As the BNP are exposed and Labour implode, Cllr Terry Justice, Leader of the Conservatives on Barking and Dagenham Council, predicts that we will be the Party making the big gains in his borough in May.
In the Dagenham and Rainham constituency we have conducted a three – year campaign and the response on door-steps is very encouraging. Without getting over confident, there is a good chance that we will get Simon Jones into Westminster. In 2008, Boris won eight of the nine wards that make up this new constituency.
The activities of the BNP – they appear to be taking traditional Labour voters and not ours – is not significant in this Constituency. In any case, they appear to be likely to split the vote in our favour. The Labour Party is in disarray, largely due to the activities of Margaret Hodge who has engineered the de-selection of a number of popular Labour councillors. Many of their hard-core voters are up-in-arms and have indicated that they will no longer support the party and there is a strong rumour that those councillors are to form an Independent group. This may well have the effect of a further thinning of the Labour vote.
As regards the Barking constituency the Hodge activities unquestionably effect Barking more than its neighbouring constituency. The BNP are more of a worry to the Barking vote than to that of D&R. and will almost certainly take votes from Labour. However, some of the Labour councilors believe that the split could be sufficient enough to allow our candidate to slip through the gap. I believe that there is an outside possibility of this happening but that it is not probable. The selection of Simon Marcus, the founder of the London Boxing Academy and our candidate for Barking, took place much later than that of Simon Jones, which is a dsiadvantage. There are, I believe, currently something like 15 parliamentary candidates, so it may be a free-for-all.
We have an outstanding opportunity to take the new constituency from Jon Cruddas and Labour, and the prognosis is good. We could also see the forming of a hung council with Labour as the leading group with a much-reduced majority and the Conservatives holding the casting vote. Optimistically, we just may manage 12 to 15 council seats in Barking and Dagenham.
With regards to the three Havering wards, we should hold the three seats in Elm Park and may well get two in Rainham with an outside chance of three. The enigma is South Hornchurch and, although we have three excellent candidates, the Independents may prove too strong for us. Our hoped-for success in Havering is crucial to our party retaining control of the council and we have put a great deal of effort into the campaign in that area.