My day campaigning for the Conservatives in West London ended rather disappointingly. But I am not sure it told me much about the General Election next year.
Ealing has fast turned into one of London’s most diverse boroughs, with a typically transient population. A day spent hitting the pavements to get out the vote across Ealing and Acton brings you into contact with all sorts of people and, it turns out, all sorts of weather. Driving rain – and even a hailstorm – frustrated our efforts to get the people of Ealing out voting Conservative.
It all ended rather disappointingly as Labour held the Council and took the scalps of 12 Tory Councillors across the Borough. Not a great day.
It was a similar story across the rest of London. The Conservatives managed to pip the Lib Dems in Kingston and held on to ‘True Blue’ boroughs such as Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Westminster & Kensington, and Chelsea. But the major headline was Labour wresting back control of David Cameron’s flagship borough: council tax-cutting Hammersmith and Fulham, a testing ground for many Conservative policies over the last few years.
Overall, London Labour seemed to find getting the message over much easier than their counterparts elsewhere in England. While Labour lost Thurrock and failed to take key targets in the rest of the country such as Trafford, Swindon and Tamworth, in London they took Croydon, Merton and Redbridge councils, regained Harrow and came mighty close to taking control in Tory-controlled Barnet for the first time.
Look at a political map of London now and it’s almost a sea of red again. The results make Boris Johnson’s win in 2012 look all the more remarkable.
That said, London is a very different place to the rest of the country. The carnage UKIP wrought on all three of the traditional main parties as the European results came in over the weekend barely registered in London, Nigel Farage’s party was largely rejected by the electorate. In other parts of the country the Conservatives are starting to believe – with good reason – that the improving economic recovery will start to translate into increased support for them once the protest vote subsides.
London might be different. But with another hung Parliament or slim majority in prospect, every seat will count, and all parties will be trying to win the votes of Londoners. For those of us who braved the rain, this means another year of telling the story, both of an excellent local MP in Angie Bray and the bigger picture of David Cameron’s leadership. There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us.