Electionist: London's Marginals

By Jonn Last edited 108 months ago
Electionist: London's Marginals

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Image courtesy of WallyG under a creative commons licence.
Without wanting to make this election any more depressing than it already is, you deserve the truth: odds are, your vote doesn't count. There are 73 constituencies in London. Something like 60 of them are going to come out of this election with an MP of the same party that they went into it with. If you live in Peckham your MP will be Harriet Harman, if you live in Romford it'll be Andrew Rosindell, and there's frankly not a lot you can do about that.

But that, of course, leaves about a dozen seats that probably will change hands come May 6th. Here are five of the most likely.

Ealing Central and Acton

In 1997 Labour won Ealing with nearly 60% of the vote. This year, though, boundary changes have moved Labour friendly patches like Shephed's Bush and White City into neighbouring Hammersmith, and replaced them with true blue districts to the west. The new constituency has a 'notional' Labour majority of just 100 votes. Doesn't look good, does it?

Who it'll fall to, though, isn't entirely clear. Even before Cleggmania set in, this was a genuine three-way marginal. The Tories' support for new schools may go down well in an area where Toby Young, of all people, is fighting to start one. The party's decision to accompany its flyers with insufficient postage, costing each constituent £1.30 a pop to receive them, was likely less welcome. Could go either way.

Islington South and Finsbury

Ever since the day Blair propositioned Brown in an Upper Street bistro, Islington has been the home of New Labour. Shame, then, that it's all but certain to fall to the LibDems this year. Five years ago there were less than 500 votes in it. Since then local candidate Bridget Fox has saved a post office and shovelled a small forest worth of flyers through every letter box in the borough.

Labour have retaliated by going round claiming the LibDems don't exist, using the 2009 European election figures to 'prove' it's a two-way race between Labour and the Tories. It's not, but pretending the Cameroons could take Clerkenwell may be enough to scare disaffected lefties back into line behind current MP Emily Thornberry.

Constituents sick of such dirty tricks and looking for an alternative need not despair: Richard Deboo is standing for the Animals Count party. We blame the taxidermist on Essex Road.

Brentford and Isleworth

Brentford is another three-way marginal, albeit one where Labour have a slightly better chance of holding the seat. This is despite the frankly embarrassing record of its MP, health minister Ann Keen: she and her husband, MP for neighbouring Feltham, claimed over £300k in expenses in a single year and listed a boarded up house in Hounslow as their 'main home'. (Ann's sister Sylvia Heal is MP Halesowen and Rowley Regis in the West Midlands, by the way. It's very much the family business.)

Keen's strategy seems to be to keep her head down. She's declined to debate the other candidates. And the local political reporter claims he's never even met her.

Croydon Central

Odd one, Croydon. The Tories won it in 2005, by just 75 votes. But boundary changes have brought it more Labour territory, giving it a 'notional Labour majority' and meaning the likes of Peter Snow now consider it a Labour seat. It's thus entirely possible that, come election night, the government will ‘lose’ a seat it hasn't held since 2005.

Then again it might not: Labour could benefit from the fact that the local Tories are helpfully tearing chunks out of each other. Sitting MP Andrew Pelling was turfed out of the party in 2007 after an arrest for assaulting his wife. While he promised to step down, he's now standing as an independent, leading to a personal intervention by David Cameron and worrying headlines like "Tories' mental health 'slurs' in Croydon Central campaign."


Battersea used to be distinctly radical territory. In 1913 it elected Britain's first black mayor. A few years before that, to warn of the evils of vivisection, it briefly housed a fountain dedicated to a dead dog.

By the eighties, though, the industry had gone, Chelsea was beginning to creep across the river, and the area had turned Tory. Labour won it back in '97, but gentrification has continued apace, now edging in from Clapham and Wandsworth, too. The Tories' decision to launch their manifesto at the long-closed power station probably signifies more than a commitment to regeneration.

Other constituencies to watch include Hammersmith, which has been held by Labour but where an inspirational/evil [delete as appropriate] Tory council led by Stephen Greenhalgh is putting up a strong fight; and Poplar and Limehouse, which the Tories may well take, despite it containing some of the worst poverty in Britain. The blues may also take a couple of LibDem seats, including Richmond Park, Sutton and Cheam, and Carshalton and Wallington.

One that almost certainly won't change hands, though, is Barking. Nick Griffin's campaign to take IG11 for the bonk-eyed racist nut-job party may have put the wind up liberal England - but the local Labour majority is so big that his chance of actually winning looks minimal. More likely, his presence is intended to help the BNP win a majority on the council. That could be the most frightening result come May 6th.

Last Updated 20 April 2010