A Tale of Two Cities — in Tower Hamlets
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th July, 2007
I was out this morning with LibDem candidate Rosie Clarke, in the Shadwell by-election in Tower Hamlets. It’s a ward of extraordinary contrasts, demonstrating that it’s not just London that is ‘two cities’ (traditionally the affluent West End and the poor East End), but even a small local area like Shadwell. The north part of the ward, around Watney Market, off Commercial Road, houses large numbers of first and second generation Bengalis from Sylhet (Bangladesh) and some white working class, while in the south there are the million-pound docklands flats of City personnel, foreign investors and a few of the artistic elite who got their riverside pads in Narrow Street before it became chic. Profiting from a little burst of sunshine (a rare thing this summer) I later had a meal on the terrace of an Italian café and delicatessen that has become a favourite haunt of Russian ladies who lunch.
Politically, the main focus of the forthcoming battle will be between Respect (whose Councillor’s resignation caused the by-election) and Labour (who currently control the local Council). Whether either can adequately respresent the interests of such a diverse area is debatable — which also poses a challenge for the Liberal Democrats, as a party which needs to be relevant to London’s diverse communities and garner support across economic and ethnic divides.