As we approach the General Election on 7 May, the think tank Centre for London looks at the big issues shaping electoral politics in the capital. By Lewis Baston.
With the dissolution of Parliament yesterday (Monday 30 March) the Commons careers of at least nine of London’s 73 MPs have drawn to a close. The longest-serving MP in London, Frank Dobson (first elected 1979) steps down, as do five of his Labour colleagues, three Conservatives and one Lib Dem. Several will no doubt pop up in the House of Lords, and Tessa Jowell is tipped by many to be in the running as Labour’s 2016 candidate for Mayor of London.
So farewell, but also hail! Who will replace those we are losing, either through retirement or the choices of the electorate?
|Brent Central||Sarah Teather||LD||-||Dawn Butler (Lab)|
|Croydon South||Richard Ottaway||Con||Chris Philip||Safe seat|
|Dulwich & W Norwood||Tessa Jowell||Lab||Helen Hayes||Safe seat|
|Edmonton||Andy Love||Lab||Kate Osamor||Safe seat|
|Greenwich & Woolwich||Nick Raynsford||Lab||Matthew Pennycook||Safe seat|
|Hampstead & Kilburn||Glenda Jackson||Lab||Tulip Siddiq||Simon Marcus (Con)|
|Holborn & St Pancras||Frank Dobson||Lab||Keir Starmer||Safe seat|
|Kensington||Malcolm Rifkind||Con||Victoria Borwick||Safe seat|
|Lewisham Deptford||Joan Ruddock||Lab||Vicky Foxcroft||Safe seat|
|Uxbridge & South Ruislip||John Randall||Con||Boris Johnson||Safe seat|
Two of the new intake are almost certain to reach high ministerial or shadow positions by the end of the Parliament — Boris Johnson returns to the Commons after his sojourn on the south side of the river since he won the 2008 mayoral election, and Keir Starmer is an impressive Labour recruit, having been Director of Public Prosecutions from 2008 to 2013. The bench of legal talent in Parliament has become thinner in recent decades, but this looks like reversing in 2015 — Starmer and his constituency neighbour Emily Thornberry are Labour barristers, plus Sarah Sackman from Finchley if she makes it. A number of young London barristers (Lucy Frazer for instance) are fighting safe seats for the Conservatives. A Conservative to watch in the new Parliament will be entrepreneur and think tank writer Chris Philp, who nearly won Hampstead & Kilburn for the Tories in 2010, and who has found a safe berth in Croydon South.
It looks a little as if the London Assembly is mounting a reverse takeover of the House of Commons. As well as Mayor Boris Johnson, three more Conservative colleagues from the Assembly will be moving across the river, namely Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire), James Cleverly (Braintree) and Victoria Borwick (Kensington), probably accompanied by Labour’s Andrew Dismore (Hendon). Bob Neill and Angela Bray are already there. The restoration of London-wide government in 2000 has evidently created a new political career pathway.
On the Conservative side, alumni of Westminster or Wandsworth councils have often made it into the Commons but this time only Edward Argar (Westminster to Charnwood) is managing it without a stop at London City Hall on the way. Labour’s London councils are providing their customary number of transfers to the Westminster stage, including Helen Hayes, Vicky Foxcroft, Tulip Siddiq and Matthew Pennycook (plus Rowenna Davis in Southampton) in held seats, while Ruth Cadbury and Wes Streeting fight marginals, Neil Coyle stands against Simon Hughes in Bermondsey and Bambos Charalambous tries to follow Stephen Twigg in winning Southgate for Labour.
The gender representation among London’s 73 MPs is currently 24 women and 49 men — hardly equal, but a bit more so than the House of Commons as a whole (31.5% rather than 22.8%). If every seat votes for the same party as it did in 2010, the number of women MPs in London would tick up to 26. While several of the seats that could change hands are contested between two women, or two men, there are others where the balance could shift. Two seats where Labour gains are highly possible, Croydon Central and Harrow East, would see Labour women replace Conservative men, while two more ambitious targets (Finchley & Golders Green, Battersea) would involve one switch in each direction. If the Conservatives manage to topple Vince Cable in Twickenham, their candidate Tania Mathias would add to the women’s total. The most balanced London delegation feasible would be 30 women and 43 men (41.1% female).
London is a ‘majority-minority’ city, with no single ethnic group comprising over half the population. But its parliamentary delegation is, and will remain, overwhelmingly white British. London currently has six outgoing BAME MPs, all Labour (Diane Abbott, Rushanara Ali, David Lammy, Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra, Chuka Umunna) and on a standstill result would have eight (the same six plus Kate Osamor from Edmonton and Tulip Siddiq from Hampstead & Kilburn). We can add Dawn Butler of Brent Central, and possibly Uma Kumaran of Harrow East, for the probability of 11 BAME MPs, still all Labour. While the Conservatives have selected a number of BAME candidates for safe seats, none have been in London, although James Cleverley AM (Braintree) and Suella Fernandes (Fareham) are London exports to other constituencies.
Politically, the new London MPs seem a moderate and practical lot. Labour’s intake will probably have two experienced former MPs (Joan Ryan and Andrew Dismore), and councillors and others bringing expertise in law, health, planning and business. Several of the Conservatives have had some of their ideological fervour tempered by long experience of running this baffling, chaotic liberal metropolis. But is there really a difference in the sort of things London MPs do once they get to the House of Commons? We shall see next week.
Lewis Baston is a Research Associate at Centre for London and writes on elections, politics and history. He is a frequent commentator for various broadcast, published and online media.