Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute has released their latest wave of polling of the capital, and as ever there is a lot of interest in there. Here are five thoughts.
The Conservatives are headed for a world of hurt in London
The headline news is that the Conservatives are expected to lose Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth. The latter two remained Conservative-controlled even in the Labour wave year of 1994, and Barnet has never been Labour-controlled, though the Conservatives have intermittently lost their majorities there.
In a way that is what we would expect from the election. In Wandsworth, Labour gained Battersea and Rosena Allin-Khan won every ward in Tooting, and the party came very close to unseating Justine Greening in Putney (both seats in Wandsorth). In Westminster, Tory Mark Field nearly lost his Cities of London & Westminster seat, while Labour’s Karen Buck likewise won every ward in Westminster North.
However, Buck has a significant personal vote and Labour have always tended to underperform their national results in Wandsworth council elections, in part because of the Conservative council’s longstanding (and locally very popular) commitment to keeping council tax the lowest in the country. These would be big, big gains for Labour if they come true.
While Labour make big gains as far as councils they control, their seat gains will likely be pretty rubbish
However, I think the Tories will have a pretty good talking point (that is, it will get ministers and loyal backbenchers through interviews on election night on 4 May, not that it will be a sensible or correct take). That is that, looking at these numbers and the councils up for grabs in London, the actual number of seat gains looks likely to be quite low.
Why? Well, because Ed Miliband already did very well when these councils were last fought in 2014 as the Liberal Democrats collapsed to his benefit. In most of the capital, you are looking at perhaps three to eight possible gains as the last remaining Liberal Democrats or Conservatives are wiped out.
In Hackney, there are just three Tory councillors, four Liberal Democrats and 50 Labour party councillors, and that was actually one of Ed Miliband’s least impressive results in inner London. In Waltham Forest they hold 44 seats out of 60. In Haringey, 48 out of 57. And these are the Labour-held areas with the biggest potential for gains.
So even a blockbuster night for Labour in London I wouldn’t expect them to make many gains as far as seat numbers go.
It could get worse for the Tories depending on how the Liberal Democrat vote is distributed
The great unknown is that the Liberal Democrat vote is up – but we aren’t entirely sure where it is up. Their big hope of course is Richmond, where they were entirely wiped out in 2014, but it is possible that Brexit – and the fact that EU citizens can vote in this elections – will turn the table for them. Or they could just give a couple of Labour councillors a fright but gain very little. Who knows?
There is a lot to worry for both major parties here
I don’t think it is worth worrying too much about voting intention as far as Westminster goes: there isn’t an election due until 2022 and it is hard to predict results this far out.
However, were I Labour, it would trouble me that in a city where they have finished first as far as elections to Parliament go in every contest since 1992 and where they have not lost a city-wide contest since 2012, and are likely to get more than half the vote, the most popular choice for “who is the best Prime Minister?” is “Don’t Know”. (A shrug of the shoulders leads Jeremy Corbyn 36 per cent to 31 per cent, wile Theresa May is a poor third with 24 per cent. Facing a tricky two-legged tie to qualify for the Champions League proper in fourth place is Vince Cable with nine per cent.)
But there is very little to cheer here for the Conservatives either. While “leaving the EU” is a top three issue for a quarter of all Remain voters their path to a good parliamentary majority looks very tricky. It should alarm them that the traditional areas of Labour strength, particularly the NHS, are on the rise as far as issues of concern go.
The Conservatives have a big problem with Remainers, but Labour are doing okay with Leavers
The number one way to improve the Tory position in London and indeed across the country would be for them to do as well holding onto the “Cameron 2015, Remain 2016” voters as Labour are with “Miliband 2015, Leave 2016” ones. To give you an idea of the problem: Labour getting 30 per cent of the vote among Leavers, the Conservatives are getting just 17 per cent among Remainers. If the Tories can even do merely as poorly as Labour, their position would be greatly improved.
It’s hard to see at this distance who will even want to challenge Sadiq Khan
Voting intention for the 2020 mayoral election is only marginally more useful than voting intention for 2022, but on the more reliable metric of approval ratings, Khan continues to look like a formidable candidate in 2020, with more than half the city approving of his record so far.
Stephen Bush is special correspondent at our parent title, the New Statesman, where this post first appeared. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.