Friday, 2 April 2010

A Look @: Barking & Dagenham and Havering

The number of constituencies in this area of London has been reduced from five to four leaving the Conservative MP James Brokenshire without a seat. Luckily for him he's been selected for the safe seat of Old Bexley & Sidcup ,so he'll remain in Parliament despite the boundary commission's best efforts. Although the commission has tried, wherever possible, to keep the Westminster seats inside borough boundaries this is one of the few instances where that was not possible. John Cruddas' Dagenham & Rainham has wards from both Havering and Barking & Dagenham within the constituency boundary.

Barking & Dagenham is becoming a strong area for the British National Party following their sensational haul of 12 councillors in the 2006 local elections. Labour easily held the council with 38 of the 51 seats but they can not be comfortable with the BNP as their opposition. Havering, on the other hand, is a completely different borough politically. Here the Conservatives run the council with 34 of the 54 seats and their main opposition comes from the Residents' Association of London. As for the Parliamentary seats it's hardly surprising that the two Havering seats are safe Conservative seats and the two Barking & Dagenham seats would normally be considered safe Labour seats. This year, however, the BNP could prove a thorn in the side of Labour in this corner of London.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




Margaret Hodge




LAB Hold

Dagenham & Rainham

John Cruddas




CON Gain

Hornchurch & Upminster

Angela Watkinson




CON Hold


Andrew Rosindell




CON Hold


Barking has attracted eight candidates so far but the one everyone will be watching is the BNP leader Nick Griffin. Griffin is standing against the Labour MP Margaret Hodge on the back of his party's local election results here and they're pouring everything into this in the hope that support will spread throughout South Essex as well. Realistically, it will be a massive task to unseat Hodge. Labour have held the seat since its creation in 1945 and Hodge has been in Parliament for 16 years. Although this council has more BNP councillors sitting than any other in the country Labour elected twice as many (22 to 11) from the Barking constituency and they enjoy a very large majority. Hodge should win but this is one seat the media will be showing quite a lot of in the coming month; Labour hold.

Bizarrely, John Cruddas in the brand new Dagenham & Rainham seat is more likely to suffer from the strength of the BNP in Barking. Cruddas has been an MP since 2001 and it's another seat Labour has won every election since World War II. But the effect of Griffin's high profile campaign next door is likely to cause a big increase the BNP's share of the vote and this will probably come at the expense of Labour. On top of this opinion polls are suggesting there will be a higher swing in London, with the latest figure at around 8%. Cruddas would be in trouble on that swing but it's also likely his notional majority is inflated in the wards from the old Hornchurch constituency. John Cryer lost his seat in a close contest at the last election but it could have been worse were it not for his record as a Labour rebel. It's probably too close to call, but where's the fun in that?! I'm going to say all these factors will combine to allow the Conservative candidate Simon Jones to sneak home, but he'll have a lot to thank Nick Griffin for if I'm right; Tory Gain.

Hornchurch & Upminster is another new seat for 2010 and the notional holder is the Conservative MP Angela Watkinson. She regained Upminster for the Tories in 2001 after they surprisingly lost it to Labour in 1997. Watkinson increased her majority at the last election and she's likely to do so again at this one too; Tory Hold.

Romford is another seat the Conservatives regained in 2001 and Andrew Rosindell has turned this into a very safe seat for himself. He is clearly a formidable campaigner but is about as far removed as possible from the new image David Cameron's Conservatives. Rosindell is certainly on the right of his party and enjoys showing off his patriotic credentials with the help of his Staffordshire bull terrier. Kissing dogs isn't really to my taste, but the electorate of Romford seem to like him! Tory Hold.


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