The parliamentary constituency of Streatham was created in 1918, and includes Streatham and parts of Brixton, Clapham, Tulse Hill and Balham, all falling within the London Borough of Lambeth. The northern part of the constituency covers the inner city and more densely populated areas of Brixton Hill and Tulse Hill, Clapham Common with its attractive open park space, and following the A23 south includes Thornton and Streatham Hill, and then the more suburban wards of St Leonards, Streatham Wells and Streatham South.
Streatham is a constituency of great diversity, with a long and ever evolving history of multiculturalism, and a rich and complex social mix, which like many parts of inner London includes areas of affluence and poverty often lying in close proximity.
Brixton has long been an important centre for the black Caribbean population, dating from the arrival of the ‘Windrush generation’ in the late 1940s, with many new arrivals to the UK initially temporarily housed in neighbouring Clapham’s deep air-raid shelter. Streatham is also a strong focus for established African, Polish, Portuguese and Central and South American communities, in addition to a growing East African community. When Chuka was elected in 2010 he became the first MP of black heritage to represent one of the three constituencies covering the Brixton area.
Deep social and economic hardship contributed to rioting in the Brixton part of the constituency in the early 1980s, and in Streatham overall unemployment ran at over 10% through the 80s and 90s until Labour came into power in 1997. Streatham High Road (the A23), famously the longest continuous high road in the UK, suffered great setbacks during this period with the closure of many prominent shops such as Pratts, a branch of John Lewis.
However Streatham has seen significant investment and regeneration since the late 1990s, most recently with a new retail and leisure ‘Hub’ established in the south of the constituency, and a Business Improvement District boosting local businesses and enhancing Streatham as a shopping destination for locals and visitors. Brixton, with its longstanding reputation as a vibrant cultural and creative hub, has also seen significant transformation, while also subject to debates about the many challenges presented by such change.