Minister Greg Hands in fight to win his seat to avoid Tory wipeout in central London, say political experts

Greg Hands, Nickie Aiken and Felicity Buchan's constituencies are all in Labour's sights  ( )
Greg Hands, Nickie Aiken and Felicity Buchan's constituencies are all in Labour's sights ( )

Minister Greg Hands faces a battle to hold onto his seat at the next general election to avoid a threatened Tory wipe-out in central London for the first time ever, say political experts.

The Conservatives currently hold three seats in central London but Labour is strongly targeting at least two of them.

Nickie Aiken’s decision to stand down at the election, expected in the autumn, as MP for the Cities of London and Westminster will have fuelled Labour’s hopes of seizing the constituency for the first time.

Former Westminster City Council leader Ms Aiken held the seat in 2019 with a majority of 3,953.

But since then Labour won control of the flagship Tory town hall in the 2022 local elections.

The neighbouring Kensington seat is a super marginal, won by Tory Felicity Buchan by just 150 votes in 2019.

She gained 16,768 votes, Labour’s Emma Dent Coad 16,618, and Liberal Democrat Sam Gyimah, who had defected from the Tories amid the Brexit chaos, 9,312.

London minister Mr Hands has a far bigger majority, of 11,241, in Chelsea and Fulham.

A number of the London seats are seeing boundary changes, some potentially quite significant, two new ones are being created, and some are being renamed including Kensington and Bayswater.

Labour and the Lib-Dems are also targeting Wimbledon where Tory Stephen Hammond is standing down.

Professor Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, told The Standard: “It looks likely that Greg Hands’ seat will be the last one standing for the Conservatives in inner London and even that looks marginal.

“It now looks as if the Conservatives will be pushed right to the edges of the city.

“It has been long in the making but has never happened before.”

He also stressed that the Tory Party nationally “gives every sign it’s simply given up on London” which was “all the more surprising given that even inner London used to be a place where the Conservatives could win big”.

Polling expert Keiran Pedley, Ipsos director of politics, said: “We should always be wary of predicting the result of individual seats based on national polling, and new boundaries complicate matters further, but the current numbers suggest the Conservatives could lose their three remaining central London seats at the next election.”

He explained that “Labour will expect to win the new Kensington and Bayswater seat” given the slim 2019 majority.

The new Cities of London constituency only requires a single digit swing to either the Lib-Dems or Labour for the Conservatives to lose, based on the old boundaries, he added.

While in Chelsea and Fulham, a swing of around 12-13 points would have lost the old seat for the Conservatives.

Mr Pedley continued: “With the Lib Dems and Labour vying for second place last time, you would imagine that some tactical voting is needed or the Conservatives might just squeeze home through the middle.”

Nick Bowes, of the London Communications Agency who previously was Sadiq Khan’s policy director, said: “In close battles, a sitting MP brings that extra bit of name recognition which can sometimes make all the difference to the result. That’s why the Conservative Party’s job looks all the harder with a number of their MPs not standing again next time, particularly key battleground MPs like Nickie Aiken.”

Ten London MPs have so far said they will stand down at the next election including Conservatives Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, after receiving death threats, Sir Bob Neill in Bromley and Chislehurst, Matthew Offord in Hendon, and Bob Stewart in Beckenham (currently an Independent).

Labour MPs not seeking re-election are Harriet Harman in Camberwell and Peckham, Dame Margaret Hodge in Barking, Karen Buck in Westminster North and Jon Cruddas in Dagenham and Rainham.