Winning in London in 2020

It’s little over 18 months before the Greater London Authority and London mayoral elections. Doesn’t time fly? This time they are more important than ever. Not only are these critical elections for London, they also garner national media attention, so a good showing will help deliver a stronger national performance for the Liberal Democrats at the next general election.

That means now is the time to do some serious research so we can devise our strategy on how we can win in London in 2020.

This is why I have helped commission and fund a full professional, programme of polling. I brought in Populus to undertake both qualitative and quantitative research in London to identify potential switchers, who they are, where they are coming from, where they live, and what issues are important to them.

Without giving away too many secrets the research confirms the recent surge in Liberal Democrat support, and demonstrates that pushing the Tories into third place in the capital is an achievable if challenging goal.

The Tories in London will undoubtedly have a pro-Brexit candidate. As they retreat having a relevant offer for the majority of the cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and tolerant voters of London – who voted heavily to Remain – it seems likely that the Conservative candidate’s votes will be restricted to the party’s core of right-wing supporters.

In line with other recent research the polling also revealed a large group of unaligned voters, with high intention to vote and open to considering the Liberal Democrats.

All of this indicates that a strong strategy focussed on the switchers, their concerns and priorities will gain a strong positive response. The challenge as always will be to demonstrate our values through relevant and distinctive policies (not the other way around) on crime, housing and the environment.

One advantage of the mayoral campaign is its London-wide nature giving us the opportunity to talk to voters in perhaps non-traditional areas of Lib Dem support. Our research shows that we will need to reach out across London to gain the maximum potential vote. This has the added benefit of helping us to rebuild the party further in London adding new target wards across every borough.

We are sharing the research with the London party and, funding permitting, hope to conduct another round focussing on values and policies in the new year. If you would like to see the findings you can request access by signing up to my newsletter.

The final finding focuses on the B-word – Brexit. It shows how vulnerable Labour is becoming with its unsustainable position on a People’s Vote. The announcement by Sadiq Khan last weekend perhaps shows the same story as ours. Our potential voters are overwhelmingly Remain and overwhelmingly supportive of a People’s Vote. But let’s not forget that by 2020 we may have moved on, and the issue may have been settled. (If you can imagine a climate where Brexit isn’t being debated every day!)

What is clear is we now know how we can make major gains in the GLA and relegate the Tories to third place. The opportunity is there to make real progress.

I will be producing a summary of the detailed data -please  email me with your details and party membership number if you would like a copy- [email protected]

* Dinesh Dhamija is a member of the Federal Board.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Becket 22nd Sep '18 - 7:31pm

    I suggest you look at radical proposals that will annoy the Daily Mail, to tackle pollution and congestion.

    I have just returned from four days in central London, I was horrified. I lived in London fifty years ago, since then I have Chaired Highways in Berkshire and worked as Cabinet Member for the Environment at Newcastle under Lyme. I last visited London two years ago, this time I found the congestion intolerable, and the atmosphere affected my breathing.

    Lib Dems need to take action.

    Congestion, which adds to pollution, could be reduced if the traffic lights were managed and contractors charged for taking up road space. In particular those who are using the road for storage should be charged very high rents.

    Now to remove cars from the central area. For a start the congestion charge for non-residents should be doubled. The income should go towards a network of Park and Ride Stations circling the centre. When alternatives are in place cars should be banned from the centre. At the same time a review of bus services, many unchanged since LPTB was created, should start.

    Controls applied to HGVs for delivery times should be applied to vans supporting Internet shopping. Support should be given to low pollution buses and taxis. Cycling facilities, and lanes, must be improved.

    This is a start, you cannot develop transport policy in a blog. However it does not look as if we are tackling this head on. Are we afraid of upsetting right wing motorists who will not vote for us, or is the task to large?

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Sep '18 - 6:21pm

    If the Lib Dem surge is going to start anywhere, it will be in London. With three talented and energetic MPs the campaign must be throughout the city and not focused on these and another few seats. London acts as an entity and wins somewhere must reverberate everywhere.

  • paul holmes 23rd Sep '18 - 7:51pm

    @Peter Hirst. Yet the LD’s traditionally have not done that well in London beyond a tiny number of constituencies and never in cross London elections. That’s despite London supposedly fitting the Core Vote profile to a ‘T’ -urban, professional, educated, voted Remain, open to immigration.

    I would be interested in hearing the Core Vote strategists explain why this is?

  • It is only a decade since we had 8 Mps and 5 London Assembly members in London.
    The first Mayoral election in 2000 contested by Susan Kramer returned 11.9% of the vote. Simon Hughes grew this to 15.3% in 2004 in the wake of the Iraq war. Brian Paddick polled 9.8% in 2008 but this fell back to 4.2% during Brian’s second run in 2012. Caroline Pidgeon ran a strong campaign in 2016 but saw only a slight increase in first preference votes to 4.6%.
    The 2020 elections will be an important milestone in rebuilding the party’s vote share in the capital.
    Sadiq Khan will be going for a 2nd term. Former Libdem Lewisham councillor Duwayne Brooks has been shortlisted by the Tories
    The Greens Sian Berry has taken over from Caroline Lucas as co-leader so will presumably have her hands full with her day job as a London Assembly member and running the national party.

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