The association of a part of East Ham with the name of Anne Boleyn derives from a long-demolished stately home that was correctly known as Green Street House but often referred to as Boleyn Castle, on the basis of a tenuous link with the Boleyn family (the dates appear not to add up to any direct connection with Anne). The Boleyn ward is on the western edge of a block of wards that comprise the core of East Ham. Its northern border is well defined, consisting of the District Line in the area of the Upton Park station, but otherwise its boundaries zigzag through this residential area around Green Street and Central Park Road.
Boleyn was formerly best known as the home of West Ham Football Club, but they played their last match at the Boleyn ground in May 2016. Many West Ham fans feel nostalgic for the place, and complain about the lack of atmosphere at their new home at the London Stadium in Stratford – not to mention the pronounced dip in form since they moved. It should surprise absolutely nobody that the site, now called Upton Gardens, has been redeveloped into 842 densely packed and rather expensive new flats.
The dominant demographic and electoral feature of the Boleyn ward, like the rest of the core East Ham wards, is that at the time of the 2011 census its population was majority BAME (78 per cent) and majority born outside the UK (54 per cent). Collectively, the largest community has its origins in the Indian subcontinent (45 per cent). The 2011 statistics paint a picture of a relatively poor, working class community, but it may be that there has been some gentrification since then, perhaps spurred on by the likes of Upton Gardens and escalating property prices elsewhere.
The by-election yesterday (1 November) was caused by the resignation from office of Labour councillor Veronica Oakeshott, herself elected at a by-election in 2015. She is moving to Oxfordshire for family reasons. Labour has been utterly dominant in Newham for decades, with a complete lock on council representation since 2010 – even before then, opposition tended to be represented sporadically and inconsistently. Boleyn ward has not given the party any electoral trouble over the years, but it did feature in some disciplinary trouble in the 2014-18 term of office. One councillor, Obaid Khan, was suspended from the Labour Group in 2014 and expelled from the party in March 2017. The Labour candidate in the by-election was none other than Moniba Khan, who is married to the former councillor Mr Khan, but seems unlikely to get into the same sort of trouble.
Given Labour’s complete dominance in Newham, it can have come as no surprise that Mrs Khan cruised to an overwhelming majority in the Boleyn by-election –Labour took 1,725 votes to 327 for the nearest competitor, Conservative Fazlul Karim, while Green and Liberal Democrat candidates were even further behind. There was a swing of about four per cent to Labour since the elections in May. Newham has been under new Labour leadership since Rokhsana Fiaz replaced long-serving Sir Robin Wales as elected mayor in the May elections, as Labour members reacted against the sort of expensive development typified by Upton Gardens. The borough seems just as solid, if not even more so, in its Labour allegiances under the new administration.