Election 2024: Constituency profile – Wimbledon

Election 2024: Constituency profile – Wimbledon

The Wimbledon tennis tournament will be attracting back and front page headlines next week, but the constituency which includes the famous venue is set to make news on its own account on Thursday.

Wimbledon is a top Liberal Democrat target, with the party looking to overcome the majority of just 629 votes by which Stephen Hammond held the seat for the Conservatives over their candidate Paul Kohler in 2019. And Labour, despite trailing by more than 7,000 at that election, is still in the race too, making the constituency a genuine three-way marginal.

Former investment banker Hammond, 62, a moderate Remainer who briefly lost the Tory whip in 2019 over his opposition to a “no deal” Brexit and briefly considered running as an Independent, isn’t back for the fight. He joined the Tory exodus in September 2023, citing increasing caring responsibilities for his and his wife’s parents.

Hammond took the seat in 2005 after its brief Labour spell from 1997, holding on in 2010, 2015 and 2017 while Labour and the Lib Dems alternated for second place in the generally well-off, well-connected, and in 2016, 70 per cent Remain-voting, commuter suburb. It was, perhaps, his anti-Brexit credentials that saved him in 2019.

But the momentum which almost took the Lib Dems to victory last time has continued. The Merton Council wards covering the bulk of the constituency shifted significantly from Tory to Lib Dem in the 2022 borough elections, with the party taking a 38 per cent share against the Tories’ 29 per cent. A boundary change helps too, adding parts of neighbouring Kingston, where the Lib Dems have been in the ascendency.

Kohler, an academic, long-term resident and now one of those Merton councillors, is taking his second shot at the seat. He made the news himself in 2014 when he was attacked in his home by burglars, an incident which he says inspired him to enter politics. In 2018, he led a successful legal challenge to the planned closure of Wimbledon police station. His pitch, he told a recent hustings, includes a commitment to rejoining the European Union.

Wearing the Tory rosette is Danielle Dunfield-Prayero. Like Hammond, she is a former investment banker and consultant. She is also a two-time triathlon competitor for Great Britain and chief executive of Great Sussex Way, the marketing organisation for Chichester.

Dunfield-Prayero describes herself as a “One Nation” Conservative, and on her website emphasises that her husband is a “true Wimbledon native whose roots run deep in this verdant soil”. Underlining the knife-edge nature of the seat, she has been joined on her campaign not only by Rishi Sunak but also by Theresa May, David Cameron and several other cabinet ministers too.

Labour contender Eleanor Stringer grew up in Wimbledon, faced hardship when her father’s business collapsed in the 1990s recession and has spent her working life in not-for-profit organisations, notably the Education Endowment Foundation tackling educational disadvantage. She is currently deputy leader of Merton.

There seems to be no love lost between Labour and the Lib Dems, who now constitute the principal opposition on the council, with 17 seats to Labour’s 31. Labour recently moved its campaign headquarters into an office next door to that of the Lib Dems and the parties have clashed over bar charts.

The recent flood of MRP polling has put the Lib Dems ahead, but there have been significant variations, with Labour highlighting the Ipsos poll of 16 June which put them just one point behind the Lib Dems. But tactical voting websites are recommending a Lib Dem vote and party leader Ed Davey has recently called on “traditional Labour voters” in the seat to help deliver the “knock-out” blow to the Tories.

Financial Times analysis last week suggested that Labour, while not diverting local activists away from the constituency to campaign in marginals elsewhere, was not directing activists to Wimbledon from safe seats elsewhere either. Stringer nevertheless continues to fight a vigorous campaign. It’s too early to call game, set and match to any of the three contenders.

X/Twitter: Charles Wright and OnLondon. Support OnLondon.co.uk  for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details here. Aerial photo of Wimbledon Village by way of @WimbledonVil

Categories: Analysis

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