000 behind.

    This suggests he is a likely winner against the ‘Independent’, Rabina Khan.

    However, 2014 was a high turnout (was also council elections)…a low turnout may see Khan sneak in.

    Can Labour get their vote out?


    John Biggs elected, picked up 32,754 votes on a 37.73% turnout.

    He’s going to have a job on his hands rooting out the vile political culture in parts of the borough.

  39. There was also a council by-election in Stepney Green ward, for the same reason. This too was a Labour gain :
    Labour 1643 42.11%
    “Independent” (presumably really Tower Hamlets First) 1472 37.72%
    Green 272 6.97%
    UKIP 203 5.20%
    Conservative 158 4.05%
    Liberal Democrat 114 2.92%
    “Something New” 40 1.03%
    The Green candidate goes by the wonderful name of Kirsty Chestnutt. l have no information as to whether she is an old or a not-so-old chestnutt.

  40. I am so glad Labour won both the elections in Tower Hamlets. Let’s we see the back of those nasty people. Hopefully THF will go the same way as Respect and BNP and become irrelevant here.

  41. ”He’s going to have a job on his hands rooting out the vile political culture in parts of the borough.”

    Yes, that borough is a mess due to tribal / village politics but by electing Biggs will give it a fresh start and an opportunity to inject new faces and fresh blood.

  42. I saw an episode of Eastenders today.

    The demographics of the characters being similar to those of 30 years ago.

    Except unlike then there were no yuppies or immigrants.

    A map of Havering or Bexley on the credits would be more appropriate.

  43. Julia Smith did several years of research in the East End in 1982-84, chatting to people in pubs and markets. She based East Enders on people she encountered during that research and basically the character demographic has remained frozen in the 1982-84 time capsule ever since. It happens to pretty much all soap operas. Arguably Coronation Street is stuck in the two-up two-down “can I pop round and borrow a cup of sugar” world which it was based on in 1960, but which hasn’t existed for 30-40 years now. In reality Coronation Street would have been razed to the ground in the 60s or 70s and replaced with a sink high rise estate.

    Emmerdale has tried to move with the times yet made itself look totally ridiculous in doing so. Like Made in Chelsea with a few fields and cows. I fully expect we’ll see the death of the main soaps over the next decade.

  44. Ultimately cockneys draw viewers that Bangladeshis wouldn’t. But I agree that the soaps will probably be wound up within the next decade. The way people, especially younger people, watch TV is changing rapidly and in ways that don’t favour the routine viewing patterns that soaps rely on.

  45. “But I agree that the soaps will probably be wound up within the next decade. The way people, especially younger people, watch TV is changing rapidly and in ways that don’t favour the routine viewing patterns that soaps rely on.”

    I am older than you, and remember how much better the soaps were in the 80s. IMO the long decline of both Coronation Street and East Enders began around 1990 when extra episodes were added per week. Before then both were shown only twice per week. It’s got to the ridiculous level now of almost an episode per day. It’s impossible to get good quality TV from a show which has to produce such an enormous quantity of output. But the advertisers call the shots these days and in terms of short term payback they prefer quantity over quality for high-rating shows.

    This is nothing new – daily soaps have always been total crap. In the 70s/80s Crossroads was the best example, with its wobbly sets and forgotten lines (often the show went out practically live after inadequate rehersal). Later followed of course by Neighbours in the late 80s. Corrie, East Enders and Emmerdale are all now in this same sorry bracket.

  46. “IMO the long decline of both Coronation Street and East Enders began around 1990 when extra episodes were added per week. Before then both were shown only twice per week.”


    Aside from the diminution in quality of output its almost impossible to keep up with the storylines when they are on every day.

    In the 1980s storylines from the soap operas were big talking points – the Ken-Deidre-Mike triangle in Coronation Street or the Den-Angie breakup in Eastenders for example.

    I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone talking about a soap opera.

  47. According to notionals from this site the Conservatives increased their share of the vote in two constituencies in 1997: Bethnal Green & Bow at +4.7 and Greenwich & Woolwich at +0.4: falling back in all other constituencies.

    They held on best in areas where their vote was already very low in 1992 (Dundee, Glasgow, Liverpool etc.)

    Here is a list of constituencies where the Conservative vote held on best where they took over 20% of the vote in 1997:
    * Bradford West -1.2
    * Ayr -4.6
    * Huntingdon -4.7
    * Forest of Dean -5.4
    * Telford -5.9
    * Ribble Valley -5.9
    * Staffordshire Moorlands -6.2
    * Devon North -6.2
    * Maccsfield -6.4
    * Montgomeryshire -6.6
    * Stirling -6.7
    * Bromsgrove -6.9

  48. From my perspective Ayr and Stirling stick out: two very similar constituencies which since diverged along very different paths, Ayr becoming a strong area for the Conservatives, Stirling moving more towards Labour and later the SNP.

  49. Two things I’d like to point out:
    1. The Ayr and Stirling constituencies are effectively demographically identical: they shared very similar voting habits until 1999 when Ayr moved towards the Tories/Stirling towards Labour and the SNP.
    2. George Younger had a massive personal vote in Ayr, so perhaps the 1992 result in which the Conservatives gained +1.4% of the vote and only lost -0.1% off of their very slender majority of 0.3% was a much better result than it first appeared to be given George Younger’s retirement in 1992.

  50. It certainly was a surprise as it was also the second most marginal Conservative seat in the UK in 1987 (behind York) and the most marginal seat from 1987 to be retained by the party in 1992.

    Even more remarkable was the gain of Aberdeen South in 1992.

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