Local elections 2022: Wandsworth – jewel in Tory crown – snatched by Labour after more than four decades | Politics News


Perhaps we should have seen it coming, but it was still a shock.

For 44 years Wandsworth has been the Conservatives’ flagship borough, the jewel in the Tories’ local government crown and an impregnable citadel of Thatcherite policies.

But now the flagship has been sunk, the jewel in the crown sparkles no more and the citadel has crumbled.

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In its place comes another Labour council in London, albeit one which is promising to freeze council taxes like Wandsworth’s Tories. For now, at least.

At the beginning of the count in Wandsworth’s Civic Suite, complete with a disco glitter ball – no doubt for all those 70s discos – activists from both Labour and the Conservatives claimed the result was too close to call.

It looked like we were in for a nail biter.

But now it’s back to the 70s for Wandsworth’s voters, with the council under Labour rule for the first time since 1978.

 State of the parties 8.47am 06/06/22

That was a year before Margaret Thatcher, who had become Tory leader in 1975, became prime minister.

Back in 1978, Ipswich Town – now in football’s League One, won the FA Cup, defeating Arsenal in the final.

Kate Bush was in the pop charts with Wuthering Heights and Boney M had a hit with Rivers of Babylon.

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In the 80s, Wandsworth became Mrs Thatcher’s favourite Tory council – and no wonder.

Rates – which preceded the doomed poll tax and the council tax – were low, services privatised and the council was a beacon for her policies.

Over the past 44 years years, the council has been led by Eddie Lister, who went on to become a top adviser to Boris Johnson, and senior Tory MPs Christopher Chope and Paul Beresford before they entered Parliament and became government ministers.

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‘Porn MP scandal played part’ in Tory defeat

Wandsworth’s leader for the past 11 years, Ravi Govindia, admitted in a subdued and forlorn interview after his party’s bruising defeat here that a combination of factors – low turnout, the cost of living crisis, partygate and even Tory MP Neil Parish watching porn in the Commons chamber – were to blame for the defeat.

The victorious Labour leader Simon Hogg also said voters raised partygate and the cost of living and Boris Johnson’s unpopularity.

Yet he claimed the so-called beergate controversy engulfing Sir Keir Starmer wasn’t raised by voters.

But while it looked like a nail biter at the start of the count, it soon became clear that the Tories were fearing defeat.

Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher
Wandsworth was a beacon for Margaret Thatcher’s policies

The glum faces of those with blue rosettes suddenly began to contrast with the increasingly upbeat mood of those wearing red.

After some Tories claimed they might just hold on, a senior Conservative local government grandee shook his head and said: “It’s gone.”

He was to be proved right.

As Labour gradually made gains during the night, the celebrations of the party’s activists became more jubilant and raucous.

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Labour in historic Wandsworth win

Leading the celebrations were London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and the effervescent shadow cabinet member Rosena Allin-Khan, his successor as MP for Tooting in the borough.

By the end of the night, Labour had won 35 seats, the Conservatives 22 and an independent one.

Labour’s share of the vote was 46% and the Tories’ 38%, a swing to Labour of 3.7%.

Not a huge swing, but enough to win a famous victory.

History has been made here in Wandsworth in the early hours of this morning.

Just like 1978, it’s Labour that have risen to Wuthering Heights and the Tories, like in Rivers of Babylon, have sat down and wept.


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