Thursday, 21 January 2010

Election 2010: Seats to Watch #2: Harrow and Hounslow


The ‘inner-outer’ London suburbs used to be pretty safe for the Conservatives but these days this is less true. Indeed, the change in racial demographics in these two boroughs has turned a once marginal place (Hounslow) into an increasingly safe labour area and a once safe Tory borough into an area of key marginals. Put simply, despite the economic success of the Asian communities in these places they retain a disproportionate allegiance to Labour. As with the ‘changing coalfields’ post much of the data comes from UK Polling Report.

Harrow East on the face of it ought to be a dead cert for Bob Blackman the Conservative candidate. A controversial MP in Tony McNulty defending a notional majority of just 2, 647 would seem to imply that Tory target number 56 is in the bag. However, it might not be so simple…not only did Bob Blackman lose the GLA seat to labour but the performance in 2008 was actually worse that the 2006 local council elections. Odds still on a Conservative gain but could be interesting indeed!

Brentford & Isleworth in the LB of Hounslow is a key Conservative target seat won in 2005 by Anne Keen (on expenses) for Labour by 4,411 in 2005. Boundary changes slightly favour the Conservatives and the seat is a fascinating contrast between the emerging yuppiedom of Chiswick and the declining inner suburbs and accompanying Asian population of Hounslow & Isleworth. Although the Conservatives did well in the 2006 local elections they only secured 31% of the poll to Labour’s 26%. The Party did better in the London Mayor and Assembly elections but still fell well short of 40%.

Harrow West was historically the more Conservative of the Borough’s two halves but boundary changes (with the safe Tory area of Pinner joining Rusilip to form a very safe outer London seat) have put an end to this – Gareth Thomas won here for Labour with a majority barely over 2000 but the notional majority for the new boundaries rises to over 7,000. In 2006 the Conservative lead in the local elections was just 4 points (39% Con, 35% Lab) and Labour lead marginally in the London Mayor and Assembly elections.

Feltham & Heston the other half of the LB of Hounslow is a long shot seat for the Conservatives in outer London. Hard up against Heathrow Airport and with a large Asian population this seat gave Alan Keen (on expenses) a majority of 7,760 in 2005. Here though Labour’s local election performance suggests they’ll hang on – in 2006 they got 34% to the Conservatives’ 30% but the Conservatives led very narrowly in the 2008 London Mayoral and Assembly elections.

What will strike you, of course, is how poorly the Conservatives have done in local elections here compared to the Party’s performance in those coalfield seats. For these ‘inner-outer’ London seats the demographic shift is away from the Conservatives making these key targets that much harder to win.


1 comment:

Michael Schwartz said...

Harrow East. What a wonderful constituency. Of its five MPs since about 1950, one had a homosexual scandal (Ian Harvey), one had a heterosexual scandal (Commander Courtney) and one has been caught up in the expenses scandal (Tony McNulty).
Not forgetting Oswald Mosley, the MP in 1918.
I don't know why I ever bothered.
Michael Schwartz
Harrow East activist, 1976-1988.