Post by sirbenjamin on May 12, 2022 15:37:22 GMT
Since 1997, the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark have been entitled to roughly 2.5 seats each, and have consequently been grouped together with an entitlement of five between them. This is the 'cross borough' or 'leftovers' seat, comprised of the southernmost wards of Southwark and the Southeastern part of Lambeth.
While the name isn't entirely inaccurate, it could be argued that a fair chunk of Dulwich lies outside of the seat, while a substantial amount of Brixton is within it. I do, however, strongly approve of using the 'X and Y' naming convention to indicate the crossing of Local Authority boundaries (and, ideally, in no other circumstances!)
When I was a child, Dulwich village was seen as a highly desirable place to live, and Dulwich College the school our parents all wanted to send us to, circumstances permitting. (Some of my more privileged contemporaries studied there and I no longer hear from them.) While there are still plenty of "Millionaire's Mansions" in the Dulwich part of the seat - commanding spectacular views of places far, far beyond West Norwood - the majority of the electorate live in far less salubrious conditions and in far greater density. The seat has a high proportion of social housing, as well as one of the largest black populations in the country.
North Dulwich has a fine Victorian railway station, located in a brick cutting and retaining many original features, while the Picture Gallery, with its accompanying mausoleum, boasts an impressive collection of works and also serves as a concert space. It was also, of course, home to Margaret and Dennis Thatcher. (Dulwich, not the mausoleum).
West Norwood is fairly a down-at-heel residential area but is home to what is thought to be the only fish and chip shop in London still using beef dripping for frying.
To the West of Tulse Hill and Herne Hill railway stations lies Brockwell Park, home of the Lambeth Country Show that has long been an annual celebration of multi-culturalism within the borough, though retaining incongruous elements of 'country' - where else can one drink strong farm-produced cider, while eating Japanese street food and listening to authentic Jamaican dub?!?
The railway arches along this stretch of line have recently become home to artists studios and microbreweries (Canopy and Bullfinch), though the traditional car repair shops remain there too, as if a bulwark against gentrification.
This all sounds like the sort of collage that might lend itself to being described as a 'diverse' seat. And in some ways it may be, but that diversity sure as heckfire doesn't extend to voting behaviour, which is less diverse in this area than it has ever been.
The predecessor seat of Dulwich was marginally Tory in 1983 and 1987, and while the West Norwood seat had been Labour since 1966 it was never exactly safe. However, given the national swing at the 1997 election and ongoing demographic change, this seat has never been remotely marginal, the late Tessa Jowell generally winning with substantial majorities until handing over to Helen Hayes in 2015. In 2017, Hayes won almost 70% of the vote, and it now one of the safest seats in the country.
In 2019, Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley narrowly took second place from the Conservatives, but this is about as academic as Dulwich College, given the Labour majority was still over 27,000.
Labour now dominates right across the constituency - In the 2022 locals, fought on new boundaries, every new ward that would notionally make up part of the seat elected a full slate of Labour councillors. There is little joy immediately beyond either, as this is a Labour seat entirely 'landlocked' by other Labour seats! God knows what Thatch would've made of it.
But, unlike Thatcher's legacy, Dulwich and West Norwood won't be with us forever. Proposed boundary changes will mean an end to the current, rather elegant, arrangement. Although Lambeth is now the right size for exactly three seats, the truly horrendous proposals effectively group all almost every authority in South London together (apart from Sutton and Wandsworth), with some hideous creations and knock-on effects all over the place.
This could see the existing D&WN seat split between four new seats, including pairings with bits of Croydon and Lewisham - though none of these new creations look likely to be politically competitive and all will be notionally safe for Labour.