Update, 2 May: This piece inspired an unusually high number of responses. Some people pointed out errors, others questioned how easily I had dismissed particular boroughs, others told me things about the local campaigns. I’ve added some of the more interesting ones to the text, with a note to make clear it was a late addition.
This Thursday, large chunks of England will go to the polls. Actually, that’s not quite right: local election turn outs being what they are, it’s probably more accurate to say that large chunks of England will ignore the polls. Nonetheless, the political class will be poring over the results from around 150 councils and six mayoralties, including the brand new Sheffield metro mayor. And, Britain being Britain, much of the attention is likely to focus on London, because, let’s be honest, that’s where all the journalists are.
But how are we to interpret the result? Everyone expects it to be a good night for Labour, which polls suggest is on track for around 50 per cent of the vote, compared to around 30 per cent for the Tories. But what does a good night mean, when the party already controls 20 councils, compared to the Tories’ 9? (Another is LibDem, while two are in no overall control.) And which are the boroughs to watch?
Political control following the 2014 elections: black means No Overall Control. Image: Doc77Can/Wikimedia Commons.
I decided to find out. More than that, I decided to look not just at the current state of play, but at how it had changed over the last 54 years, to get a sense of how the capital was changing. This turns out to be a stupid idea because, you’ll recall, there are 32 different boroughs, and writing a couple of hundred words on each means a) a very long piece that b) takes ages to write.
Nonetheless, I’ve done it now, so: here’s a rough guide to the boroughs. I’ve split them into three groups, in descending order of political interest this Thursday. Let’s do this.
PART ONE: The really interesting ones
Leafy but fast-growing patch of north London suburbia: recently overtook Croydon to become London’s most populous borough.
It’s also one of London’s most marginal boroughs: for most of the last four years the Conservatives have run it with 32 councillors to Labour’s 30. (There’s also one LibDem.) Last month, though, a Tory councillor quit the party to become independent, so technically it’s now in no overall control – a phrase which, since it comes up a lot, I’ll be abbreviating to NOC.
So Barnet should be a lock for Labour. The party has never won here before - the borough has interspersed long periods of Tory rule with shorter ones of no overall control – but Labour only needs to take two seats to flip it.
That said, around 15 per cent of the borough’s population is Jewish, the highest proportion of any council in Britain. If the anti-Semitism row can hurt Labour anywhere, it’ll be here.
London’s westernmost borough, covering a huge swathe of Middlesex suburbia stretching from Heathrow Airport to the edge of Hertfordshire. Contains the constituencies of both Boris Johnson (Uxbridge & South Ruislip) and John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington), which is clearly a sitcom waiting to happen.
Politically the borough is a proper marginal, oscillating between Labour and Tory so often it must be getting nauseous – and a switch has often foreshadowed a change in national government, too. As goes Hillingdon, so goes the UK:
Four years ago the Tories won 42 seats to just 23 for Labour, which at first glance looks like a big ask for Labour. But it means flipping just 10 seats, which is really just a couple of wards: if Labour has a good night, Hillingdon should turn red.
It declares at 4am. One to watch.
Update, 2 May: One (just one) local campaigner has sent me a slightly panicky message suggesting that Labour is not having a good campaign here.
A chunk of fairly plush inner south west London – Battersea, Putney, Tooting – Wandsworth was one of the earliest harbingers of inner-London gentrification. Labour won it from 1964, and lost it in 1968 – but as we’ll see, that was a year when a huge number of normally safe Labour councils flipped, and true to form, the party won it back in 1971.
But then it lost it again in 1978. And it just kept on losing it. As Conservative voters migrated south from Westminster and Chelsea, Wandsworth became the Tories’ flagship London borough. Whenever a local election came round, Tory ministers were to be found, wandering the streets of Wandsworth, banging on about its competitive local tax rates.
The last couple of elections, though, there have been signs of Labour gradually strengthening its position. In 2014, it won 19 seats to the Tories’ 41. And in last year’s general election, Labour won Battersea, and came close in Putney.
So this is one of the boroughs to watch for signs that the government is in real trouble in the capital. Taking Wandsworth for the first time since before Margaret Thatcher took office is a big prize for Labour – and would a major psychological blow to the Tories.
It’s scheduled to declare at 3am. Should be fun.
Westminster is posh, Westminster is rich, and Westminster votes Tory. Look at this:
In fact, Westminster is one of only three London boroughs where control has never changed. (I’m not going to tell you what the other two are; I’ve got to give you some reason to keep reading, haven’t I?) As things stand, what’s more, the Tories have 45 seats; Labour just 15. (Note: I originally had the numbers at 46/14: that was the 2014 result, but there has since been a defection.) Westminster really shouldn’t be in contention here.
So how are we to read the fact that it’s being talked up as a marginal? Is this the work of a Tory spin operation, trying to raise expectations so high that Labour can’t possibly meet them? Have the left-wingers talking about Labour’s changes fallen into a bear trap here? Or is it possible that Grenfell, austerity and Brexit really have combined to destroy the Tories’ prospects in London?
The borough is scheduled to declare at 2am on Friday morning. I guess we’ll find out then.
PART TWO: The slightly interesting ones
A vast chunk of south London suburbs, stretching from Coulsdon to Crystal Palace, nearly halfway to central London. For a long time Croydon was London’s most populous borough, but it recently lost that title to Barnet. Croydon proper is almost like a miniature city in its own right, complete with skyscrapers and trams.
Although historically safe Tory, the borough’s combination of leafy suburbs in the south and grittier, more inner city patches in the north has recently turned into a proper marginal. It’s also tended to run ahead of the nation, going Labour in 1994 and switching back to the Tories in 2006.
At present the borough has 39 Labour councillors to 30 Tories (it should be 40 Labour, but one councillor was suspended in disgrace in 2016). Labour will be looking to strengthen its hold here: if it doesn’t, it’s having a bad night.
A patch of west London suburbia stretching out from Acton along the Central and Elizabeth lines to Northolt and Southall. Combines patches of mind-blowing wealth with run down inner city districts and semi-detached suburbs.
This seems to have given it something of an identity crisis because look at this:
As it stands, it’s 53 Labour coucillors, to 12 Tories and four LibDems. The borough’s diversity probably means those 12 Tories will struggle this time round.
That said, given Ealing’s bloody-minded history – seriously, who went Tory in 1990? – Labour probably shouldn’t count its chickens.
North London suburbia, and a borough of two halves. The eastern side (Edmonton, Ponders End) is part of the Lea Valley, and looks scruffy and post-industrial; the western half is much leafier. You can probably guess which side has historically voted each way.
Control has changed hands several times but historically the borough definitely leant Tory: for the first 46 years of its existence, Labour held it for just 12. It’s been Labour since 2010, though, and recent electoral maps suggest that the party’s grasp is spreading:
Note how Labour control gradually spreads. Click to expand.
In 2014, Labour won 41 seats to the Tories 22, although the former now has only 39. One seat is vacant. Another is occupied by an independent suspended by Labour, thanks to not one but two suspended prison sentences (his niece is still a Labour councillor, mind).
As in Croydon, this is a place that Labour should look to coonsolidate its hold.
Hammersmith & Fulham
A thin slice of inner west London, running from Shepherd’s Bush to Putney Bridge.
We may think of it as relatively posh these days – the sort of place where the cast of Made In Chelsea actually live, and which the Tories had designs on as the new Wandsworth – but that’s a recent thing. For most of the borough’s history, in fact, it was dominated by Labour: excepting that 1968 landslide, the first time the Tories won it was 2006.
The party lost it again in 2014, 26 seats to 20. This is exactly the kind of liberal, Remain-y place the Tories are losing their grip on. Labour will almost certainly advance here, but it’s worth watching to see how well it does.
A strangely mixed borough where, like its northern neighbour Enfield, a working-class industrial east (Tottenham) meets a leafy, well-to-do west (Hornsey). One some definitions, Haringey is in inner London, while others put it in outer London. It’s that sort of place.
Historically, Haringey has always voted Labour, except in (you guessed it) 1968. In 2014, Labour gained 14 seats from the LibDems, to give them a total 48; the LibDems retained nine, in that posh, western bit of the borough.
Despite being safe Labour territory, this might be a fun one to watch. Will the LibDems survive? Could they even benefit from an anti-Brexit vote, and Labour’s widely reported local civil war over the Haringey Development Vehicle? Or will this just be another borough where Labour marches forward?
Suburban north west London, with a pretty village on a hill in the middle of it. Harrow is also unique as the only borough that had exactly the same boundaries before the 1964-5 reorganisation as it did afterwards.
For the first three and a bit decades of its modern incarnation, Harrow was pretty solidly Tory, with occasional bursts of NOC. But Labour won a majority for the first time in 1998, and for the second eight years later. Since 2010, although they’ve not always had a majority, the reds have remained dominant. When people talk about the way the more diverse London suburbs are slipping away from the Tories, it’s places like Harrow that they mean.
Labour currently holds 32 seats, to the Tories’ 27, plus three independents and a LibDem. So it’s still a marginal – but one where Labour seems likely to make gains.
The outermost of east London boroughs – Romford, Hornchurch, Upminster – where the people are mostly white, probably voted Leave and tend to think they live in Essex. It’s also my hometown, so forgive me if I bang on.
Technically Havering is in no overall control – but not in the way one might think. Here, the battle for control is between the Conservatives and the non-Tory right. Labour is actually only the sixth biggest group on the council, with just two councillors. It’s beaten by the Conservatives (22), UKIP (6) and three different residents associations (The Havering Residents, the East Havering Residents, and the Independent Residents). It’s all very People’s Front of Judea, except quite a bit more right-wing.
Havering, the freak council.
Actually, Labour has only run Havering once, between 1971 and 1974, but No Overall Control is its normal state (32 years, to the Tories’ 17). Nonetheless while it’s one the Tories’ best shots at actually gaining a council in London, that chance doesn’t look great.
Kensington & Chelsea
The richest borough in Britain, and one of the most securely Tory: the party has controlled it non-stop since its creation in 1964. Yet last year two things happened that should have shaken the party out of its complacency: Labour taking Kensington in the snap election; and the Grenfell Tower fire, in the north of the borough.
That northernmost part of the borough, in fact, includes some pockets of real poverty, and those wards have tended to vote Labour: the party currently has 11 councillors, compared to 37 Tories and 2 LibDems. To lose control the Tories would have to lose a dozen councillors.
The idea of the royal borough going into NOC still seems crazy to me. But reports suggest an unusually close fight, and a perfect storm of anger about Grenfell and the borough’s big European population wanting to give the Tories a kicking over Brexit could make it plausible. The fact we can’t rule it out feels pretty telling. One to watch.
A faintly obscene looking patch of land poking from south west London out into Surrey – a county whose council offices, strangely, are based in Kingston-upon-Thames, which hasn’t been part of its domain since 1965.
Anyway: Kingston is a LibDem/Tory marginal, with the blues strongest in the north east around Malden, and the yellows in the south around Chessington. The Tories held the borough consistently from 1964 to 1986; there then followed nearly three decades in which no overall control alternated with LibDem majority rule. The Tories only retook the borough in 2014, helped on, one suspects, by the implosion of the LibDems in coalition.
In 2014, the scores were Conservative 28, LibDems 18 and Labour 2 (in Norbiton, if you’re interested). Like neighbouring Richmond, Kingston gives the LibDems a genuine chance of adding a borough to their tally in London. Even if that doesn’t happen, it seems probably the Tories will lose control.
The Ilford and Woodford bit of north east London: basically, the affluent suburbs of the Central line loop.
Historically, Redbridge was fairly solidly Tory: the party held a majority for 30 years from 1964, and again from 2002-9. But Labour won a majority for the first time in 2014, taking 36 seats to the Tories’ 24 and LibDems’ 3. Like Harrow, this is a case of the Tories losing a grip on London’s suburbs as they become more diverse, both ethnically and socially.
So this should be a borough where you’d expect Labour to consolidate its hold. The one thing that might hold the party back is anger about the anti-Semitism row from the borough’s sizeable Jewish population. That didn’t seem to be a factor during last year’s general election – that doesn’t mean it’s impossible now.
A plush slice of riverside west London suburbs. Also, fact fans, the only London borough to cross the Thames. (Although, while I’m here, did you know there there used to be two patches of Kent on the north side of the Thames surrounded by Essex? True story.)
Anyway. As with other south western boroughs, Labour are nowhere much here, but since the early ‘80s, the Tories have faced stiff competition from the LibDems and their predecessor parties. After running the borough for its first 18 years, in fact, the Tories lost control in 1982, for the better part of a generation.
They got it back in 2010. But you may recall Zac Goldsmith losing his Richmond Park seat at Westminster during that unnecessary by-election he called in 2016, to LibDem Sarah Olney. Anger about Brexit could cause the Tories problems here, again. This could be a LibDem gain.
Covering the East End and Isle of Dogs, you’d think Tower Hamlets would be Labour heartland. And for most of its history it was – there’s a brief Alliance/LibDem surge from 1986 to 1994, but otherwise it was safe Labour territory…
…until this last decade when everything went weird. These days, Tower Hamlets Labour suffers a similar problem to the Havering Tories, only worse: for ultra-local reasons that are faintly baffling to outsiders, the left keeps splintering.
A very brief history. In 2010, Tower Hamlets introduced a directly elected mayoralty, and the local Labour party named council leader Lutfer Rahman as its candidate. Not long afterwards, following some fairly unpleasant allegations which I won’t go into here, the local Labour party un-named him again – so Rahman ran as an independent, and won. He was re-elected four years later under the Tower Hamlets First banner, and the new party, formed of bits of Labour and Respect, won 18 of the council’s 45 seats, becoming the official opposition.
The following year, the election courts found that Rahman had broken election law, and stripped him of office, and a fresh election saw Labour’s John Biggs elected mayor. The Tower Hamlets First councillors renamed themselves as the Tower Hamlets Independent Group, which has since split into Aspire (10 councillors) and the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets, or PATH (6 councillors). There are also 22 Labour councillors, 5 Tories in the posher wards by the river, a single LibDem in Island Gardens, and an independent who was recently thrown out of the Labour party.
The upshot of all this is the borough currently has a Labour mayor, and that Labour dominates, but doesn’t control, the council. Biggs should win re-election, but might not, and the split in the opposition should help Labour, but might not.
Can’t help but think that this would be quite an interesting election, if only anyone could understand it.
A lozenge shaped patch of north east London, taking in Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford.
Historically there’s been a fairly clear split between the first two of those, which vote Labour, and the latter, which votes Tory: MPs for Chingford have included Winston Churchill, Norman Tebbit and, today, Iain Duncan Smith. That’s not been enough for the Tories to take control of the borough, though, and – except for in 1968 – the worst that’s happened there is that Labour has lost overall control.
In 2014, the scores were 44 Labour to 16 Tories. But Labour is fighting hard to extend its lead, with the hope of taking IDS out at the next election – and the number of younger and more left-wing voters who’ve recently been pushed out to the borough by inner London house prices might help them along.
The final result here isn’t in doubt, but the numbers might tell us something interesting. Worth watching.
Update, 2 May: A correspondent points out that the Tories are campaigning hard on the importance of parking. If Labour mysteriously go backwards in what shout be a safe borough, this may be why.
PART THREE: The frankly pretty boring ones
I’m not going to lie to you: these are the ones I should have just summed up as “safe Labour” or some such. But I didn’t, so let’s do this the hard way.
Barking & Dagenham
Working-class area carved out of Essex. Not nearly as diverse as the inner London boroughs immediately to its west. Basically a northern industrial town, that someone plonked on the Upminster branch of the District line.
Barking is the only borough in London of which Labour has always retained control. (If you’ve found all three boroughs that have never changed hands, thank you for reading this far.) It was briefly interesting and terrifying in 2006, when the BNP won 12 seats and became the official opposition on the council.
But four years later they were completely wiped out: for the last two elections, it’s been a Labour one party state. In the vast majority of seats this year, only the big two parties are standing – so that seems pretty unlikely to change. Probably the safest Labour borough in the capital.
Thameside borough carved out of Kent: one of those outer London boroughs that’s fairly ambivalent about the entire concept of London.
Once upon a time, Bexley tended to swing fairly regularly between Labour and Tories, but that’s a long time ago now. Except for a single term of NOC (1994-8), and another of Labour control (2002-6), it’s been Tory since 1974. As things stand, the blues hold 45 of the 63 seats, compared to Labour’s 13 and UKIP’s three, plus one independent and one vacancy.
Bexley voted Leave, too. It seems pretty unlikely there’ll be much to see here. Safe Tory.
Update, 2 May: I am not convinced this will make a difference, and have seen little to suggest that a Labour win could be in the offing. But this seems worth noting nonetheless:
Disappointed at the very small write up for Bexley. Have you taken into account the boundary changes (reduction from 63 to 45 seats) and key local issues like other commentators have?
— Danny Hackett (@DannyHackett) May 2, 2018
Highly diverse north western borough that can never quite decide if it’s suburbia or inner city.
The borough is most famous as the home of Wembley Stadium, but politically has seen very little competition indeed. The Tories haven’t held it since 1971, although there have been several periods of NOC. To make matters worse for the party, its six councillors seem to have spent much of the last four years repeatedly splitting into two groups of three and yelling at each other for reasons I gave up trying to understand three articles in.
At any rate, the Brent Conservatives currently hold just six seats compared to Labour’s 55 plus two independents. Safe Labour.
Sprawling chunk of “I think you’ll find we’re part of Kent, actually” territory on the south eastern edge of the capital. Despite being London’s largest borough by area, much of it is literally fields.
Bromley: half empty. Image: Open Street Map.
So you’ll be entirely unsurprised to learn that Labour have never even got close to taking this one: between 1998 and 2001, the borough was briefly in no overall control, but that was a LibDem surge, not a Labour one, and for the other 51 years of its history Bromley has been Tory.
The current state of play is 48 Tories out of 60, to seven Labour, two UKIP and three independents. So safely Tory you could call it Disraeli.
Update, 2 May: One reader complained that I was shortchanging Bromley by suggesting it identified with Kent, and was pretty solidly Tory. I stand by my remarks, but in the name of transparency, thought I should note that some locals object.
A slice of inner north central London, stretching from Covent Garden and Holborn to Kilburn and Hampstead Heath.
Another borough the Tories only got close to in the wave election of 1968: for the rest of the time it’s been Labour held, with a brief interlude of No Overall Control during the LibDem surge of 2006.
As things stand its 54 seats are 38 Labour, 11 Tory, two LibDem, plus one apiece for Green, independent and empty. Nothing to see here: safe Labour.
A riverside patch of south east London stretching from Greenwich proper through Woolwich to Thamesmead, as well as south to Eltham.
Electorally, it’s one of the least interesting boroughs in London. The Tories won it once in – this’ll shock you – 1968, but got utterly thrashed three years later, with Labour winning 55 seats to five. The reds have never even come close to losing it since.
Update, 2 May: My comment that Greenwich is not very interesting received the following response:
Excellent piece on tomorrow's London local elections in @CityMetric. Intrigued to read that Greenwich is "electorally, one of the least interesting boroughs in London". Did you know @JonnElledge that it contains London's most consistently marginal ward, Blackheath Westcombe?
— Alex Grant (@AlexGrant24) May 2, 2018
So, there you go.
As things stand, Labour hold the borough 42 to nine, so there aren’t many gains to make. Nonetheless, gains seem more likely than loses. Safe as houses.
Anyway, since I do keep talking about it, here’s a map of those 1968 election results. Blimey.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
The north-eastern bit of inner London, running from Shoreditch to Clapton. Used to be working class and industrial; now it’s hipster central. Luckily for the red team, though, both those groups tend to favour Labour.
Hackney is another borough that the Tories won in 1968, and never again, although Labour have lost overall control a couple of times (1990-4, 1996-2001). As it stands the party holds 50 seats out of 57. The LibDems three seats in Cazenove ward (Stoke Newington, to you and me); the Tories hold four in Springfield and Stamford Hill West, which are home to a fairly conservative orthodox Jewish community.
But while it’s not clear that Labour can make gains here, it seems unlikely to lose ground either. Hackney is also one of the four London boroughs with an elected mayor. It’s currently Labour’s Philip Glanville. It almost certainly still will be on Friday evening.
Ludicrously shaped west London borough, running seven miles from Chiswick to Feltham, but often being so narrow you can all but see across it. Historically Hounslow has been fairly safe for Labour – another that the Tories only won in 1968, although Labour lost its majority in 2006-10 too.
Last time round the party won 49 seats to the Tories 11, most of which are in the plush east of the borough around Chiswick. On a really good night Labour might consolidate its hold, but it’s not clear there are many winnable seats it doesn’t already hold. Nonetheless, safe Labour.
Update, 2 May: A reader writes:
Labour on a good night should win seats in Chiswick especially in Turnham Green, they won all of these wards in General Election in Brentford & Isleworth which explains the 13k majority, outside chance of a clean sweep.
— AM (@absmo24) April 30, 2018
A tiny patch of inner north London, and modern Labour’s spiritual home. New Labour was born here, Tony Blair lived here and Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency is here. That said, the borough is not as affluent as the sneering commentary sometimes implies: there’s great wealth but also great poverty, quite often in adjacent streets.
Historically Islington has swung a surprising amount. Like many boroughs it went Tory in 1968 and defections in 1981 meant it was also briefly run by the SDP (the 1982 election put paid to that). More recently there have been periods of No Overall Control and, from 1990 to 2006, LibDem majority.
Right now though Labour is dominant, holding 47 of 48 seats. The Green’s Caroline Russell makes up the entirety of the opposition from her ward of Highbury East. Safe labour.
Running from the South Bank to Brixton and points south, Lambeth is as safe labour as it comes. The Tories won it in 1968 and were briefly in coalition with the LibDems from 2002-6, but otherwise the reds have dominated.
In fact, Labour’s position has been getting stronger. In 2014 it won a record 59 seats, more than twice the 24 it won in 1994, the last election before the Blair landslide. The Tories hold three, in that bit of Clapham that secretly wishes it was in Wandsworth; the Greens have a single seat in St Leonard’s (Streaham).
As a result, it’s not clear that there’s much room for Labour to advance here. It’s also possible that the sterling work Kate Hoey has been doing trying to alienate Remain voters in the north of the borough will give at least some boost to the LibDems. Most likely, though, it’ll all be very dull.
Update, 2 May: The Greens are hoping to make some advances here.
— Philip Vabulas (@PhilVabulas) April 30, 2018
We shall see.
Inner south east London borough taking in New Cross, Blackheath and Catford.
One of Labour’s safest holds in the city: the Tories won in 1968, obviously, and Labour lost its majority in 2006. In 2014, though, it won 53 seats, and the entire opposition currently consists of a single Green in Brockley.
So I wouldn’t expect too much excitement out of Lewisham on Thursday night.
Steve Bullock is all but certain to be elected to a fifth term as mayor, too. Oh no apparently he isn’t running (thanks, Adam): the fact I said his victory was “all but certain” shows just how good I am at political predictions. Anyway, Labour’s Damien Egan will very likely win instead.
South west London suburbia, sitting on the faultline between rich, Tory Wimbledon and scruffy, Labour Mitcham. Morden, the borough’s other significant centre, falls somewhere in between.
Historically the area was dominated by the Tories: the blues ran the council for 19 of its first 26 years. But Labour won a majority in 1990 for the first time since 1971, and have remained dominant since.
In 2014, the scores were Labour 36, Conservative 20, LibDems 1 and Residents Association 3. We may learn something of Labour’s prospects from its ability to progress in the plush Wimbledon bits of the borough, but otherwise it’ll mostly be dull. Safe Labour.
To add some colour, when Labour lost their majority in 2006, it was because they lost 2 seats to literal Trots. The only thing that can derail Damian Egan is Barney Ronay's one man campaign against him (possible 2 men if Danny Baker is on-side)
— Nicholas Croom (@nickcroom) April 30, 2018
The easternmost bit of inner London: Stratford, East & West Ham, the Royal Docks and so forth.
Newham is, despite the arrival of the Olympic Park and a Westfield shopping mall, one of the poorest boroughs in London, so it’s little surprise that it’s safe Labour territory. The party has controlled it for the vast majority of the last 54 years – although after that 1968 wave election, it did briefly slip into No Overall Control – and for the last two elections, it’s won every seat. That seems unlikely to change this time around.
One slight point of interest in Newham is that it’s one of the four London boroughs with an elected mayor. Since 2002 that’s been Sir Robin Wales, who’d previously led the council as leader since 1995.
In March, though, Wales was effectively ousted when the local Labour party picked the Momentum-backed Rokhsana Fiaz to be its candidate for the mayoralty – a position that, thanks to Labour’s dominance of the borough, she is all but certain to win. The move was widely interpreted as a sign that the forces of Corbynism were tightening their stranglehold on the London Labour party. Personally, having watched Wales in office, I’d be more tempted to interpret it as a sign that the ancient curse had finally been lifted, but that’s just me.
Fairly non-descript patch of south London suburbs, taking in Wallington, Carshalton and Cheam. It does, at least, have a couple of great ward names (Nonsuch, Stonecot, The Wrythe), which make it sound like a previously unknown bit of Westeros.
Politically, Sutton is that rarest of things: safe LibDem territory. The Tories ran the borough until 1986, but, after a brief interlude of NOC, the LibDems have held it since 1990.
In 2014, the yellows won 45 seats to the Tories’ nine. The latter are said to have their eye on the borough, but – at risk of tempting fate – It doesn’t look terribly likely.
Update, 2 May: This blog makes a convincing argument that the Tories could be about to take Sutton, after 18 years of LibDem control. The idea of a swing towards the Tories may seem unlikely – but one thought that does occur, which I forgot in my write-up, is that Sutton voted Leave. Perhaps it isn't that safe after all.
The half of inner south London that isn’t Lambeth, stretching from Bankside and Bermondsey to Camberwell and Peckham.
There are Tory majorities in the plush south of the borough, around Dulwich. And the LibDems have done well in the far north, hard by the river (until 2015, indeed, they held the seat at Westminster).
Nonetheless, this is safe Labour territory: although the LibDems became the largest party in 2002, they never won overall control, and Labour regained its majority in 2010. Last time around, the scores were Labour 48, LibDems 13 and Conservative two. It’s possible anger about Brexit might mean a LibDem fightback here, but I wouldn’t put money in it. Safe Labour.
What does a good night for Labour look like? My instinct is that the Tories are going to get battered, but that some of the more excitable predictions of Conservative losses are unlikely to be delivered on.
Basically, I think Labour should have done more to control expectations – the idea that not winning Westminster, a borough that has never not been run by the Conservatives, will count as failure is faintly ridiculous.
Nonetheless: it’s likely we’ll see several councils move leftwards on Thursday. Should be a fun night. To keep up with developments, you should read Stephen Bush’s liveblog.
All uncredited images screenshots from Wikipedia.