Labour has a proud tradition in Battersea.
One hundred years ago Labour Battersea gave Britain its first black mayor, John Archer, and its first working-class cabinet member, John Burns. And in the year women got the vote, Battersea Labour party selected Charlotte Despard as their parliamentary candidate.
A centenary of Labour history followed. Douglas Jay, Battersea North MP, was Labour’s trade minister in the Wilson government. The charismatic Alf Dubs clung on in the Thatcher years. Martin Linton’s 1997 victory was made famous by John O’Farrell’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.
Battersea is London’s toughest target. We face a 5,900 Tory majority. Some say the demographic shift makes Battersea tougher still. Wandsworth Tories point to the exponential rise in property prices and luxury riverside flats as signs that Battersea will remain Tory for years to come.
It’s not the case. Labour’s best days in Battersea lie ahead. Here’s why:
1. Canvass returns suggest over half of Battersea’s 7,000 Lib Dems will vote Labour in 2015. That closes the Conservative majority to 2,000.
2. UKIP will target Battersea – Battersea’s Conservative MP is considered pro-Europe.
3. The constituency divides roughly into thirds: One third remains a loyal, and increasingly motivated, Labour vote, appalled at rising inequality in Battersea.
4. Labour is targeting the vast number of young people unique to Battersea, with an ambition to be the most digitally switched-on constituency Labour Party in the country.
5. It is widely accepted that Battersea is suffering a housing crisis. A Battersea driveway is on the market for £70,000. A garage in Tooting is up for sale at £330,000. The average asking price for a Battersea home is over a million. My flagship policy of Starter Homes is proving popular – helping Battersea renters get a foot on the property ladder.
6. Battersea’s Conservative voters are often ‘economic Conservatives, yet social liberals’ at odds with a government dragged to the right by UKIP. Home Office plans for Go Home vans are a spectacular own goal.
7. In the areas of Battersea where the Conservatives are strongest, home ownership has remained constant since 2005. House prices are rising, but it’s the same houses up for sale.
8. Wandsworth council is losing its low-tax electoral appeal as cuts have left it looking incompetent and cruel, trying to charge children to play at a Battersea playground and trying to close a popular Battersea library.
9. There are cracks in Wandsworth Tory party. The Conservative MP’s former agent, and now a Wandsworth Councillor, is accused of running an expense account into the tens of thousands for Addison Lee taxi rides.
10. Battersea is a victim of ‘buy to leave’ – our riverfront is increasingly deserted, more and more homes are owned by foreign investors that do not vote. In 2010, our riverside ward had the biggest swing to Labour of any Wandsworth Council ward.
On Saturday 19 October, 100 Labour activists, supporters and friends, joined together to knock on 1,000 doors and deliver 10,000 leaflets, to mark the 100th day of my candidacy.
Few areas need Labour representation more so than Battersea. Your help will get us over the finish line.
Battersea forms part of the Frontline 40, the last 40 seats on Labour’s 106 target seat list that will form Labour’s majority.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.