Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) © Yale Centre for Creative Arts
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On the hunt for the elusive Tower Hamlets hustings

Hustings are meant to give voters a chance to ask their potential MPs questions, but in Tower Hamlets they are almost impossible to find.

Nothing beats a good old husting. The bedrock of democratic discourse, these cross-party debates allow you to quiz your potential MPs about local issues, ‘Question Time’-style. Depending on the skills of the facilitator, a healthy debate or anarchic riot then ensues. 

And Tower Hamlets certainly has some of the most pressing issues in the country to consider from shocking levels of child poverty, acute housing shortages, conflicts about Israel-Gaza – and let’s not get started on the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Our hustings are bound to be ‘enthusiastic’.

Come what may, hustings are about the only way you’ll meet the full array of local candidates running to be your local MP. Without these, you’ll just have to rely on party representatives racing from door to door the night before elections to ‘secure your vote’ just as you’re settling down to the latest episode Baby Reindeer. 

Hustings are often organised last minute, especially for snap elections (thank you Sunak). But in recent times hustings have been a particularly elusive event in Tower Hamlets, and attendance even patchier. 

In the 2022 Mayoral Elections, the current Mayor Lutfur Raham was noticeable for his absence at all those hard-to-track-down hustings and rendered all the more mysterious for not having a website or manifesto online. How on earth are you meant to decide between candidates if you’ve never met them and don’t know their policies?

Dedicated as The Slice is to supporting democratic processes, we set to finding our local hustings to share them with you, dear reader. Turning to Google first, the term “hustings Tower Hamlets” returned a smattering of results about hustings dating back to 2022 and 2018. As reassuring as it was that Google doesn’t know everything, this was a dead end.

Unperturbed, we dug a little deeper and searched the local websites of Tower Hamlets’ main political parties, and then the national websites covering the general elections. Nothing there. But at this stage, with a few weeks to go, we weren’t too surprised.

With the rise of social media, we know many politicians are increasingly promoting themselves on social media where they can control the political debate, and get creative with their video editing skills to often genuinely funny effect appealing to the all-important young voter. There was also an impressive spat between Tasnime Akunjee and Ajmal Masroor, both (at the time) standing as Independents in Bethnal Green and Stepney, on Tiktok. So we turned our gaze to social media, scanning the accounts every day and putting notifications on key accounts to be the first to hear about any hustings. No sign.

It was time to don our deerstalker and pipe and get a little more serious. We signed up for all the political parties’ mailing lists hoping to get their newsletters with news of hustings. We went through our little black book of political contacts and asked them directly, only to draw another blank. 

With just over a week to go to the elections, we started losing hope. Where on earth had all the hustings gone? Had Tower Hamlets, renowned for its pioneering political reform (this is the home of the East London Federation of Suffragettes who were instrumental in winning the vote for women after all), lost its democratic voice?

Our search was all the pressing given the controversial nature of this election in Tower Hamlets. Admittedly, elections in Tower Hamlets have long been controversial, not least the dismissal of our current Mayor over electoral fraud allegations when he was last in office in 2014. 

Fast forward to 2024, and the elections are as hot a topic as ever in Tower Hamlets. We’ve had a complaint from a Labour group to the National Executive Committee to deselect MP Apsana Begum for being MOA. The stepping down of the Green Party’s Elizabeth Weight following an anti-Semitic post she reshared on Instagram. And the spectacular rise of Independents whose single policy is to oust the incumbent MP Rushanara Ali and Labour more generally.

In the end, we spotted a comment from a candidate on one of our social media posts – news of our first husting! Hurrah! And a candidate we interviewed for our general election video coverage let us know of two more. It’s snowballing in the sweltering heat of summer, but with only a few days to go, will enough people hear about these in time to attend? We’ll do what we can to make sure. 

Here’s our growing list that we’ll be adding to in the next few days. Check back for updates and do let us know if you hear of any more – we’ll take all leads!

Hustings in Tower Hamlets and Newham

Hustings for Bethnal Green & Stepney

11am 27th June 2024
Marquis of Cornwallis, 304 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AG

Hustings for Stratford and Bow

As this new constituency now includes Newham, some of these are held in Newham.

TELCO/Citizens UK Hustings
6pm Wednesday 26th at St Bonaventure’s school, Boleyn Road, Forest Gate, London, E7 9QD
This may be members of the constituent orgs only

PSC Hustings
7pm Thursday 27th at Durning Hall Community Centre, Earlham Grove, London, E7 9AB

Newham Voices Hustings
12 noon Saturday 29th at Stratford Library, 3 The Grove, London, E15 1EL

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Tabitha Stapely

Tabitha Stapely is the founder of Social Streets C.I.C, a not-for-profit media company using journalism to strengthen communities, particularly those in disadvantaged or neglected areas. Prior, Stapely was a writer and editor for national titles including The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, Elle and Red magazines.

2 thoughts on “On the hunt for the elusive Tower Hamlets hustings

  • This is so helpful! Have been searching myself. None found yet though for Poplar and Limehouse?


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