Liberal Democrats ready to turn London yellow

The Lib Dems are confident they will make big gains in the capital at the next general election – likely to be held before the end of the year 

As a general election looms closer than ever, the Lib Dems will concentrate on seats in Greater London.

And they will focus on younger voters.

This is because the region is overwhelmingly pro-Remain.

In May the party topped the polls in London during the European parliament elections.

There they won three seats with more than 27% of the vote.

Greater London was the constituency where the Lib Dems performed best.

London Lib Dems ran on a pro-Remain ticket, being the only party whose official policy is to stop Brexit.

During the 2016 referendum on the UK’s EU membership, 27 London boroughs voted to remain.

The Lib Dems believe this puts them in a strong position to make substantial gains when Boris Johnson goes to the country.

And their share of the popular vote at the EU elections leads them to believe they are the most popular party in the capital.

Labour has been perceived as holding a nuanced approach to Brexit.

This has resulted in swathes of voters turning away from Labour to the party, according to opinion polls.

When she was elected as party leader in July, Jo Swinson said:

“There are plenty of people in the Labour party I can work with – who I do work with.

But Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer. He cannot be trusted on Brexit.

That is absolutely clear.”

She has categorically ruled out any future electoral pact with Labour led by Mr Corbyn.

This means in the event of a hung parliament she would not work with the Labour party.

When Boris Johnson prorogued parliament at the end of August, opposition members of parliament considered who they could rally around as a possible “caretaker” premier.

The Lib Dem leader said she would back Ken Clarke MP – Father of the House of Commons.

One-time Attorney General and Conservative backbencher Dominic Grieve echoed her comments.

Like those in the Labour party, remainers within the Tory party have become agitated with their leader.

This year six dismayed Labour and Tory MPs defected to the Lib Dems.

The defections were not only a response to the Labour and Tory positions on Brexit, but the increasing influence of the “extremist” fringes of their respective parties, according to the defectors.

The PM is currently awaiting a response from EU leaders with regards to an extension.

This is following his recent defeat in the Commons on “Super Saturday” when MPs approved the Letwin amendment.

Mr Johnson was forced to request a three-month extension under the terms of the Benn Act.

And yesterday night his Brexit bill timetable was rejected.

The bill – known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – passed at second reading.

But because MPs want more time to scrutinise the legislation, Mr Johnson “paused” the bill.

He has said that he will hold an election in the event that the EU agrees a long extension.

This means that voters could be going to the polls before Christmas.

Among the key target constituencies in London are:

Bermondsey & Old Southwark (Labour)

Chelsea & Fulham (Conservative)

Cities of London & Westminster (Conservative)

Richmond Park (Conservative)

Sutton & Cheam (Conservative)

Once tipped as a future PM, recent defector Chuka Umunna – who briefly stood for Labour leader in 2015 – is expected to win Cities of London & Westminster.

This wealthy London constituency is one of several seats considered a Tory stronghold which the Lib Dems believe they are likely to gain.

London’s population is much younger than most of the rest of the UK.

This is particularly so in the boroughs which make up “inner London”.

Inner London has a population of which almost 30% is currently in the 25 to 34 age range.

Within this group, 62% voted to remain in the EU in 2016.

 

Map created by Scott Mathew via Google Maps.

London Liberal Democrats will target younger voters aged 18 to 35 at the next general election.

Official party policy is that a majority Lib Dem administration would revoke Article 50 and end Brexit completely.

Most areas of Greater London, particularly those constituencies in central and the north-west, are traditionally considered safe Conservative seats.

This was the case during the 18-years of Tory rule under Margaret Thatcher and then John Major (1979-1997).

During the New Labour years, prime minister Tony Blair succeeded in turning the Greater London constituencies map red.

When the next general election comes – and it is likely to be soon – the Lib Dems say they are ready to turn it yellow.

Dimitri Stefanov, 30, who owns and runs a chandelier restoration and antiques shop on the King’s Road in Chelsea is originally from Bulgaria.

Dimitri Stefanov at work in his shop on the King’s Road, Chelsea. Image used with permission of Mr Stefanov

From humble beginnings, Mr Stefanov came to the UK almost a decade ago, settling in London with very little money in his pocket.

He found work as an apprentice in chandelier restoration and antiques repairs – which quickly became a passion.

Becoming extremely skilled, he was able to start making a successful career and some money – much of which he would send back home to his family in Bulgaria who were struggling financially.

The talented antiques dealer said:

“I worked hard. I would wake up early and start working at around 6 or 7am and I wouldn’t finish until around 10pm at night or even later.

London has provided me with the opportunity to make a better life for myself.

This city has given me the life someone like me could never have back home.”

After only a few years, Mr Stefanov had set-up his own business and today is the owner of ‘Dimitri Stefanov Rock Crystal Chandeliers’.

He told Voice of London he is “very worried” about Brexit and what it might mean for him and his young but flourishing business.

But he is more concerned about his mother – who moved to the UK capital to live with him only last year.

“What will happen to her?” he said. “Boris Johnson seems to be concentrated on leaving the EU with no-deal. It’s crazy.”

The Guardian reported earlier this month that two million EU citizens living in the UK had applied for the “right to remain” in the UK after Brexit.

This was amid fears that the government’s perceived pursuit of a no-deal exit would see them forced to return to the continent.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time:

“EU citizens have made a huge contribution to this country and will play a key role in cementing Britain’s status as an outward-looking, global leader after Brexit.”

She also said she was “thrilled” that so many applications had been made.

It is people like Mr Stefanov who the London Lib Dems will be focused on when the government puts its case – and quite possibly its Brexit deal – to the country.

Words: Scott Mathew | Subbing: Michelle Del Rey | Featured image credit: London Maps 360

 

 

 

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