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Predictions for London borough council elections 2010
Our resident psephologist, David Boothroyd, has once again put his election hat on, and come up with predictions for how the London boroughs will look after the election on 6 May 2010.
Barking and Dagenham (2006: Lab 38, BNP 12, C 1)
Verdict: Continued Labour majority
This borough is likely to be a high-profile fight centred on the British National Party. In 2006 the BNP stood 13 candidates, all but one of whom won their seats. However the party has yet to top the poll: in the 2009 European elections they were some way behind. On the expectation that local elections will coincide with the general election, Nick Griffin’s Parliamentary candidature in Barking will concentrate media attention. However on a bigger turnout, concentration on the BNP may turn off voters who have other issues on their mind. We expect a continued Labour majority.
Barnet (2006: C 37, Lab 20, L Dem 6)
Verdict: Conservatives to keep control
Two marginal Parliamentary seats in this borough put Labour on the defensive. Finchley and Golders Green is to be fought by the former council leader Mike Freer who has just stepped down to concentrate on that election; his Labour opponent will be Labour group leader Alison Moore. Hendon is a better seat for Labour but Andrew Dismore is not certain. Labour will be attempting to hold as much of their previous support as possible rather than gain seats, and Liberal Democrats will also be defending a seat in the split ward of High Barnet. The Conservatives will keep control.
Bexley (2006: C 54, Lab 9)
Verdict: Conservatives to keep control
The ward boundaries in Bexley were drawn up on a Labour recommendation which disperses Labour support evenly, ensuring that the party has a chance of a narrow majority in good years but few safe seats to fall back on in bad years. Hence there was a dramatic loss of 23 seats for Labour between 2002 and 2006. The Conservatives may even increase their performance in two split wards; they will keep control.
Brent (2006: L Dem 27, Lab 21, C 15)
Verdict: No overall control, with the Lib Dem / Conservative administration continuing
In 2006 the Liberal Democrats gained seats off the back of success in the Brent East Parliamentary seat. Boundary changes have now split that seat up and there may be a danger of the Liberal Democrats spreading themselves too thinly in trying to win the new Brent Central seat. The council is led by a Liberal Democrat – Conservative coalition and byelections have generally shown little recovery for Labour in Liberal Democrat seats. The scope for a few Liberal Democrat gains is not enough for them to win an overall majority. It is possible that Labour will recapture some of its former strongholds but unlikely that this would deliver the 11 gains needed to regain control. This borough is likely to remain in no overall control.
Bromley (2006: C 49, L Dem 7, Lab 4)
Verdict: Conservative control rock solid
Bromley is now a rock-solid safe Conservative borough. It was one of only four to remain in Conservative hands in 1994 and was briefly lost in 1998 due to Liberal Democrat targeting, but delivered a massive Conservative vote in the 2008 GLA elections. Continued Conservative control can be relied upon.
Camden (2006: L Dem 20, Lab 18, C 14, GP 2)
Verdict: Lib Dems could gain overall majority, or run a minority administration
Politics in Camden have been highly competitive for several years. Labour’s overall majority in 2002 was on the shaky foundations of only 33.7% of the vote, such that a slight decline in 2006 combined with voters getting behind the best placed non-Labour candidates led to a loss of half its seats. The council is controlled by a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition. Since 2006, the Liberal Democrats have picked up seats in byelections. The Parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn is a complex three way marginal. It is quite possible that the Liberal Democrats could gain the seats necessary for an overall majority.
Croydon (2006: C 43, Lab 27)
Verdict: Conservative stay in control
Labour had a narrow majority in Croydon at three successive elections despite never actually topping the poll: the Conservatives piled up large majorities in ultra-safe seats in Purley and Coulsdon in the south of the borough, enabling Labour to win the rest. The Labour vote fell back dramatically in 2006 but still delivered a decent number of seats. It is difficult to see Labour regaining control in 2010; a re-elected Conservative council is a safe prediction.
Ealing (2006: C 37, Lab 29, L Dem 3)
Verdict: Conservative hold control
The Labour loss in Ealing in 2006 was attributed by many commentators to opposition to the tram scheme proposed by then Mayor Ken Livingstone. Since then, there has been a mass defection from Labour to Conservative of councillors who are allies of Gurcharan Singh. Ealing has a reputation for its midterm elections predicting the result of the next general election (‘getting it wrong’ only in 1986). Labour ought to regain most if not all of the defector’s seats in Southall but making further gains will be difficult from a combative and populist Conservative administration (which gave every household £50 “cash back” in December). A Conservative hold is likely.
Enfield (2006: C 34, Lab 27, Save Chase Farm Hospital 2)
Verdict: Conservative overall majority
One of the big surprises of the 2006 local elections was the swing away from the Conservatives in Enfield: Labour gained seats, and hospital campaigners (who turned out to be connected to the far left, a fact not generally known at the time of the election) were elected in two Conservative wards. The Conservatives ought to regain those seats. If Labour gains seats in split wards it might get a bare majority but it is difficult to see the movement being consistent in this large borough.
Greenwich (2006: Lab 36, C 13, L Dem 2)
Verdict: Expect a Labour hold
This is one of the most consistent boroughs which has been Labour in every election except 1968; in 2006 Labour lost only two seats overall despite polling its lowest vote ever. For Labour to lose control it would need to lose 11 seats which will be a tall order in the absence of an obvious single challenger. We expect it to remain Labour controlled.
Hackney (2006: Lab 44, C 9, L Dem 3, GP 1; Lab mayor)
Verdict: Labour stay in charge
Hackney is run by Jules Pipe, who is a directly-elected Mayor. After a great deal of chaos in the 1990s, Hackney has settled down and its finances have returned to some sort of order. Labour actually increased its vote in 2006, and lost only one seat to the Green Party. Pipe’s re-election is almost a certainty (he nearly won on the first ballot in 2006) and there is no clear challenger for the council, so continued Labour control is likely.
Hammersmith and Fulham (2006: C 33, Lab 13)
Verdict: Conservatives increase their hold
This borough had a great deal of media attention in 2006, as the Conservatives campaigned to gain control. In the event the swing to the Conservatives was significantly greater and they won a large majority. In power they have continued to garner attention for their cost-cutting and proposals for council estate redevelopment. Despite an active Labour group led by Stephen Cowan, the Conservatives are well placed in this borough and long-term demographic trends help them.
Haringey (2006: Lab 30, L Dem 27)
Verdict: The momentum is with the Lib Dems to just gain control
Now almost universally dubbed the ‘Baby P council’, Haringey has cleaved in two electorally with the Liberal Democrats winning in the west (Hornsey, Muswell Hill) and Labour in the east (Tottenham). Despite losing its Leader over the Baby P scandal the Labour group easily held a byelection in Seven Sisters shortly after where it was potentially vulnerable, indicating that locals may not feel the issue has direct partisan relevance. A tough fight will be in prospect as there are several split wards.
Harrow (2006: C 38, Lab 24, L Dem 1)
Verdict: Conservatives keep control
Labour’s gain of control in Harrow in 1998 was the surprise result of that set of elections. Although overall control was lost in 2002, it took until 2006 for the Conservatives to get back to power. Although boundary changes (removing Pinner) take place, both Parliamentary seats in Harrow are marginal and will be heavily fought. Little change in council composition is expected.
Havering (2006: C 34, RA 13, Ind RA 3, Lab 2, BNP 1, L Dem 1)
Verdict: Conservatives keep control
The local political structure in Havering is complicated by the several residents’ associations who have always had a major impact on the council. Labour’s vote has collapsed since it ran the council in the 1990s, while the Conservatives have consolidated their hold on the Romford area with the help of local MP Andrew Rosindell. It is possible the BNP could add to their single seat in the Harold Wood area but a change of council control is unlikely.
Hillingdon (2006: C 45, Lab 18, L Dem 2)
Verdict: Conservatives keep control
As with other west London boroughs, the Conservatives did in Hillingdon in 2006, gaining overall control with a comfortable majority. Labour is now penned back into the Hayes and Harlington constituency, but many of its wards there are safe so a further increase in the Conservative vote may not deliver many seats. Heathrow expansion dominates politics in the south of the borough where a Labour councillor for Heathrow Villages ward recently defected to the Conservatives. The most likely result here is very similar to 2006.
Hounslow (2006: C 24, Lab 23, Community Group 6, L Dem 5, Ind. Alliance 2)
Verdict: Conservatives keep control, with a possible overall majority
Labour’s loss of overall control in Hounslow was a surprise result in 2006. The Community Group, a local residents group with a strongly anti-Labour agenda, formed a shaky coalition with the Conservatives to take control. Unfavourable publicity for the sitting Labour MP in Brentford and Isleworth makes this a difficult area for Labour to defend and it is possible that the Conservatives can make advances in the Heston wards to think about forming a single party administration.
Islington (2006: L Dem 24, Lab 23, GP 1)
Verdict: Labour return to majority control
The Liberal Democrats held on to Islington in 2006 by the skin of their teeth, and Labour polled more votes overall. The administration has had further worries since then while the local Labour Parties are well organized. A tough fight is almost certain, especially in Islington South where the Liberal Democrats hope to win the Parliamentary seat, but it is likely that Labour will be able to return to majority control.
Kensington and Chelsea (2006: C 45, Lab 9)
Verdict: Rock solid Conservative
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had one of the most stable electoral pictures: no seat changed hands for 24 years from 1982 until the Conservatives gained St Charles ward in North Kensington. Since then Labour has lost one seat in Colvile to the Liberal Democrats in a byelection. This is a rock solid Conservative borough.
Kingston-upon-Thames (2006: L Dem 25, C 21, Lab 2)
Verdict: Lib Dem scrape back in, only just
Topping the poll in 2006 did not quite allow the Conservatives to regain control of this borough, despite major campaigning points including the record high level of the council tax. A further push in 2010 will tie in with attempts to win the Parliamentary seats. The election is likely to be close; individual candidates and their personal votes in split wards were enough to make the difference in 2006. Assuming the general election is on the same day as the local elections, the Lib Dems are likely to just scrape back in, on the back of the popular Ed Davey.
Lambeth (2006: Lab 39, L Dem 17, C 6, GP 1)
Verdict: Labour keep control, but lose seats
Labour’s best result in London in 2006 was its recapture of Lambeth from a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition. The local Labour Parties had organized well and ran a well-funded campaign that focussed on unpopular decisions by the council. However, no council election in Lambeth since 1990 has re-elected the incumbent administration, and Labour are now vulnerable to the same tactics. A simultaneous general election is likely to help downgrade the council issues and we expect Labour to be re-elected with a smaller majority.
Lewisham (2006: Lab 26, L Dem 17, GP 6, C 3, SP 2; Lab mayor)
Verdict: Labour Mayor, but with divided council
Despite losing their majority on the council in 2006, Labour retained control of Lewisham through the directly-elected Mayor who is Steve Bullock. Fortunately for Labour, their opposition is divided and the Liberal Democrats obtain almost no support outside their target wards, which makes Steve Bullock a favourite for re-election. However, he may have even fewer councillors to back him up.
Merton (2006: C 30, Lab 27, RA 3)
Verdict: Conservative narrow majority
The Conservatives run Merton on their own but the Residents’ Association councillors have usually voted for Labour Mayors so that they have an evenly divided council. Labour has its support spread very efficiently in the Mitcham and Morden area, with many seats held but by small majorities. There will be a strong Labour campaign in the general election which is likely to keep council seats, and few may change hands overall, but the Conservatives need only a single net gain to get overall control.
Newham (2006: Lab 54, CPA 3, RU 3; Lab mayor)
Verdict: Labour Mayor, with massive Labour council majority
In a good election year, Labour can easily win every single seat on Newham council. In a bad election year Labour loses a few wards. The leader of the opposition is Alan Craig of the Christian People’s Alliance but only one ward is a realistic target. The Respect group has imploded with the rest of the party and Labour is likely to regain those seats. A Conservative challenge in Royal Docks ward may succeed and give them representation. The directly-elected mayor, Sir Robin Wales, won with 48% of the vote in 2006 and will be re-elected in 2010 even if this percentage falls.
Redbridge (2006: C 34, Lab 19, L Dem 9, BNP 1)
Verdict: Increased Conservative majority
The Conservatives surprisingly lost votes in 2006, having suffered from internal disputes in their council leadership. Since then the Liberal Democrats have gained two seats from Labour after winning over the muslim vote, and two other councillors have defected the same way. An increased Conservative majority is likely as they are now able to present a united party.
Richmond-upon-Thames (2006: L Dem 36, C 18)
Verdict: Lib Dem majority
This borough see-sawed in the past two elections, unexpectedly voting out what appeared to be a secure Liberal Democrat administration in 2002, before reverting back to Liberal Democrat control in 2006. Perhaps more remarkably these changes took place in only a few wards, while other wards barely changed their voting preferences. The prospects for 2010 are for a high stakes battle especially on the Richmond side where Zac Goldsmith is campaigning to win the Parliamentary seat. However that ends up we project that the Liberal Democrats have a good chance of retaining council control.
Southwark (2006: L Dem 28, Lab 28, C 6, GP 1)
Verdict: No overall control, with likely Lib Dem / Conservative coalition continuing
At every election since 1998 Southwark has looked like a borough that was about to go to majority Liberal Democrat control, but pulled back at the last moment. There was a minority Liberal Democrat administration from 2002 but their loss of seats in 2006 forced them into a coalition with the Conservatives. The administration has come under criticism as a result of the Lakanal House fire and other issues, and it may be that Labour will be able to regain its strength on the council estates in the north which have been voting Liberal Democrat as a result of Simon Hughes’ popularity.
Sutton (2006: L Dem 32, C 22)
Verdict: Conservative gain
Liberal Democrat control of Sutton has been continuous since 1986 but the party slipped alarmingly in 2006, and the signs are that the Conservatives have become even more effective in campaigning since then. We project that they will pick up control of this borough in 2010.
Tower Hamlets (2006: Lab 26, RU 12, C 7, L Dem 6)
Verdict: A likely Labour overall majority, but Labour may be split itself
Local politics in Tower Hamlets is extraordinarily complicated, with political groupings often being decided on the basis of religious and tribal disputes that originate in Bangladesh. The current council leadership is based on a faction in the Labour Party who are based in supporters of the East London Mosque, but it appears that the regional Labour Party are attempting to ensure that they do not dominate the list of candidates for 2010. The Respect group has split up with several being among the East London Mosque supporters and joining Labour. The Conservatives now appear to have a secure base on the Isle of Dogs and may well add to it. The Liberal Democrats who once dominated in the north of the borough have fallen apart and look like winning one ward only.
To add to this confusion, Respect has put in a valid petition for a referendum on a directly-elected Mayor which will be held simultaneously with the council elections (if successful the new Mayor is likely to be elected in the autumn). This move is probably intended to see if a candidate backed by the East London Mosque and by Galloway can be elected.
Waltham Forest (2006: Lab 26, L Dem 19, C 15)
Verdict: Lib Dems gain the administration, but probably in a minority administration with Conservative tacit support
Despite their electoral rivalry – and the fact that disillusioned councillors have moved between the groups – Waltham Forest is run by a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition. As the largest party, Labour has held the council leadership with Clyde Loakes (until his resignation in May 2009 to concentrate on Parliamentary ambitions) and Chris Robbins being promoted by Labour without reference to the coalition arrangement. The Liberal Democrats will hope to gain seats such that they are the largest party and can demand the leadership, but that may mean Labour going into opposition.
Wandsworth (2006: C 51, Lab 9)
Verdict: Conservative stronghold
Long before newer administrations such as Hammersmith and Fulham began similar policies, Wandsworth was famed in local government for its low tax, low spending, all privatizing approach. The Conservative administration elected in 1978 has managed to turn a borough which would have been Labour in an even year into a Conservative stronghold.
Westminster (2006: C 48, Lab 12)
Verdict: Another Conservative stronghold
The ordure which descended on Westminster due to the Shirley Porter scandal never damaged the electoral appeal of the Conservatives in the city. Since 1990 the electoral situation has barely changed, with Labour losing its last seats in the south of the city and one seat in a 2008 byelection. A Conservative majority in 2010 looks assured.
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