Could Reform UK win a London Assembly seat? Or even two?

Could Reform UK win a London Assembly seat? Or even two?

The answers to the headline questions are “yes” and “yes”. Here’s why.

It is because of the relationship between the two separate routes for getting elected to the London Assembly, the 25-seat body that scrutinises the Mayor. That relationship means parties (or individuals) which attract small but not insignificant amounts of support across the capital can win representation at City Hall. It explains how, for example, at the last Assembly elections, held in 2021, the Liberal Democrats ended up with two Assembly seats and, of more specific relevance to Reform UK’s chances this year, how its ancestor the UK Independence Party (UKIP) did the same in 2004 and 2016.

Fourteen of the 25 Assembly members (AMs) are elected through individual First Past The Post (FPTP) contests for geographical constituencies such as Barnet & Camden and South West. The other 11 emerge from a parallel London-wide election held on the same day under a form of Proportional Representation called Modified d’Hondt.

The combination of this and the 14 FPTP constituency elections is called a Mixed Member Proportional system, and its purpose is to ensure through a mathematical formula that the final party composition of the Assembly reflects the degree of support for those parties in London as a whole.

How could Reform UK get on to the Assembly? It almost certainly won’t be by winning any of the 14 constituency seats. However, if they can muster a five per cent share in the London-wide, Modified d’Hondt ballot, they will get a seat that way.

Hence, in the 2008 elections, the far right British National Party won a seat with a 5.24 per cent share but didn’t in 2004 when it got 4.82 per cent. In that same year, the populist right UKIP – I’m making my distinctions carefully here – won its two seats by getting 8.37 per cent, and with just 6.5 per cent when it repeated the feat in 2016.

If we look at the mayoral opinion polls published so far this year, support for Reform UK’s candidate Howard Cox has mostly been at around five per cent, and as high as seven per cent in YouGov’s survey in February. That same YouGov research also measured general election support in London for political parties and put Reform UK level with the Lib Dems and the Greens on ten per cent.

There’s an ongoing debate in polling circles about whether support for Reform UK is being overstated. However, it also looks as if the character of Reform UK’s support is a different from UKIP’s in a way that is worse news for the Tories. Whatever, it’s clear enough that, as things stand, the party is in with a shout of taking one and possibly two Assembly seats through the proportional representation avenue.

Parties enter their London-wide candidates as lists, with the person at the top most likely to get elected and so on. Top of the Reform UK list this year is Alex Wilson, formerly a Tory councillor in Redbridge. Cox is second. They might form a pairing on the Assembly after 2 May, they might both miss out. But one Reform UK winner seems very possible.

Wilson could have a double impact on the final Assembly line-up because he is also his party’s candidate in the Havering & Redbridge Assembly constituency.

UKIP’s candidate finished a clear third there in 2016, taking a tidy bite out of support for Tory candidate Keith Prince, who won with only 1,438 votes to spare over Labour’s contender. With Reform support seemingly at around UKIP 2016 levels and Labour more popular in that part of east London than it has been for a while, the squeeze on Prince this time could be more than he can survive.

Photo of Reform UK supporters campaigning in Ealing from X/Twitter feed of Mark G Simpson. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: On London and Dave Hill.

Categories: Analysis

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