Borough Elections 2018: Tory wobbles in Westminster West End?

by Dave Hill

Seasoned Labour campaigners in the Tory borough stronghold of Westminster are both hopeful and realistic about their chances in the forthcoming elections: hopeful of making significant gains; realistic about their prospects of gaining enough seats to take control of the council for the first time ever.

On paper, those chances are quite small. My work-in-progress with Lewis Baston on an On London borough election guide brings home how steep the mountain is that Labour must climb (just wait until you see the delicious detail). Yet a recent YouGov/Queen Mary University opinion poll found a 13.4% swing to Labour across Inner London as a whole compared with 2014. Were that to take place throughout the whole of Westminster on 3 May, we could have history on our hands.

One ward that can just about be called marginal – semi-marginal, maybe – is the glamorous West End, which embraces Mayfair, Soho and Portland Place, home of the BBC. Local resident Andrew Murray, who writes the always interesting State of Soho, has already noted that Labour has been stepping up its activism round his way. Now he’s picked up on what appears to be some discord among the Conservatives.

West End Tory councillor Paul Church sent out this despairing tweet three days ago:

Church appears to be steeped in the conservationist strand of Conservatism. His stance on property development certainly looks very different from that of his fellow Tory councillor Robert Davis, whose public register of interests has been brought to a wider audience recently. Andrew Murray is not the only person wondering if Church will be defending his seat in a couple of months’ time. He thinks that if he doesn’t it would be “an astonishing own goal” by Westminster’s Tories.

There is a lot of chat about Councillor Church’s position, which I will try to get to the bottom of. What of the other two West End Tory incumbents? Well, Jonathan Glanz is certainly very active on Twitter, sharing news and soliciting email sign-ups. Glenys Roberts, author and journalist, is very firmly anti-Brexit. Labour’s busy trio of candidates are Patrick Lilley, Pancho Lewis and Caroline Saville. Could they be beginning to believe that West End is vulnerable?

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