Cllr Nicholas Bennett, the Conservative Whip on Bromley Council, reports.
At the last elections in 2006 Bromley Conservatives took 49 of the 60 seats on the Council. The remaining 11 were split between 7 Lib Dems and 4 Labour members. Apart from 1998-2001 when there was a Lib Dem/Lab pact, Bromley has been Conservative since the London Borough was established in 1965. The Lib Dem/Labour alliance led to a 36% increase in council tax in 3 years, a halving of the council’s reserves and a decline in the general appearance around the borough. Two Conservative gains in by-elections in July 2001 led to a Conservative majority. In the succeeding two quadrennial elections both the Lib Dems and Labour lost further ground.
This year Labour fear that they may be completed wiped out on the Council. Their one remaining seat in Cray Valley West was held by Colin Willetts who was disqualified by the Standards Board on April 9th. Following legal advice he withdrew his nomination the following week. Cllrs Judi Ellis and Harry Stranger won the other two seats in 2006 and now face with their third colleague, challenges from nine other candidates. The chances are that the party with 30% of the vote will take the seat, the imponderable is what the likely 70% turnout will mean in seats were only 30-40% normally vote.
Labour’s other ward, Penge and Cator is held by their leader John Getgood with a 170 majority over the Lib Dems. The seat is effectively a three way marginal with the Conservatives in third place a couple of hundred votes behind the Lib Dems. Labour sources are reported to be worried, although the core vote is firm, those who voted for Blair in 1997 onwards have deserted.
In neighbouring Clockhouse ward in 2006 one seat was taken by Sarah Phillips for the Conservatives and a handful of votes would see the other two Lib Dem seats fall.
Crystal Palace ward seems safe for the Lib Dems where they have a two to one majority over Labour, albeit on a 32% turnout in 2006.
Lib Dem Orpington Parliamentary candidate David McBride is standing for re-election in Cray Valley East ward where the vote split 1,500 LD to 1,000 Conservative with Labour squeezed on 400 or so. A strong challenge is being mounted by the local Conservative team.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have failed to put up a candidate in the safest Conservative ward of Darwin where the former Conservative councillor lost out in the reselection but is now standing as an independent against Richard Scoates.
Bromley now has three and half parliamentary seats.
The redrawn Beckenham constituency is likely to be safest Conservative seat in London and newcomer Bob Stewart, formed commander of NATO forces in Bosnia, will be elected at the age of 60 to replacing retiring MP Jacqui Lait.
Bob Neill, who was elected in a tight by-election race in 2006 is expected to hold the redrawn Bromley and Chislehurst seat which is slightly more marginal following the loss of Hayes and Bromley Common and Keston to Beckenham.
Orpington, the scene of the famous by-election upset in 1962 when the seat was taken by Liberal Eric Lubbock, is expected to remain Conservative with Jo Johnson (Boris’s younger and slimmer brother)becoming the new MP in place of John Horam who has stood down.
The ‘half’ seat is the new cross border constituency of Lewisham West and Penge. On paper a safe Labour seat with the Lib Dems in second place. Jim Dowd the former MP for West Lewisham is the Labour candidate, but Chris Phillips a long time Conservative councillor is fighting a strong campaign and is helped by the addition of three Bromley wards to the constituency.