Lewis Baston: London is leaning further towards Labour with increased efficiency

Lewis Baston: London is leaning further towards Labour with increased efficiency

The 2024 election campaign has seen a blizzard of polling, all of it bringing varying degrees of bad news for the Conservatives whether the survey is at national or individual constituency level, or an MRP, which attempts to model constituency results based on their demographics. That said, there has not been much aimed specifically at taking London’s political temperature.

However, on Monday  Savanta published results for a voting intention poll across the London region, commissioned by the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London. The results showed yet another wide Labour lead over the Conservatives, of 33 percentage points. The table below gives the figures and the comparison with the last four general elections.

Screenshot 2024 06 26 at 09.08.07

Savanta’s record in polling London is not to be sniffed at. Their final effort prior to the mayoral election in May was pretty good, putting Labour’s Sadiq Khan 13 points ahead of the Conservative Susan Hall. The election itself was won by Khan by 11 points. London can be difficult to poll, and those very recent Savanta findings – it feels longer ago since Sadiq Khan clinched his third term win – suggest that they are on the right lines.

A 33-point lead may seem large, but the new poll backs up other polling and electoral evidence that London will end up being a comparatively low-swing region on 4 July. The swing in the capital to Labour since 2019 is 8.5 points, compared to around 15 per cent to nationally. That is largely because 2017 and 2019 were not very good general elections for the Conservatives in the capital, or very bad ones for Labour. The Labour’s vote lead in 2017 was larger than it was in 1997, the year of Tony Blair’s national landslide. The Tories broke new ground in the “Red Wall” in 2019, but in London they merely traded Putney and Richmond Park for Kensington and Carshalton & Wallington. They have less far to fall in the capital, and Labour has less scope for expansion.

Labour’s share of the vote in the new Savanta London poll, conducted between 10-18 June, is the same as it was in 2017, but there have been two significant changes since then. One is that the Conservative vote is a lot lower: the Tories have been polling between 30 and 35 per cent in London in every general election since 1997, but the new poll indicates that they have taken a tumble down to 22 per cent. Reform UK appears able to peel off a section of the London electorate who have, up to this point, stuck with the Conservatives. Their support is lower in the capital than outside it, but still big enough to damage the Tories in the outer London seats they are defending.

The other change since 2017 is subtler. Labour piled on huge numbers of votes that year in inner London and other existing London Labour seats, while falling short in marginal seats in the suburbs. Keir Starmer won over 40,000 votes in Holborn & St Pancras. His majority was over 30,000. The Conservatives won all three seats in Barnet, though, with a borough-wide majority of just over 3,000 well-distributed votes.

The enthusiasm the landslide majorities in inner London represented was genuine, but in terms of winning a national election it would have been better for a few more Labour votes to have been cast in Barnet, even if the price for that was less emphatic wins in seats in Camden or Islington. This appears to be what has happened to Labour’s vote in 2024, both in London and nationally. It is no higher overall than it was in 2017 but it is distributed much more efficiently from the point of view of winning seats. Meanwhile, the Tory vote has plummeted thanks to losses to Reform.

It is for this reason that Starmer can look with equanimity upon a poll showing his own majority falling. Survation found the Labour leader again winning comfortably, but with a large swing from Labour to Green. The Labour share in the poll was 54 per cent – a drop of 12 points since 2019. The Conservatives were down from 15 to 9 points, making a swing – if one cares to calculate it – of three per cent in their favour.

There is a fair number of such seats. Based on the 2019 numbers, adjusted for new boundaries, Labour topped 70 per cent in eight constituencies, but in Survation’s MRP there is only one such super-stronghold (Walthamstow). Labour votes have appeared instead in places where they menace the Tories’ ability to hold seats.

Looking at the MRP projections in the round, there are no London seats which one can say with absolute confidence are going to stay Conservative. The nearest to a safe Tory seat is Orpington, where they have been ahead in four out of five recent models. Next down is Romford, where the Tories have led in three out of five. Next come several seats where two MRPs have shown them blue, which should result in a couple of them being Conservative holds on the basis of probability: Hornchurch & Upminster, Old Bexley & Sidcup, Bromley & Biggin Hill, Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner and Sutton & Cheam.

It seems unlikely that Labour is breathing down the necks of the Tories in boroughs like Bromley, Havering and Bexley, which were strongholds of Hall’s otherwise doomed populist bid for City Hall. But people do vote differently at different kinds of election, and general election turnout can be expected to be much higher than the 40.5 per cent who voted in May, which may make a difference too

Slender Tory hopes can be held out for Carshalton & Wallington, Chelsea & Fulham and Finchley & Golders Green on the basis of one out of five models painting them blue, although these might be taking the Liberal Democrat vote in these seats in 2019 too much into account. MRP is a sophisticated method, but it is best at dealing with seats without distinctive constituency-level factors strongly affecting the vote. Their results for Islington North in particular, where Jeremy Corbyn is standing as an Independent, should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The polls and MRP analysis collectively suggest that London is doing its – relatively small – part in the national collapse of the Conservative vote and the shift to a more election-winning pattern in the Labour vote. But perhaps, even if this positive vista for Labour comes true, it contains some clues to what might happen in future. Some bits of the London Labour coalition have frayed – Muslim voters, left-liberal Remainers and young people  – and the foundations may be being laid for the Greens or Independents to challenge in future local elections and by-elections if there is to be a Labour government.

X/Twitter: Lewis Baston and OnLondonSupport OnLondon.co.uk and its freelancers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE

Categories: Analysis

Leave a Reply

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