Capital City “Blues”
Dr Carl Sagan once said â€œyou have to understand the past to know the presentâ€. Looking at the election battleground that is Greater London and its 73 seats, that quote seems strangely apposite.
In 2010, Labour narrowly â€œwonâ€ London in terms of votes but lost a net seven seats to the Conservatives. The swing against the then Government was lower in London than nationally and the latest YouGov poll shows Labour improving its position. The 42-34 split implies a 2.7% swing from the Conservatives – not huge but enough to roughly return the capital to its 2005 status.
It is of course not as simple as that as we know but I will make four bold predictions about how London will vote on May 7th.
1) UKIP will not win a seat in London
2) The Greens will not win a seat in London
3) The Liberal Democrats will not gain a seat in London
4) East Ham will be a Labour hold
Nothing too controversial there but the figures hide some interesting undercurrents in London politics. In 2010, I opined that the barometer elections for 2015 would be the 2014 London local elections. Said elections were poor for the Coalition Parties and excellent for Labour who strengthened their grip on a host of Boroughs, recaptured the barometer Borough of Croydon, took overall control of Redbridge for the first time and came close to capturing Barnet from the Conservatives.
The Conservatives took Kingston from the Liberal Democrats but lost ground to that party in Sutton despite strengthening their grip on Boroughs such as Bromley and Hillingdon. So where does that leave us for May 7th? The best place to start is with the Conservative gains from
Labour last time â€“ Harrow East, Croydon Central, Ealing Central & Acton, Brentford & Isleworth,
Hendon and Battersea.
Harrow and Croydon are very similar â€“ the areas nearest to London are solidly Labour, those further out are solidly Conservative. Harrow East was captured by the Conservatives on a much larger swing (7%) than in the rest of the capital but with only 14% LD vote to squeeze Labour will have a fight on
to regain the seat.
Croydon Central needs a 3% swing to change hands which is more or less what happened last time.
Given Labourâ€™s convincing recapture of the Borough last time, I think this seat will return to the red camp.
Ealing Central & Acton was a target for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in 2010 but the Conservatives prevailed. That said, the Liberal Democrats polled 27.6%. However, the
Conservatives took big losses in the local elections last year and I canâ€™t see Labour failing to win this seat.
Brentford & Isleworth and Hendon look very tough holds for the Conservatives on last yearâ€™s election numbers but Battersea may be different. Won in 1997 by Martin Linton, he lost the seat on a 6.6% swing in 2010. On paper, this looks a good Conservative prospect but (largely unobserved),
Labour made some headway in the Conservative bastion of Wandsworth last year and especially in the Battersea constituency. Itâ€™s a big ask for Labour but there could be some value taking them to win the seat (11/4 with Hills).
Could Labour add to its 2010 regains by pulling back seats like Finchley & Golders Green and Enfield Southgate which were lost in 2005? Both look difficult to this observer and while one or two have posited Ilford North as a possible gain, itâ€™s another thatâ€™s hard to imagine even based on last yearâ€™s results.
Briefly on UKIP, I expect the Party to perform strongly in Romford and Hornchurch & Upminster but not enough to affect the result.
The other key battleground is or are the seven Liberal Democrat seats. These are Carshalton & Wallington, Sutton & Cheam, Hornsey & Wood Green, Brent Central, Old Bermondsey & Southwark,
Twickenham and Kingston & Surbiton.
The two Sutton seats look the best prospect for Liberal Democrat holds â€“ the Party did well last year and the Ashcroft polling of last autumn suggested Messrs Brake and Burstow were secure.
Lynne Featherstone has a huge fight on to hold Hornsey & Wood Green â€“ a recent by-election was a shade disappointing and itâ€™s hard to see her holding back Labour while Brent Central already looks a lost cause. As for Old Bermondsey & Southwark, Simon Hughes has defied electoral gravity on more than one occasion and notably during the Blair years.
That said, the 2014 elections were poor for the Liberal Democrats with the Party forced back into its river strongholds. It wonâ€™t be easy for Hughes but youâ€™d be hard pushed to say he couldnâ€™t do it again.
Twickenham and Kingston & Surbiton look two of the most interesting battles in London this time.
Twickenham looks a tough ask for the Conservatives needing a 10% swing to take the seat but the collapse of the Liberal Democrats nationally makes this feasible.
The Conservatives took nine seats off the Liberal Democrats last year and won Richmond 45-32 which looks very good on paper but the stronger Conservative performance was in Zak Goldsmithâ€™s
Richmond Park constituency. Thereâ€™s no doubt the Conservatives see Twickenham as a big target and will put a lot of effort in as will of course the LDs and thereâ€™s simply no way of knowing how this will go. 9/2 for the Conservatives with Hills looks very generous.
The Conservatives recaptured the Borough of Kingston last May with a convincing majority of eight over other parties but that wasnâ€™t convincing enough for me to call the Parliamentary seat for them just yet. Indeed, at a couple of local by-elections since May 2014, the Liberal Democrats have polled reasonably well. This is another close call and a repeat of the 1997 result (a majority of 56 after any number of recounts) wouldnâ€™t be the biggest surprise.
My prediction then for London:
Labour 45 seats
Conservative 24 seats
Liberal Democrat 4 seats
Battersea Labour at 11/4
Twickenham Conservatives at 9/2