Sunday, 11 April 2010

General Election 2010: South-East London constituencies

I came across this handy digest in the local News Shopper of local constituencies which I spliced together and thought I'd share with you:

Beckenham has never elected anyone other than a Conservative MP in modern times, largely because the suburban parts of the constituency, including parts of Bromley, and Beckenham itself, are firmly Tory. The anti-Conservative vote is generally split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. There was a wobbly moment in November 1997 at a by-election caused by the resignation of the late Piers Merchant over a sex scandal. The new Tory candidate Jacqui Lait scraped home with a majority of just over 1,000. But last time the majority was more than 8,000 and may possibly be doubled by boundary changes.

Bexleyheath & Crayford:
A marginal seat in the London Borough of Bexley. It is in the capital's commuter belt and is heavily owner-occupied. The Tories managed to wrest the seat from Labour in 2005. The sitting Member, David Evennett, is the only MP who was defeated in Labour's landslide of 1997, to have unsuccessfully fought the same seat in 2001 and finally to have won it in 2005. Mr Evennett, who will be defending a majority of over 4,000 � probably boosted by boundary changes, was formerly MP for Erith and Crayford until that seat was abolished in 1997.

Bromley & Chislehurst:
This relatively prosperous, London suburban and predominantly white constituency was regarded as one of the Tories' safest seats. But a by-election in 2006 came as a nasty shock: the 13,000 majority was reduced to a mere 600. This reduced majority was put down to a low turn-out and the presence of Nigel Farage, the charismatic Ukip leader, in the contest. He beat Labour into fourth place. The by-election was caused by the sudden death of the sitting MP Eric Forth. His successor was London Assembly member pro-European Bob Neill, nicknamed ""Three Jobs Bob"" because of his � entirely legitimate � extra-parliamentary activities. This seat, when it was just Bromley, was held by Harold Macmillan from 1945 to 1964.

This south-east London seat was held by Tory Peter Bottomley for two decades before he transferred to another constituency. And in 1997, Labour captured it from the Conservatives and have held it ever since. The area is famous as the birthplace of Bob Hope, and infamous, as the place where the black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered. The seat is largely middle-class and suburban. The sitting MP, former London taxi-driver Clive Efford, secured a Labour majority of over 3,200 at the last general election. It is listed as the 66th most likely seat that the Tories could capture. [see my post on Eltham].

Erith & Thamesmead:
This rock-solid Labour seat covers the area close to the border of south-east London, stretching from Plumstead in the west to Erith in the east. This constituency has problems over housing and crime. The sitting Labour MP John Austin, who recorded a majority of 11,500 over the Conservatives at the last election, is not contesting this one. Mr Austin, a technician, has held the seat since it was created in 1997.

Greenwich & Woolwich:
The South London seat of Greenwich was a Labour stronghold for much of the 20th century. But it surprisingly fell to the Social Democratic Party at a by-election in 1987. Labour won it back, although with difficulty in 1992, and have retained it, since 1997, in its new form of Greenwich and Woolwich . The sitting MP is Nick Raynsford, a public school educated former minister with a precise legal brain. At the last election he recorded a majority of more than 10,000 over the Liberal Democrats. This constituency is the home of the Millennium Dome, now known as the 02 arena.

Lewisham Deptford:
This is a virtually impregnable Labour stronghold in south London, running alongside the River Thames. There is a trendy arts and music scene in parts of the constituency, but there are also areas of desolate council housing and deprivation. Labour retained the seat at the last election with a majority of nearly 12,000 over the Liberal Democrats with the Conservatives only narrowly behind in third place. The sitting MP Joan Ruddock, who first won the seat in 1992, is a former chairman of CND.

Lewisham East:
This seat, once represented by Herbert Morrison, a Labour Cabinet minister in the 1940s, is at the moment in Labour's hands but their majority of 6,750 must be considered vulnerable in the present political climate. The inner-city constituency includes such middle-class areas as Blackheath as well as big estates. The sitting MP Bridget Prentice, who won it from the Conservatives in 1992, is not contesting this election.

Lewisham West & Penge:
This is a new constituency compiled from parts of Lewisham West and Beckenham. It includes Crystal Palace National Sports Centre which is on the site of the building which originally housed the 1851 Great Exhibition, which was burnt down in 1936. Experts have calculated that had this seat existed at the time of the 2005 general election, Labour would have won it with a majority of some 7,800 over the Liberal Democrats. The Labour candidate will be Jim Dowd, who secured a majority of nearly 10,000 over the Liberal Democrats in the disappearing seat of Lewisham West at the last general election.

Old Bexley & Sidcup:
This suburban outer London south-east seat is a relatively safe Conservative haven. Sir Edward Heath, the former Tory Prime Minister, represented the area for around half-a-century. The Tories retained the seat at the last election with a majority of nearly 10,000 over Labour. However, the present incumbent, Derek Conway, who won the seat as a Conservative in 2005 subsequently had the Tory whip withdrawn and has been sitting as an independent. The new Conservative candidate will be James Brokenshire, the current MP for Hornchurch, which disappears as a constituency in its own right.

It will be fascinating to see what comes to pass in each constituency on 6 May...I hope to be here updating online on the night. If you're local, which constituency do you fall in, and how do you intend voting (if you care to say)?

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