Blog Post

Experts predict the 2022 London elections

We asked former politicians, pollsters and commentators for their predictions ahead of the local election… here’s what they said! 

Mike Tuffrey, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, 2002-2012, Leader of Lambeth Council, 1994-98 

These elections come at an opportune time for the Lib Dems after several years when they’ve frankly struggled to get traction. Last year’s two big Parliamentary by-election wins show voters trust them again, and the melt-down of the Conservatives at Westminster opens up possibilities that were previously a stretch. The party is gearing up for the contest across the capital, campaigning on jobs, homes and clean air. 

In their traditional strongholds in south west London, where the LibDems currently run three councils, the prospects are good to consolidate their position, with strong campaigns on local services and how they stepped up to help during the pandemic. Watch for Merton which includes Wimbledon to join this cluster.   

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. 

My personal hope is for an end to one-party-state councils.  A vibrant ‘contested’ democracy spurs voter engagement and helps all parties, so I’m rooting for colleagues fighting strong insurgent campaigns in places as diverse as Bromley and Westminster, with advances possible in Tower Hamlets and Kensington & Chelsea.

Then, when the dust has settled, look at the overall turn-out figure.  That will tell us more about the mood of Londoners, following the blows of Brexit and Covid, than the tally of party gains and losses. 

Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Green Party London Assembly Member 2000-2016

It’s a fool’s game trying to guess the outcome of elections or their main trends so far out, and of course I am an optimist so might show some bias. However … 

I think the Conservative vote is going to collapse even more in London, which should be good for Labour, but they will struggle on a local level when taking on more energetic Green and Lib Dem candidates, especially within Inner London. 

I hope that the environment will be part of voters’ thinking, in which case Labour councillors in North East London have blown their environmental credentials by voting through the massive new Edmonton Incinerator which is bad for air pollution, the climate and recycling. Also, Labour authorities across inner London have been ignoring the complaints of their constituents when imposing estate sales under the guise of regeneration. 

Many local people don’t like the one party states that we end up with in places like Newham and will vote for a progressive opposition because they see the logic in having a healthy democracy with some local scrutiny and questioning of decisions. 

Whichever way we look at it, the Conservatives will lose out. 

Stefanos Koryzis, Senior Insight Manager, London Communications Agency 

This May’s elections will remind us of the often-repeated maxim that London is, in fact, a tangle of 700 villages. Yes, Labour already controls 21 of 32 boroughs and consistently polls ahead of the competition on a London-wide basis, but these elections are not a city-wide contest like the Mayorals. We’re talking 32 distinct battles for control of as many councils, each decided by ward-level skirmishes for 1,800+ seats, plus duels for five directly elected mayoralties. As of writing, Labour clearly has its sights on Barnet and Wandsworth. Yet even here – where a Labour takeover is plausible – dislodging the Tories will be difficult, especially as Keir Starmer’s party machine is running on fumes in the capital, making candidate selections and campaign mobilisation challenging. Labour administrations are themselves on the defensive in Croydon, Harrow and elsewhere. As for the Lib Dems, holding on to their three strongholds in the southwest of London will suffice as a success.

Ross Lydall, City Hall Editor, Evening Standard  

“Dog sh*t and bins” used to be the traditional doorstep complaints but it’s hard to imagine this now not including council tax, and potentially LTNs. Many a candidate will have the pleasure (or discomfort) of blaming much of any increased council tax bill on Sadiq Khan. Many may seek to lay LTNs at the London Mayor’s door too, though not as justifiably. As for LTNs, it’s hard to think of a more divisive issue in 30 years of reporting on local councils. Will councillors who introduced LTNs get rewarded with another term or merely the boot? It’s local election popcorn time. 

Heidi Alexander, Labour MP for Lewisham East 2010-2018, Deputy Mayor for Transport 2018-2022 

Will Labour finally take control of Wandsworth Council and who will be the first directly elected Mayor of Croydon? These are probably the two most interesting questions that will be answered when Londoners go to the polls on 5 May.

With Labour currently controlling three times as many councils as the Conservatives across the city, and a resilient Lib Dem vote in the South West of the capital, it’s a big ask of the Labour campaign machine to make further gains. Wandsworth might just be the place to look though. “Call me Dave” style Conservatives in Balham and Battersea, disillusioned with the shenanigans in No10 and a national Labour Party back under sensible management, might just be enough to sway it. The margin of victory enjoyed by Conservative Councillors in Wandsworth swing wards in 2018 was paper thin and as we all know, local elections are as much about how people feel about the state of the parties in Westminster (see what I did there – sorry), as they are about bin collections, schools or low traffic neighbourhoods.

And whilst I’m on the latter, I suspect supporters and detractors will balance each other out and won’t have a significant impact on overall results. In Croydon, Labour’s Val Shawcross is mounting an energetic campaign to ensure that Labour retain control of a council that has faced enormous financial challenges. As someone who wasn’t part of the last administration, Val is well placed to offer a fresh start and a safe pair of hands to take over from Hamida Ali, who admirably stepped forward to take unenviable decisions when the chips were really down. My money would be on Val but with a seemingly solid Conservative vote in the South of the borough, it’s definitely one to watch and for those so inclined, one to campaign in! 

Steve Norris, Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, 2000 and 2004 

If you’re in government you know local elections are going to prove painful.  The small percentage of eligible voters who actually turn out tend to react to what’s happening on the national stage rather than delivering a verdict on the performance of their local council.   Good councillors in all parties lose their seats and quite a few paper candidates find themselves elected.  Maybe if local authorities raised and spent their own money and it was possible to distinguish the prudent from the profligate, the efficient from the shambolic, things might be different but that admirable proposition has defeated both parties in government since time immemorial.  So May’s elections are not a particularly happy prospect for the Conservatives.  The war in Ukraine where the Prime Minister appears to have strong public support may have distracted voters from domestic issues such as Partygate but the rising cost of living will surely more likely be laid at the governing party’s door. Councils like Wandsworth and Westminster will fight hard to hang on and in the former case the difference in council tax might well still work, but elsewhere this is unlikely to be a great night for the Conservatives.   

Chris Hopkins, Associate Director, Savanta 

I’d expect Labour to do pretty well in the London Borough elections this May, although this may not necessarily translate into gaining too many seats and councils. We have to remember that the last time these seats were up for grabs, in 2018, Labour achieved their best result in a generation, and even though they’re riding high in national opinion polls at the moment when they were not in 2018, some of the more recent London-specific polling is not massively dissimilar from what it looked like in the capital in 2018. 

Despite this, Labour’s ground game is often very good, and therefore I’d expect it to pump resources into boroughs where they feel they have the best chance of gaining councils. Of the Conservative-controlled councils, I’d expect Labour to put up the greatest fight in Barnet and Wandsworth. Westminster and possibly Hillingdon are also vulnerable to be lost to Labour. I’d also expect Labour to take the Croydon Mayor race, which ordinarily would be the best chance the Conservatives would have of electing a mayor in one of the five boroughs that has one – Labour should comfortably hold the others, and potentially the Greens and Liberal Democrats could come second in some of them.