Monday, 27 April 2009

London as the Battleground..

In the 80s and early 90s London was a very Conservative city. Whereas cities like Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool were becoming devoid of Conservative MPs, the Tory power base in Greater London and especially in the suburbs remained secure. Indeed, I would argue the 1992 Conservative election victory was built on the strong performance in London.

In 1997, of course, all that changed. In common with the rest of Britain, the Tories suffered major losses in London. Labour advanced in the northern, eastern and western suburbs, winning seats in Boroughs such as Brent, Harrow, Ealing, Havering and Croydon and picking up such suburban bastions as Wimbledon, Romford and Mitcham & Morden. The Liberal Democrats cut into south-west London winning Kingston & Surbiton, Carshalton & Wallington and Sutton & Cheam. Only in boroughs like Hillingdon, Bexley and Bromley did the Conservatives survive.

In 2001, a small fightback began to the east of London with Romford and Upminster being regained but elsewhere little changed.

In 2005, Labour was undermined by the IraqWar and the rise of Respect. George Galloway won in Bethnal Green & Bow while the Liberal Democrats took Brent East and Hornsey & Wood Green. The Conservatives made some modest advances, regaining Croydon Central for example.

The vote shares in 2005 were Labour 39%, Conservatives 32%, Liberal Democrats 22%.

A YouGov poll in today's Evening Standard suggests another electoral upheaval is underway as the Conservatives regain their former dominance.

Today's figures are:

Labour 32% (-7 on 2005)
Conservatives 45% (+13 on 2005)
Liberal Democrats 16% (-6 on 2005)

Damning figures indeed - a straightline projection suggests the Tories will win 41 of the 73 seats in London which will go a long way to securing an overall majority.

But is it that simple ?

London politically is far more diverse than it was. In Barking & Dagenham, we have the challenge of the BNP while no one seems quite sure what will happen to the Respect vote. The Liberal Democrats have chances in one or two Labour seats while the Conservative-Liberal Democrat battles will be ferocious in south-west London.

East London will be interesting too with a strong Conservative challenge in Poplar & Limehouse as well as the Heathrow third runway issue causing complications for the Conservatives in the west.

All in all, it promises to be a fascinating campaign. I'll make one prediction for now - my seat, East Ham, will remain Labour.

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