A changing election scene in Waltham Forest

In the final part of the Echo‘s coverage of General Election 2017, Russell Hargrave analyses the three local constituencies up for grabs

Vote 2017A scrap over Brexit, one of the country’s safest Labour seats, and no UKIP candidates anywhere in sight – there’s plenty for Waltham Forest voters to consider on 8th June.

UKIP’s failure to put up a single candidate in any of the borough’s three constituencies means the first political surprise was delivered long before election day. The anti-immigration party came third in Chingford and Woodford Green in 2015, and across all three seats polled more than 10,000 votes. Last year the local UKIP branch told the Echo it had enjoyed “a boost” in membership, yet now they have vanished from the scene. One thing to watch will be which party gains the most from their failure to put up candidates.

The seat to watch closely for potential shocks, however, is Leyton and Wanstead. Under normal circumstances this would be a straightforward seat for Labour to hold. John Cryer won just under of 60 percent of the vote last time, and enjoys a very healthy 15,000-majority. The Conservatives were a distant second, with the Greens and Liberal Democrats still further behind. But in an election contest dominated by last year’s Brexit vote, John Cryer is a ‘Leave’ supporter in a constituency which voted overwhelmingly to ‘Remain’.

On one of this election’s key issues Leyton’s Labour candidate is at odds with his voters, and it may mean he is watching anxiously the fortunes of Ben Sims, his Liberal Democrat rival. The Lib Dems have made opposition to Brexit the central promise of their campaign. There is, though, a lot of ground for them to make up.

There is also a case to be made that the Conservatives, represented in Leyton and Wanstead by Laura Farris, could make big gains. The national polls are currently swinging strongly behind the Tories even in areas traditionally dominated by the Labour Party, and Laura is the most likely to pick up voters who turned out for UKIP last time around. So while it is still difficult to see anyone except John Cryer winning the seat, Brexit has cast enough doubt to make him nervous.

There are unlikely to be any such nerves for the Labour Party in Walthamstow. Stella Creasy commands an absolute monster of a majority, at around 23,000. Creasy is also a staunch ‘remainer’ in an area where two-thirds of voters want to stay in the European Union.

There have been contentious issues for Stella to contend with in the last two years, however, most notably over her decision to support British involvement in air strikes against Syria in 2015. This led to local people protesting outside her constituency office, and then further arguments about how these peaceful protests were represented in the national press. A quick glance at social media shows that this controversy still looms large for some constituents, but such rows are still unlikely to give much of a chance to any of Stella’s opponents on 8th June.

Molly Samuel will probably make some ground for the Conservatives in Walthamstow, once again attracting previous UKIP voters, and the Green Party will hope to replicate their third-place finish. The Lib Dems, meanwhile, will not expect to dip as low as the four percent they received in 2015. But if Walthamstow doesn’t stay Labour then something enormously strange has happened.

The same goes for the Conservatives in Chingford and Woodford Green. This is Iain Duncan Smith’s seat where the former Tory leader and, until a year ago, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, enjoys an 8,000 majority. While a lot less than Labour’s Walthamstow majority, any ideas of an upset here are fanciful.

The Labour Party made up ground in Chingford in 2015, growing their vote by six percent while the Tory vote fell back, but this is unlikely to have much impact in 2017 with UKIP’s 5,500 voters up for grabs, and the main beneficiaries being the Conservatives. This will make it hard for Labour’s Bilal Mahmood to close the gap further, let alone make Iain Duncan Smith feel under any real pressure. The Liberal Democrats and Greens won’t register as a threat.

Registered voters can visit their local polling station between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 8th June.