May 5 Elections: the London boroughs to watch

The May 5ThNot only will elections be important for London’s future, but also for the respective careers and interests of Boris Johnson (and KeirStarmer). A bad night for the Conservatives could see them loose former true-blue seats like Wandsworth and Barnet, which  would only ratchet up the pressure on the prime minister. Starmer’s test will be whether Labour can convert their national poll results into concrete gains.

Recent polling suggests that the Conservatives are facing a difficult time. A recent poll from YouGov put’s Labour 27 points ahead in London, while Opinium predicts that they’re on course to lose around 70 seats in London. What London Boroughs could you win?  week?


Barnet has been a target area for Labour for a long time and the upcoming election is a real chance to win control of the borough. Barnet Conservatives will not feel confident about holding onto the target wards that Labour will need to win. Many of these wards are only held by just a few hundred votes.

This is the target Labour sees as having the best chance of winning control of a Council in May, out of all the targets. Labour is aware of this and has launched their London local election campaign here. 


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This will also be a bellwether for how impactful Keir Starmer’s antisemitism message has been. Barnet has a relatively high Jewish population, and this issue was a huge factor in Labour’s poor performance here in 2018. Barnet could go red if they can regain their support and capitalize on the national polling situation. 


Wandsworth, which is the flagship Conservative Council would be a major defeat of the Conservatives.  Wandsworth was Margaret Thatcher’s favorite council and was an early adopter her mantra of providing better services for less. Wandsworth Conservatives continue to  base their election campaign on this, but Labour has tried to negate this position by committing to a 1 per cent cut in Council Tax if elected.

Wandsworth Conservatives have been struggling against the backdrop of partygate, and they are trying to distance themselves from this, going so far as to label themselves as ‘local Conservatives’ on the ballot papers. As neighbouring Labour boroughs encourage their campaigners in Wandsworth, the Conservatives are said to be recruiting volunteers from other areas as part of their fight to keep the party alive.

Labour have consistently made gains here in past elections and will be hoping this year that they will finally have enough support for the council.  They may just manage to get the council, according to current polling. However, it is difficult to call this borough a winner.


Labour is confident of making solid gains this year in Westminster and while they cannot take the Council outright, they can significantly eat into the Conservative majority.  This might seem like a win for the Tories, considering that the borough was previously controlled only by the Conservatives and has the lowest council tax anywhere in the UK.

The Westminster Conservatives are also feeling the heat from local scandals, in addition to the national issues affecting Conservatives across London. Opposition campaigns feature heavily on the Marble Arch Mound scandal, which was permanently closed in January. It led to Melvyn Caplan’s resignation as deputy leader.

Labour are also pressuring the Conservative’s to donate almost £120,000 they received from Russian donors with links to Putin, to Ukrainian charities  With the Tories having to fight on so many fronts it’s easy to see why Labour are optimistic here, but 2022 is likely still to early for Labour to gain overall control of the borough.  


Unlike the other  boroughs mentioned in this list, Croydon sees a wounded Labour Party defending against a resurgent and optimistic Conservative attack. This is because of the 2018 major financial crisis, which led to Croydon Council declaring bankrupt in 2018.

Labour has attempted to distance itself from former Labour Council leadership, Tony Newman, and Simon Hall, but this has proven more difficult in practice. The Conservatives campaign is dominated by financial mismanagement, which is not surprising. Like in Wandsworth, Croydon Conservatives are labelling themselves as ‘local Conservatives’ on the ballot as they try and keep the election focused on Croydon based issues. 

Croydon residents will also be voting for a directly elected mayor for the first time. This election will not only ensure a majority for the Council. Labour’s Val Shawcross and Jason Perry of the Conservatives are the two leading candidates, but it’s Andrew Pelling that may end up deciding things. Pelling is a former Conservative, who has since become a Labour politician, and is widely expected finish third. 

Pelling is expected take votes from both sides. There is concern that his participation in the election could make him the kingmaker. While polling suggests Labour will likely hold power in Croydon for the foreseeable future, they are understandably anxious about this south London borough. 

Tower Hamlets

Unlike all the former examples, Tower Hamlets isn’t a Labour versus Conservative battle, but one involving Labour and a party called Aspire.  Lutfur Rahman (former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, 2010-2015), is the leader of Aspire. He was banned from being elected for five years after being found guilty of corruption and illegal price fixing.

Rahman and his party are attacking Labour on the left, calling for more public investment in public services, affordable homes, tax freezes, and other policies. Tower Hamlets Labour are concerned about Aspire’s threat and are taking the challenge seriously. 

Labour are campaigning heavily in this borough and incumbent Labour mayor John Biggs will hope he can stop Rahman’s efforts. Although polling suggests Labour will retain control of Council, the outcome of the Mayoral elections is less certain.