London party

Boris Johnson faces worst London local election results in 50 years, says Lord Hayward


Oris Johnson is facing one of the worst Tory local election results in London in more than 50 years, according to one of the party’s top poll experts, putting additional pressure on the PM on his leadership.

Mr Johnson’s authority has been badly damaged in recent months following allegations of sordid Westminster, anti-lockdown parties in Downing Street and a major rebellion by his own MPs against Covid restrictions.

The series of setbacks hit the Tories in the polls, with a poll for Opinium last week showing Labor is now seven points ahead of the Tories.

The poll also showed Mr Johnson has become a “major drag on Tories’ fortunes”, sparking further speculation that MPs may be preparing to oust him as leader.

One of the triggers for a leadership challenge could be the May local elections in London which, according to Conservative peer and political analyst Lord Hayward, could see the Tories drop four of their seven councils in the capital.

“He [Boris] should be very worried, ”said Lord Hayward, who has a reputation for giving independent and unvarnished advice to campaign leaders and Conservative prime ministers.

“With most opinion polls as it is, the Conservatives could control fewer London Boroughs than they have had at any time during the 50 years of these Boroughs.

“If the Tories lose a series of boroughs in London, it is likely that they will also lose a number of local authorities outside and in these circumstances will influence the Tory Party’s point of view at the volunteer level and MPs as to whether they should continue with Boris as leader.

Wandsworth’s result, led by the Conservatives since 1978, will be crucial for London’s May 5 election.

Lord Hayward says based on current polls the Borough is “almost certain” to be taken by Labor.

The same could also happen in Westminster, another London borough considered totemic by the Conservatives.

“The psychological blow of losing those two would be pretty big,” he said, adding that the Tories also “face serious challenges” at Barnet and “maybe” at Hillingdon.

The former Kingswood MP predicted general election results defying the 1992 and 2015 polls, and Leave’s victory in the 2016 referendum on the EU.

Its forecast for the election is based on the most recent data from national polls, combined with an analysis of changes in the boundaries of council wards that reflect changes in the capital’s population.

More than 1,800 council seats in London’s 32 boroughs are up for grabs in May. In 2018, the last time the advice was challenged, Labor won 1,123 out of a total of 1,833 seats, with the Tories winning 511.

But predictions of a sharp increase in work failed to materialize, with Conservatives defying predictions that they would lose a number of boroughs.

After the 2018 vote, the Tories retained control over Bexley, Bromley, Wandsworth, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Barnet and Hillingdon.

The Lib Dems won in Sutton, Kingston and Richmond while in Havering no party had overall control. The other 21 were all won by Labor. Lord Hayward points out that most governments are normally far behind in polls at this point in the electoral cycle, with a general election perhaps more than two years away.

He also doesn’t rule out the possibility that Mr Johnson will regain some of the ground he lost in the fall, which will increase pressure on Labor and Liberal leaders. “If Labor cannot make big gains in London, Sir Keir Starmer would be in big trouble as he is seen as far too metropolitan outside London,” he said.

For the Lib Dems, the crucial test will be in Sutton, which has been party-controlled since 1986 but saw the Tories make big gains in 2018.