Harrow Council by-election victory sustains Tory’s progress in London
Pinner South, where a by-election was held yesterday, is a community that was formed almost simultaneously almost a century ago. The area became a classic “Metroland” suburb in the vast expansion of London’s development between the wars. The 1930s are often viewed as a depressing decade in British history, and that is certainly true of some regions. But west and northwest of London it was booming.
The capital’s tendrils had started spreading along the Metropolitan Line before 1914, but after 1932 new neighborhoods sprang up almost overnight. The boom was fueled by cheap mortgages and the success formula of semi-detached houses next to wide avenues and smaller thoroughfares.
Though not a fashionable form of architecture, the Thirties Semi is enduringly popular as a family home. 46 percent of the apartments in Pinner South are semi-detached, and a further 24 percent are detached. Eight percent of households are owner-occupied, which is at the upper end for London.
As these housing facts suggest, Pinner South – the part of Pinner south and west of the Metropolitan Line – is a very comfortable part of the world. It is one of the five percent least disadvantaged stations in London. The crime rate is low, housing prices are high and the educational achievements of the children are impressive. The life expectancy of women on the ward is 91.7 years, making it one of the highest anywhere.
Pinner’s political history is heavily conservative and reflects the party’s decades of ties with bourgeois homeowners. It had a Labor MP in 1997-2010 when it was part of Harrow West, but parliamentary boundary changes created the Tory Fortress of Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner along with very similar neighboring areas in Hillingdon.
In the inaugural elections from Pinner South to the London Borough of Harrow in 1964, the conservative team, to which the fascinating duo of Mrs. DA Nott-Cock and Mr. -1,000 votes each won.
The Liberal Democrats won a similar district, Pinner West, at the Tories’ low point in 1994, but otherwise only an independent named James Bond has shaken Tory supremacy. Labor now easily wins elections in former Tory areas like West Harrow and Headstone, but not in Pinner. In the 2018 district elections, which were not among their better years, the Tories got 59 percent in Pinner South, compared with 27 percent for Labor and 15 percent for the Lib Dems.
Despite its stable political trends, Pinner has changed in at least one important way since 1964. Pinner South was 41 percent BAME at the time of the 2011 census, and is probably more now. This makes the community the second whitest in the extremely diverse Harrow district. In religious terms, the major minority are Hindus with significant Muslim and Jewish communities.
While in some areas ethnic diversity has resulted in long-term declines in Conservative wealth, this is not the case in Metroland. The Tories have maintained their attraction to these affluent suburbs as they have become more diverse and educated; For people of all origins, there is much to preserve in areas like Pinner South.
The vacancy on Harrow Council arose from the death of longtime Conservative Alderman Chris Mote. in Julywho had represented the ward and its predecessor since 1998 and was first elected to Harrow Council in 1982. Mote led the Conservative group to victory in the 2006 elections and then led the council until 2008.
Four candidates stood for election. The businessman Hitesh Karia (pictured election campaign, center) defended the seat of the Conservatives. Brahma Mohanty, who ran against Michael Gove in the 2019 general election against Surrey Heath, ran for Labor and the Lib Dems were represented by Sanjay Karia. The Greens, who did not run here in 2018, took part in the competition this time, their flag carried by Alex Lee.
Competition seems to have been a routine business. The result was also impressive. The conservative Karia won a comfortable majority with 1,392 votes. His closest competitor was the Karia, just over a thousand votes behind 390. Labor (331) and Green (188) brought up the rear. The turnout of 28.2 percent was pretty much what one would expect from a by-election.
Compared to the 2018 results, the big change is the decline in the Labor share of the vote in favor of the Greens and, in part, the Lib Dems. The conservatives’ share of the vote has barely changed in the last local elections. In comparison to the strong Labor year 2018, Pinner South swung significantly – by around six percent – to the Conservatives. The fact that a green candidate was running for the first time should have inflated the momentum a bit, but that’s no excuse.
Pinner South is part of a larger pattern of Conservatives looking to Labor to win, with fluctuations of 4-7 percent in counties with very different social compositions and county politics. If that’s an indicator of what is likely to happen in the full May 2022 district elections, Labor can move away from control of Harrow and potentially several other councils and see town hall majorities dented across the capital.
There is still time for a change in the political climate, but for now the Conservatives are on course for significant gains next spring.
On London is a small but influential website that strives to offer more of the kind of journalism the capital needs. Become a supporter for £ 5 a month or £ 50 a year and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.