Strengthening – and extending – London’s yellow wall

In exactly two weeks from today, 32 London boroughs will be holding their four year all-in/all-out elections. (The City of London has already done its own thing).

And this is what it looked like in 2018:

As you can see we do have our own yellow wall in the southwest corner of Greater London where Lib Dems control the three adjacent boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, all with substantial majorities. In Richmond we currently hold 39 seats out of 54, in Kingston 37 out of 48 and in Sutton 32 out of 50. All three are Tory facing.

Our first priority is, of course, to retain control of those Councils.

I spoke with Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, and this is what she told me:

Things are going well in Sutton. After 36 years of running the Council, we’re quietly confident (but never complacent!) that we’ll reach our fourth decade, We have exciting plans for the future and are determined to ensure we can see them through. We have lots of new, enthusiastic and diverse council candidates and we can’t wait to see them elected to Sutton Council.

There will be some media attention on Kingston, given that Ed Davey’s constituency of Kingston & Surbiton lies with the borough.  (It’s confusing but Kingston functions both as the name of a London borough and also as one of the old towns within it, alongside New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington). But we also want to extend outwards and develop new patches of yellow in other parts of the capital.

For example, Merton Borough is adjacent to Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, and has a lively local party who are keen to develop.  They currently hold 6 seats out of 59. They face Conservatives, Labour and Independent Residents in different wards.

Hina Bokhari is a councillor in Merton and also a London Assembly member. She told me:

There’s no denying there’s plenty of excitement in Merton for a good result here for the LibDems. I have had Conservative voters so utterly appalled by the government and Johnson that they cannot bear to vote for them anymore.

And as it was reported recently in the Guardian, Tory activists have had a “a bit of a disastrous reception” at the doors here in Merton. Voters are very aware of what happened here in the 2019 General Election. Even Labour Party members are telling me that “Labour can’t win here”.

Over in Bromley the local Lib Dems are looking for a breakthrough – at present the Council is dominated by Tories, which presents them with a number of opportunities to (as Paddy said) “Pick a ward and win it”. Wendy Taylor told us how her father Brian did just that and won the first ever Liberal seat in Bromley in the 50s.

Caroline Pidgeon leads the Liberal Democrat group on the London Assembly and she told me:

London Liberal Democrats are knocking on thousands of doors every week and delivering huge numbers of leaflets and letters across the capital.  In South West London, our teams are working hard where we run the councils and I am sure we will see strong results in Richmond, Kingston and Sutton.  Many traditionally Conservative voters are saying they have had enough of this Government.

I would also look out for good results in places like Merton and Bromley, where we have strong local teams campaigning.  In the many Labour-run Boroughs, our campaigners are working tirelessly to hold seats and make in-roads.  Too many parts of London are one party states which is not healthy for democracy.

Finally, leading politicians across London and across the parties have been sharing their predictions.  Mike Tuffrey, former Assembly members and Leader of Lambeth Council, said:

A key test of the party’s recovery will be whether they can also grow their council groups in inner London, in places like Southwark, Haringey and Camden, where Labour are traditionally seen as the stronger party.  If so, that will be reflected in boroughs like Lambeth (my old stamping ground), Brent and Islington, where they previously ran the boroughs. 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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2 Comments

  • This is South London centric .. do not forget Haringey in North London, defending 15 Council seats, the ONLY opposition to the Labour administration, encompasses the seat of former @libdems MP Lynne Featherstone 😀

  • @Peter Kemp – yes, it is, simply because that’s where I live. I did ask around before I wrote it, but the comments here are an opportunity to highlight other parts of London. Do say a bit more about Haringey.

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