With all the candidates in place, Kanda’s London team highlight what to look out for across some of the Capital’s key boroughs ahead of the May local elections.
Last week the nomination papers for all 1,817 council candidate vacancies across the Capital were carefully completed and submitted to Town Halls. Twenty five boroughs have new ward boundaries and there are five directly elected Mayors also up for grabs. This is the sixteenth time Londoners have got to the polls for the 32 boroughs that we know today. Labour go into the 2022 elections in control of 20 Councils, a high water mark for Labour representation in the Capital.
Brent Labour will be looking to hold onto their significant gains made in 2018.
New ward boundaries with significant changes in some wards may see the Liberal Democrats seeking to make in-roads back into a borough where they once held the majority of seats. Their only realistic opportunity will be in Sudbury where they will seek to overturn a slim Labour majority from 2018 in a new ward that will return two councillors.
The Conservatives will seek to make gains in the Queensbury and Brondsebury Park wards where they narrowly missed out in 2018, but the national position makes this challenging. Even if opposition made gains in all their target wards Labour will return to power in Brent with a significant majority.
All eyes will be on Highgate ward where a former Labour Councillor and the current Deputy Mayor will be standing for the Greens. Expect a well resourced campaign from both sides with activists from across north London being directed to the north east of the borough. With all the ward boundaries changing, and a third of councillors not standing again, predicting individual results is going to be tricky, but Labour will feel confident of retaining control.
Labour is looking to remove the last remaining Conservative councillors in the very south of the Borough, but they face a challenge in the north where an organised Green Party is hoping to challenge for seats. The Silvertown Tunnel, and riverside development, are tricky issues for the local Labour candidates.
New ward boundaries are giving the Greens confidence they can crack the Labour dominance of the north, but are also helping Labour in some more affluent areas. Labour are set to retain control, but possibly with some fresh opposition with a different tone from the normal Labour/Conservative divisions.
Most eyes will be on the key Green target wards of Dalston and Hackney Downs, where they are looking to finally make a return on their substantial vote share, (but with zero councillors), in previous elections. Outside of their Stamford Hill strongholds the usual Conservative runners up look thin on the ground, and Labour and Mayor Philip Glanville remain unthreatened by a host of minor parties and independents.
Having been almost completely controlled by the far left, the tide has turned a little to ensure there is a more diverse group of Labour candidates. A strong Liberal Democrat field (and the remnants of factional in-fighting in Labour) makes them the clear challenger to Labour. A good night for the Lib Dems would mean an East/West split of the borough, polarising the politics of planning in this already divided borough.
New wards, some new faces and full set of Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative candidates in every ward means Islington’s political map could look very different when all the votes are counted. Historically the Lib Dems have been the main challenger, although there is now a credible threat in pockets of the borough from the Greens. Having taken all but one seat in 2014 and 2018, Islington Labour may have to live with a smaller majority for the next term.
Following their success in winning five seats in 2018, the Green Party is focusing on Lambeth as one of their key boroughs for electoral gains. The Green Party chose to stage the national launch of their local election campaign at the Central Hill Estate in Gipsy Hill – one of the controversial Lambeth estate regeneration schemes that the Greens have made their opposition to a defining feature of their campaigning. Demonstrating the reversal of fortune that has allowed the Greens to overtake the Liberal Democrats as the main opposition force in the borough, the Greens have managed to run candidates in every seat across the borough, unlike the Liberal Democrats. The hopes of both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are focused on the Clapham Common ward, where the only Conservative on the Council, Tim Briggs, faces a three-way fight with Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Following the failure of an initial challenge to her re-selection, Rokhsana Fiaz has been confirmed as Labour’s Mayoral candidate. Mayor Fiaz is seeking another four-year term to consolidate her changes to Newham’s administration. As usual, Labour will be fighting hard to preserve their strong grip on the Council and retain every single seat in Newham.
Labour’s hopes for another clean sweep are challenged in this election by the notably high turnover of Labour candidates, as well as the various new wards created in the recent boundary review. The Green Party are running a full slate of candidates for the first time and are pushing hard in the three new wards created from Stratford and Newtown. In the south of the borough, the Conservatives will be trying to make inroads around the Royal Docks – where Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign had some limited traction last year.
While demographic change in the new wards and Labour’s weakened incumbency may help opposition candidates, they nevertheless face a steep uphill struggle to make any dents in Labour’s continued dominance of Newham.
After sweeping the board in a landslide victory in 2018, Labour will be keen to prevent a comeback from the Green Party in Brockley and a Conservative revival in Grove Park and elsewhere along the ‘Bromley fringe’. Mayor Damien Egan meanwhile appears on course for a comfortable re-election, with the Green and Conservative mayoral candidates battling for a distant second place.
Labour come into the elections in good shape, hoping to add to their 2018 tally of 49/63 seats. A Labour clean-sweep is unlikely, but they will be campaigning on two issues that resonate across the borough: housing (including estate in-fill development) and the climate emergency (as well as controversial LTNs in Dulwich, Camberwell, and Blackfriars).
The Liberal Democrats are confined to the north of the Borough, whereas the Conservatives lost representation on the Council for the first time since the 1960s. The Greens’ best opportunity lies in a very long and unlikely shot at Nunhead & Queens Road or winning a seat in the Camberwell area.
The 2022 London local elections battle will be in the east end between Labour Mayor John Biggs and ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s ‘Aspire’. Despite the controversy around Rahman, expect results to be close and controversial. Labour will be under real threat from Aspire in the west of the borough, having lost a run of by-elections in recent years.
Whilst it’s likely that across the capital Labour and Conservatives will portray a ‘zero loss, zero gain’ as a positive result, one of the key battlegrounds in these local elections is undoubtedly Wandsworth.
The Conservatives have a trump card in having the UK’s lowest council tax and most highly rated services, but as the party of Brexit in a Borough with one of the largest Remain votes in Britain and lots of EU citizens who are eligible to vote, it’s in the balance.
Seats in marginal wards look set to be won (or lost) by just a handful of seats, and it’s just too close to call.
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