So what’s going to happen in the East End?
The East End of London will produce some of the most fascinating contests at the next general election. From the end of the First World War, until very recently, Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Barking & Dagenham were rock solid for Labour, at Parliamentary level. Indeed, from 1950 to 2005, Labour won every Parliamentary contest in these boroughs. That has all changed, and Labour faces real opposition in this part of the World on several fronts.
Bethnal Green and Bow was won for Respect by George Galloway, in 2005. The boundary changes will favour Respect slightly, but, as against that, George Galloway is likely to step down. Labour led Respect by 6% in the wards making up this constituency, in the last London borough elections, and this is one of the few Parliamentary constituencies where they have a realistic chance of making a gain. However, if Respect field another high profile figure, such as Salma Yacoub, they may well hold on.
Poplar and Limehouse is now almost a marginal seat. Regeneration of Docklands has created a significant Conservative vote in this seat, 23% in 2005, compared to 34% for Labour. There are now 7 Conservative councillors in this seat, for the first time ever. At the same time, Respect has won a significant following in the constituency, winning 20% in both 2005 and 2006. If the Conservatives do win here next time, it will be their first Parliamentary seat in Tower Hamlets since 1931.
East and West Ham, by contrast, are both very easy to predict. Both seats are rock solid for Labour at Parliamentary and local level, despite the election of a handful of councillors for Respect and the Christian Peoplesâ€™ Alliance. Labour will have no difficulty holding both of these seats, and Respect will come a clear second in each case.
Barking saw a sharp drop in Margaret Hodgeâ€™s vote in 2005, and the highest vote for the BNP of any seat in the country. Boundary changes bring in three wards from Dagenham, each of which elected BNP councillors in 2006. Overall, the BNP won 23% in the constituency in the local elections, compared to 40% for Labour. In the wards the BNP stood, it led Labour by 41% to 34%. In my view, this seat will provide a straight fight between Labour and the BNP at the next election, and much will hinge on whether Conservative and UKIP voters back Labour to keep out the BNP, or back the BNP to get rid of Labour. Labourâ€™s chances of holding the seat should be enhanced if Margaret Hodge is not their candidate.
Finally, Dagenham & Rainham provides an outside chance of a Conservative gain. Labour led the Conservatives by 17% in 2005, and the Conservatives won several council seats in the constituency in 2006. The Conservatives should lead Labour in the three wards that have been transferred from Havering, and have considerable support in places like Eastbrook and Chadwell Heath. That said, if Labour were to lose here, it would indicate a very poor result for the nationally. A significant BNP vote is also probable in this seat, and they should easily push the Liberal Democrats into fourth place.
On Thursday, there was only one by-election, in Tewkesbury DC, Brockworth. Lib.Dem: 639, Con 343, Lab 237, Resident 195. This was a Liberal Democrat gain from a Resident.
Sean Fear, a London Tory, writes regularly on PBC