The result of the elections in Wandsworth will be of keen interest to politics-watchers all over the country. True, the borough Margaret Thatcher once described as her favourite is not quite the radical flagship it was, and much attention will be focussed on outcomes in the north of England. But if Labour do take control for the first time since 1974, it will be a big deal and a blow to Boris Johnson.
Labour has been creeping closer. In 2018 they closed the gap on the Conservatives to seven seats and, thanks to the remarkable Malcolm Grimston, the Tory majority shrank to six – its smallest since 1982. Labour also won the popular vote. Will this be the year they finally take control of a borough that’s been a Tory fortress for decades?
The work of the Boundary Commission means a precise comparison between what happened in 2018 and what will happen on Thursday cannot be made. For the 2022 elections there are two more wards than there used to be – 22 of them compared with 20 four years ago – while the number of seats has fallen from 60 to 58, with eight of the newly configured wards due to elect two councillors and the rest the more usual three.
However, although all of the boundaries have changed to some degree, with some old seats and seat names disappearing as well as new ones being created, we can be confident that the final result will hinge on the outcomes in five seats, which will between them return 13 councillors. In alphabetical order, they are:
- St Marys. A three-seat ward, which is essentially the old St Mary’s Park ward where two Tories and one Labour candidate won last time, the latter beating the third Tory hopeful by just 11 votes.
- Trinity. A brand new, two-seat ward close to Tooting Bec and Balham stations. It is essentially a successor to Nightingale ward where the Tories scored a hat-trick in 2018, but only by a few hundred votes. Lots of owner-occupiers will help them keep things that way, but also lots of young renters who might help Labour.
- Wandle. Another new ward, also a two-seater, it contains the Henry Prince estate where Sadiq Khan grew up. Both parties want this one badly.
- Wandsworth Town. Also new, but a three-member ward which straddles Wandsworth’s three parliamentary seats. Many young renters, due to proximity to Clapham Junction and Wandsworth Town stations. This is likely to be one of the earliest wards to declare, if not the earliest. If Labour wins all three seats, its hopes of securing an overall majority will receive a big boost. If it wins two of the three, more will depend on Trinity and Wandle. Cabinet member for education and children’s services Will Sweet, elected for the late Fairfield ward in 2018, is standing here.
- West Hill. Expect Grimston to win again but the destinations of the two other seats is harder to predict, partly because of his involvement. Last time, Labour councillors finished second and third but a Tory finished fourth, indicating that this is a marginal where the two main parties are concerned. It could end up split three ways. The unhappy late withdrawal of one of the Labour incumbents can only have helped the Tories.
On London will bring you all the news it can from Wandsworth as soon as it can on Thursday night and Friday morning.
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