Friday, August 04, 2006

Fortress Harefield

I was amazed by the results at the local elections in Hillingdon (where my parents live). This highly marginal Council has been NOC for eight years, but on 4th May tha Tories gained 15 seats and almost wiped out the LibDems altogether.

The LibDem lost all their seats bar two - one in Ruislip Manor and one in Hillingdon East. Both were held only just and by two very high profile LibDems. Every other seat, no matter how safe, fell.

The Tory-Labour race was even more interesting. The Tories snatched Uxbridge South, West Drayton, Yiewsley, Charville (North Hayes) and Heathrow - hardly heartland areas.

However I believe the most interesting result was in Harefield. Why, I hear you cry, because this ward has been Tory since 1998. Well, let me tell you. Harefield looks all suburban and middle class - it is a village on the Herts border and seems very leafy on paper. But it does contain several large council estates and was an easy gain for Labour after Blair became leader. The village Labour branch grew and grew. Both sitting Labour Councillors were considered to be so safe that they joined the Labour frontbench in 1996 and one of them was made Deputy Mayor in 1997. Then came 1998 and a strong Tory challenge ... 20-something Tory candidate Caroline Mutton and ultra-bright Sandra Jenkins snatched the seat by 1 vote (yes, count 'em, one vote).

Labour were outraged and fought back hard. In 2002, former Tory Group Leader Richard Barnes and ally Henry Higgins took over the seat - and with Labour fighting tooth and nail they won by 33 votes. The village remained a knife egde marginal.

Then came 2006. The result?
Con 1279
Con 1102
Nat Front 581
Lab 376
Lab 375
LD 256
LD 218

How had, in the period 2002-2006, Labour have gone from being 33 votes behind with a strong challenge and strong ward structure to being 900 behind and in third place - behind the NF! This result was as bizarre as I have ever seen and is a tribute to the work of Richard and Henry. An amazing win.

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