London elections part 2: the Assembly

by Jackie_South on May 2, 2012

Following on from my post earlier this week on the London mayoral race, I am turning to the other part of the GLA elections, for the 25 assembly members.  The map below shows the state of play in 2008 for the 14 constituency members, with the 11 top-up list members shown on the right-hand side.

Unlike the mayoralty, the consensus is that Labour will pick up seats this time and end up the largest party.  The latest poll from YouGov for the race shows Labour well ahead: the chart below summarises that regional list polling.

This compares to 35% for the Conservatives, 28% for Labour and 11% for the Lib Dems in 2008. The diagram below shows that this shift appears to be due to Conservative votes going to UKIP and Labour’s vote increasing at the expense of the other parties, particularly the Lib Dems and Greens.

That poll would result in the following breakdown of seats:

  • Labour: 12
  • Conservatives: 8
  • Liberal Democrats: 2
  • UKIP: 2
  • Greens: 1

The real impact of this depends on who gets elected Mayor.  Whilst Assembly members have important roles in scrutiny and some will be appointed to lead on areas of the GLA’s work such as police, fire services, planning and transport, the real power of the Assembly is being able to veto decisions by the mayor.  To do so needs a two-thirds majority.

Assuming that Ken can rely on the 12 Labour votes, that means he should be able to implement his programme relatively unhindered if he were elected.

If the Conservatives do get 8 seats, technically the other 17 members could veto decisions that Boris could make if he were elected.  However, in reality he should be able to get the two UKIP members to support to ensure that he too would be un-veto-able.

On the constituency side, it is worth noting that despite the ups and downs of party fortunes in the three previous elections since the creation of the London Assembly, only one constituency has changed hands in this time.  Brent and Harrow was Labour in 2000, turned Conservative in 2004 and returned to Labour in 2008.  Of the remaining thirteen, 8 have remained Conservative throughout and 5 Labour.

Labour should retain Brent and Harrow, and they have high hopes of winning Barnet and Camden.  They lost there last time by a reasonably sizable 11%, but the previous two contests were tighter: losing by only 0.4% in 2000.  Whether they can win this time will depend on the differential turnout between inner and outer London, as they need the votes in Camden to come out to balance the strong Conservative advantage in areas like High Barnet.  Labour hopes to be helped by the unpopularity of current assembly member Brian Coleman, who has infuriated firefighters in his role as Johnson’s fire chief.

Labour thinks it has an outside chance of taking Ealing and Hillingdon too, which Boris’ deputy Richard Barnes won by a 16% margin in 2008.  The final seat that Labour could take on a strong showing would be Merton and Wandsworth, which former MP Richard Tracey also won by 16% last time.  The polls show Labour could take this, but we understand that the party thinks this is probably a seat too far.

The Lib Dems have not won a constituency, despite coming close in both South West London and Lambeth and Southwark in 2004.  Given their polling, they are not expected to break their duck this time around.

The map below summarises the outcomes for the 14 constituencies if the swings shown in the YouGov London poll happened uniformly across the capital.

On the top-up list, Labour would have at least three members if the polls are accurate, and more if it does not take any of the constituencies shown in the map above.  This would see current assembly members Nicky Gavron and Murad Qureshi returned, along with South Londoner Fiona Twycross.

For the Conservatives, Andrew Boff is likely to remain, but the fate of the others on the list will depend on how many constituencies they lose.

On the Lib Dem side, Caroline Pidgeon and new-comer Stephen Knight should get in, but that is it.  Whilst Jenny Jones should remain for the Greens, Darren Johnson faces an uphill battle to remain alongside her.  Finally, two UKIP members would also be returned.

The BNP are unlikely to retain the seat they won last time (their representative then, Richard Barnbrook, later left the party in one of its frequent blood-lettings).  The far-left have maintained a regular vote of around 88,000 in the three previous elections, but the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is likely to under-perform against that this time.

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