This constituency has a history of industrial and community activity which reads like a history of the Labour movement, stretching back beyond the great dock strike of 1889. Keir Hardie, George Lansbury, Elwyn Jones, Ian Mikardo and Clement Attlee have all represented this area. It was heavily bombed during the blitz, and more recently - following the closure of the docks in London - it saw the arrival of the London Docklands Development Corporation, which heralded a new era for the area.
The Millwall ward of the constituency elected the British National Party’s Derek Beackon in a 1993 by-election. The victory of the far-right party came in an area where the arrival of Bangladeshis had caused resentment, especially over the issue of housing allocation. Derek Beackon failed to get re-elected in the 1994 local elections but the BNP did well in other wards within the seat and remains active in the area.
It was, however, the Labour candidate - Jim Fitzpatrick - who won the new seat in 1997 with 63.2% of the vote.