Vote2015: Bethnal Green and Bow
My constituency has no part to play in the General Election campaign because the elected MP is a dead cert. It wasn't always thus. In 2005 George Galloway caused a sensation by swiping the seat for his Respect Party, then in 2010 he walked away, making Bethnal Green and Bow one of only three Labour gains at the last election. Our current incumbent is Rushanara Ali, Britain's first Bangladeshi MP, and she will be again in a month's time. And we know this because the only potential flies in the ointment were Respect and Tower Hamlets First, the latter the council's ruling party, and they're not standing. Eleven candidates were announced yesterday, and neither of Labour's most feared opponents are on the list. So you can totally ignore the following if you like, your vote won't affect the outcome here. But there will be some fascinating candidates on the ballot paper, if you're thinking of marking your cross elsewhere.
✗ Rushanara Ali (Labour): The incumbent, and former Shadow Minister for International Development, Rushanara moved to Tower Hamlets at the age of seven and is Oxford-educated. She resigned from the Labour front bench last year over military action in Iraq, and is one of Westminster's more prolific despatchers of Written Questions. Last time round she earned 43% of the vote, and with Respect gone will likely increase the percentage this time. So far, the only candidate to have sent me a leaflet. Lives in West Ham. [website][twitter][facebook]
✗ Teena Lashmore (Liberal Democrat): On past standing the Lib Dems should be coming second in this constituency, indeed 25 years ago the borough had a distinctly orange slant. But past standing counts for little in the aftermath of a Coalition, so Teena will struggle to improve on her predecessor's 20%. Her background is in supporting those leaving custodial care, and she was recently elected Vice Chair of EMLD (Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats). Based in Hackney, her bio struggles somewhat for specific local resonance, highlighting that she has "extensive experience in community issues in and around Victoria Park". [website][twitter]
✗ Matt Smith (Conservative): No, not the actor - this Matt's a young Oxford-educated solicitor. He's lived in Bethnal Green "for the best part of a decade", during which time he's fought (and lost) several local elections. He's also embraced socialmedia, being the only local candidate to be regularly reporting back on his campaigning activities, and is a dab hand at standing in front of things he deems important for a photo opportunity. Unfortunately for Matt most of Tower Hamlets' Conservatives live in its other constituency nearer the Thames (Poplar and Limehouse), and last time round the party polled only 13% in Bethnal Green and Bow. [website][twitter][Flickr][youtube]
✗ Alistair Polson (Green): The Greens are the fourth and final party who were also on the ballot paper last time, and will be hoping not to lose their deposit again in 2015. Alistair is another refugee from the legal profession, a barrister, this for 20 years longer than Matt. He also blogs, with a particular nod towards local health services, though has been writing rather less frequently since the campaign began. [blog][twitter][local party]
✗ Paula McQueen (UKIP): You have to admire the guts of anyone willing to stand on an anti-immigrant platform in one of the most ethnically diverse constituencies in the country. Or the stupidity. Paula's husband is standing for UKIP across the road in Poplar and Limehouse (and is the cousin of the designer Alexander McQueen). [facebook]
And then the 'other' candidates...
✗ Rowshan Ali (Communities United Party): Rowshan has an incredibly similar name to the sitting MP, and will be appearing just above her on the ballot paper, creating the potential for a few mixed-up votes. Interestingly 'Rowshan' is his middle name, so presumably the resemblance was deliberate? Whatever, a bit of online digging reveals that Mr Ali is a social entrepreneur who wants to "work tirelessly to bring back politics into our local communities."
✗ Elliot Ball (The 30-50 Coalition): So named because it links "the Idealism of the Young (Under 30) with the Life-Experience of the Mature (Over 50)", the 30-50 Coalition is a campaign with a love of unnecessary capital letters. It's also a true one-off, an idealistic fight for the introduction of independent non-Party-aligned MPs, and aims to bring about nationwide constitutional reform via a single electoral success in Bow. Their candidate is Elliot Ball, a student at LSE and a charity volunteer. I'd be willing to bet that by the day of the election, at least 30-50% of the electorate will have no idea what he represents. [website][twitter][facebook]
✗ Jonathan Dewey (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol): CISTA's candidate is campaigning on a single-issue platform - the introduction of a Royal Commission to review Britain's drug laws. You may laugh, but they've managed to mobilise candidates in constituencies across the UK from Belfast to Woking, so there may be a splifftastic opportunity on your own ballot paper. Bethnal Green and Bow's candidate is "successful entrepreneur and family man" Jonathan Dewey, who wants to be "a part of the push for evidence-based policy-making". [website][twitter][facebook]
✗ Alisdair Henderson (Whig Party Candidate): No, this is not an episode of Blackadder III, it really is possible to vote Whig in Bethnal Green and Bow (and in Camberwell and Peckham, Vauxhall, and Stretford and Urmston too). Alisdair is another Oxford-educated barrister, smart-suited and married with a one year-old daughter. He says "I would have been a Whig if I’d been alive in the 19th Century", and now wants to push for "vintage political principles that have stood the test of time, reworked for the 21st Century". His is a solid left-of-centre position, but I doubt his claim that "Everyone's a little bit Whiggish". [website][twitter][facebook]
✗ Jason Pavlou (Red Flag - Anti-Corruption): Jason is Managing Director of a wide-format printing company, specialising in vinyl outdoor banners, and lives in Croydon. His party has been a driving force behind the fraud investigation into Lutfur Rahman's 2014 Mayoral Election, and the red flag in question stands for "democratic, sensitive change", not for socialism. [website]
✗ Glyn Robbins (Left Unity - Trade Unionists and Socialists): There's a party name that leaves nothing to the imagination. Glyn is a worker and activist in housing, urban regeneration and the voluntary sector, and recently completed a PhD on the impact of mixed use property development. He blogs infrequently, and has been known to write for the Guardian and the Morning Star. [website][twitter][facebook]
✓ If you're local and interested in these things, I've put together a Twitter list for the seven candidates whose accounts I've managed to uncover (or see here).