London’s New Political Landscape

by Jackie_South on July 9, 2014

London_iconLast Thursday’s council by-election in Tower Hamlets’ Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward brought to an end this year’s local elections in London (both this election and the previous week’s in Barnet’s Colindale ward were held back from the main 22 May elections due to the death of a candidate).

The London Local Elections

Unlike much of the rest of England, Labour did very well in London and UKIP’s performance was muted. The exceptions to both were on the capital’s eastern fringe – particularly in Havering and to a lesser extent in Bexley and Bromley. In contrast, Labour romped home in many more central boroughs. In both Islington and Lewisham – neither of which had a Labour majority going into the 2010 elections – Labour now holds all but one seat on the council (a solitary Green in both cases).

Labour now has 1,059 councillors of the 1,851 across London (57% of the total), whilst the Conservatives have 613 (33%), Lib Dems 116 (6%), Greens 4, UKIP 12, residents associations 27 and others 20.

Below are before and after maps showing which party had a majority of councillors in each borough.

London 2010 boroughs

London 2014 boroughs 2

Before the elections, we set out some predictions and wards to watch. So how did we do?

Well, we correctly predicted the outcome in 28 of the 32 boroughs. We predicted that Labour would hold all the boroughs it won outright in 2010 and would win a majority in Merton and Redbridge. We also correctly predicted that the Conservatives would win Kingston Upon Thames from the Liberal Democrats but lose overall control in Havering.

We got four boroughs wrong: Labour won three boroughs where we thought the Tories might hang on – Croydon, Hammersmith and Harrow (Labour lost control in Harrow last year as a result of defections). The Hammersmith and Fulham victory surprised most commentators, where Labour did well through a combination of some unpopular decisions by national government (hospital closures), the council (the controversial Earl’s Court redevelopment) and the European elections held the same day. Labour failed to win our one to watch – Ravenscourt Park ward – but managed to romp home in Fulham Broadway (thanks to the Earls Court issue) where the Tories were almost 20% ahead in 2010.

Croydon saw Labour breaking through not only in Waddon ward (our one to watch) but also Ashburton ward, where Labour’s share of the vote grew from 27% in 2010 to 41%.

In Harrow, we overestimated the share of the vote that the Independent Labour Group’s (ILG) candidates would deny to Labour. However, the fact that only one seat net changed hands from the 2010 result (an Independent won a seat off the Conservatives in the split Headstone North ward) at a time that Labour made gains elsewhere suggests that the ILG did have some impact on the results. The only other changes were in wards that remained split in both elections: the Conservatives won a seat off Labour in Harrow on the Hill ward and lost one to them in Rayner’s Lane ward. The sole Lib Dem on the council held on in Rayner’s Lane.

Our other error was in predicting that Labour would hold their majority in Tower Hamlets and win the mayoralty: they did neither in an election that is mired in controversy and accusations of irregularities. Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First Party won both seats in our ward to watch, Shadwell, which we thought could go to them, Labour or the Conservatives. Rahman’s party were particularly strong in a central east-west belt stretching along the A13 from Aldgate to the River Lea.

Here’s a run-through our other wards to watch:

  • Goresbrook (Barking & Dagenham): if UKIP were to win anything in this borough, we thought it might be here. Labour won comfortably, and won every other seat in the borough too.
  • East Barnet (Barnet): Labour won all three seats here off the Conservatives and narrowly missed (30 seats to 32 Tories and one Lib Dem) winning control of the borough
  • Brampton (Bexley): Labour failed to dent council leader Theresa O’Neill’s majority, despite mischievously standing three candidates also called O’Neill. The Conservatives held the borough comfortably, despite losing four seats to Labour in the north and three to UKIP in the middle.
  • Mapesbury (Brent): Labour won two of the three seats in this ward from the Lib Dems, but just failed to wipe them off the face of the borough. The ward now returns Brent’s sole Liberal Democrat councillor.
  • Crystal Palace/ Clock House (Bromley): these two northwestern wards returned Liberal Democrats in 2010 (alongside two Tories in Clockhouse): Labour won both seats in Crystal Palace and two in Clock House (the third being held by the Conservatives). Further east, UKIP won two seats in Cray Valley West ward whilst the Lib Dems were wiped out when the Tories won all the seats in Cray Valley East.
  • Haverstock (Camden): Labour won all three seats off the Lib Dems here. Only one Lib Dem remains in the borough, along with one Green and 12 Tories. Labour holds the other 40 seats in a borough where they won back control in 2010.
  • Elthorne/ Walpole (Ealing): as noted by Demotivatrix in response to the previous post, Labour won all the seats in both of these wards.  Labour won 53 of the 69 wards in the borough, another where they only regained control in 2010.
  • Chase (Enfield): we chose this to gauge Labour’s chances next year in Enfield North – a stretch target for them given the 600 vote Tory majority in 2010. Nevertheless, Labour managed to win one of the three seats in the ward.
  • Blackheath Westcombe (Greenwich): Labour won a seat off the Conservatives here, but both parties retain representation in this perennially split ward. Elsewhere, Labour won two of the three seats in Eltham North from the Conservatives, a result that will hearten Eltham MP Clive Efford as he fights to retain the constituency for Labour.
  • Springfield (Hackney): as predicted by regular reader Mike Killingworth, the Conservatives held on here by a comfortable 10% buffer. Labour continue to dominate the borough, although they failed to make any net gains in what must have been a mildly disappointing result given their results elsewhere in London.
  • Hornsey (Haringey): Labour won all three seats in this ward from the Lib Dems, signalling that Lynne Featherstone must be in serious trouble next year.
  • Hylands (Havering): UKIP failed to break through here, although a Residents’ Association candidate did manage to win a seat from the Conservatives here. Elsewhere, UKIP did make seven gains, largely at Labour’s expense (they lost 4 of their 5). A bad night too for the Tories, losing 11 seats and overall control of the council. Indeed, the largest element on the council now are the 24 Residents’ Association councillors.
  • Heathrow Villages (Hillingdon): Labour won all three seats in this ward that was previously split between them and the Conservatives. Labour won three other seats (on each in Charville, Uxbridge South and West Drayton) from the Conservatives, but also lost one to them in Yiewsley .
  • Hounslow South (Hounslow): Labour easily won this ward off the Conservatives. Across the borough, Labour defeated the Tories in 14 of the 25 seats they were defending, a landslide that augurs well for Labour in their quest to win Brentford and Isleworth in next year’s general election.
  • Highbury East (Islington): this was the safest Liberal Democrat ward in the borough in 2010, but they failed to hold on. Labour took two of the seats as they won every other councillor across the borough. However, Highbury East did deny Labour a total clean sweep as the third councillor elected was a Green, just nudging out Labour by only eight votes.
  • Earl’s Court (Kensington and Chelsea): the Conservatives paid a small price here for the controversy around the redevelopment plans here that cost them more dearly across the rails in Hammersmith and Fulham. The Tories held two seats but lost the third to give the Liberal Democrats their sole councillor in the Royal Borough. Labour won a modest three seats further north in the borough.
  • Chessington North and Hook (Kingston): The Liberal Democrats successfully held both their seats in this split ward, but lost nine seats elsewhere. The Conservatives won seven of those seats, to win control of the council. The other two were picked up by Labour in Norbiton: their only representation in the borough.
  • Clapham Town (Lambeth): Labour held all three seats, despite the unhelpful intervention of their own MP, Kate Hoey. Labour gained 15 seats in the borough, wiping out the Liberal Democrats (previously the second largest party) and holding 59 of the 63 council seats. The Conservatives won a seat off the Lib Dems in Clapham Common, but lost two to Labour in Thurlow Park. The Greens gained their first councillor in St Leonards ward (in Streatham) from the Lib Dems.
  • Downham (Lewisham): Labour won here, once the Lib Dems’ strongest ward in the borough. Although Darren Johnson stood down in Brockley, the Greens held on to his seat to become the official opposition of one to Labour’s 53 councillors.
  • Lower Morden (Merton): Labour won this ward from the Conservatives, and won outright control of the borough that they had been running as a minority administration since 2010. Labour won every council seat in Mitcham and Morden, and made advances in parts of the Wimbledon constituency.
  • Royal Docks (Newham): it seemed unlikely that Labour would lose any councillors in the one party state of Newham, but if they did it was most likely to be in this ward. They didn’t, and won over 60% of the vote in every ward in the borough.
  • Hainault (Redbridge): Labour won all three council seats from the Conservatives here. Labour gained a further six seats elsewhere to win outright control for the first time in the borough’s history.
  • Teddington (Richmond): the Liberal Democrats successfully held all three seats, although the Conservatives were 50 votes from winning one. Vince Cable can probably breathe a little more easily, although the Tories gained nine seats off the Lib Dems across the borough, six of which were in Cable’s Twickenham constituency.
  • Rotherhithe (Southwark): Labour won these three seats from the Liberal Democrats here with some ease, despite the ward once being seen as the latter’s heartland. Labour had their best result in Southwark since Simon Hughes’ landmark 1983 by-election victory, winning 12 of the 25 seats that the Lib Dems were defending.
  •  Nonsuch (Sutton): Unlike the rest of London, the Liberal Democrats did well in Sutton, not only retaining control of what is now their sole London Borough, but also gaining a net two seats at the Conservatives’ expense. One of those seats was in Nonsuch ward, giving them all three councillors for the ward. Marginal Sutton and Cheam’s MP, Paul Burstow, may well have been the only happy Lib Dem MP in these elections.
  • Leyton/ Hale End & Highams Park (Waltham Forest): Labour’s victory in Leyton ward heralded the wipe out of the Liberal Democrats in the borough. In Chingford’s Hale End and Highams Park ward, Labour won a seat off the Conservatives. Overall, Labour gained eight seats across the borough, although only 2 to the Conservatives’ 16 in Chingford.
  • Queenstown (Wandsworth): Labour made a relatively modest gain of six seats in Wandsworth, including one of the three in the northernmost ward of Queenstown (around Battersea Park and the power station).  They also won two seats in Roehampton and three in parts of Tooting. The Conservatives retained control of the council, holding 41 seats to Labour’s 19.
  • Maida Vale (Westminster): Labour successfully won a seat in this previously all-Conservative ward, indicating that Labour MP Karen Buck has a good chance of holding on to marginal Westminster North. Further south, Labour won all three seats off the Tories in Churchill ward in Pimlico.

Who Will Win What in 2015?

How would this play out in a general election? Below is the current map, from the 2010 elections, of London’s constituencies.

London constit 2010

The most simple (if time-consuming) way of looking at how the local elections might translate into MPs is to aggregate all the votes cast in each ward in each constituency. Doing so results in our next map (note: some ward boundaries in a few boroughs have changed since 2010, and so a few constituencies are an approximate fit – for example I have put all the new Brompton and Hans Town ward of Kensington and Chelsea into the Chelsea and Fulham although a minority of its voters are in the Kensington constituency).

London constit 2014 #1

The Lib Dems would be reduced to their two seats in Sutton whilst Labour would make nine gains, including one (Enfield Southgate) that is not on its current list of twelve targets. The Tories would lose seven seats, but pick two up at the Liberal Democrats’ expense.

There are some difficulties with this approach as a predictor, however. The most obvious is that grey seat out on London’s eastern edge, indicating a notional win for Residents’ Associations in Hornchurch and Upminster. It is unlikely that they will stand next year or that Tory Angela Watkinson will have any difficulty holding on: those Residents’ Associations also had the most votes in the constituency in 2010 in elections held the same day that Watkinson romped home with a 16,000 vote (31%) majority.

More subtle is where the national parties perform differently in local and national elections in a borough. Wandsworth is a good illustration: Labour held all three constituencies in the borough between 1997 and 2005 but the Conservatives have maintained comfortable majorities on the council ever since 1990. The Conservatives were 6.6% ahead in its council votes in the Tooting constituency in 2010 yet Labour’s Sadiq Khan held on to his seat with a 5% lead. In many seats, it is also obvious that an incumbent MP does better than his party due to a strong personal vote.

To address this issue, the next model shows what happens when you apply the change in each party’s vote between the 2010 and 2014 local elections to the general election position. As an example, let us look at Twickenham, where the Conservatives won more votes this May. Vince Cable won  54.4% of the vote in 2010, whilst the Lib Dem council candidates took 41.1% of the vote within the constituency boundaries. This May, the Lib Dems took 34.6% of the vote there, a drop of 6.6% (with rounding). Applying that change to the general election vote would leave Cable with 47.8%, enough to give him an 11.3% lead over the Conservatives.

The resultant map is better for the Lib Dems and a bit worse for Labour than our earlier map, although the former would still be two seats down on 2010 whilst the latter would be seven seats up. The Liberal Democrats

London constit 2014 #2

There are further tweaks that could be made to filter out local oddities. The model already does most of that with the odd Residents’ Association votes in Havering, but the local parties in Harrow and Tower Hamlets in particular complicate things, given that they did not exist in 2010 and are unlikely to stand in next year’s general election.

Given that in Tower Hamlets, it is not altogether obvious where the Tower Hamlets First vote would go and given that Labour has a reasonable majority in both constituencies, we have decided not to make any alterations here.

But Harrow is worth more consideration: given that the local party there is the Independent Labour Group, formed of former Labour councillors, it is reasonable to assume that most of this vote would have gone to Labour in a general election. Both Harrow seats (Harrow East and West – a small part of safe Tory Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner is in the borough) are currently marginal – East for the Conservatives, West for Labour.

Using the model above, Labour’s hold on Harrow West would tighten (a majority of 18%) but it would just fail to win Harrow East, by about 1,000 votes (2%) despite a small swing in its favour. However, adding the Labour and ILG votes together would be enough for Labour to gain Harrow East by around 3,000 votes (6.4%). Given this disparity, it is reasonable to add Harrow East to Labour’s notional gains.

London constit 2014 #3

So this is our best guess of where this year’s local elections would have got us to in a general election. But that election is still a year off, and much could still change.

Our final map below takes the last map but shades for the size of our projected majority. Given the Tower Hamlets issue mentioned before, the results for Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar and Limehouse probably understate Labour’s real lead.

London constit 2014 maj

Excluding Poplar and Limehouse (where the second party in the locals was Tower Hamlets First), there are five seats where our model predicts a majority of less than 2,000 votes. If the polls stay reasonably constant over the next ten months, these five are likely to be where the closest contests are fought out. These are:

  • Croydon Central: our model predicts a Labour gain, but by a tight 700 vote majority
  • Ilford North: our model shows the Conservatives just holding on here, by 1,200 votes
  • Enfield Southgate: Labour won more votes than the Tories here in May (a 2.7% lead), but we predict that the Conservatives would hold on with a 1,400 vote majority (3.1%). This seat is not on Labour’s current target list, but now looks a better bet than seats on it such as Battersea or Finchley & Golder’s Green
  • Bermondsey & Old Southwark: Labour won 5.8% more votes than the Liberal Democrats here in the local elections, but that swing would not be enough to overturn Simon Hughes’ personal vote. Our model shows him holding on with a majority of 1,600 (3.6%) suggesting that this would be his closest election of all those fought since 1983
  • Ealing Central and Acton: Labour would win this seat from the Conservatives by a 1,700 vote majority ( 3.7%)


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth July 10, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Many thanks for the namecheck!

The Tories, needless to say, are trying to build Karen Buck out of Westminster North, but house prices have probably now reached such heights that if you can afford a luxury flat in NW8, W2 or W9 you ain’t a British citizen and so won’t be voting for anyone in Parliamentary elections…


basilia dufrene May 23, 2016 at 3:15 am

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