Three national opinion polls published over the weekend showed the long-standing Conservative lead over Labour continuing to shrink. But what is happening in London?
The last Londoners-only poll measured voters’ feelings about the next London Mayor election, which at that point was still due to take place on 7 May. Conducted by YouGov and published on 11 March, it showed the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan on a commanding 49 per cent, well ahead of Conservative Shaun Bailey on 24 per cent, followed by Independent Rory Stewart – who has recently dropped out of the race – on 13 per cent, the Green Party’s Siân Berry (seven per cent) and the Liberal Democrats’ Siobhan Benita (four percent).
Before that, of course, was an actual election – the general election of 12 December 2019, which saw Labour hammered nationally yet remain dominant in the capital, despite losing some support compared with the previous general election two years earlier. The party took 48.1 per cent of the vote across Greater London’s 73 parliamentary seats, compared with the Conservatives’ 32 per cent, the Lib Dems’ 14.9 per cent, the Greens’ 3.1 per cent and the Brexit Party’s 1.4 per cent.
What can those three new national polls tell us about the distribution of support for the different political parties in London now, as the the nation copes with the coronavirus crisis? Each included Londoners in its survey sample, though not enough of them to provide really reliable snapshots of current political sympathies in the capital. However, if you compare and combine the London elements of each poll you get something a bit more solid.
- Deltapoll: Conservatives 24; Labour 44; Lib Dems 14; Greens 7; Brexit Party 6; UKIP 3.
- Opinium: Conservatives 34; Labour 43; Lib Dems 11; Green 1; Brexit Party 0: UKIP 2.
- Survation: Conservatives 31.5; Labour 44.7; Lib Dems 10.2; Greens 3.6 Brexit 0; UKIP 0
Look at it any way you like, there is a pattern of large Labour leads. None are as high as the 48.1 general election vote share, but they aren’t far short and the Tories are still far behind. Between them, the three companies surveyed over 500 Londoners. You need a sample of a thousand to get a robust opinion poll, but even with a relatively large margin for error it is hard not to conclude that London is still a strongly Labour-leaning city and perhaps becoming more so as the Conservative national government encounters difficulties and Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, starts to make an impression.
The implications for the postponed election for Mayor are that bit harder to divine because mayoral elections are different from general elections. Shaun Bailey has lately been trying hard to heap blame for Transport for London’s financial position on Mayor Khan rather than the impact of the virus on fares, but Khan is demonstrating his usual aptitude for mustering anti-Tory feeling, focussing on what he characterises as the bailout’s punitive, anti-Londoner conditions.
Those arguments continue and may have some way to go. But, that said, and with all the caveats mentioned above, the latest polls cannot make encouraging reading for Bailey as he strives to strengthen his challenge to Khan. In theory, he should benefit from the withdrawal of Rory Stewart, formerly a Tory minister, but insofar as Londoners’ choice of mayoral candidate replicates their national party preference – and history shows they don’t necessarily – we might reasonably deduce that Khan is still well on course to win a second term.
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