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A lot can change between now and May 5th so any predictions at this stage must be rather tentative. One that most pundits might regard as safe is that the Conservatives face a drubbing in London – where all the 32 boroughs have full council elections taking place. I can see why some would envisage a pretty dire outlook. For some years Conservatives have been in decline in the capital relative to the rest of the country. At the General Election in 2019, the only seat Labour gained anywhere in the country was Putney. Those of us who look to economic determinism to explain electoral trends note that home ownership has become ever less affordable in London. What new development there is, often tends to be awful tower blocks – unsuitable for those wishing to settle down and start a family. Two pretty good predicators of someone voting Conservative are if they are owner-occupiers – and married with an ambition to have children. These natural Tory voters are being driven out of London.

Then there is the polling. When these seats were last contested four years ago, Labour won 44 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives, 29 per cent. So a Labour lead of 15 per cent. At that time the Conservatives and Labour were level pegging in the opinion polls nationally. In the “projected national equivalent vote share” – crunched by Rallings & Trasher – the Conservatives are now on 37 per cent to 36 per cent for Labour, when looking at the predicted council election results across the country. Most recent opinion polls show Labour ahead by around five points. A couple of London polls have been undertaken. One had a Labour lead of 17 points. Another, more recent one, gave a Labour lead of 30 points.

Furthermore, all Labour really need to have perceived to have triumphed is to gain Wandsworth. Last time round 26 Labour councillors were elected there, with 33 Conservatives. Labour only need a swing of a couple of points to take over.  For decades Wandsworth has not only been Conservative-run, but much more unusually, has practiced Conservative policies. Residents have noticed how the services have been efficient and the tax burden has been low. Thus the elections results have defied political gravity. There is a superstition that:

“If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”

Many Conservatives feel there is a similar mythical quality about presiding at Wandsworth Town Hall. Amidst the devastation of the 1990 local election results, Ken Baker, the Conservative Party Chairman, took to the airwaves to highlight that Wandsworth have stayed blue. The media agreed that was an important boost for Margaret Thatcher.

Might the old magic still be there? Perhaps. Wandsworth has cut the Council Tax by one per cent. By contrast, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has increased his precept by 8.8 per cent. That gives a point of relevance and substance to raise on the doorstep so far as the cost of living is concerned.

Some Conservative councils increase the Council Tax by the maximum allowed. Then shrug and say it would be “impossible” to do otherwise. That is not the Wandsworth way.

Barnet would be Labour’s next target. It would also have symbolic importance. They were hoping to win last time but were punished by Jewish voters (and their friends and neighbours) for the way that anti-semitism had flourished in the party under Jeremy Corbyn. Victory for Labour in Barnet would mean they could claim to have been forgiven.

If Labour really did as well as some of the polling implies, they would sweep to power in Westminster and Hillingdon – which includes the Prime Minister’s constituency. I am sceptical this will be achieved.

Indeed, my expectation is that Labour will not make overall progress in London. Gains in some places will be offset by losses elsewhere. I have spoken, off the record, to a number of seasoned Conservative campaigners across London who have sounded quietly confident. Some pundits may respond with derision. But it is worth noting that in the election for Mayor of London last year the gap narrowed. Shaun Bailey lost by a narrower margin than Zac Goldsmith had five years earlier. In the final round, Khan was ahead by 10.4 per cent. On first preferences, it was 4.7 per cent. Polling for last year’s contest had put Khan ahead to 20 per cent or 30 per cent.

Ditching Corbyn might not be a benefit to Labour in London in local elections. Turnout is key. Most people didn’t vote last time (with the exception of Richmond upon Thames which achieved a 51.4 per cent turnout; well done them.) Corbyn as Leader gave staunch socialists the motivation to vote. Some to even join the Labour Party and campaign. Some of that (ahem) momentum has dissipated.

Khan is probably becoming a liability to his party – with his fetish for ever higher tower blocks and Council Tax precepts, combined with his mismanagement of policing and transport.

Four years ago there was considerable anger in London concerning Brexit. Many voters from central and eastern Europe who had previously been Conservatives considered it as an attack – that Britain had turned inwards. Might the leading role of the UK in supporting Ukraine change that narrative?

So where might a Conservative revival in the capital manifest itself? In several boroughs, in the words of Yazz, “the only way is up.” Last time around no Conservative councillors were elected in Barking and Dagenham, Haringey, Islington, Lewisham, Newham or Southwark. Lambeth only returned one Conservative councillor, Tower Hamlets two, Brent three. But this territory has not been abandoned. In Newham, for example, the Conservatives are campaigning with vigour. It was disappointing that in Barking and Dagenham the Conservatives have only put up 30 candidates for the 51 seats. Yet even there I am assured there is hope: (“Just keep a look out for Eastbrook & Rush Green ward,” comes a whisper.)

Sutton now has two Conservative MPs and there is optimism the Lib Dems could be ousted from the Council. The northern part of the borough is pretty working class – no shortage of white van men. A majority from Sutton voted Leave in the EU referendum.

Harrow is another borough with a decent chance of a Conservative gain. There is a big aspirational Asian vote – Gujaratis with a keen enterprising zeal – that Labour can no longer take for granted.

Enfield is a borough where the Conservatives may well gain some seats – although probably not enough to sweep to victory. Redbridge and Camden are other places where Labour has big majorities but has been carrying out some unpopular local policies.  Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Redbridge, approval of tower blocks in the case of Camden. Conservatives are campaigning energetically on these and other matters. They may well pick up a few seats.

Finally, there is Croydon where the Labour council has combined profligacy – forcing itself into bankruptcy – while proving an appalling landlord with council tenants left in conditions of the most shocking squalor.

So I suspect rumours of the impending demise of London Conservatives have been exaggerated. We shall find out soon enough…