Could central London change hands for the first time in history?

Could central London change hands for the first time in history?

Image subtitle, The constituency includes some of the busiest areas including Soho

  • Author, Adriana Elgueta
  • Paper, BBC News
At a glance

  • The Cities of London and Westminster constituency is one of the most contested in London in Thursday’s election
  • It has been conservative throughout its history
  • Westminster Council has now changed hands, from blue to red
  • The constituency stretches to Liverpool Street in the east and Hyde Park in the west, and its residents’ views on local and national issues are diverse and divisive.

The Cities of London and Westminster, home to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, have never had a Labour MP since their creation in 1950.

Stretching east to Liverpool Street and west to Hyde Park, the heart of London may be one of the most diverse constituencies.

It has some of the capital’s most exclusive areas, such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge, some of the busiest, such as Soho and Covent Garden – areas that account for a large part of London’s £14bn tourism industry – as well as housing estates in Pimlico and Paddington.

The seat is high on Labour’s wish list for Thursday’s election – and the Conservative candidate, Tim Barnes, a local resident who has been a councillor for many years, could have an uphill battle ahead.

Image subtitle, Pimlico resident David says he has been a Conservative voter for eight years

The Labour Party took control of the city council, Westminster Council, in key local election results two years ago.

The party’s parliamentary candidate, Rachel Blake, is a councillor in Tower Hamlets, east London.

The Conservative vote share fell by 7% at the last election in 2019, while pro-remain and anti-Corbyn sentiment combined to benefit the Liberal Democrats in the form of Labour defector Chuka Umunna, who came second.

“For the last eight years I’ve voted Conservative,” Pimlico resident David told BBC London, near the Churchill Gardens estate.

“My wife votes Labour most of the time. This time we’re in the middle, maybe we can vote together.”

Image subtitle, Resident Kay believes Conservative Party has done a good job during Covid

Another resident, Kay, said: “A lot of us have very short memories. We only had Covid four years ago and I think the government has done a great job in getting us all vaccinated.”

It is a view shared by the Conservative candidate, Mr Barnes.

“The resolution of Covid issues has driven up debt inflation and if Rishi had not implemented the Furlough Scheme, our economic situation would be much worse,” he says.

Image subtitle, Conservative candidate Tim Barnes thinks the contest is anyone’s game

As for whether the electorate could change color, Mr. Barnes says he doesn’t expect any “surprises,” but that nothing is set in stone.

“I read about what’s happening nationally, but it’s not what’s happening here,” he says.

“Strangely, politics here is quite introspective and they are concerned with local issues

“Our support (for the Conservatives) is pretty much where it was before, it was always a triple marginal vote.”

He said e-bikes and crimes like shoplifting and cellphone theft were some of the issues residents cared about and that he planned to focus on if elected.

Image subtitle, Labour candidate Rachel Blake says housing will be one of her main focuses

Labour candidate Rachel Blake says issues that also exist on a national scale – such as housing, the NHS and the cost of living – are her focus.

“Some of the issues we face here around short-term rentals are particularly significant,” she says.

“We’re losing thousands of homes here and that’s something I’d really like to address.

“The first step is to establish economic stability because this will create the conditions for investment in affordable housing.”

She says the seat is an “absolute target” for Labour.

Liberal Democrat Edward Lucas says his aim is to defeat Labour to “squeeze the Tories”.

“It’s absolutely clear that Labour is running for government and running for this seat, but they’re not winning that 50 per cent of the vote,” he says.

“They are defeatable and vulnerable to change and indecision. They don’t care about Europe in the same way that voters here care about Europe.”

You can find a full list of candidates for the City of London and Westminster constituencies here.

Additional reporting by Alpa Patel and Tim Donovan.

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