James Forsyth James Forsyth

London’s mayoral race is a warning to Tories nationwide

Leon Neal/Getty Images

The London Mayoral election is more of a procession than a race. The only real question is whether Sadiq Khan can manage to win on the first round or not. Shaun Bailey, the Tory challenger, is struggling badly.

As I say in The Times today, there are a slew of reasons why the Tories are doing poorly in London: the capital was heavily for Remain and its demographics skew against the Tories. But perhaps the single most important factor is housing. 

At the end of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, in 1990, the home ownership rate for London households headed by someone aged 35 to 44 was 69 per cent. At the time, the Tories held 57 out of 84 seats in the capital. By 2018, less than half of this age group were homeowners and in last general election the Tories were down to 21 out of 73 London seats. It is hard not to see dissatisfied renters driving the capital’s turn against the Conservatives.

Getting enough homes built in the capital has been a problem under successive governments: failure to build has created the political trap for Bailey. But Tories compound their own problems by being so against development in their own backyard. The Tories are alienating their future electorate to assuage a section of their current electorate. This makes sense in only the shortest of time frames.

London offers what should be, for Tories, a terrifying preview of what happens to their vote when the property ladder is out of reach for swing voters.

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