We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk


One-horse race for deprived city seat: NEWHAM NORTH-EAST: Labour candidate prepares for victory

Paint was peeling off some homes, a garage had been wrecked by teenagers smashing a car into it and concrete tubs contained rubbish rather than flowers, writes Will Bennett.

Bill Rose, chairman of the tenants' and residents' association on the estate in Newham, east London, wanted something done and Stephen Timms was listening intently and making notes.

Mr Timms is likely to have many such cases to deal with when he becomes the Labour MP for Newham North-East at a by-election on 9 June. Caused by the death of Ron Leighton, it is one of three contests in adjoining Labour-held constituencies on the same day.

Ironically, many of Mr Rose's complaints were about lack of action from Newham council officials. The Labour candidate was leader of the council for four years.

Newham has the unenviable official status of being the most deprived area in England. Unemployment is 18.8 per cent, more than a third of households receive income support and there are high levels of infant mortality.

If the council elections held on 5 May are any guide, Mr Timms will win comfortably. Labour won all 22 seats in Newham North-East, taking 62 per cent of the vote compared to 16 per cent for the Tories and 15 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Timms, 38, a manager in a computing and telecommunications firm, should get strong support from the ethnic groups in the constituency which comprise 55 per cent of the electorate. They include Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Tamils, West Indians and Somalis.

He believes that the fortunes of Newham can be reversed if it becomes part of a prosperous east Thames corridor to Europe. The first step would be for the Government to approve the interchange station in the borough for the Channel tunnel rail link. He said: 'Given the right government decisions over the next 20 years the whole of this part of London could be transformed for the better.'

The battle for second place between Philip Hammond, the Conservative, and Alec Kellaway, the Liberal Democrat, could be close. The Conservatives were ahead by a margin of almost three to one in 1992 but their vote is under pressure this time.

Mr Hammond, 38, director of a medical equipment company, has the disadvantage of being the only major party candidate who does not live in the borough. He is the chairman of Lewisham East Conservative Association in south London and is fighting his first election.

He insists that there is a strong core of Tory support and says any wavering is due to 'a general absence of the feel-good factor'. He is concentrating his fire on Newham council, criticising it for spending too little on education while getting into debt.

Mr Kellaway, 40, an economist and market research consultant, is the sole opposition councillor on the 60- strong council. He is concentrating his campaign on unemployment, housing and transport and, although his ward is not in Newham North-East, his high local profile plus some Tory protest votes may enable him to overtake Mr Hammond.

Candidates: Richard Archer (Natural Law Party); Vita Garman (Buy the Daily Sport); Philip Hammond (Conservative); Jo Homeless (House Homeless People); Alec Kellaway (Liberal Democrat); Anthony Scholefield (UK Independence Party); Stephen Timms (Labour).

1992 result: R. Leighton (Labour) 20,952, JH Galbraith (Conservative) 10,966, Dr JJ Aves (Liberal Democrat) 4,020. Labour majority 9,986.