Election 2024: Constituency profile – Chingford & Woodford Green

Election 2024: Constituency profile – Chingford & Woodford Green

Chingford has been synonymous with the headbutt school of Conservatism since the days of Margaret Thatcher, when the local MP, coolly abrasive grammar school boy Norman Tebbit, personified it. He represented the old Chingford seat from 1974 until 1992, when he was succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith, also from the Tory hard Right.

In 1997, the year of Tony Blair’s 179-seat landslide, Duncan Smith retained the successor Chingford & Woodford Green by 5,714 votes, beginning its acquaintance with marginal status. In 2019, he held off Labour Corbynite Faiza Shaheen by 1,262 votes and might well have lost to a more suitable Labour candidate under a Labour leader other than Jeremy Corbyn.

Half of the seat’s electors voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, half voted Remain. Electoral Calculus defines its political character (“tribe”) as centrist.

Shaheen, orthodox hard Left and popular with broadcasters has, unsurprisingly, been blocked from running. She has been replaced by Shama Tatler, a housing policy specialist and Brent Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, planning and growth.

The latest boundary changes have seen the seat expand to embrace some additional Labour-leaning bits of Redbridge and also lose some to Leyton & Wanstead. Most of it lies in the most suburban part of Waltham Forest running up to London’s border with Essex and Epping Forest.

Highams Park at the more urban end and the town of Chingford at the leafiest lie on the London Overground line out of Liverpool Street station, though more than 39 per cent of residents work at or mainly at home and around 30 per cent travel to work by car.

Political change has mirrored demographic change, with the area’s population becoming progressively younger and more ethnically varied in line with a wider trend in the capital’s outer north east.

Waltham Forest Council has become more solidly Labour as this century has progressed, as has Redbridge Council. More of the Redbridge wards within the parliamentary seat favour Labour (two) than Tory (one). More of the larger number of Waltham Forest councillors are Tory (five compared to one, though part of the Labour-held Upper Walthamstow is within the boundary). However, polls and predictions point strongly to a Labour gain.

The 2021 census found that Chingford & Woodford Green’s population of 96,000 has a smaller proportion of over-60s than the England average. This is the age group most likely to vote Conservative.

A substantial majority, 63.5 per cent, are white, higher than the London average of 54 per cent. The proportion of residents describing themselves as Asian is 14.2 per cent, and 10.7 per cent describe themselves as black.

Christian Londoners account for 46.1 per cent of the population, 27 per cent say they have no religion, Muslim Londoners make up 13.1 per cent, 2.8 per cent are Hindu and 1.5 per cent are Jewish.

The seat has a high level of home ownership – 65 per cent either own outright or have a mortgage. Nearly 40 per cent have Level 4 educational qualifications or better.

In earlier campaigning, Shaheen had placed emphasis on her “pro-Palestine” view of the Israel-Gaza conflict, describing it as a leading priority for local residents. Following her deselection, the constituency Labour Party office was daubed with graffiti alleging that Labour is part of an “Israel lobby”. Condemning this, Tatler, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “I will always stand up against the forces of hatred and antisemitism.”

The effect of Shaheen’s removal is hard to judge but could be twofold. Duncan Smith might benefit from Tatler being, unlike Shaheen, from a different part of the capital, but he won’t be able to portray her as divisive or extreme as he strives to hold back the incoming Labour tide.

Shaheen has decided to run as an Independent candidate. She is very unlikely to win, but can be expected to secure some votes that would otherwise have gone to Tatler, improving Duncan Smith’s chance of survival. The man who had said he would contest the seat for the George Galloway-led Workers’ Party is reported to have withdrawn in order to help her. Green Party candidate Chris Brody might draw some support from the same voter pool as Shaheen.

For his part, Duncan Smith could lose support to Reform UK’s Paul Luggeri. Liberal Democrat Josh Hadley completes the field of six.

This article was updated on 9 June 2024 after the full field of candidates was confirmed. 

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