May faces another Brexit backlash in London polls

Labour has its eyes on Westminster council, at Tory heartland, in UK local elections on Thursday. [Dominic Dudley/Shutterstock]

Theresa May’s governing Conservatives will face another Brexit backlash in London in local government elections on Thursday (3 May).

Of the 4,371 councillors up for election across England, more than 1800 are in London’s 32 local councils. In the capital, polls put the Labour party on 51% to the Conservatives’ 29%, and Jeremy Corbyn’s party has been campaigning to make London a ‘Conservative-free zone’.

Labour is hoping to win Barnet council in North London, and also has its eyes on Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, two of the most affluent parts of the city.

Although local councils are primarily responsibility for providing local amenities, the polls tend to be a barometer of national opinion. The government’s stance on Brexit also continues to weigh heavily on its popularity in London. Londoners voted to stay in the European Union by a 3 to 1 margin in June 2016 and elected a Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, last May.

UK elections expert Tony Travers downplayed the scale of the Tories wider difficulties, pointing out that at this stage in the electoral cycle, most successful opposition parties hold substantial poll leads.

“They (Labour) need to be way ahead of the Government at this stage in the electoral cycle if they are going to win in the general election,” he said, adding that the opposition party had “ not at all tried to manage expectation.”

Despite the governing party’s woes in the capital, its vote is likely to hold up across the rest of the country. Nationally the two parties remain in a near dead-heat, both polling around 40%.

The local polls also come in the wake of the Windrush scandal, where a number of Britons who arrived in the country decades ago were harassed and, in some cases, deported by the Home Office as illegal immigrants.

Of the minor parties, the Liberal Democrats are projected to lose around 30 seats, while Ukip face the prospect of losing all 125 seats they won in 2014.

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