Banglatown & Spitalfields by-election (1)

Did some canvassing in Brune House yesterday. There is a by-election in the ward (Banglatown & Spitalfields) on December 16th. That happens to be a momentous day and is known as Victory Day (or Bijoy) when the Pakistani Army surrendered after a brutal 9 month war in Bangladesh.
That all seemed very far away as we trugdged up and down the stairs in the council block. Talked to lots of people at the door step – most had someone in.
For Greens, the good news was that everyone had heard about us (except for one elderly Indian lady). Three older Bengali gentlemen, even while panting coming up the flight of stairs, all agreed that the Greens had received ‘loads of votes’ at the recent Local Mayoral election.
Actually it was just over 5% and we recovered the deposit. But perceptions count. If they thing we did well, then we did well.
Last March, hardly any Bengali had either known about the Greens or if they had, thought of them as nothing more than a curiosity.
So at least they are now willing to have a dialogue.
The mood was a feeling of disdain for the existing politicians. We got a good reception when we talked about the need for new types of councillors who didn’t jump ship to another party and were just straightforward believing in something.
Housing (as in waiting lists) is still the key. One man told me he was on the waiting list for 24 years and didn’t believe the local Labour promises, adding that land had been sold off for developers. Brune House is dwarfed by a monstrous & really ugly glass fronted office building. This is City Fringe, being gobbled up by the financial sector.
The issue of social cleansing (with the cut in housing benefit) didn’t come up.
With a historic building next door where they used it once as a soup kitchen, this area has seen a lot more in its time.
Language was an issue in about half the flats. Even when communication was possible in English, the conversation became much more animated and friendlier when they heard Bangla.
My Norwegian wasn’t very good though (non-existent). Thankfully that student spoke impeccable English. A few flats were let out to students. Unfortunately, an eclectic mix ranging including Mexican students bemoaned their inability to vote.
Pity. We got on well, talking about the student protests occuring the same time … in a different world in Central London…
We will be back for Carter House in the next couple of days as we gradually get around the ward…

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