By Murad Qureshi
After a hard day knocking up residents in Little Venice Ward on polling day, l went to the count in Vincent Square to see the results of the Local Elections in the City of Westminster at just after midnight.
I was immediately greeted by three Tory councillors of Hyde Park Ward storming out of the Hall. I asked around what was that about, and was informed that they had just been told that they were going to lose their seats tonight. It was then I realised the scale of the defeat the Tories of the City of Westminster were going to face at our hands.
The heartland of Labour support in the City of Westminster is Paddington in the North West of the borough, where we were expected to make gains in Bayswater after the last local election and efforts were made in Lancaster Gate and Little Venice Wards. In the end we managed to make an additional five councillor from those three wards. But no one expected Hyde Park ward to come in for us at all, including our candidates.
Postal votes were clearly influenced by Partygate, as they hit people’s homes at the same time as the scandal was at its height. That was noticeable at the Count: when the postal votes were opened, the vast majority were Labour votes which is not usually the case.
West End ward was won even before polling day the previous week, after the Soho Society and ex-Tory councillors came out to support the Labour candidates in the ward. This was clearly a sign of things to come.
In the South we managed to gain two seats, one in South Pimlico that we should never have lost last time and remarkably one in Vincent Square ward. Who knows: next time, we should aim for St James Park ward where Buckingham Palace is located!
So all in all, a 9% swing to Labour in the City of Westminster got us 31 seats. We had reached our holy grail, making it possible for us to say that the Prime Minister of the day is the first incumbent to live under a Labour Council at 10 Downing Street.
Alas in painting the City red, l myself did not manage to get into the Council in Little Venice ward. But we managed to get one of our colleagues into the ward, Sara Hassan, and l am sure she will do a better job of representing locals than the Tories in the ward.
And finally while we can celebrate the gains in Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster, let us not forget that Harrow turned blue, while Labour lost Tower Hamlets and Croydon Mayoral contests. As a result the net gains of seats were less than we thought they would be, when the counts of Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster were completed.
This clearly takes the wind out of Labour’s sails in London. There are lessons to learn from these results for London and national politics, and particularly future London-based elections. It appears we are piling up the votes in certain parts of London while losing them elsewhere and in the rest of England, though not in Wales and Scotland.
Murad Qureshi was a member of the London Assembly from 2004 to 2016 and from 2020 to 2021.
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