- There are 73 parliamentary constituencies in London. Currently Labour hold 38, the Conservatives 28, and the Liberal Democrats seven.
- Once a bellwether city, London has been shifting towards Labour for some time and the Conservatives fell short of key targets like Westminster North in 2010. This election will see the Conservatives trying to minimise their losses to Labour in the capital whilst trying to take seats from the embattled Lib Dems in the South West of the city, as well as a handful of Labour seats like Hampstead and Kilburn. The Sun (£) reports that Boris Johnson has been asked to “spearhead the Tory blitz” into the Liberal Democrat heartland. The party are reported to be particularly concerned about seats first won in 2010, as well as those with majorities over Labour of under 3,000.
- With other Labour bastions such as Scotland in serious trouble Ed Miliband will be hoping for a good night in London, where a younger and more diverse electorate than average gives his party an edge. Labour have a large clutch of Conservative-held targets across the capital and will also be hoping to unseat a couple of Liberal Democrats too.
- The centre of Liberal Democrat strength in London is a cluster of seats on the south-western periphery: Carshalton and Wallington, Kingston and Surbiton, Sutton and Cheam, and Vince Cable’s Twickenham. The Lib Dems will be trying to prevent Conservative incursions into this suburban heartland (where Zac Goldsmith took Richmond Park in 2010) whilst defending their handful of inner city seats from Labour.
- Housing: The cost of living is a long-running issue in the capital, and both main parties are exploiting it. Several Labour candidates emphasise the need for social housing, affordable rents and the regulation of private landlords on their websites, whilst the Tories are making hay with Labour’s proposed mansion tax, which due to London’s house prices affects many £2 million properties one might not naturally designate as mansions. George Osborne unveiled last month the Party’s Long Term Economic Plan for London (LTEPL), which includes a commitment to building 400,000 new homes in the city. Labour also emphasise housebuilding, as well as a ‘use it or lose it’ law to force developers to build.
- Infrastructure: Bob Crow may have passed on, but his RMT union is still prepared to bring the capital to a halt to protest the sacking of a driver who twice failed a breathalyser test. In addition to tougher strike regulations, the LTEPL commits the Conservatives to £10 billion of investment into London’s transport, including exploring “the next big infrastructure investment after Crossrail”.
- Airport: The potential expansion of Heathrow is a major issue across West London, with some local MPs exasperated by the main parties’ refusal to confront this issue before the election. Conservative Zac Goldsmith has gone so far as to accuse the three main parties of engaging in “collusion” on the matter.
Battleground Rating: 7/10
Targets by party:
(NB These are our own suggestions of potential attack seats for each party – including those officially designated as targets and others where the incumbent has a relatively small majority, or local factors are at play which may open the seat to change.)
Carshalton and Wallington: One of the four south-western constituencies which comprise the Liberal Democrats’ London heartland, this seat establishes a regular pattern: once safely Conservative, first won narrowly in 1997, since when the Liberal Democrat MP – in this instance Tom Brake – has since built up a formidable incumbency advantage. Despite holding on by just over a thousand votes in 2005 Brake enters his bid for a fifth term in the Commons defending a majority of 5,260, and a Lord Ashcroft Poll in November 2014 showed a dramatic fall in Conservative support give the Liberal Democrats a 20-point lead. Hoping to defy these augers, and live up to Electoral Calculus’ prediction of a Tory gain, is Matthew Maxwell Scott, a former Wandsworth councillor who works for the BBC.
Hampstead and Kilburn: Academy Award-winning actress Glenda Jackson held this seat for Labour by an eye-watering margin of 42 votes in 2010, having previously served as MP for Hampstead and Highgate since 1992. Her Conservative opponent this time is local man Simon Marcus, who was selected in an open primary in January 2013. His campaign stresses the importance of his breadth of private sector experience, as well as his charity work. Unfortunately two Lord Ashcroft Polls in May and August of last year found Labour squeezing the Lib Dem vote to open up a commanding 17-point lead, and Electoral Calculus gives Jackson’s successor Tulip Siddiq an almost three in four chance of holding on.
Harrow West: Once a reliably Conservative seat which fell to Tony Blair in 1997, this was a missed opportunity in 2010: Labour managed to extend a majority of just over 2000 to one of 3,143 even as Bob Blackman overturned a majority of 4,730 in neighbouring Harrow East. Hoping to rectify this and finally unseat incumbent MP Gareth Thomas is Hannah David, a restaurateur, solicitor and former councillor whose website emphasises job creation and making life easier for families. Electoral Calculus gives her only a 15 per cent chance of winning here, but a strong campaign might take pressure off Blackman.
Kingston and Surbiton: A prime example of the Liberal Democrat incumbency advantage, Ed Davey won this new seat in 1997 by just 56 votes but secured a majority of 15,676 in 2001. The Conservatives have slowly gained ground since then and he enters the next election defending a majority of just over 7,500. His Conservative challenger is James Berry, a lawyer and school governor who was selected in December 2013. A Lord Ashcroft Poll in November 2014 found the Liberal Democrat lead over the Tories cut from 13 points to eight, and Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative gain here.
Sutton and Cheam: Another once safe Tory prospect that turned yellow in 1997, Paul Burstow has held on by much narrower margins than Davey: he enters the upcoming election defending a majority of just 1,608. In the blue corner next time out is local businessman and former councillor Paul Scully, whose website reports that he is standing in ‘Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park’. Unfortunately for him a pair of Lord Ashcroft Polls in June and September 2014 have indicated a dramatic strengthening of the Liberal Democrat position here, and they hold 45 of Sutton Council’s 54 seats after the 2014 local elections. Despite this, Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative gain with no less than a 64 per cent probability.
Twickenham: Vince Cable has grown his majority at every election since first he won this seat in 1997, and in 2010 won a decisive majority of over 12,000. He might therefore be fairly confident of seeing off Dr Tania Mathias, his Conservative challenger, a local councillor, NHS doctor and former UN refugee worker selected in September 2013. Her campaign stresses low taxes, local control over planning, the environment, and top-quality public services. Electoral Calculus predict that Cable will hold here, although they give Mathias a one in three chance of a major decapitation and Tories can point to strong local election results which, if repeated, would hand them the seat.
Battersea: Jane Ellison captured this seat for the Conservatives in 2010 with a handsome majority of almost 6,000. However Electoral Calculus, whilst predicting a Tory hold, gives Labour a 44 per cent chance of winning here, and Iain Dale qualifies his own prediction of a Tory hold with “if Labour fails to get a majority”. One that Miliband might hope to pick up on a good night, especially as Ellison has incurred the displeasure of many Conservative activists by introducing plain tobacco packaging as Under-Secretary of State for Public Health. The Labour candidate here is charity worker and former financier Will Martindale.
Bermondsey and Old Southwark: Simon Hughes has held this constituency and its predecessors since 1983, and it remains a relatively rare example of an inner London Liberal Democrat seat. He enters the 2015 election with a majority of just over 8,500. Hoping to overturn it is Neil Coyle, a Southwark borough councillor and former third sector worker who now works for Kate Green MP, a member of Labour’s work and pensions team. A Lord Ashcroft Poll in September 2014 found Hughes ahead by a single point in a two horse race, but Electoral Calculus gives Labour a two to one chance of a gain here.
Brent Central: Sarah Teather notionally gained this newly-created seat from Labour with a very impressive 11 point swing, defeating the former Labour MP for Brent South, Dawn Butler, in the process. Butler, a single-term MP from 2005 to 2010, is standing again and looks very likely to enter the Commons: a Lord Ashcroft Poll from June last found the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed and Labour enjoying a 35-point lead, and Electoral Calculus predict a Labour gain with 93 per cent probability. The Liberal Democrat position is not helped by the fact that Teather is standing down, depriving them of the incumbency advantage, and that their candidate was de-selected last week after allegedly soliciting a potentially illegal donation and is now standing as an independent.
Brentford and Isleworth: Labour’s Ann Keen won this formerly reliably Conservative seat when she unseated Nirj Deva in 1997, and held it until she was turfed out in turn by Tory incumbent Mary Macleod in 2010. Hoping to overturn her 1,958 majority is Ruth Cadbury, a Quaker and local councillor of 25 years’ experience. A Lord Ashcroft Poll from October last found Labour 13 points ahead, and Electoral Calculus predict a two-in-three chance of Cadbury being returned in May.
Croydon Central: Dependably Tory from the 1970s to 1997, Andrew Pelling ended this seat’s two-term flirtation with Labour by just 75 votes in 2005 before Gavin Barwell secured a majority of just under 3,000 in 2010. His Labour opponent this time is Sarah Jones, a former director of campaigns at the homelessness charity Shelter who now works at Gatwick. A Lord Ashcroft Poll from October 2014 found Labour six points ahead, and Electoral Calculus predicts a 60-40 chance of a Labour gain here. Barwell was recently reported to be urging supporters not to mention David Cameron or the Conservatives when writing letters of support for him.
Ealing Central and Acton: Angie Bray captured this seat for the Tories in 2010 with a majority of just under 3,700. However a Lord Ashcroft Poll in December found Labour six points ahead and Electoral Calculus gives a 58 per cent chance of a Labour gain. The beneficiary of these good omens is Labour candidate local candidate Dr Rupa Huq, a “public sector working mum” and senior lecturer who has written for the Guardian, Observer and Tribune.
Enfield North: Tory from 1979 to 1997, Labour’s Joan Ryan held this seat until 2010 and in 2015 is standing again against Nick de Bois, her Conservative ouster. A Lord Ashcroft Poll in October put her ten points ahead and Electoral Calculus predicts a Labour gain, giving de Bois just a 35 per cent chance of holding here. Ryan was noted during the expenses scandal for lodging the highest claims of any MP in the 2006/7 financial year, and for the vigorous and ongoing attempt by Enfield-based persons unknown to expunge any mention of her expenses from Wikipedia.
Finchley and Golders Green: Mike Freer enters 2015 with a healthy 5,809 majority, having won this seat from Labour on a 5.8 point swing in 2010. His Labour challenger is Sarah Sackman, a Finchley-born barrister and “community campaigner” whose campaign focuses on transport, healthcare, and social housing. She faces an uphill struggle: Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative hold (albeit giving Sackman a 46 per cent chance), and Iain Dale reports that a combination of demographic changes and Freer’s strong local reputation should see him home.
Harrow East: Bob Blackman secured a seven point swing to win this seat for the Tories in 2010, and enters the next election with a majority of 3,403. Hoping to recapture Harrow East for Labour is Uma Kumaran, a former constituency caseworker and NHS employee who now works for “a pioneering inner-city council”. Her campaign places a particular emphasis on saving Harrow’s comprehensives from “the Tory-led government’s dismantling of education as we know it”. Electoral Calculus gives her an almost six in ten chance of winning and predicts a Labour gain, but a Lord Ashcroft Poll from December last found the Conservatives narrowly ahead.
Hendon: Matthew Offord carried this constituency for the Conservatives by only 106 votes in 2010. Andrew Dismore, who had previously held the constituency for Labour, is standing again and has various reasons to be optimistic about a return to Parliament: two Lord Ashcroft Polls in May and July of last year found Labour extending their lead over the Conservatives to 15 points as the Liberal Democrats were squeezed and UKIP ate into the Tory vote. Electoral Calculus gives Dismore a 73 per cent chance of returning to the Commons.
Hornsey and Wood Green: Lynne Featherstone, Home Office minister, took this seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2005 by unseating Labour’s Barbara Roche, who had supported the Iraq War, and enters the 2015 election defending a majority of 6,875. Her Labour challenger is Catherine West, a former leader of Islington Council whose campaign emphasises her campaigning for the living wage. A Lord Ashcroft Poll found Labour 13 points ahead here in September last, and Electoral Calculus predicts a 77 per cent chance of a Labour gain in May. Featherstone was recently endorsed by the Chairman of the neighbouring Tottenham Conservative Association, who wrote to the constituency’s Tory-leaning voters urging them to return her and has since been removed from his post and suspended from the party for doing so.