Wandsworth 2018: the battleground borough that looks hardest to call

by Dave Hill

From the On London Borough Elections Guide 2018:

Labour has an ambitious but not impossible path to winning Wandsworth. They need to hold the five wards where they already have three councillors, and win the three (Queenstown, Bedford, Earlsfield) where the 2014 election produced split representation between the two main parties. This would get Labour to 24 seats out of 60. Taking West Hill would make 27, to 33 Conservatives.

Getting to 31 requires Labour picking up four seats from wards that had larger Conservative majorities than West Hill. This would require swings of a bit over 8% since 2014 or maybe 6% since the London Assembly election in 2016. The 2016 elections were particularly good for Wandsworth Labour, thanks to the presence of local lad Sadiq Khan at the top of the ticket.

That’s the numerical scale of Labour’s task in a borough the Conservatives have held up as a shining example of low tax combined with high quality services since Margaret Thatcher’s day. It’s pretty big. But time and local residents’ concerns might at last be moving in Labour’s favour.

Lord Ashcroft’s recent research into the condition of the Tories in the capital suggested that the Wandsworth winning formula might at last be wearing thin and that worries about the health service and housing costs are overhauling it. Brexit too could be a big factor in Wandsworth, whose people voted exactly three-to-one to Remain and whose many prosperous middle-class professionals tend to hold liberal social views.

It all sounds promising for Labour, whose assault on the Tory citadel is being led by Simon Hogg armed with a moderate, pragmatic manifesto that promises to freeze Council Tax for the next two years and claims the Tories have become “stuck in a tired and self-serving rut”. Hogg says Labour would get the affordable element of new homes up to 35%, claiming the Tory rate has been barely half that.

But Conservative leader Ravi Govindia and his team are seeking to rise to changing challenges, stressing a “commitment to diversity”,  celebrating internationalism and making an ambitious manifesto pledge that “at least 60%” of a promised 1,000 new homes over five years will be affordable, emphasising home ownership for local people. An affordable housing bidding war in Wandsworth. Who’d have thought?

Labour has not won Wandsworth since 1974. The Tories currently hold 39 seats to Labour’s 19, and there are two seats held by councillors who were elected as Tories in 2014 but have since formed a small Independent group. These would normally be expected to return to the mothership at a full council election, though both defector incumbents are reported to be campaigning hard and are defending seats in marginal Tory wards, one of them essential for Labour to turn red across the board.

Of the three Tory flagships where Labour has hopes of dramatic progress – the other two are Barnet and Westminster – this looks the most hazardous to call. Were it sunk, Labour would be euphoric.

For in-depth detail on all Thursday’s borough elections, including ward-by-ward analysis and stats, buy the On London Borough Elections Guide, compiled by Lewis Baston and Dave Hill, for just £5. Individual borough profiles can be purchased for £1 each. Use the menu and the “buy now” button below. Delivery asap by email.


Borough Elections Guide 2018
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Lewis and Dave are available for hire as a double act across a range of formats, analysing Thursday’s results and what they might mean for local government policy in the capital. Email: davehillonlondon@gmail.com.

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