Could Boris Johnson lose his seat in the next election? | Boris Johnson
Could Boris Johnson lose his seat in the next general election? It’s a question that would have been ridiculous for any other Prime Minister, but defeat in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is not out of the question.
Local elections in London earlier this month saw a clear swing towards Labour. A YouGov poll this weekend suggests Johnson would lose his seat if elections were held tomorrow. Electoral Calculus, which analyzes national polling data, also tentatively favors a Labor Party victory in the West London constituency.
“He’s staying at the top, which makes me very happy because he’s such an unpopular guy now,” said David Williams, chairman of Hillingdon Labor. “On the ground, he is not a political asset – he did not appear in local elections. So I want to see him go and at the same time I want him to stay – it’s a very strange feeling.”
It would take a vigorous swing to break Johnson’s 15 percent majority. But Williams said changes to the constituency boundary would add Northolt to the seat, a city he calls “a strong area of work”. Meanwhile, young commuters are flocking from central London to the outer boroughs and Hillingdon is no exception, particularly with a new Elizabeth line stop in Johnson’s constituency.
Perhaps the biggest local issue is the future of Heathrow’s third runway. Tory-controlled Hillingdon City Council is also struggling with a £38m deficit despite a £25m government bailout in March. One of the solutions is to build more housing, which attracts more council taxpayers and Section 106 payments from developers earmarked for new amenities.
But the electoral costs of development are being felt in places like Yiewsley, a southern constituency battlefield. Labor took over both council seats from the Tories in May, fueled by opposition to the council’s plans to replace the library with a six-storey block of flats and a new library, some of which are in Yiewsley Park car parks. The swimming pool was demolished 14 years ago and the site remains empty despite promises for a new leisure centre. With threats of judicial reviews and protests from campaign groups, the issue is likely to drag on into next year and beyond, making it a hot local topic for Johnson.
Debbi King, of the Yiewsley.org campaign group, said: “It’s going to have a big impact – it’s only been pushed through so far.” Johnson’s responses have been neutral so far, but opposing the plans would mean a confrontation with Tory councilors who already blame Downing Street for their financial difficulties.
The problem emerges on Yiewsley’s main street. Outside a branch of Wenzel’s the Bakers, Paula Grimes, a charity worker, feels betrayed by the council’s approach to the swimming pool and Yiewsley Park, although she voted for Johnson last time and will do so again. “There are many things bigger than lockdown parties,” she said, mentioning Ukraine and rising food prices. “I don’t think people could cope with a big change.”
Her partner, Daniel McGuinness, vehemently disagrees. He is angered by Johnson’s decision to lockdown during the pandemic. “I don’t have any time for the man at all,” he said. “He seems like a buffoon. I struggled during lockdown.”
Johnson will be happier over splits between Labor headquarters and Hillingdon left-wing campaigners. Williams said the party was hampered in the municipal elections because it was only allowed to select candidates just before the nomination deadline. “The national party holds back when we pick one [parliamentary] candidate,” he said. However, there is no lack of strong competitors. “Everyone wants to be the knight who slays the dragon.”
Labor leaders say Uxbridge and South Ruislip must be among the 125 seats Labor wins if they are to win a majority in the next election. According to Electoral Calculus, it would go to Labor even if the party were 25 seats short of an overall majority.
However, prime ministers have much greater personal voting rights than most MPs. Margaret Thatcher held Finchley comfortably, although according to Martin Baxter, founder of Electoral Calculus, it was not a theoretically secure fit. Johnson’s seat “looks competitive,” he said. “What is unlikely to happen is that Johnson loses his seat but the Conservatives remain in power. The Prime Minister cannot lose his own seat without the Conservatives losing their parliamentary majority.”
A senior Tory familiar with the area said a big upset was “possible” and Johnson could lose, suggesting Liberal Tories who supported David Cameron and Theresa May were deeply unfazed by the Prime Minister. However, he said non-traditional Tory voters still liked Johnson.
“It’s fair to say that anyone can get into trouble at any stage these days,” he said. “Anything is possible. But the local council is conservative and popular. There are good activists there and Johnson got more than 50% of the vote last time. I think the economy will be the issue – and how people feel personally. It’s also possible that he doesn’t stand up again when he walks.”
But there are other options for Johnson. He could do the ‘chicken run’ and be in another seat, although that could be seen as an admission of defeat – bad looks for a prime minister. Assuming, of course, that he’s still 10th at the next election.