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Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum gives rousing maiden speech on equality

PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 March 2020

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, calls for the two-child limit to be scrapped. Picture: Mike Brooke

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, calls for the two-child limit to be scrapped. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The recently-elected Apsana Begum has given a rousing maiden speech in the House of Commons.

As the new MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Ms Begum's speech — given as part of a debate on International Women's Day — paid tribute to the east end women who have fought tirelessly for equality.

Ms Begum, who hails from Shadwell, was full of praise for the 'great east end'. Of her home, she said: 'There is a proud working class tradition and history of standing up for our rights; where low-paid women workers have so often been at the forefront of developing trade unionism; and where Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of Suffragettes were explicit in their socialism, advocating a self-organised movement and demanding much more than just charity: they demanded political rights.'

This history has created the pathway for Ms Begum to become the first hijab-wearing MP, as well as the first British Bangladeshi woman elected as secretary of the Tower Hamlets Labour party.

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Though she admits her personal journey has 'not been easy', Ms Begum's speech showed a woman emboldened by the efforts of those who came before.

She is 'proud' of what has been achieved so far, referencing examples such as the battle of Cable Street and the BNP being driven out of Tower Hamlets in the 90's by the Women Unite Against Racism group.

She highlighted her constituency as one with a rich history, but also one which is vulnerable due to its multi-culturalism. She vowed to resist the government's 'divisive politics'. and said: 'I will always stand with my constituency — diverse, dynamic, multicultural, multiracial and with people of different faiths and none, and from all around the world—against intolerance, violence and division.'

In the remainder of her speech Ms Begum highlighted the general inequality which is particularly felt in Poplar and Limehouse. She considers it unacceptable that her constituents live 'on the doorstep of one of the largest financial centres in the world', yet have to endure child poverty, low wages and an increased risk of homelessness.

The politician concluded by calling the east end 'a bedrock of diversity, resilience and resistance', identifying these qualities as crucial in the fight for equality.


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