Greater London in Focus
LexElects: Greater London in Focus
London is a Labour city, or so goes the received wisdom, although the south west has historically tinged yellow and the Tories have long put up a fight in the seats bordering Essex and the Home Counties. As things stand, 45 out of the capital’s 73 seats are red-leaning, with two Lib Dems and the rest held by the Conservatives. With a Labour mayor and a solidly anti-Brexit population – six in ten Londoners backed Remain – this ought to be part of the country where Jeremy Corbyn can be confident about Labour’s prospects. Yet whilst there is little danger of his Islington North seat changing hands (his majority was 21,194 in 2015), the party’s grasp of the capital appears to be slipping, with the Conservatives polling well ahead. For Labour, the 2017 election in London is a race to cling on; for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems there is everything to play for.
London in Numbers
Brexit and ‘May versus Corbyn’ are perhaps the dominant issues in this election and both have the potential to reshape London’s electoral map.
Younger, more diverse and more pro-immigration that the rest of the UK, in London the rights of EU citizens, concern about the impact of Brexit on the economy and even Corbyn’s shaky record on antisemitism will all be salient issues for the capital’s electorate come June 8th. Prominent Brexiteers – not least Labour’s Kate Hoey in Vauxhall and Conservative MP James Berry in Kingston – may find themselves facing tough questions.
Buoyed by Sarah Olney’s recent Richmond by-election win, the Lib Dems have their sights set on the capital, and particularly on regaining ground lost in 2015 to the Conservatives south of the river. With heavyweights including Sir Vince Cable and Simon Hughes hoping to return to the political stage by exploiting dissatisfaction over Brexit, the party of Remain finds itself on strong footing in seats such as Twickenham and Bermondsey.
Labour meanwhile is likely to be harmed by the low standing of Jeremy Corbyn. While the Labour leader inspires adulation among large sections of the party membership, the wider public is far from impressed and he is clearly a drag on the party’s standing. Despite winning the mayoral election just a year ago Labour now trails the Conservatives by 9% in London.
The Corbyn factor means that few seats are totally safe for the party outside of its stronghold of inner north London. Seats that were red under New Labour but turned blue in 2010 or 2015, like Finchley & Golders Green and Harrow East, are likely to stay solidly Conservative. Equally, a number of Labour-held seats gained two years ago are dangerously marginal, with less than 1,000 votes in it, including Ealing Central & Acton, while seats like Harrow West and Tooting are looking shaky. In key marginals like Brentford & Isleworth and Ilford North, Corbyn’s unpopularity may pave the way for Tory victories.
For Labour, the saving grace might be the incumbency factor; Tulip Siddiq’s personal prominence in Hampstead and Kilburn might give her a fighting chance, despite there being only 1,138 votes in it, while Karen Buck will be hoping that her 20 years of service will be enough to keep her safe in Westminster North. Overall, this is an election being fought by familiar candidates; only two London MPs are stepping down and at least six former MPs are hoping to win back their seats. Three are Conservatives, three are Lib Dems – and all are in seats to watch closely come election night.
Seats in focus
Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Neil Coyle, Labour
EU Referendum Result
Sir Simon Hughes, Lib Dem
In the gloom of the 2015 election, Neil Coyle’s win in Bermondsey and Old Southwark was one of the only positives for Labour. Coyle ousted Lib Dem Simon Hughes after 32 years with a 14 point swing; the question is whether he will be able to replicate it two years on. He won with the seat’s smallest majority (4,489) in 15 years and the Lib Dems have set their sights on taking it back. The fact that Hughes has chosen to throw his hat back in the ring will no doubt boost their chances; his local popularity was not enough to save him in 2015 but may encourage voters to give him a second chance, especially in light of Bermondsey’s 72% pro remain vote. Meanwhile, Coyle – though a relatively centrist Labour MP – will be battling the Corbyn question on the doorstep, and will have to face down questions about his decision to nominate the now-leader in 2015. Bermondsey and Old Southwark is undoubtedly a bellwether seat for the Lib Dems in the capital, if Labour loses it then we can expect other Remain constituencies to turn yellow too.
Dagenham & Rainham
Jon Cruddas, Labour
EU Referendum Result
Julie Marson, Conservative
Dagenham & Rainham has been Labour since the seat came into being in 1945 but the 2015 general election saw UKIP successfully target the constituency’s white working class voters to finish second on 34% of the vote – a rare success for the party in London. However, this is unlikely to be a Labour/UKIP fight this time. The UKIP vote seems to be collapsing and it is the third placed Tories who really fancy their chances in this seat. They have been quick off the mark to reselect Julie Marson, who has made delivering Brexit her main campaign theme. This will play well in one of the few London seats with a big Leave majority (over 70%). Jon Cruddas, MP for the constituency since 2001, will try to harness the benefit of incumbency by focusing his campaign on his local record but the political headwinds of Brexit and questions over Jeremy Corbyn could really count against him. If the Conservatives win it will be a real sign that working class voters have put their trust in the Conservatives at this election.
Ones to Watch
|Tooting, Dagenham & Rainham and Hammersmith will be good indicators on the night for how accurate the polls are; if these seats fall blue then the Conservatives can be expected to have a very good night.||If Labour can hang on to Ilford North, Hampstead & Kilburn or Brentford & Isleworth then the party will be doing markedly better than expected. These should be easy wins for the Conservatives.||For the Liberal Democrats, Bermondsey & Old Southwark and Twickenham will be the two priority targets. If high profile candidates Sir Vince Cable and Sir Simon Hughes cannot regain their old seats, the Liberal Democrats will be disappointed.|