Lewis Baston: Poll shows Tories struggling to make gains in London

Lewis Baston: Poll shows Tories struggling to make gains in London

The results of the large YouGov poll and MRP constituency model were encouraging for the Conservatives at a national level, with an 11-point lead in voting intention translating into an overall parliamentary majority of 58 seats. However, the constituency projections were much less pleasant reading for the Tories in London, where their fortunes have failed to keep up with the national trend in the last three general elections. They are projected to gain two seats from Labour (Kensington and Dagenham & Rainham) while losing one to the Liberal Democrats (Richmond Park). A net gain of a single seat since the disaster of 2017 would be a less than fantastic outcome for the party.

As well as bracing the London Tories for disappointment, the model allows us to see where the general election contest in the capital is closest at the moment, and where campaigning and the events of the next two weeks might swing a seat one way or another. There are seven seats in the capital where the modelled margin is within five percentage points, making them too close to call with any confidence:

  • The most eye-catching is Dagenham & Rainham, where Jon Cruddas is defending a constituency  that has been Labour since 1935. The model puts the Tories two points ahead in the London seat that most closely resembles the white working-class constituencies in the North and Midlands which seem to be swinging hard to the right.
  • In a similar vein, the Labour margin is shaved down to three points in the working-class seat of Erith & Thamesmead, across the river from Dagenham. It was relegated from the 25 “most interesting” London seats in the On London constituency guide following earlier polls, but has now been reinstated.
  • The Conservatives are only very narrowly (one point) behind the Lib Dems in Carshalton & Wallington, where Tom Brake was the sole survivor among his party’s London MPs in 2015. Despite local Lib Dem strength, the seat is in one of the five Leave-voting London boroughs (Sutton).
  • Labour gained Enfield Southgate in 2017 and it is one of the seats that is most vulnerable if Labour fails to hold a broad coalition of voters together. Bambos Charalambous is apparently five points ahead, but that’s a two per cent swing to the Tories since 2017.
  • Labour are not projected to gain any London seats relative to the 2017 election anywhere in the YouGov model. Their nearest miss is Chipping Barnet, where the two main parties are each on 41 per cent each. Emma Whysall has the best chance of any Labour candidate of making a gain in the seat where she fell only just short in 2017.
  • Surprisingly, another Barnet seat, Hendon, is also very close, with Labour only three points behind the Tories. Hendon has a large Jewish population and it’s possible that the model fails to pick up the local political climate, but then again Labour’s result in 2017 there was surprisingly strong. The Labour candidate is David Pinto-Duschinsky, son of the co-author of the principal academic work on the 1970 general election and its unexpected result.
  • The finding for Putney is fascinating. The Conservatives are ahead by the same four point margin by which they won in 2017, but the seat from which Justine Greening is standing down is ripe for pro-European tactical voting – the model party percentages are Con 38, Lab 34, Lib Dem 23, Green 4. Two Wandsworth councillors – Tory Will Sweet and Labour’s Fleur Anderson – are in contention.

Labour will be encouraged to see the model numbers in several seats they hold that might be considered shaky: Battersea (10 points ahead), Croydon Central (six points ahead) and Ilford North (nine points ).

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As well as Putney, there are four other seats where the Conservatives are ahead but where their majority is vulnerable to tactical voting. While Labour are clearly the leading challengers in Putney, the Lib Dems are second in Wimbledon, Chelsea & Fulham and (less clearly) Kensington. Labour’s lead over the Lib Dems in Cities of London & Westminster and Finchley & Golders Green is only a point in each, not enough to quell the vigorous tactical debate in either seat. The Conservative lead in Finchley (17 points) makes the seat less vulnerable than the others. On the other side of the divide, even if all the Brexit Party vote went over to the Tories, it would not be quite enough to overturn Labour’s resilient Clive Efford in Eltham.

On London intends to provide the fullest possible coverage of the 2019 general election campaign in the capital, along with other big issues for the city. The website depends on financial support from readers to pay its freelance writers. Just £5 a month makes an important difference. To donate to On London, click here. Thank you.

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