2018 by-election result
Janet Daby (Labour) 11,033 (50 per cent, -18 per cent).
Lucy Salek (Liberal Democrat) 5,404 (25 per cent, + 20 per cent).
Ross Archer (Conservative) 3,161 (14 per cent, – 9 per cent).
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah (Green) 788 (4 per cent, + 2 per cent).
Turnout: 33 per cent (- 36 per cent).
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2017 general election result
Heidi Alexander (Labour) 30,072 (68 per cent).
Peter Fortune (Conservative) 10,859 (23 per cent).
Emily Frith (Liberal Democrat) 2,086 (4 per cent).
Storm Poorun (Greem) 803 (2 per cent)
Turnout: 69 per cent.
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Nothing can reliably be read from this result, on a turnout reduced by roughly half, to a general election in 2022. But as a snapshot of opinion in London it may just tell us a bit.
A few parts of the capital voted Leave during the EU referendum, some by a very substantial margin – 70 per cent backed that course in Havering; 63 per cent in Bexley; 62 per cent in Barking and Dagenham.
But that view won out only on London’s western and eastern sides (plus Sutton). Overall, 60 per cent of those living in the capital voted Remain. The highest percentages taking that view were in Labour boroughs – 79 per cent in Lambeth, 78 per cent in Hackney, 76 per cent in Haringey. Emphatic support for staying in the EU was not confined to Labour areas. Seventy-five per cent supported Remain in Wandsworth.
There was undoubtedly a Brexit knock-on in last summer’s general election, with Battersea, Croydon Central, Enfield Southgate and Kensington & Chelsea falling to Labour, and the Liberal Democrats regaining Twickenham and Kingston & Surbiton.
Today’s result suggests that the EU issue is still a factor at least in parts of London – let’s put it no more strongly than that – and that it is helping the only one of the main parties to be unambiguously pro-Remain.
Turnout in a general election, whenever it comes, will be higher than 33 per cent. Conservative voters will go to the polls in larger numbers than they did in Lewisham yesterday. The economy and living standards should be a larger consideration in the minds of Labour ones. Jeremy Corbyn did very well out of that factor last June. All that will squeeze the Liberal Democrat vote, especially where the party isn’t competitive.
But Brexit is clearly posing a values problem for the two main parties in the capital. For the Tories, yesterday’s result is a reminder of the challenge facing the party in the coming London mayoral election.
Does the Party simply attempt to get its vote out, or make a pitch for the capital’s pro-Brexit voters? Does it instead go where the numbers are – and run a Cameroon-flavoured campaign designed to send a message that Conservatives in London are different?
For Labour, the problem is even more severe. The Lewisham vote suggests that they are bleeding support to the Liberal Democrats in parts of the capital on a greater scale than the Tories. Furthermore, it highlights the difference between voters in Labour seats in London and voters in Labour seats in the provinces.
Those different sorts of constituencies diverged on referendum day, and the party is still wrestling with the consequences, as was shown by this week’s three-way Labour Commons split over the EEA. All in all, the values challenge for Labour thrown up by Brexit – itself part of the even bigger phenomenon of globalisation, large-scale migration, and downward pressure on wages – may be even bigger than the values challenge for the Conservatives.