Labour held Lansbury ward, named after the party’s leader during the 1930s, but lost Shadwell to Aspire. Both wards featured in the May 2018 elections because of competition. Lansbury’s three seats attracted no fewer than 18 candidates – a ratio bettered only by Shadwell where 13 candidates stood for two seats.
Tower Hamlets’ electoral map has undergone considerable changes since the turn of the century. Its internal politics gained further attention in October 2010 after Lutfur Rahman, a former Labour leader of the council, but now standing as an Independent, was elected as mayor after the first count. Following his re-election in 2014, however, a subsequent Election Court found him guilty of various offences and he was removed from office.
Rahman’s followers then divided, with some joining the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) led by Rabina Khan, while others joined Aspire led by the former deputy mayor, Ohid Ahmed. These two parties competed for votes at last May’s borough elections. The effect of this was to assist Labour in re-gaining council control. Since then, PATH has been dissolved, its leader joining the Liberal Democrats.
In Lansbury, Aspire’s vote rose by 10 percentage points but, with Labour’s vote also increasing, it did enough to retain the seat.
Shadwell was another matter. Last May, the seats split between PATH and Labour, with Aspire in a relatively close fourth place. Again, Labour’s by-election vote rose relative to last May but so did that of Aspire and the Liberal Democrats (unsurprisingly, since this is Rabina Khan’s own ward). Aspire’s successful candidate, Harun Miah, was formerly a colleague of Khan’s when both represented the ward as councillors for Tower Hamlets First. Party politics is highly fluid in this borough.
Labour’s second defeat came in Bradford’s Bolton and Undercliffe ward. The vacancy followed the death of former council leader Ian Greenwood, who had only just returned to the council at the 2018 election. Indeed, Labour’s success here probably reflects Greenwood’s stature in Bradford’s local politics since the ward has elected a Liberal Democrat in every election since the current boundaries were established in 2004. Normal service has clearly been resumed with Rachel Sunderland making a swift return as the ward councillor.