Tower Hamlets attracts more media attention than arguably any other local authority in Britain. In part, this is because of recent political conflicts – the divisions within the council, the allegations of entryism by religious institutions, and the activities of street-level ‘patrol units’ associated with the far-right. But there are also historical reasons. The borough has a proud tradition of anti-racist and anti-fascist activism stretching back to the opposition to the Blackshirts in the early twentieth century, and it has witnessed successive waves of migration, with the Bengali population being preceded by Jews from Eastern Europe and, further back still, Protestant refugees from France.
This local spotlight explores the politics of Tower Hamlets from a wide range of perspectives, and covers the demographics of the borough, the activities of local government, the history and influence of Jewish migrants, inter-faith work, secular activism and street politics. Going beyond the caricature of Tower Hamlets as ‘Britain’s Islamic republic’, the series examines its complex past and looks at its current challenges, which stem from deep inequality as much as from political conflict.
Public Spirit’s spotlight on Tower Hamlets includes:
- An introductory profile looking at religion, migration and politics in Tower Hamlets by Daniel Nilsson DeHanas (University of Kent).
- An introduction to local government in the borough and the council’s opposition to the far-right, by Frances Jones (Tower Hamlets Council).
- Three reflections from faith leaders and community workers, describing religion and politics in the borough from Anglican (Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney), Jewish (Leon Silver, president of East London Central Synagogue) and secularist (Ansar Ullah, Nirmul Committee) perspectives.
- An introduction to a new research project focusing on Tower Hamlets, ‘Youth Street politics’, by Titus Hjelm (University College London).
- Resources for researchers, educators and policymakers, including recent reports on the city and guidance on recent academic research.