Observers are asking whether the council—run by the Conservatives since its creation—could fall to Labour in the local elections next weekby Abigail Frymann Rouch / April 27, 2018 / Leave a comment
Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Oxford Street, the West End—the list sounds like a must-see guide to England’s most prestigious symbols, and shows why running the City of Westminster is regarded as the great prize in local politics.
Since its creation in 1964, Westminster City Council has been run by the Conservatives, but observers are questioning whether it might go red at the local government elections next Thursday.
On some issues the borough is a microcosm of national politics—both Labour and the Conservatives are campaigning on the need for more council and affordable housing, for measures to reduce air pollution, and for the rights of its EU citizens post-Brexit.
A February YouGov poll indicated a 13.4 per cent swing from the Tories to Labour in inner London, which would have meant three “safe” councils—Westminster, along with Wandsworth and Barnet—going red. A second survey, published on Thursday, suggested a swing of just under 7 points. Nonetheless, a shift to the left is widely anticipated. At last year’s general election Labour MP Karen Buck’s majority shot up in Westminster North, and the Tory majority in the so-called safe seat of the Cities of London and Westminster fell. Change is a-foot, but will the sitting Tories be knocked out, or just given a bloody nose?
Professor Philip Cowley, of Queen Mary University, London, who commissioned the YouGov research, identified a “tipping point”: “A seven per cent swing would give Labour two extra seats, but once you get to a swing of 10 per cent, the borough goes Labour.”
Labour’s group leader on the council, Adam Hug, reflects: “We’re always going to be underdogs in a situation like Westminster, but we’re in a with a shot.” Labour’s Momentum has been busy, on Saturday launching its Unseat Westminster campaign. Asked whether Jeremy Corbyn is proving a draw for voters, Hug referenced London’s more centrist mayor, Sadiq Khan: “The team of Jeremy and Sadiq together brings a broad coalition of supporters into Labour.”
Council leader Nickie Aiken outlined Westminster Conservatives’ “bins not Brexit” approach, stressing…