THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION has radically revised its proposals for new parliamentary boundaries in Tower Hamlets – and in doing so it has given sitting MP for Bethnal Green & Bow Rushanara Ali something of a lifeline.
The Boundary Commission’s first proposals included sending the four wards in the north west of the borough up to form a new parliamentary seat with South Hackney, and the four wards in the north east of the borough to form a new joint seat with Stratford. That would have seen Rushanara Ali, currently MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, lose her two most concentrated areas of support and would have left her with little option than to go for inheriting the seat of Poplar & Limehouse from Jim Fitzpatrick.
However, the Boundary Commission proposals have been substantially changed. The four wards in the north west of Tower Hamlets (Bethnal Green, Spitalfields & Banglatown, St Peter’s, Weavers) will go into a new seat of Shoreditch & Bethnal Green, straddling Tower Hamlets and South Hackney. The Tower Hamlets Bangladeshi population based around Spitalfields will have little in common with the Shoreditch wards, where Black rather than Asian people constitute the non-white population. Nonetheless, it is likely that Meg Hillier, sitting MP for Hackney South, will be looking to take over this seat.
The four wards in the north east of the borough (Bow and Bromley) will no longer form a new seat with Stratford. Instead, the six wards in the south east of the borough (Blackwall & Cubitt Town, Canary Wharf, Island Gardens, Lansbury, Limehouse, Poplar) will join with five wards from Newham Newham (Canning Town North, Canning Town South, Custom House, Plaistow North, Plaistow South) to re-form an old constituency – Poplar & Canning Town. Again, the (growing) Bangladeshi population of Lansbury & Poplar will have little in common with the black minority and the white voters who have often been a soft touch for the BNP in Canning Town. The seat looks as if it will be as unsatisfactory in its new incarnation as it was in its last one.
This leaves the new seat of Stepney and Bow taking over most of Tower Hamlets, combining the wards of Bow East, Bow West, Bromley North, Bromley South, Mile End, Shadwell, St Dunstan’s, St Katharine’s & Wapping, Stepney Green, Whitechapel. This offers Rushanara Ali her strong area of Bow and the wards of Shadwell and Whitechapel, with their large Bangladeshi populations, as a consolation prize for having lost Spitalfields.
It is very likely that Rushanara will hope to be selected as the candidate for Stepney and Bow. However, it would be a seat which would be very vulnerable to a challenge from a strong independent candidate, so Ms Ali may not have it all her own way.
Jim Fitzpatrick’s Poplar & Limehouse seat will disappear, as its two constituent parts will be gobbled up in seats which sitting MPs who will be hoping to stand again will be contesting. This will disappoint a huge number of parliamentary hopefuls who had been doing the rounds in Poplar & Limehouse wards, hoping their would be a vacancy to contest. Their only hope of establishing a toe-hold in the East End now seems to be to hope that Margaret Hodge will retire.
•For more information about the Boundary Commission’s proposals, or to comment on them (comments must be made before 11th December) go to: