Will St. Katharine and Wapping ward turn yellow this Thursday?

One of the many problems of Tower Hamlets is the lack of choice for middle-of-the-road voters in both local and mayoral elections. Do the Liberal Democrats provide a genuine alternative or will they fail to turn support into votes on Thursday? Could they turn St. Katharine and Wapping ward yellow on Thursday 3rd May?

The wonderful electoral mix of SKD & Wapping

Because of the very nature of the East End of London there has always been a large Labour following across the borough.

And because of the unique nature of Wapping our ward also has a significant amount of support for the Conservatives.

As with the rest of the borough there is also a significant Bangladeshi demographic in Wapping who may, quite understandably, favour a candidate from their own community over others.

Wapping also has a significant number of EU citizens who can vote. (LW was impressed to see Stephen O’Shea explain the Lib Dem offer to a Belgian friend of Moley in fluent French. Almost showing off, but not quite.)

Thursday’s election will, in our humble and possibly quite incorrect opinion, be greatly affected by national politics and the looming disaster that is the stupidity of Brexit.

(Did we mention LW is not a fan of Brexit? No? Oh well.)

The party that appeals most to these EU citizens could win big.

Given the continuing saga of the Conservative government seeming unable to provide anything like stability while in power and the many issues surrounding the inept leadership and ambivalence to fundamental ethical issues such as anti-semitism of Jeremy Corbyn LW’s take is that middle-of-the-road voters may be turning to the Lib Dems. Partly because they have nowhere else to turn.

This is based on our personal knowledge of the Lib Dems campaign (which has been very well organised and running for many months) and the views of the many Wapping residents we have talked to.

The general weirdness of Tower Hamlets local politics

It is also based on our experience of the general weirdness of local politics in Tower Hamlets which would be anathema to the residents of any other local authority in the UK but which we seem to tolerate.

Time and again LW has found that the traditional Labour voters we have talked to are very reluctant to vote for Tower Hamlets Labour Party.

This does not mean an automatic vote for the Lib Dems. It seems that voters are not just making instinctive choices based on their core beliefs or previous voting.

Instead they are having to think hard and work their way through the choices for both mayor and local candidates and trying to decide which is the least worst option.

Another recurrent theme in conversations is that people are sick and tired of the way the borough is run (or not run) irrespective of who is in charge. In this hey make little distinction between the administrations of Lutfur Rahman or John Biggs.

If voters turn against John Biggs and reject both Lutfur Rahman / Ohid Ahmed (Aspire) and Rabina Khan (People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets aka PATH) then choices for the resident who just wants things to work again seems to boil down to the Liberal Democrats.

The bad news

However even if this somewhat naive view of the Liberal Democrats fortunes in St. Katharine’s and Wapping ward came to pass there is one issue which may be Team Yellow’s Achilles Heel.

A complete lack of experience.

Sure every newly elected councillor has to learn on the job but in Tower Hamlets this is likely to be a fairly robust experience which is not for the faint hearted. Apart from gaining familiarity with procedure, political alliances with other opposition parties need to be forged and adjustments to the realities of being democratic representatives made.

The good news (the same as the bad news)

The Liberal Democrat candidates in Wapping, Stephen O’Shea and Marie Cahill, do have a distinct advantage however.

A complete lack of experience.

LW is of the firm belief that the system of local democracy in our borough is broken and unless it can be fixed the borough should be split up.

And the only way our democratic process can be fixed is by radical change, not more of the same.

This then is where the Liberal Democrats have their strengths. If one or the other (or both!) were elected they would (should?) see Tower Hamlets council with the eyes of a stranger. Everything would be new, everything of interest, everything to be challenged.

Neither Stephen or Marie could fall victim to being a member of one group of tribal politicians or another as they have no tribe to join (well, one).

This assumes that the whole borough does not turn yellow on Thursday 3rd May. Unlikely.

But you never know. This is Tower Hamlets where anything can happen and usually does.

One thing we can all be sure of is that unless there is a major upset at both mayoral and local polls this week nothing in Tower Hamlets will change.

That is the worst possible option.

Whatever you do on Thursday, whoever you vote for, vote for change.

Full disclosure: Christine Trumper of Wapping charity Community Solutions who appears in the Lib Dems video is a personal friend of LW and Moley has been known to help out with voluntary work for the charity. As long as Moley gets tea and nice biscuits. 

LW had no knowledge of Ms. Trumper appearing in this video before this morning. You could have knocked us down with a feather. 


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