Young, diverse and tending to extremes, Poplar and Limehouse is a curious constituency that is as much about deep-seated deprivation as it is about new wealth. Labour has traditionally been the favoured party here, but the recent fiasco over the Tower Hamlets mayor’s fraud conviction has shaken the community and could possibly have an impact on polling day. Affordable housing is top of candidates’ agendas as the constituency struggles with rapid development and gentrification.
When one thinks of this east London constituency, two images come to mind: the fading council flats of Bromley-by-Bow, where a thriving Bangladeshi Muslim population resides; and the gleaming multi-million-pound penthouse apartments of Canary Wharf, home to bankers and other expensive suits.
Poplar and Limehouse covers one of the most diverse and contrasting swathes of the capital, where poverty and prosperity sit side by side.
Blackwall and Cubitt Town; Bromley-by-Bow; East India and Lansbury; Limehouse; Mile End East; Millwall; St Katherine’s and Wapping; and Shadwell wards form the constituency.
The seat has consistently been held by the Labour Party, with Jim Fitzpatrick winning the last election with 40 per cent of the votes. Tories claimed 27 per cent and the Respect Party came in third with 17 per cent.
Fitzpatrick is gunning for re-election and faces a new slate of opponents, including the Conservative Party’s Chris Wilford, who ran for Tower Hamlets mayor last year against the controversial Lutfur Rahman.
Tower Hamlets has traditionally snubbed the Tories, but that started to change with the rejuvenation of the docklands. Old wharves were turned into luxury apartments, skyscrapers with offices went up in Canary Wharf and the white and wealthy moved in.
The Conservatives won a single seat in a 2004 by-election, then gained seven seats on the council in 2006, including all six on the Isle of Dogs.
The constituency’s population is a young one, with more than half its residents under the age of 34. Asians make up nearly half of the population; 45 out of 100 residents were born outside the United Kingdom, compared to the national figure of 13 out of 100.
The population is also better educated and makes more money than the rest of the country, with 43 out of 100 residents with degrees, compared to 27 out of 100 in the UK overall.
Average weekly full-time earning in the ward is £712 compared to £518 for the whole of the country.
Poplar and Limehouse is still considered a safe Labour seat, although recent upheavals in Tower Hamlets with the mayor’s conviction may have an impact on residents’ voting decisions.
Jim Fitzpatrick – Labour
Born and raised in Glasgow, Fitzpatrick is seeking another term in Parliament. The former fire-fighter first entered Westminster in 1997 representing Poplar and Canning Town. He has held numerous roles in government, including being the former Minister of State for Farming and the Environment, Government Whip and Minister for London.
The 63-year-old, who resigned as Labour’s shadow transport minister in 2013 as he opposed military intervention in Syria, says he is interested in issues of regeneration, poverty, women’s rights, the emergency services and sport.
Chris Wilford – Conservatives
Wilford graduated from King’s College London, where he served in the Officer Training Corps. He later finished his postgraduate research at the London School of Economics on intercultural relations in Tower Hamlets.
In 2014, he ran for mayor on the Tory ticket at Tower Hamlets but received just 8.5 per cent of the votes, coming third after Lutfur Rahman (43 per cent) and Labour’s John Biggs (32.8 per cent).
The 29-year-old has pledged to put local people “back in the driving seat” to improve housing, tackle street waste, fight for jobs, champion free schools and unite the increasingly divided community.
“Our area is a fantastic place to live with its rich heritage and diverse community. However, it has become famous for all the wrong reasons,” said Wilford.
“We need to clean up our politics and tackle the issues, such as over development, that have an impact on our daily lives.”
Elaine Bagshaw – Liberal Democrats
Bagshaw graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2008 in political science and government. She spent seven months as a parliamentary intern to Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone after her graduation, and is now a business change manager at the Financial Conduct Authority.
The 29-year-old said her priority would be to ensure affordable homes are available in the constituency.
“I stand on the issues that matter to local people: increasing the number of affordable homes in the area; investing in education and keeping taxes down for the lower paid. I’ll be fighting this election on these issues,” she has said.
Nicholas McQueen – UKIP
Better known as the cousin of designer Alexander, McQueen is running for a seat in East London with his wife Pauline. She is contesting in Bethnal Green and Bow.
McQueen, 52, also ran for the Tower Hamlets mayoral election last year, coming in fourth with 5.7 per cent of the votes. A florist who supplies flowers to TV shows like EastEnders and Footballers’ Wives.
Maureen Childs – Green
A World War II survivor, Childs, who is retired, is looking to give her time to the community.
She chairs Green Seniors, the Green Party’s group dedicated to older members. She also wants to improve the standard of living of the elderly in Poplar and Limehouse.
The 76-year-old has publicly chastised Prime Minister David Cameron for cuts to the National Health Service (NHS). She is concerned about the possible closure of seven surgeries in Tower Hamlets, as well as a lack of care homes for the elderly.
She wants to address the problem of rising rents and the pressures on residents, as well as the lack of suitable housing for older people.
Rene Magenzi – Red Flag Anti-Corruption
Magenzi is one of two candidates that new political party, Red Flag – Anti-Corruption, is fielding in this election. The other is founding member Jason Pavlou, who is standing in Bethnal Green and Bow.
A community support and social innovation development executive, 39-year-old Mugenzi fled genocide in Rwanda and moved to the UK in 1997.
He studied physics and astrophysics in Kings College London and social and community development in London Metropolitan University.
In 2010, he contested for the Liberal Democrats in a local election in Thamesmead Moorings, Greenwich.
Hugo Pierre – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
He threw his hat in the ring last year for the Tower Hamlets mayor job. Now, Pierre wants Poplar and Limehouse residents to choose him as their MP. He has declared that he supports workers, is against landlords who “rip-off” their tenants, and will support housing association tenants against runaway rent.
Pierre has also said he will back the introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage and promised he will take “the average wage of a skilled worker” if he won.
During his party’s manifesto launch in Canary Wharf last month, he said: “This area that we stand in now is very unusual in Poplar and Limehouse – it’s the biggest casino in the world, these people gamble with our money every day.”
He added: “You only have to go half a mile down the road and you see desperate housing conditions – it’s the most overcrowded borough in London.”