Are the Tories Poised to Lose Seats in Chiswick?
Wipe out possible if residents vote as they did in last general election
It is nearly 20 years since a Labour councillor was last elected in Chiswick but the party believe that they could win seats again in the area in the local election on 3 May.
They point to the voting in the local wards during the General Election last June in which the Conservative vote in the the three Chiswick wards in the Brentford & Isleworth constituency (Turnham Green, Homefields and Riverside) collapsed and Labour won over half the votes in each, a swing of over 18%. The surge in the vote for Ruth Cadbury, which was dubbed the 'revenge of the Remainers', left her with a five figure majority as opposed to the wafer thin one she had previously.
There is the additional factor in the forthcoming election that all resident EU citizens get the vote unlike in a general election. In all three Chiswick wards in the London Borough of Hounslow, EU citizens make up a significant proportion of the population even based on numbers from the 2011 census which are likely to be much lower than currently.
All of the parties seem to agree that Turnham Green ward is the most vulnerable and the Liberal Democrats have formed a pact with the Greens in which the latter have stood down in return for a reciprocal arrangement in Brentford.
However, the latest polls are suggesting that the swing to Labour compared to the last local election will be just over 5% which will not be enough for them to take most if any of the seats in Chiswick.
All wards in Chiswick contain three seats with each voter being able to select three candidates. In our analysis we have ranked each seat within a ward 1,2 or 3 depending on the size of the majority of the sitting councillor over the closest candidate from an opposition party and calculated the swing needed. Normally the seat designated '1' would require the biggest swing to be taken. For the purpose of the analysis we have calculated the swing just on the basis of that needed by the best performing opposition party in the ward last time out.
Below we look at the election on a ward by ward basis.
Turnham Green Ward
Both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party appear to have identified this as the top target ward in the Chiswick area. Labour could win two of the seats with an 11.5% swing which is beyond what the polls are suggesting the party will achieve. As part of a deal with the Green party the Liberal Democrats have agreed not to field a candidate in Brentford ward with the Greens standing aside in Turnham Green. This is despite the Liberal Democrats coming fourth behind the Greens in the ward in 2014 when they were only fielding one candidate. None of the incumbent Conservative councillors are standing this time including Peter Thompson the former leader of the party's group on Hounslow Council.
In Turnham Green in the last general election the total Labour vote was 2591 votes, the Conservatives won 2203 and the Lib Dems 365. It was widely felt this was part of a Brexit backlash and the challenger parties will be hoping this will continue to be a factor. 73% of residents in the ward voted to remain in the EU. At the time of the 2011 census 15.9% of the residents held passports from other EU countries. Collectively they number more than the votes received by the top ranked candidate in the last election.
Chiswick Homefields Ward
The election falls nearly 20 years to the day after a Chiswick ward last elected a Labour Councillor when Pat Sterne won a seat in Chiswick Homefields. In 2014 the Liberal Democrats and the Greens fielded a single candidate each but this time they have a full slate. In addition there is a candidate from the Pro-Remain Renew party. Labour would need a massive swing of 16.2% to take the seat notionally held by John Todd who a recent Freedom of Information request showed submitted the most casework of any Chiswick councillor. The second seat in the ward held by 'Chiswick Champion' Gerald McGregor may be seen as a more realistic target with a swing of under 10% needed. As with the other seats the incumbent Conservatives will be hoping Brexit does not become a determinant of the way most people vote. The ward voted by over 70% to remain in the EU and 15% of the population had passports from other EU countries at the time of the 2011 census.
Chiswick Riverside Ward
Chiswick Riverside is the safest ward in the area for the Conservatives with a double-digit swing required for them to lose any of the seats. Their comfortable majority was obtained when UKIP and an Independent candidate ran last time out. The Greens will probably be looking at this ward with most interest as their candidate came fifth in the vote in 2014 ahead of two of the Labour candidates. They are fielding a full slate this time along with the Liberal Democrats. Controversially, the Conservative candidate Sam Hearn signed the nomination papers of Maria Kempinska, the candidate for Duma Polska/Polish Pride. Other parties have said that his was a ploy to divide the anti-Brexit vote in the ward which voted by over 70% to remain in the EU. Chiswick Riverside is not known for having a significantly large Polish population and as of the 2011 census 3.6% of the population were born in EU countries that joined after 2001 which would include Poles. Overall 12.6% of residents had passports from other EU countries.
Southfield ward contains the part of Chiswick which is in Ealing borough. It is currently held by Liberal Democrat councillors.
June 13, 2018