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London falling – a look at next May’s elections in the capital

August 2nd, 2017

 Stodge give us his predictions

If a week is a long time in politics and there’s plenty of evidence for that at the moment, perhaps eight months will seem a veritable eternity.

Assuming the Earth hasn’t crashed into the Sun or the zombies have taken over or we haven’t had another General Election, May 3rd 2018 will see the next big test of public opinion with the year’s round of local elections and of particular interest will be the London Borough elections.

As Kylie Minogue once suggested “all you can do is step back in time” and if we go back to 2014 the world was a very different place. Labour had an excellent night winning control of 20 Boroughs and taking over 1,000 seats. The Conservatives ended with 612 Councillors in nine Boroughs while the Liberal Democrats lost nearly half their seats ending with 130 councillors and control of just one Borough. UKIP won 12 seats and the Greens four.

In terms of vote share, Labour won 37% of the vote, the Conservatives 26% and the Liberal Democrats and UKIP on 10% each.

The following year’s General Election saw Labour win London by 44% to 35% over the Conservatives with UKIP and the Liberal Democrats on 8% each.

This year saw Labour consolidate their lead in the capital with the Conservatives losing six seats to end on 21 and the Liberal Democrats moving up a net two to three leaving Labour with 50 seats.

With post-election polls showing Labour moving into a small lead it seems 2018 could be another big year in the capital for the Reds.

Looking at the 32 Boroughs, it’s hard to envisage change in many of them – Newham and Bromley being good examples – but where could we see changes in control next year?

Barnet is an obvious place to start with the Conservatives enjoying an overall majority of just one. Both Hendon and Chipping Barnet were held by the Conservatives in the General Elections but both are knife edge marginals and will be high on the Labour target list. At present, a Labour win across the Borough seems inevitable.

Bexley has a Conservative majority of 27 and in truth while Labour ran the Borough at the height of the Blair years (2002-06), the recent election only brought the Party’s vote back to 2005 levels. Yes, the Conservative majority may well be reduced but it won’t be toppled at this time.

Bromley has always had a Conservative majority except for a brief period of NOC after the 1998 elections. 2014 returned a huge majority of 42 for the Blues and while that may be trimmed slightly it won’t be overturned.

Havering is a rarity in London having a large bloc of Residents. One group from East Havering sits alongside 22 Conservatives and forms a working majority of six over a motley group of other Residents, UKIP, whose six councillors formed half their London strength and a couple of Labour Councillors.

It’s a very hard one to read and Labour picked up votes in Romford trimming Andrew Rosindell’s majority. If nationally the Conservatives are doing poorly, the Borough is likely to shift into further

NOC though it seems unlikely the UKIP councillors will survive.

Hillingdon has a Conservative majority of 19 but the 2017 General Election results suggest Labour is on the march. Boris Johnson saw his majority slashed to just over 5,000 (I can see the book “Were you still up for Boris?” selling well in 2023) and Nick Hurd lost ground to Labour in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. As a long shot for a Labour gain at Borough level, this might be a good bet.

Kensington & Chelsea: Recent tragic events notwithstanding, the local Conservatives have a majority of 24 but as everyone knows Labour won Kensington in one of the huge upsets of the General Election. Whether this presages a change in local control remains to be seen but the days of Kensington & Chelsea as a solidly Tory stronghold seem to be coming to an end.

Kingston: The Borough has oscillated between periods of Liberal Democrat control and NOC since the 1980s but in 2014 the Conservatives returned in strength and cleared the Liberal Democrats out at Parliamentary level the following year but the Conservative majority is only 6. Perversely, a Labour recovery could damage Liberal Democrat prospects in Wards like Tolworth, Canbury and Norbiton. I’d expect the Liberal Democrats to be the largest party but gaining overall control means winning six or seven seats.

Richmond: Another borough which has shifted between Conservative and Liberal Democrat control over the years but in 2014 the Conservatives enjoyed a majority of 24 and ousted Vince Cable from Twickenham the following year while Zac Goldsmith was returned with a massive majority.

Two years on and everything has changed – Vince is back with a big majority and Zac got back by a wafer-thin majority. All this points to a Lib Dem resurgence locally and it’s quite possible the Party could regain control.

Sutton: How can this be a marginal I hear you ask? The LDs enjoy a massive majority of 34 over the Conservatives but the Borough is now two very different political areas. In the east, Tom Brake held off a Conservative challenge to retain Carshalton & Wallington but in the west Paul Scully quadrupled his majority and the seat is safer for the Conservatives than at any time since 1992.

In addition, the LDs have run the Council for over 30 years and there may simply be a mood for change. I expect strong Conservative gains in the Sutton constituency and if Labour recovers in Carshalton it could be enough to deprive the LDs of their majority.

Wandsworth: The Conservative “flagship” Borough but the 2017 General Election results told a different story with Battersea turning Labour and Putney now a marginal. Of course, the Conservatives kept control throughout the Blair years. However, Labour has been making slow headway and the Conservative majority is now just 18. I think this could be overturned.

Westminster: Whisper it quietly but if you’re looking for an upset this is the place. The Conservatives have always run Westminster and currently have a majority of 28. However, Mark Field saw his majority in Cities of London cut by two thirds and he is facing a strong Labour challenge next time.

It’s not inconceivable that against a deeply unpopular Conservative Government, Labour couldoverturn this majority.

To conclude, my early predictions for 2018 in London:

Barnet: Lab Gain

Bexley: Con Hold

Havering: NOC Hold

Hillingdon: Lab Gain

Kensington: NOC Gain

Kingston: NOC Gain

Richmond: LD gain

Sutton: NOC Gain

Wandsworth: Lab Gain

Westminster: Lab Gain

To my knowledge, there are no betting markets up for these elections yet but I’ll come back to these periodically as the election approaches.

Stodge is a long-time poster on PB