Candidate Elaine Bagshaw and Tower Hamlets Lib Dems are cheering their result in Poplar & Limehouse; an area Labour has held since the 1920’s and one which incumbent Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has represented for 20 years. Bagshaw was the only challenger from another party that saw her vote share increase since the last General Election--capturing a total of 3959 votes--close to double the Lib Dem constituency result just two years ago and leapfrogging locally over the Greens and UKIP, while also beating controversial independent Oliur Rahman. Bagshaw says the result is a signal that more people are looking to the Lib Dems as a credible alternative in borough politics.
“We heard from a lot of people who feel let down by Labour, who take this constituency for granted as a ‘safe seat’, and ignore a lot of problems. Tower Hamlets has a 49% child poverty rate; the highest in the country, despite Labour having had a very free hand for years to do something about it. Our showing today sends a simple message, more and more voters in Poplar & Limehouse want and expect results--and they’re slowly turning to us.”
Bagshaw is a seasoned campaigner who also ran as the Lib Dem candidate for the area in the 2015 General Election, where she came fifth. Since then, local membership has increased by around 600 people to 730, which Bagshaw says was instrumental in her performance and leaves the local party well-placed to fight a likely by-election in St. Katharine’s and Wapping, following Conservative Councillor Julia Dockerill’s win in the Hornchurch and Upminster constituency, andon to local elections next year.
“We built this local party from the ground up and the growth has been simply amazing in the last two years,” Bagshaw says. “Our prospective by-election candidate, Stephen O’Shea, is already a dedicated campaigner for St. Katharine’s and Wapping.We’re energized by this result and are going to keep working hard to get great local results for people living in Tower Hamlets, while continuing to stand up for a Britain that is open, tolerant, and united.”
Lib Dem parliamentary candidates are calling for a more coordinated response to crime and antisocial behaviour between police, housing managers, and Tower Hamlets Borough Council.
“This borough has some of the worst antisocial behaviour in London,” says Poplar & Limehouse candidate Elaine Bagshaw. “We’re hearing about incidents happening almost daily and the problem is largely being ignored. It’s so bad that many residents are thinking of moving away from their homes.”
Lib Dem canvassers say they’ve been hearing about how severe the problem is all over the borough and have launched a petition to Eastend Homes in Island Gardens to provide adequate security to residents. Stephen O’Shea, who was recently selected to stand as the prospective Lib Dem candidate in a possible council by-election in St. Katharine’s & Wapping, met with Wapping police and local residents last week. They spoke of drivers racing their cars around the area, putting local people at risk.
“The problem of overstretched police resources in Tower Hamlets has left the car racing problem in Wapping to grow,” O’Shea says. “We have residents who are afraid to go out at night to walk their dogs.”
“This is a top local priority--and it’s something I will continue to work on whether or not I’m elected as a Member of Parliament,” says Bagshaw. “We cannot wait to act until out of control car racing leaves someone seriously injured or killed. That’s why we need a properly coordinated plan to tackle antisocial behaviour here and fulfill the job of seeing to resident safety.”
The Island Gardens petition referred to in this article can be found here: http://www.towerhamletslibdems.org.uk/asb_island_gardens
Poplar & Limehouse Liberal Democrat candidate, Elaine Bagshaw, says Labour politicians representing Tower Hamlets aren’t planning for the potential impact of Brexit, pointing to the loss of two European Union agencies based at Canary Wharf as just the start of a wider exit from the borough of Tower Hamlets.
Bagshaw met with staffers at both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority last week. Together, the EMA and EBA employ around 1,000 people and spend around 90 percent of their budgets within Britain. Scientific, and other visits to the EMA, account for around 30,000 hotel nights a year, boosting local business and jobs. Post-Brexit, these agencies and jobs will leave Canary Wharf for new bases in EU countries.
“We have an incumbent Labour MP who has said that Brexit is ‘done and dusted’ at a time when negotiations haven’t started; Britain hasn’t felt the full consequences of leaving the Single Market, and EU agencies that help support our local economy haven’t left yet,” Bagshaw says. “Liberal Democrats fought to have a Brexit impact committee set up on Tower Hamlets Council to help address this lack of due attention.
“With their twin stances on leaving the Single Market, Labour cannot any longer call themselves the party of jobs any more than the Tories can call themselves the party of business,” she says. “The agencies’ departure gives us but a preview of the damage that Hard Brexit is doing to both businesses and jobs. That’s why the Liberal Democrats will continue to support remaining in the Single Market.”
Local Liberal Democrats say they’re encouraged by a letter from over 50 business leaders to the Times newspaper last week backing the party’s candidates over their stance on keeping Britain in the Single Market and Customs Union. Poplar & Limehouse’s Lib Dem candidate, Elaine Bagshaw, says it’s particularly critical for a constituency that hosts everything from successful start-ups to large multinationals in Canary Wharf.
“The letter is both a welcome endorsement, but a dire warning, too,” says Bagshaw. “We’re happy to have the leaders of so many successful British businesses behind our campaign, but they’ve also reminded us how the consequences of leaving the Single Market are very real. Once again, we have another Tory policy - supported by our incumbent Labour MP in his Article 50 vote - that will hit Poplar & Limehouse even harder than the rest of the country, despite more than two-thirds of Tower Hamlets having voted Remain.”
The letter endorses the Liberal Democrats as “the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.” The business leaders go on to warn that it is not possible to have a ‘Hard Brexit’ and a strong economy at the same time.
99% of homes in Tower Hamlets could be eligible for sale to meet Theresa May’s so-called 'dementia tax', according to research by the Liberal Democrats.
The Poplar & Limehouse candidate, Elaine Bagshaw, and Bethnal Green & Bow candidate, Will Dyer, are urging Tower Hamlets’ residents, whatever their party affiliation, to join a campaign to stop Conservative social care plans that would saddle those with long-term illnesses with crippling care costs after their death.
"Caring for our elderly should be above party politics and that is why we want to urge anyone who opposes these plans to come together to stop them,” Bagshaw says. “We’ve seen a lot of Conservative policy proposals that would hit Tower Hamlets harder than anyone else, but this one is especially outrageous, because it would see almost every home in the borough put at risk.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a penny on income tax to boost funding for the NHS and social care by £6bn a year, as well as a £72,000 cap to protect people from crippling care costs.
“Every elderly person who needs care should receive it in the best place for them. People shouldn't have to worry about losing everything they've worked hard for over their whole lives to pay for crippling care costs,” says Dyer. "Together we can stop the so-called ‘Dementia Tax’ and put in place a cap on the cost of care."
Liberal Democrats in Tower Hamlets say it’s fitting the national party chose to launch its 2017 General Election manifesto here, given the the number of policy proposals that directly affect local residents.
Lib Dem Leader, Tim Farron, and party members from Tower Hamlets and around the country, packed the Oval Space in Bethnal Green last week for the launch.
“I’m very proud to campaign on this manifesto,” says Bethnal Green and Bow Lib Dem candidate, Will Dyer. “It’s full of policy proposals that tackle the most pressing issues Tower Hamlets’ residents are facing every day.”
Elaine Bagshaw, the Lib Dem candidate in Poplar & Limehouse, added: “Tower Hamlets is a perfect location to launch a manifesto that has solutions for Brexit, housing shortages, child poverty and the NHS.”
The Liberal Democrats propose to invest an additional £7 billion per year into education for children, tripling the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000.
“The Pupil Premium specifically aims to give extra help to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we have the highest rate of child poverty in the country,” Bagshaw says. “Tripling it, as Liberal Democrats propose to do, will give an important boost to schoolchildren in Tower Hamlets earlier in their education. That’s key to giving them the best possible opportunities in life.
Bagshaw and Dyer also highlight Lib Dem manifesto commitments to reach a housebuilding target of 300,000 homes a year by 2022 and putting a penny in the pound on income tax as proposals that would especially improve life in Tower Hamlets.
“Labour has represented Tower Hamlets, both locally and at Westminster, for decades--and in after all that time we still have housing shortages and a chronically high child poverty rate,” says Bagshaw. “That’s why launching our national manifesto here is an appropriate signal. We’re serious about policy that gets results on these local issues.”