London Elections 2024: What happened in Havering & Redbridge?

London Elections 2024: What happened in Havering & Redbridge?

The stage seemed set for Keith Prince, Conservative London Assembly member for Havering & Redbridge, to be squeezed out of his seat by a pincer movement of Reform UK rising from the Right and Labour rising from the Left. He had almost been defeated in 2016 by a similar combination of Labour and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), scraping home by fewer than 1,500 votes. But in the end, in 2024, Prince strolled to victory by just short of 15,500.

What happened? Part of the answer appears to be Gaza. An Independent, Asif Mohammed, received 11,768 votes. He ran on four main issues: challenging the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion, more police, cheaper and “more diverse” housing and, again in his words, “overarching is the Gaza situation”. Asif said he would voice local residents’ concerns because no political party was doing so.

The same emphasis on local issues of particular concern to Muslim Londoners, many of whom are unhappy with new constraints on motor vehicle use, has attracted support in other parts of east London at Labour’s expense for a couple of years. A pro-Palestine stance has now been added to the mix, as shown by a recent Newham Council by-election result. Pro-Palestine sentiment has been highly visible in Redbridge, much of it overlapping with hard-Left anti-Labour activism.

Asif finished only fifth and even had all his votes gone to Labour’s Havering & Redbridge candidate Guy Williams instead they wouldn’t have been enough for Williams to defeat Prince. But Williams may also have been hit to some extent by an increase in the Green vote compared with 2021.

The Green Party nationally has been calling for a ceasefire in Gaza since the start of the war and locally has chosen an erstwhile hard-Left Labour figure as a parliamentary candidate. The Greens have picked up votes in the past from east Londoners who think Labour has become too centrist. It might also have hampered Williams that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, descendants of Militant, got 2,145 votes. The Liberal Democrats got slightly more votes this time than in 2021, perhaps hinting that in this contest their supporters didn’t opt for tactical, anti-Tory voting.

Meanwhile, to Prince’s Right Reform’s candidate, Alex Wilson, though finishing third with nearly 20,000 votes, didn’t match the 26,788 scored by the candidate of Reform’s UKIP ancestor in 2016. Reform did well enough across the capital for Wilson, a former Tory Redbridge councillor, to win a London Assembly seat through the London-wide list route. But he didn’t do well enough in his constituency challenge to indirectly help Williams dislodge Prince. In summary, neither side of the Labour-Reform squeeze delivered.

The distribution of support between the seven Havering & Redbridge candidates which enabled Prince to defeat Williams with ease contrasts with how the same electorate cast its votes for Mayor of London. Conservative Susan Hall received far more votes than Labour’s Sadiq Khan in this constituency of two halves – 80,859 compared to 50,780 – but there was nonetheless a swing towards Labour away from the Tory candidate compared with 2021. It helped Khan, an early ceasefire advocate, on his way to his historic victory as the ULEZ dog failed to bite. Different choice, different election, different result.

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Categories: Analysis

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