In the third of our series of blogs on the forthcoming local elections in May, Client Executive, Rupuk Patel, takes a look at the London Borough of Harrow, a battleground without the publicity.
The London Borough of Harrow was one of Labour’s success stories in the 2018 local elections. Having been tipped to lose the borough to the Conservatives, Labour actually increased their majority, albeit by one seat. Fast forward four years, and Labour appear to be on the backfoot locally despite riding high in the national polls, and face a serious challenge in keeping the borough red.
Harrow is home to one of the largest Gujarati speaking population outside of India, and 26% of all residents in Harrow are of Indian origin, the highest in Greater London. For those not familiar with Indian politics and geography, Gujarat is the birthplace and home state of the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. As you can expect, there is deep loyalty towards him, and parties should have taken this into account. However, Labour’s 2019 NEC motion condemning India’s stance on Kashmir and calling for self-determination for Kashmiris went down badly with Indians in the 2019 General Election, and in Harrow East, the Labour candidate was beaten convincingly.
Nationally, the Labour Party’s tails are up with a current healthy poll lead. There is now a golden opportunity for the local Labour Party in Harrow to move on from the damaging NEC motion row.
In Harrow, the new ward boundaries will see councillor numbers reduced from 63 to 55, and will see the creation of one extra ward. The Labour group currently holds the majority in the council with 35 seats, with the Conservatives not far behind on 28. With 8 less seats to fight for, the balance of power in Harrow is likely to be contested fiercely on doorsteps, as every vote will count just that little bit more. The Labour group will benefit from there being less councillors in traditional Conservative wards i.e. Belmont and Hatch End wards, and there are several wards that could be ‘in play’ in the election:
- Wealdstone South (combined ward created from Wealdstone ward and Marlborough ward)
- Wealdstone North (created from Wealdstone ward)
- Headstone (combined ward comprising both Headstone North and Headstone South wards)
- Kenton East
- Kenton West
- North Harrow (a new ward with two seats up for grabs)
Whilst Harrow may not have the media coverage of other boroughs such as Croydon and Wandsworth, it remains a significant battleground borough and one that the Conservatives and Labour are desperate to have in their caps.
This council will be won on the doorstep. What’s clear is that with only a fine margin between opposition and control of the council, Harrow will be a fascinating watch.