Post by Pete Whitehead on Mar 13, 2021 17:27:22 GMT
2017 result: Con 51 LD 18 Lab 9
Subsequently two seats have changed hands in by-elections. Three Rivers Rural was gained by the Lib Dems from the Conservatives and St Albans North by Labour from the Lib Dems. The Labour councillor elected then has subsequently gone Independent as (more recently) has the Conservative councillor in All Saints (Hertford)
So current composition is Con 49 LD 18 Lab 9 Ind 2
The usual score – all six seats currently held by the Conservatives as has been the case since 1997. Of these only Waltham Cross has ever been competitive (notwithstanding the fleeting UKIP strength in Hoddesdon). Even this has only been won twice by Labour in the last half-century – in 1973 and 1993 – and the Conservatives enjoyed a majority of over 500 or 16.7% at the 2017 elections so it remains something of a long-shot. I do get the impression that the demographics are trending somewhat in Labour’s favour here but it’s a slow process and this division has also had a bit of a tendency to swing against the tide. Waltham Cross ward itself is a usually reliable Labour ward on the borough council but is typically outvoted by the areas of South Cheshunt included in the county division. On current polling I’d say this is a tough ask for Labour but if they’re back to neck and neck in the polls by May they would have a decent chance here.
The other five seats are all safely Conservative – all were around 60% or more Conservative at the last elections. I always point out in these surveys that the Lib Dems have a habit of springing a surprise gain from nowhere somewhere in Hertfordshire at each election, but I wouldn’t tend to look here for a likely candidate. I will just note though that that party (having been almost absent from local elections for many years) put in some decent performances in the 2019 borough elections, most notably in Goffs Oak where they got 36% of the vote. If Goffs Oak & Bury Green is in play then a) the Conservatives can give up on winning a majority and b) I might as well give up on making predictions, but I do hope the Tories are never too complacent in places like this.
Not much less monolithic than Broxbourne in recent years – East Herts has returned a full slate of (10) Conservative councillors in all county council elections this century. As mentioned above, one of these now sits as an Independent, apparently due to having been deselected. He in fact won his seat (All Saints in Hertford) in 2013 by gaining it – quite narrowly - from the previous Conservative councillor who was standing as an Independent. I would expect a repeat of that result should the incumbent stand again. This is the weaker part of Hertford for Labour. It used to be quite a good area for the Lib Dems, but they have long since faded and the Greens did best of the opposition parties in the 2019 local elections. All this suggests a divided opposition allowing a comfortable Conservative re-gain. The other half of Hertford, the St Andrews division is the only one in this district which Labour have won or ever been competitive. They held it indeed continuously from 1981 to 2001 but having lost it then they have fallen far behind. They showed signs of recovery in the 2019 local elections, winning back the Sele ward that they hadn’t won since the 90s but even so this would have been outvoted by the Castle ward and the 2019 local elections are not likely to be a particularly good guide to these given the very different circumstances pertaining then. In fact, based on those results the Greens would have made this seat a three-way marginal, but those results flatter them and if anything, really point to the likelihood of a comfortable Conservative hold against a splintered opposition.
The one obviously marginal seat here is in Bishops Stortford East where the Lib Dems advanced to within 100 votes of winning in 2017 and where in 2019, they were well ahead in the two component wards. As I say I’d be wary of over-reading the 2019 results as the Conservatives are in an apparently much stronger position now than then, but it does show at least a decent level of organisation in the area, so you’d have to say this is a likely toss-up again as it has been before.
Nowhere else should present any problems. The Ware seats also benefit from no obvious single challenger (the Lib Dems used to be strong in Ware and again the Greens took on this mantle in 2019) as well as the fact that both seats contain strongly Tory rural areas.
The rural divisions themselves are overwhelmingly safe for the Conservatives. I did mention in a previous year about a possible challenge in Sawbridgeworth due to controversies about local developments but that came to precisely zero. The 2019 results did show some challenges within the component wards by various parties (Lib Dems, Greens, Independents) but it seems harder to establish a clear challenge across the larger area and again the circumstances differ now. You can never rule out a freak result, but the Conservatives should really be able to count on 9 of the 10 divisions here (and if they can’t their majority in the county is in severe danger) while a full slate again would hardly be a shock.
This district clearly presents more challenges for the Conservatives than the two previously discussed. In 2017 the Conservatives won 7 of the 9 seats here with Labour and the Lib Dems winning one each. There are three close contests based on the 2017 results: Hitchin South which was a narrow Conservative hold over the Lib Dems (coming from fourth place previously), Letchworth North which was a narrow Conservative gain from Labour and Royston West & Rural which was a narrow (notional) Lib Dem gain from the Conservatives.
The Conservatives have had a wretched set of local election results here subsequently, losing seats in all parts of the district (urban and rural) and losing control of the council which does not bode well for them in any of these seats. Royston West & Rural and its predecessor division of North Herts Rural, with a touch of the South Cambridgeshire demographic to it, has long been a close fought seat between Conservatives and Lib Dems and can swing against the tide. The Lib Dems have certainly had the best of the recent district elections in this area though, gaining the Royston Heath and Arbury wards to add to their longstanding and massive strength in Weston & Sandon. So, you’d expect the Lib Dems to hold on comfortably here. Hitchin South has also seen strong Lib Dem performances in district elections – it comprises the traditionally marginal Highbury ward and the safe Conservative Priory ward but on recent form Priory is looking more marginal and Highbury is safe Lib Dem. Also considering the strong Lib Dem vote in the parliamentary seat in 2019 and that there is still a sizeable Labour and Green vote to squeeze, I would be surprised if the Lib Dems don’t gain this. Letchworth North is a little more unpredictable. Certainly, this is a seat which should be Labour in an even year and which they would only lose in disastrous years (2009 and 2017). The major element though is the Grange ward which is one place the Conservatives have done well even as they’ve suffered disaster elsewhere – they held it quite comfortably in 2019 even while losing ostensibly safe wards elsewhere in Letchworth. This area is of a type – Brexity, ‘White working class’ council estate, with strong performances at times by parties like UKIP and the English Democrats. Nevertheless, the division also includes Wilbury and parts of Letchworth East which have been much more reliable for Labour and this ought to be a routine gain for them.
The remaining six divisions should be safe for their respective parties with Hitchin North having become one of Labour’s safest seats in the county and the other five being safely (but not overwhelmingly) Conservative. Baldock & Letchworth East and Hitchin Rural (formerly Offa) have both been Labour in the past but seem reliably Conservative now – Baldock is an area where the Conservatives have held up much more robustly than elsewhere and clearly outvotes the smaller Labour inclined section in Letchworth East. Likewise, the rural areas of Hitchin Rural can be counted on to outvote the solidly Labour Oughton ward of Hitchin.
Letchworth South has been one of the Conservatives’ disaster areas in recent local elections, as they lost the South East ward to Labour in both 2018 and 2019 (by 8 and 13 votes) and lost South West to the Lib Dems on the toss of a coin in 2019. Still the Conservatives would have been well ahead on aggregate in this division, and it seems very unlikely that enough of the opposition vote would unite behind one party to challenge them here – if they did it would most likely be the Lib Dems, who won this seat in 1985 and 1993 but this feels unlikely.
The other two divisions should not present any problem. Knebworth itself has fallen to the Lib Dems in recent local elections but the division includes Codicote and other strongly Conservative rural areas. Likewise, Royston East & Ermine is not overwhelmingly safe but it’s difficult to see a Lib Dem challenge emerging when their better part of Royston is in a seat which they need to concentrate on holding.
So, the likely outcome here is that the opposition parties will take their respective low-hanging fruit, each doubling their representation in this district and taking the total to 5 Con 2 Lab 2 LD
The default position is for Stevenage to elect no Conservative county councillors. In the 12 elections since reorganisation in the 1970s, only three have seen the Conservatives win seats in Stevenage – 1977 (when they won every seat), 2009 and 2017 (on each occasion winning three of six). In 2017 they were 15 votes away from winning a fourth making Old Stevenage the most marginal seat in the county based on the previous results. The three Conservative held seats may be crucial in the control of county hall given that only twelve losses would deprive them of a majority – a quarter of those could occur here. Based on the 2017 result, the ‘safest’ of these is Broadwater on the southern edge of town comprising the wards of Longmeadow and Roebuck. Longmeadow has been trending steadily and significantly to the Tories in recent years and they now hold all the seats on the borough council there, whereas Roebuck is much more solid (but not overwhelming) for Labour. St Nicholas in the North is technically more marginal, but I would argue is fundamentally a better division for the Conservatives than Broadwater (there may have been an incumbency affect in St Nicholas and a significant vote was taken by a UKIP candidate). St Nicholas now contains the whole of the Woodfield ward which is the most solidly and consistently Conservative ward in Stevenage. It is balanced by Labour voting St Nicholas itself and parts of the marginal Martin’s Wood. Both seats are likely to be close and unpredictable on current polling. The third Conservative held seat, Shephall is almost sure to be a Labour gain. This was one of the most shocking results of the 2017 elections. Shephall had always been one of Labour’s safest seats in Hertfordshire – one of only three they won in 2009. It’s difficult to fathom how the Conservatives won it then and equally difficult to imagine them holding it. Still, they did, so technically could do so again.
Of the three remaining seats, Chells is safe for the Lib Dems and Bedwell very safe for Labour. If the Conservatives were to do even better vis a vis Labour than in 2017, obviously Old Stevenage would be in play, but really Labour should be expecting to make gains here rather than losses and fewer than two gains would I think be poor for them. It is almost all to play for here though – a tiny uniform swing against Labour would see them reduced to one seat whereas a modest swing in their favour could see them win five.
This is the first district to be considered here where the Conservatives have fewer than half the seats. That itself illustrates that the result here last time was relatively poor but that is not to say it cannot get worse, though there are a few potential gains here for the Tories. As in North Hertfordshire, subsequent borough election results have been pretty shocking for the Conservatives, especially in Welwyn Garden City and this does not seem to portend a strong result here in May.
The 2017 score was Con 3 LD 3 Lab 2 with the Lib Dems coming from nowhere to gain the Haldens division from the Conservatives. That was a narrow victory but has been followed up with several more gains at the district level in wards in this area and the precedent provided by the other two Lib Dem seats in this borough (and similar seats elsewhere like Chells and Hemel St Pauls) is that the initial gain is consolidated at the following election. Therefore, I don’t hold out any prospect of a Conservative gain here. The two Labour seats are marginal on paper also, but I wouldn’t rate the chances of gains there likely either. Welwyn Garden City South has a majority of less than 100 but is really the sort of seat the Conservatives should have won in 2017 – they didn’t win it then I don’t see them doing it now. Labour have comfortably won all the recent contests in the component wards. Hatfield North is similar as a seat that the Conservatives might have won in 2017. It combines the marginal Conservative Hatfield Villages ward (less the strong Conservative area of Ellenbrook) with the safe Labour ward of Hatfield Central. As such it’s a seat that can usually be counted on to give Labour a lead and there’s no reason to think it will be different this year.
As already indicated, the two more established Lib Dem seat in Hatfield South and Handside & Peartree look invulnerable.
That leaves the remaining three Conservative seats to consider. Of these the main area of interest is Hatfield East. This was a newly reconstituted seat for the 2017 elections and was only narrowly won then by the Conservatives over Labour. The greater part of this division corresponds to the Hatfield East district ward which has usually been reliably Conservative but is becoming more marginal with the Lib Dems making it close three ways in 2019. Added to this is a large chunk of Hatfield South West – a safe Labour ward which also has a growing Lib Dem vote (also a small, grotty part of Hatfield Central). As such this is clearly a tricky seat for the Conservatives to hold and given that at the last two sets of county elections the Lib Dems have come from ‘nowhere’ to take a seat in this borough, I should not be surprised to see them challenge here as well as Labour. Cliched it may be but really anything could happen here, though if I had to call it, I’d maybe say most likely a Labour gain.
Hell will freeze over before the Conservatives lose Hatfield Rural, one of the safest electorates for that party in the country. I would have said the same for Welwyn in the past too, but I’d note that the Lib Dems got around 30% of the vote in the two Welwyn wards at the 2019 borough elections and the division additionally includes about half the Sherrards ward which has moved from safe Tory to safe Lib Dem in short order. Given what I’ve already said about the propensity of the Lib Dems to gain seats from nowhere in this borough, I should hope the Conservatives are on their guard here.
Post by Pete Whitehead on Mar 17, 2021 19:25:22 GMT
In 2017 the Lib Dems won 5 seats, the Conservatives 4 and Labour 1. The Lib Dems won all four seats in the ‘core’ city – Central, East and South being overwhelmingly safe for them while North was a narrow gain from Labour. Labour subsequently regained this seat in a by-election and the councillor elected then (Roma Mills) now sits as an Independent. Ms Mills clearly has a significant personal vote and might get a non-negligible vote if she defends her seat as an Independent, but I should have thought that whether she does or not this should be an easy Lib Dem re-gain (at the last district elections they gained Batchwood from Labour and are now overwhelmingly strong in the other part of the division). Their fifth seat is the rather weirdly drawn rural/suburban mixture that is Colney Heath & Marshalswick. This was won by a modest but clear lead and while it does contain strong Tory areas, I’d think this should be a straightforward hold.
Given the recent trajectory of election results in St Albans (including winning the parliamentary seat of St Albans and doing well in Hitchin & Harpenden) the Lib Dems will surely be looking for further gains here. The most obvious target based on the 2017 numbers is St Stephen’s which covers a series of large, suburbanised villages in the South West of the district. This was a Conservative gain from the Lib Dems in 2017 – the only such gain that year – following the retirement of a popular incumbent. This was a seat the Lib Dems had held since 1985 (usually narrowly) but that flattered their position here. In district elections the western St Stephen ward is very safely Conservative and consistently outvotes the usually small Lib Dem lead in Park Street (and often as not these days there is no Lib Dem lead there at all). This was still the case in 2019 in what was a generally a dire result for the Conservatives in St Albans district. Therefore, while you could not rule out the Lib Dems here given the history, the relatively small margin, the organisational strength boosted no doubt by now having the local MP, I would still make the Conservatives clear favourites here.
I might actually be more concerned from the Conservative perspective by Harpenden North East. Ostensibly this is a much safer seat than St Stephen’s having voted Conservative by almost two to one in 2017. This seat has only gone Lib Dem once, in 1993, and the constituent wards remain wholly in Conservative hands, but both (East and North) have some Lib Dem history, and both became relatively close in 2019 following a long period of Lib Dem decline in the area. There is also a sizeable vote for Greens, Independents etc which could be squeezed by the Lib Dems. Again, the Conservatives must be favourites here, but a ‘shock’ Lib Dem gain is well within the realms of possibility. The other two Conservative seats here – Harpenden South West and Harpenden Rural are very safe and should present no problems.
The final seat here is very different in nature to all the others discussed. London Colney is a Labour leaning marginal which that party did very well to win quite easily in 2017. At the district level London Colney is moderately safe Labour ward which the Conservatives can win in good years, but the county seat still includes a large chunk of Colney Heath ward (it used, as ‘The Colneys’ to include all of it) where Labour are weak and the Lib Dems very strong. It’s clear from the previous result here (and from district results where she has been the candidate) that Dreda Gordon enjoys a significant personal vote. Should she stand again, I’d expect a fairly comfortable hold again but in the event of an open seat (and again dependent on candidates) this has the potential to be a three-way marginal. The Lib Dem vote has been creeping up in London Colney itself and in winning the parliamentary constituency they must have won a lot of tactical Labour votes – that kind of dynamic can start to feed through to local results in places like this and with the additional boost provided by the Highfield section of Colney Heath ward, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Lib Dems won this. Still a Labour hold is the most likely outcome and looking at all the seats individually, the likeliest outcome in each case is a repeat of the result in 2017. But one instinctively feels that the Lib Dems ought to make a gain here somewhere. Hedging a bit as my predictions for St Albans have been notoriously poor in the past.
The Conservatives won all 7 seats in Hertsmere in 2017, gaining Borehamwood North from Labour on a huge swing. Based on those results, Borehamwood North and Borehamwood South are equally vulnerable to Labour, both needing a swing of around 5% in their favour, but I don’t believe that reflects the true position. Borehamwood North has switched between Labour and Conservatives at each of the last three elections whereas South has been Conservative held since 2005. It is true that there were boundary changes in 2017 which moved a quite strong Conservative area out of South and moved a small Labour inclined area into it from North, but these changes weren’t significant enough to have accounted for the apparent convergence of results. Basically, in South one would ‘normally’ expect the Conservative strength in Hillside to outvote any Labour lead in the parts of Kenilworth and Brookmeadow included whereas in North, one would ‘normally’ expect Labour’s margin in Cowley Hill to exceed the Conservative lead in Brookmeadow (even assuming they enjoy such a lead, which is not a given). Certainly, the most recent borough election results in 2019 confirm this pattern. As such I’d rate Labour as having a very good chance of gaining Borehamwood North – at least 50% - and a much lower prospect in South. Clearly Borehamwood South is a seat that Labour could still win if they were enjoying a sizeable lead in the national polls but that isn’t the current situation.
The other seat of interest here is Bushey North which has gone through an interesting trajectory. For many decades this was a very safe Liberal/Lib Dem seat, but the Conservatives gained it narrowly in 2009 following the retirement of the long-time incumbent. In 2013 the Lib Dems crashed to a humiliating fourth place behind UKIP and Labour – at around the same time the Lib Dem vote was also evaporating in borough elections in the area as they rapidly lost all their seats. A tentative recovery began with a by-election in 2016 when the Lib Dems recovered second place, but they were still a long way behind the Conservatives who also increased their vote share. Then in 2017 they advanced further to over 30% - still some distance behind the Conservatives but now clearly re-established as challengers. In the local elections of 2019, the Lib Dems surged strongly to take all three seats in the Bushey North ward (all of which is in this division), on Hertsmere borough council having appeared to have been permanently eliminated. The division also includes most of Bushey St James where progress in 2019 was much more limited but where there also a long history of Liberal/Lib Dem strength and the village of Patchett’s Green which is part of the Aldenham West borough ward and strongly Conservative. Evidently the Lib Dems have recovered a bit of their organisation strength in Bushey (aided by a large financial legacy) and their candidate here is an ‘elder statesman’ of the Bushey Lib Dems – Laurence Brass was a borough councillor back in the 1970s (for St James) and was the parliamentary candidate in 1987. There can’t be too many voters here who can remember ever having voted for him, but clearly the Lib Dems will be making a big push here. I’d expect a close result. On paper the Conservatives should hold on, but it is obviously a seat the Lib Dems can win and probably their best chance of the ‘long-shots’ (ie where the swing required is greater than 5%)
Notwithstanding some pockets of Labour support in Potters Bar West & Shenley, the other four seats are all very safe for the Conservatives.
Watford borough is probably the least interesting in Hertfordshire for the simple reason there are no Conservative seats being defended and no real prospect of any Conservative gains either (we have long since dispensed with the illusion that they can get back in Nascot Park). Therefore, this borough will have no impact on the main question which is whether the Conservatives retain their majority. It isn’t even likely to determine who is the second largest party since that seems certain to remain the Lib Dems. All four Lib Dem held seats are now extremely safe as is West Watford (Vicarage Holywell as was) for Labour.
This leaves the only marginal seat here as North Watford which Labour won last time with a majority of just 145 over the Lib Dems. This is the one division in Watford the Lib Dems have never held (though they only held Vicarage Holywell through defection) but was Green held over several elections in the noughties. It basically comes down to a battle between Labour Leggatts and Lib Dem Callowland, though the description of the latter may be premature – this went back to Labour following the Green interlude, but the Lib Dems have been gaining seats over the last few years. In the concurrent delayed borough elections Labour are defending their one remaining seat in this ward so this will see a hard-fought battle at that level too (again there being little contest elsewhere in the borough). In 2019 the Lib Dems established a small lead in the aggregate vote in the two wards. The key for them will be squeezing the residual Conservative vote in Leggatts. This one is going to the wire, but I’d fancy the Lib Dems to take it.
The 6 divisions of Three Rivers district provide a bit more interest than the 6 in Watford. In 2017 the Conservatives won three seats here, the Lib Dems two and Labour one with a couple of divisions somewhat defying expectations (mine anyway). The two seats the Lib Dems won in Abbots Langley and Croxley Green are amongst their safest seats anywhere and need no further discussion. However, they subsequently gained a third seat in Three Rivers Rural. This was the successor to the old Chorleywood division and is dominated by that town but also includes that part of Abbots Langley parish North of the M25 (Bedmond and ‘Primrose Hill’). That latter area is a Lib Dem stronghold which adds to their strength in parts of Chorleywood Village. The Conservatives have equally strong areas in Loudwater, Sarratt and parts of Chorleywood. This leads to very much a two-horse race in which other parties are squeezed out. In both 2017 and the 2018 by-election the Conservatives and Lib Dems won over 90% of the vote between them with three other parties winning less than 10% between them. At the first election the Conservatives came out narrowly on top – on the second the Lib Dems won by a surprisingly large margin. I don’t believe this will ever become a safe Lib Dem seat like their others have – the Conservative strength is just too entrenched in parts of the division and they will always be competitive, but equally its hard to see them reversing the emphatic by-election loss in one go. The Lib Dems must be favourite to confirm their gain there.
Rickmansworth West is a little harder to call although it was much closer in 2017, the Conservatives clinging on by 66 votes. This had been widely expected to be a Lib Dem gain although that party has had quite a long history of underperforming here in county council elections, failing to win for example even in 1993 (though this had been one of their earliest strongholds back in the 1970s). The boundary changes were felt to favour the Lib Dems a bit, but this may be incorrect – a strong Conservative area around Batchworth was removed but a strong Conservative area around Valley Road (technically part of Chorleywood) was added so they may have been more or less neutral. Nevertheless, this should be a seat the Lib Dems can win with their great strength in the West in areas like Mill End and Maple Cross to set against the Conservative strength in Rickmansworth town, Moneyhill etc. A complication is that the Green party have been doing well in Rickmansworth Town ward lately and their advance has mainly come at the expense of the Lib Dems. That ward is only partially in this division but still if they were to stand here and to build on the derisory vote they achieved in 2017 that could hamper the Lib Dems. On the other hand, it has been noted elsewhere that their entire contingent of parish councillors has resigned recently so perhaps their organisational strength will dissipate as quickly as it appeared. In any event, while this is clearly a very good prospect for a Lib Dem gain (their easiest gain on paper) I would not see it as ‘nailed on’.
If Rickmansworth West is not as winnable as it looks (and anyway it clearly is very winnable) the other Conservative seat here – Rickmansworth East & Oxhey Park – is not quite as safe as it looks. That is not to say I think it might be lost but the 40% margin achieved last time does flatter the Conservatives. As Oxhey Park this division has never been anything but Conservative but it often fluctuated between very large Conservative leads and quite narrow ones (eg. In 2009). The greater part of the electorate here is in Watford Rural Parish – in Carpenders Park and Oxhey Hall – where the Lib Dems have often enjoyed great strength. They remain very dominant in Oxhey Hall and in 2019 re-emerged as a competitive force in Carpenders Park. It’s difficult to say how this division overall would have voted then because of the mismatch between ward and division boundaries, but it seems likely that the Lib Dems would have clearly been ahead in this part of the division. Even when the Lib Dems are ahead here, they were always outvoted by the massive Conservative strength in Moor Park and Eastbury – Eastbury is no longer included but has been replaced by Batchworth (‘Rickmansworth East’) which is not much less solid. The Lib Dems have other fish to fry in Three Rivers so a serious challenge here is not to be expected but the Conservatives still have to fight this division as if it were marginal.
The final seat here – South Oxhey & Eastbury – provides another interesting contest. As plain South Oxhey this was always a safe Labour seat (excepting a narrow loss to the BNP in their disastrous 2009 election) and one of the most deprived areas in Hertfordshire, consisting entirely of the large LCC overspill estate. The boundary changes ahead of the 2017 elections changed the dynamics considerably, bringing in the ultra-wealthy (and ultra-Conservative) area of Eastbury (effectively part of Northwood) which thus created one of the most socially divided electorates in the county and opened up the possibility that in a good year the Conservatives might win here. 2017 was a good year for the Conservatives and a bad one for Labour yet the latter won this seat surprisingly comfortably then. They must have won overwhelmingly in South Oxhey (which they cannot always count on doing) and maybe found a few extra votes in Eastbury which they wouldn’t normally go looking for. The likelihood is that Labour will repeat the trick, given that they are in a stronger position now than in May 2017, but any slippage of support in South Oxhey itself and/or a large differential in turnout between the two parts of the seat could bring it into play (of course a large majority of voters here are in South Oxhey rather than Eastbury). Labour only won 9 seats in Hertfordshire in 2017 and shouldn’t be expecting to lose any this year, but should they do so, this would be one of the likeliest candidates.
The result here last time was the same as the previous two elections: 8 Conservatives, 2 Lib Dem and 0 Labour. In 2005 Labour had won four of the six seats in Hemel Hempstead and in a good year could win five (with only Hemel Town alluding them). They have shown no serious signs of recovery here and in the 2019 borough council elections contrived even to lose the few seats they held there. As such there is very little prospect for any Labour gains here. The only seat where they were even remotely competitive then was Hemel South East and that was largely due to a formerly Conservative Independent splitting the vote. If they couldn’t even win in Bennets End in 2019 (they couldn’t) I don’t see them winning the division which includes it along with much less favourable areas. The other four seats which Labour have won in the past are all now safely Conservative (East, North East, North West) and in the case of St Pauls safely Lib Dem – they are well established now in the component wards so even if the incumbent retires, they should be able to safely pass it on.
The most interesting seat in Hemel itself may be Hemel Town – the one division which has consistently elected Conservatives since 1981 (when the current configuration of divisions date from). It is true that there have been various boundary changes since then which have made it a little less favourable, but that is not the only reason this has ceased to be the safest Conservative seat here (though it has more to do with the increase in Tory support in the other areas than in a major decline in support here). Apart from the (New) town centre itself it includes mostly older neighbourhoods of Hemel which predate the New town development and have a more middle-class character. The largest element is the ward of Boxmoor where in 2019 the Lib Dems came from relatively nowhere to win all three seats quite comfortably and they also did quite well then in Apsley and in Hemel Town ward. These results may flatter their prospects a bit as the national situation is much changed since then, but it certainly gives them a base to work on and Hemel Town may be a candidate for the ‘shock Lib Dems gain from nowhere’ prize of 2021.
A far more likely prospect of a Lib Dem gain lies outside Hemel in the town of Berkhamsted. This would not be a shock or a win from nowhere. Although they have only won the county division once (in 1993) they have a long history of support here and were within 100 votes in 2017. In 2019 they won all the borough council seats here easily and on very large swings. There is a Labour and Green vote to squeeze here well, and it seems the writing is on the wall here. While nothing is ever certain, this is one of the two or three seats where the Lib Dems must absolutely be favourites to make a gain.
The remaining seats in the hinterland should all be safe for their respective parties. Tring has been Lib Dem held since 2005 and they’ve long been dominant at the district level. Kings Langley and Bridgewater are both safe for the Conservatives. The latter includes Northchurch which has shared in the general Lib Dem surge in the Western end of the borough as well as a part of Berkhamsted itself, but the Eastern wards remain solid for the Conservatives so while the Lib Dems might take a chunk out of the majority, I wouldn’t see them being a threat here. Overall, while Labour may seem to pose a negligible threat in this area, the Lib Dems, following a surprisingly strong performance in 2019 and with two seats already under their belt pose a considerable threat in a third seat and may just make a nuisance of themselves in one or two more.
Welwyn & Hatfield SOPNs: www.welhat.gov.uk/article/11463/Election-Day The individual links are the first set you find at the side of the page, borough are underneath them. Labour, Conservative and Lin Dems all 8 seats Green just 1 - Welwyn Abolish the Town Council Party 1 - Hatfield North
Conservative and Labour all 10 seats Lib Dem 9 (missing Ware North) Green 9 8 (missing Sawbridgeworth and Hertford St Andrews) looks like some kind of pact there Reform UK 1 (Buntingford) TUSC 1 (Ware North) Alliance for Democracy and Freedom 1 (Ware South) No Description 1 (Hertford All Saints - the incumbent elected as Conservative and deselected for this election)