Thursday, March 13, 2014

How likely is it Lewisham council will go 'all Labour' in May?

Since the 2006 council elections the make-up of Lewisham council has changed quite significantly, despite being led throughout this time by Labour mayor Sir Steve Bullock.

After the 2006 elections, the 54-strong council looked like this:

Labour           26
Liberal Democrat 17
Green             6
Conservative      3
Socialist         2

A mix of parties and some strong opposition to Labour as the largest (but not the majority) group on the council.

Fast forward to 2010:

Labour           39
Liberal Democrat 12
Conservative      2
Green             1

A clear majority for Labour, but at least with an opposition party with a reasonable number of councillors. Since then 1 Conservative and 1 LibDem have defected to Labour and one LibDem stood down to be replaced with a Labour councillor in a by-election. This leaves the current council looking like this:

Labour           41
Liberal Democrat 10
Conservative      1
Green             1

The observant among you will notice this adds up to 53 not 54. This is because there are currently only 2 councillors in Evelyn ward following the death of Councillor Sam Owalabi-Oluyole in January. A by-election wasn't held to fill this position for obvious reasons.

Already Labour have 41 councillors of the 54 possible positions available - how likely is it that the whole council will turn red in May? I thought I'd have a go at working this out using some of the 2010 and 2006 ward voting stats and a bit of a magic cauldron. Why go back to 2006? Well, the 2010 elections coincided with a general election so the turnout was up (60% compared with 33% in 2006), and these votes tend to go towards larger parties where people are also voting on national issues. I think we can assume we'll be heading back towards a turnout of about a third this year.

My first assumption is that Labour will retain all 41 existing council seats, and will add the missing seat in Evelyn, giving them 42 seats to start with.

Where are the current opposition party seats?

The Green party councillor, Darren Johnson, is stepping down from Brockley after 12 years. This leaves this position wide open for Labour who took two of the Green party's three seats from them in 2010. I think we can assume that without Darren's name, the Greens won't hold onto the third in 2014.

The Conservative councillor, Chris Allison, is in Grove Park, where she was originally accompanied by David Britton. He's since gone to Labour - how likely is it Chris will lose her space on the council come May? Well, in 2006 the Tories had all 3 seats in Grove Park and in 2010 the winning Labour candidate, Suzannah Clarke, polled more votes than Cllr Allison. So... I am going to speculate that this seat will fall to Labour as part of a national swing away from the Tories. This would wipe out the Tories in Lewisham altogether.

What of the 10 existing Liberal Democrat councillors? Where are they located? All 3 Downham councillors are currently LibDems. Two of three councillors in both Forest Hill and Lee Green are currently LibDems and there are lone LibDems in Blackheath, Crofton Park and Whitefoot.

In Downham, the Labour candidates in 2010 were the next three highest polling candidates after the LibDems, with the top Labour candidate scoring only 23 fewer votes than the lowest polling LibDem, Jenni Clutten. I believe she is stepping down, so that may well open up at least one opportunity. I'm not sure (though perhaps I should know) if Duwayne Brooks plans to stand again, as he is standing for mayor (that in itself doesn't stop him standing for council election too). His name may get him elected again. Julia Fletcher has her eyes on Heidi Alexander's seat in Parliament, though I don't think Heidi will be having too many sleepless nights about that.

Lee Green has been a bit of a flip-floppy ward in recent times, with numerous by-elections and swings to and from the LibDems to Labour and back again. I used to live there, and actually the LibDem councillors were great at that time. They've mostly moved on since and at the last election the results were pretty finely balanced, so I think these two seats will fall to Labour.

Forest Hill isn't a ward I know an awful lot about, despite enjoying a fair few evenings in the Hob performing with my choir. At least one the the current LibDem councillors (Philip Peake) is stepping down. The highest polling candidate in 2010 was Alex Feakes, who seems to be a busy chap if his blog is anything to go by. Perhaps he will hang on if he decides to stand.

What of the wards with only one LibDem councillor? Well, Whitefoot has already rejected the LibDems in one by-election so I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest the other will go this time. Crofton Park and Blackheath seem pretty close run places between Labour and LibDem so these are hard to call. Of course, Amanda De Ryk saw the writing on the wall in June last year and jumped to Labour before she was pushed out altogether...

So, it's not an exact science but I reckon that the make-up of the council after the May 2014 elections will be:

Labour           50
Liberal Democrat  4

What do you think? Have I been too generous to the LibDems? Unfairly dismissed the Greens and the Tories? Think that People Before Profit will storm to victory across the borough? Can you do better? Let me know what you think and we can see who's right come May 22nd!

Trying to decide how to vote? You might be interested in this report on councillors' absenteeism from Alternative SE4.

(p.s. I'm not bothering to speculate on who will be mayor, I think that's pretty obvious, despite this gem from Duwayne Brooks on Tuesday:


chimpman said...

not good, im labour(ish) but no organisation performs well when the only scruitiny is internal - see the police, the church (pick your religion), banks, football clubs etc.... a pain in the arse opposition is required. still, theres always the News Shopper.

SnakePit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SnakePit said...

You're completely ignoring UKIP.

We didn't fight these wards in 2010, but we're here and looking to get councillors elected in 2014.

The Lib Dems are falling behind us in bye-elections elsewhere, as are the Tories. And we're taking Labour votes too.

As 2013 proved - there is no such thing as a 'safe' (from UKIP) ward.

As I say, we're here; we're fighting; we're here to stay.

And we are going to cause waves come May 22. Even 2nd or 3rd places are a massive achievement for us, given where we're coming from.

bmillsltfc said...

Coming a bit late to this
As a Crofton Park resident my theory of what happened last local election is that (1)As it coincided with the general election turnout was up .
(2)A selection of the public fell for the Clegg bandwagon/PR stuff
(3)Some traditional Lab voters thought they d give the Lib Dems a chance locally and go 2 Lab 1 Lib Dem on the ballot (4)Alphabetically John Bowen was the first LD on the ballot, Sylvia Scott the last Lab candidate
(5)Bowen picked up a few extra votes and by chance of the alphabet gets to be councillor , Scott losing out .

Anonymous said...

I can see that Lewisham will be a Tory free zone after the results have been declared on May 22nd.
Lewisham Labour are a very canny lot and will be working hard to get all their candidates elected and will be particularly pleased if they get all three seats in Downham. This ward has eluded them for many years with the Lib dems firmly establishing themselves through hard work. It is not difficult to see them gaining all three seats in Blackheath, Crofton Park, Lee Green, Whitefoot and Forest Hill. Grove Park will almost certainly be a Labour gain completing a clean sweep of the Borough.

Ray Barron Woolford said...

My prodiction for Lewisham based on 12 years of working New Cross and deptford for PB4P .
Lib Dems will lose all seats as will Greens, by putting up 3 candidates in every ward and breaking agreement they have insured PB4P and Tusc supporters will not give 1 or 2 votes to Greens.
Telegraph Hill ward. John hamilton is best known candidate extremly popular in ward with strong personal vote will win .. Sadly think Tusc have not done enough over past 4 years and will get credable vote but no win.
Ladywell looks good for Helen Mercer for PB4P high profile leading member of save Lewisham Hospital campaign very good chance of a win.
Evelyn ward very low turn out, but resent By Election PB4P came from 6th to second to Labour with moe votes than all opposition combined, Should win at least 1 of the 3 seats. This will be historic as Labopur used to get 80% of vote.
New cross ward almost a cert for PB4P Same team that has fought this seat past 2 elections and all have high profile due to local campaigns and the hugely popular food bank they run. I expect New Council to see Lewisham People Before profit as largest oppositiongroup with 5-7 Councillors.. although i hope many more, but party is looking long term and has Activists unlike Labour packed with Career politicians.

Anonymous said...

I, hope that sir steve"WHAT A LOAD OF"bullock doesn't get back in as mayor telling people that they can go and be left to root is not my book a person I would want as someone running my townhall.