Election 2017: London’s battleground seats

The most marginal seat in the capital is Croydon Central, which Conservative Gavin Barwell clung on to in 2015 by just 165 votes. But although it would require a swing of only 0.3% for Labour to deprive him of it on 8 June, Barwell, who is minister for housing and for London, does not appear to be in great danger this time, such is the sorry state of Jeremy Corbyn’s party nationally.

That’s why Croydon Central does not appear on the list below, which sets out those of London’s 73 constituencies most likely to change hands. Labour’s task in the coming campaign will be to hold on to as many of its current 45 seats as possible, rather than making gains. Ten or more could be at risk, almost all from Conservative challengers.

A recent poll found Labour’s lead in the capital had fallen to 3%, compared with 16% a year ago and to 7% below its 2015 general election vote share of 44%. That said, Labour’s London campaigns have shown considerable resilience in the last two general elections. Two years ago, the party gained seven seats in the capital despite being heavily defeated nationally. And in 2010, Labour candidates retained a number of marginal seats the Tories had expected to gain.

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has signalled that he will throw his weight behind his party’s candidates by trying to mobilise opposition to a “hard Brexit” in the strongly pro-Remain metropolis as well as highlighting social justice issues. These factors, along with the reputation damage inflicted by Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral election campaign last year, could again limit Tory gains in London.

At the same time, the Lib Dems will hope their triumph in December’s sensational Richmond Park by-election bodes well for their chances of regaining a trio of seats in the south-western suburbs lost to Conservatives last time. So the Tories could lose some seats as well as winning others elsewhere.

Currently, Labour has 45 London seats, the Conservatives have 26 and the Lib Dems have two. In the 2015 general election, Labour took 44% of the total London vote, the Tories 35%, the Lib Dems and Ukip 8% each and the Green Party, 5%. How different might London’s electoral map look on 9 June? Here are those battleground marginals.

Ealing Central & Acton (Labour, majority 274). Having wrestled this largely quite affluent outer West London seat from the Conservatives in 2015, Rupa Huq will have her work cut out to hold on to it. The Tories need a 0.5% swing.

Brentford & Isleworth (Labour, majority 465). Another Labour gain two years ago, this leafy, socially-mixed ultra-marginal which “snakes along the north bank of the Thames, opposite Barnes and Kew Gardens” is one the Conservatives will expect to deprive Ruth Cadbury of. They need a 0.8% swing.

Ilford North (Labour, majority 589). Labour’s third tiniest majority was secured in 2015 thanks to an astute and energetic Wes Streeting campaign in this largely leafy and increasingly multi-ethnic territory where Outer London meets Essex. He may have to exceed even that fine effort to hold on. Tories need a 1.2% swing.

Enfield North (Labour, majority 1086). The most northerly London seat, and another Labour gain in 2015. Incumbent Joan Ryan must stop the pendulum swinging back into the blue by more than 2.4%.

Hampstead & Kilburn (Labour, majority 1138). The narrowness of Tulip Siddiq’s Labour hold in 2015 – the percentage margin was just 2.1% – despite Labour’s general advance in London partly reflected the intensifying and increasingly Conservative wealth of the poshest parts of this north London seat. In 2010 it was a knife-edge three-way marginal. The Lib Dems were horribly squeezed last time, but any recovery could strongly affect the result this year, depending on which of the larger parties is most hurt by it.

Carshalton & Wallington (Lib Dem, majority 1510). Tom Brake has represented this suburban seat since 1997 and was the only London Lib Dem to survive in 2015. But the Tories might still fancy their chances. The borough was one of only five of London’s 32 to vote Leave in the EU referendum, so the anti-Brexit sentiment that helped Sara Olney turf out Zac Goldsmith might not be in evidence here. This Tory target would be hit with a 3.2% swing. But Brake has shown he’ll take some shifting.

Richmond Park (Lib Dem, majority, 1872). Olney’s win December’s by-election spoke eloquently for a strong strand of London opinion about Brexit and bad Conservative attitudes. The seat remains a marginal, however. What will the Tory approach be.

Westminster North (Labour, majority 1977). Karen Buck is widely recognised as a exemplary local MP and was one of Labour’s survivors of the David Cameron charm offensive in 2010. The splendid UK Polling Report describes Westminster North as “a classic marginal”, with Labour strong in the seat’s cosmopolitan and poorer areas, such as West Kilburn, and the Tories thriving in expensive Bayswater and St John’s Wood.

Twickenham (Conservative, majority 2017). Vince Cable’s defeat here in 2015 was probably the hardest hit the Lib Dems took. He’s already said he means to win it back and Tania Mathias must be nervous. Cable needs a 3.3% swing to re-take Twickers and, assuming Olney holds on south of the river, complete the removal of Tory MPs from Richmond upon Thames.

Harrow West (Labour, majority 2208). Gareth Thomas was first elected to this multi ethnic Outer London seat in 2001 and has increased his vote share in the last three general elections, helped by boundary changes in 2010. With many Indian Hindu voters here, Tory tactics will be worth keeping an eye on given what went on in neighbouring Harrow East in 2015 and what Zac Goldsmith got up to last year. A 4.7% swing to the Tories would mean trouble for Thomas.

Eltham (Labour, majority 2693). This is another one that got away from the Conservatives in 2010. Sitting MP Clive Efford, a former cabbie, has strong local roots which seem to have served him well in this part of Greenwich, a blend of suburbia and council estates. The Tories need a sizeable swing of 6.2%.

Kingston & Surbiton (Conservative, majority 2834). James Berry took this piece of smart south-west suburbia from the Lib Dems last time. Former coalition minister Ed Davey intends to take it back. Can he pick up the 4.8% he needs?

That’s the top dozen tight contests. Others to keep an eye on include Tooting, where Rosena Allin-Khan’s 6357 by-election victory for Labour last June – she succeeded Sadiq Khan – shouldn’t lead us to forget that the seat has been another general election Labour marginal. The Lib Dems would love to snatch back Sutton and Cheam on the old orange riviera, though overturning a 3921 Tory margin looks a tall order. The same might apply to the 4489 deficit they have to claw back to regain Bermondsey and Old Southwark from Labour’s Neil Coyle, though it should help that former incumbent Simon Hughes will be wearing the yellow rosette.

A few outriders: Tim Farron has been making noises about a comeback in Hornsey and Wood Green, which the Lib Dems lost to Labour in 2015. However, Catherine West’s majority is pretty vast 11,058. Oddly enough, he might have more to gain from targeting Labour Brexiter Kate Hoey in Vauxhall, which he has also talked about. Hoey’s majority is an even bigger 12,708 but is in Lambeth, which, with 78.6%, returned the biggest Remain vote of any local authority area in the UK. It was topped only by Gibraltar.

Brexit sentiments could, at least on paper, have a big impact of the opposite kind in Dagenham and Rainham, where Ukip came second last time to Labour’s Jon Cruddas. His majority of 4,960 looks solid enough, but if the Labour vote share falls from 41.5% (as seems likely) and a substantial chunk of Ukip’s 30% from 2015 switches to the Conservatives (also likely), who took 24.5% last time, the outcome might be tight. Cruddas will take nothing for granted.

The happiest candidate in town is probably Andy Slaughter, who will be defending Hammersmith for Labour. He’d looked vulnerable to the Conservatives in 2010 but survived to bump his majority up to 6518 in 2015, only to be threatened by the prospect of major boundary changes that would have moved whole chunks of Labour-voting areas into neighbouring seats by 2020. The snap election has pre-empted that, for Slaughter, potential catastrophe, leaving the Tories in need of 13.6% swing to turf him out. He’ll be feeling a bit safer now.


Categories: Analysis

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *