Five thoughts on the latest set of polling from London

Ballot boxes in London, 2012. Image: Getty.

Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute has released their latest wave of polling of the capital, and as ever there is a lot of interest in there. Here are five thoughts.

The Conservatives are headed for a world of hurt in London

The headline news is that the Conservatives are expected to lose Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth. The latter two remained Conservative-controlled even in the Labour wave year of 1994, and Barnet has never been Labour-controlled, though the Conservatives have intermittently lost their majorities there.

In a way that is what we would expect from the election. In Wandsworth, Labour gained Battersea and Rosena Allin-Khan won every ward in Tooting, and the party came very close to unseating Justine Greening in Putney (both seats in Wandsorth). In Westminster, Tory Mark Field nearly lost his Cities of London & Westminster seat, while Labour’s Karen Buck likewise won every ward in Westminster North.

However, Buck has a significant personal vote and Labour have always tended to underperform their national results in Wandsworth council elections, in part because of the Conservative council’s longstanding (and locally very popular) commitment to keeping council tax the lowest in the country. These would be big, big gains for Labour if they come true.

While Labour make big gains as far as councils they control, their seat gains will likely be pretty rubbish

However, I think the Tories will have a pretty good talking point (that is, it will get ministers and loyal backbenchers through interviews on election night on 4 May, not that it will be a sensible or correct take). That is that, looking at these numbers and the councils up for grabs in London, the actual number of seat gains looks likely to be quite low.

Why? Well, because Ed Miliband already did very well when these councils were last fought in 2014 as the Liberal Democrats collapsed to his benefit. In most of the capital, you are looking at perhaps three to eight possible gains as the last remaining Liberal Democrats or Conservatives are wiped out.

In Hackney, there are just three Tory councillors, four Liberal Democrats and 50 Labour party councillors, and that was actually one of Ed Miliband’s least impressive results in inner London. In Waltham Forest they hold 44 seats out of 60. In Haringey, 48 out of 57. And these are the Labour-held areas with the biggest potential for gains.

So even a blockbuster night for Labour in London I wouldn’t expect them to make many gains as far as seat numbers go.

It could get worse for the Tories depending on how the Liberal Democrat vote is distributed

The great unknown is that the Liberal Democrat vote is up – but we aren’t entirely sure where it is up. Their big hope of course is Richmond, where they were entirely wiped out in 2014, but it is possible that Brexit – and the fact that EU citizens can vote in this elections – will turn the table for them. Or they could just give a couple of Labour councillors a fright but gain very little. Who knows?


There is a lot to worry for both major parties here

I don’t think it is worth worrying too much about voting intention as far as Westminster goes: there isn’t an election due until 2022 and it is hard to predict results this far out.

However, were I Labour, it would trouble me that in a city where they have finished first as far as elections to Parliament go in every contest since 1992 and where they have not lost a city-wide contest since 2012, and are likely to get more than half the vote, the most popular choice for “who is the best Prime Minister?” is “Don’t Know”. (A shrug of the shoulders leads Jeremy Corbyn 36 per cent to 31 per cent, wile Theresa May is a poor third with 24 per cent. Facing a tricky two-legged tie to qualify for the Champions League proper in fourth place is Vince Cable with nine per cent.)

But there is very little to cheer here for the Conservatives either. While “leaving the EU” is a top three issue for a quarter of all Remain voters their path to a good parliamentary majority looks very tricky. It should alarm them that the traditional areas of Labour strength, particularly the NHS, are on the rise as far as issues of concern go.

The Conservatives have a big problem with Remainers, but Labour are doing okay with Leavers

The number one way to improve the Tory position in London and indeed across the country would be for them to do as well holding onto the “Cameron 2015, Remain 2016” voters as Labour are with “Miliband 2015, Leave 2016” ones. To give you an idea of the problem: Labour getting 30 per cent of the vote among Leavers, the Conservatives are getting just 17 per cent among Remainers. If the Tories can even do merely as poorly as Labour, their position would be greatly improved.

It’s hard to see at this distance who will even want to challenge Sadiq Khan

Voting intention for the 2020 mayoral election is only marginally more useful than voting intention for 2022, but on the more reliable metric of approval ratings, Khan continues to look like a formidable candidate in 2020, with more than half the city approving of his record so far. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at our parent title, the New Statesman, where this post first appeared. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.