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Lodestone Communications

Spotlight on… London

 

Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, London.

London is Labour’s strongest region and they continue to enjoy a substantial lead over the Conservative Party in the capital city. In 2017 they won 49 of the 73 seats in the region, including a totemic (if less surprising than it might seem) victory in Kensington. With the most powerful figures in the Shadow Cabinet all representing London seats (Islington for Corbyn and Thornberry, Holborn for Starmer and Hackney for Abbott), Labour feels confident about their prospects of both holding seats and overturning narrow majorities in seats that have experienced demographic churn, such as Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford and Woodford Green.

But a number of factors may make things tougher for Labour in London than they hope. The political context has shifted considerably since 2015 and 2017. In the last national election (the European Elections earlier this year) the Lib Dems topped the poll in London, while Labour came second. Labour faces strong challenges from Liberal Democrats in several seats that they either hold now or were hoping to challenge the Tories for – this makes it a more unpredictable, and local, race in the capital than Labour had hoped. Both main parties face the prospect of losing seats to a ‘yellow wave’ – although the poor quality of the Lib Dem campaign so far and disagreements between campaign groups about how to vote in certain seats to best prevent a Tory MP are both hampering Swinson’s party.

2017 Results – London

Party page1image5797952Seats (change)

2017 vote share

page1image5799200Share change page1image3694560 2017 votes

Conservatives

21 (-6)

33.1%

-1.7

1,269,000

Labour

49 (+4)

54.5%

+10.8

2,087,000

Lib Dems

3 (+2)

58.8%

+1.1

337,000

 

2019 Projected vote shares

On the face of it, Labour’s stronghold in the capital city is holding strong. YouGov regional polling puts Labour at 39% with the Tories on 29% and the Lib Dems on 19%. But that lead does not tell the whole story – yes, Labour’s share of the intended vote is 10 points bigger than the Conservative Party’s and 20 points ahead of the Lib Dems. But it is down on their 2017 vote share by 16 points, a massive blow. Meanwhile the Tories’ popularity has shrunk by just.

4% and the Lib Dems have piled on votes. What this means in practice is that Labour may well struggle in marginal seats even as it wins city-wide on vote share. Bad news for flagship candidates in places like Kensington and Chingford, who rely on the anti-Tory vote solidifying behind them. Good news for Tories in three way marginals and, perhaps, for a few of the high- profile Labour-Lib Dem switchers like Luciana Berger and Sam Gyimah.

What does it mean?

In 2017, the Labour Party was saved from decimation by two things. One, it’s pro-Brexit voters in working class towns did not abandon them as feared. Two, they piled on votes in metropolitan ‘Remain’ seats. Corbyn’s policy of ‘constructive ambiguity’ on Brexit appeared to have succeeded. On both sides of that story, things look dicier this time and London demonstrates how those metropolitan voters who flocked to Labour last time might not be in the bank for Labour this time around. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party will be hoping that the Lib Dem vote in London does not get too badly squeezed by Labour – in a clutch of seats they are set to come through the middle.

Seats to watch out for on the night

Using the Lodestone Election Barometer, we have compiled a list of seats for each region that are ones to watch – i.e. particularly marginal or particularly telling about the overall direction of travel on election night. Below are our top picks for London.

 

Dagenham and Rainham, John Cruddas

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 45,843
▪ Majority: 4,652
Voters in Dagenham will give us a good idea of where the country stands on December 12th. This majority working class constituency voted convincingly to leave the EU, with 70% of voters choosing Brexit. Just a year later, they returned a Labour MP, John Cruddas with a majority of more than 10%. Two years later and the seat has become hugely important to the Conservative Party. If their young candidate, Damian White, can oust Cruddas then it is a very bad night indeed for London Labour.

 

Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 63,330
▪ Majority: 45
Zac Goldsmith regained this south London seat with a majority of just 45 in 2017, defeating the Lib Dem candidate and previous MP Sarah Olney. Olney is contesting the seat once again – her third electoral battle with Goldsmith, who is a key Johnson ally. Richmond Park voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with the Brexit campaign only winning 28% of the vote. If the Lib Dems fail here, then it is likely that they are having a terrible night in London. This will be good news for Goldsmith personally, but – ironically – it could be bad news for his party. If the Lib Dems have collapsed, their ‘through the middle’ strategy is not likely to pay off.

 

Hendon, Matthew Offord

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 52,185
▪ Majority: 1,072
Hendon voted remain – with almost 60% of the vote in 2016 – but they also returned a Conservative MP in 2017. The Labour Party, who lost by just 2%, should see Hendon as a prime London target. However, the impact of Labour’s antisemitism scandal in this seat with a substantial Jewish community may prevent them breaking through. It is worth keeping an eye on Hendon to understand what scale of impact the Labour Party’s inability to convince voters that it is not institutionally anti-Semitic is having at the ballot box.

 

Kensington, Emma Dent Coad

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 38,677
▪ Majority: 20
Kensington is the most marginal seat in England. Labour’s Emma Dent Coad beat the Tories here by just 20 votes in 2017. She faces a tough, three-way battle to get herself re-elected – the Conservative Party are hoping to regain the seat and counting on the Lib Dem candidate (former Tory MP Sam Gyimah) to split the anti-Tory vote. But those close to Gyimah insist that polling shows him within touching distance of winning himself. The result here will be a strong indicator of how successful the Lib Dems have been at displacing Labour amongst metropolitan, Remain voters.

 

Chingford and Woodford Green, Iain Duncan Smith

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 46,961
▪ Majority: 2,438
This seat is set to be one of the big stories of election night. Chingford and Woodford Green has been a Tory stronghold since the days of Thatcher. Since 1997, Chingford and Woodford Green has been represented by the former Tory Leader and Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith. He has been steadily losing ground to Labour and – in 2017 – his majority was cut with a 7% swing to Labour. Add that result to the popularity of the Labour candidate, Faiza Shaheen, and Chingford and Woodford Green could provide a ‘Portillo moment’ on election night.