Chingford & Woodford Green: East London constituency on a knife edge as abuse of Labour candidate condemned

Labour’s Shama Tatler, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and independent Faiza Shaheen (PA)
Labour’s Shama Tatler, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and independent Faiza Shaheen (PA)

Labour is ahead in a three-way race for a key seat in east London, according to a major poll published with just over 12 hours to go before voters begin casting their ballots.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith is hoping to cling on in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency, where Labour candidate Shama Tatler is ahead on 35 per cent of the vote and the former Tory leader on 26 per cent, according to the YouGov survey on Wednesday evening.

Pollsters have suggested it will be a Labour gain, but stressed it could be close. As it published its latest MRP poll, which put the Tories facing a historic defeat across the country, YouGov stated: “Faiza Shaheen, who was deselected as Labour's candidate, is polling strongly in Chingford and Woodford Green, but our model still places her third behind Labour and the Conservatives.”

It has not been a smooth ride for Brent councillor Ms Tatler since she was chosen at the last minute to fight for the constituency after her predecessor Ms Shaheen was deselected for liking a series of tweets that allegedly downplayed allegations of antisemitism.

Ms Shaheen, who came within 1,262 votes of toppling Sir Iain in 2019, quit Labour and announced she was running as an independent. Assuming that she will win the bulk of the independent vote, she now sits just behind the two frontrunners on 23 per cent, the YouGov survey found.

Just days after Ms Shaheen was not endorsed by Labour, graffiti suggesting that Israel was responsible for the party axing her as the general election candidate was scrawled across its Chingford and Woodford Green party office. “We were really keen to keep this as positive a campaign as possible,”Ms Tatler told the Standard.

“This is about what Labour can bring to a constituency in a city and a country that absolutely needs change.

“And I won't be deterred by some of the nasty stuff that's being posted around me or the campaign.”

It comes after Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper condemned the harassment of Labour candidates, volunteers and staff as they face “intimidation, abuse and harassment” in some areas across the UK.

Videos circulating on messaging apps show activists shouting at supporters of Bethnal Green and Stepney Labour candidate Rushanara Ali, while shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has been the subject of a fake recording shared on social media.

In Birmingham, supporters of Labour’s Shabana Mahmood were forced to call police twice to complain about being harassed while out canvassing over the weekend.

“Some of the stuff that's been thrown my way on a personal level has been particularly difficult,” Ms Tatler, who is a single mother to a teenager daughter, said.

“The impact to me is one thing. My team handles my Twitter account. But I've got members of my family who are on [Twitter] and they've seen some of the stuff that's been thrown at me.

“I think the most difficult thing that we've seen is some of the racial attacks come to me about me being of Indian origin. The fact that I married an English man, someone who is white, the term “coconut” has been thrown about.

“And it's really difficult for my family to see. And they've been really, really amazing at being supportive and not responding. And I've been very mindful to tell my supporters and activists not to get engaged in that sort of behavior.

“But the vitriol that's come my way, for a decision that wasn't even my decision has been very kind of eye opening and it’s kind of worrying that this is what, particularly women, are subjected to.”

Independent Ms Shaheen has received some high-profile backers since announcing she would run against her former party. World snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - who is running himself as an independent in Islington North- have endorsed her campaign.

Ms Shaheen said she received “hundreds of messages from people in my community, who say there are no options left for them”.

"They are tired of the Tories but now feel they can’t trust Labour." She added: "I am standing to give a voice to my community – the community that made me and has put their faith in me. "I grew up here, went to school here and live here now."

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