London elections: all (except the extremists) shall have prizes

The people of London voted in a very sophisticated, very discriminating and rather brilliant way yesterday. Among the highlights:

The complete wipeout of the BNP on Barking council, and the party going significantly backwards in the race for the parliamentary seat.

The slapdown delivered to the forces of radical Islamism in Tower Hamlets, with Jim Fitzpatrick, one of very few mainstream politicians brave enough to speak out against the Islamic Forum of Europe, winning Poplar and Limehouse for Labour. Both of Fitzpatrick’s main opponents, Respect’s George Galloway and the Tories’ Tim Archer, have links with the fundamentalist IFE or its HQ, the East London Mosque. Respect was driven into third place in both Poplar and next-door Bethnal Green and Bow. Respect has also been losing councillors in Tower Hamlets this evening, though the proposal for an elected mayor – a key IFE target – seems likely to be passed.

The triumph in Richmond Park of the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith, a really interesting and maverick candidate who will make a great MP.

The personal votes which kept Glenda Jackson, Karen Buck, Emily Thornberry and Lynne Featherstone, four independent-minded Labour and Lib Dem MPs, in place against the general performance of their parties – though I felt sorry for Joanne Cash, Buck’s excellent Tory opponent, and hope she tries again.

The failure of Hammersmith and Fulham’s shocker council propaganda newspaper, H&F News, to deliver Hammersmith to the Tories.

Labour did better in London than in the rest of the country. This was partly thanks to the significant underperformance of the Lib Dems (yet another Guardian endorsement which has proved the kiss of death). For the yellow army, failing to take Islington South (Labour majority: less than 500; Guardianista count: overwhelming) and losing Richmond Park must have been huge blows.

Yet it was also due to a patchy performance by the Tories. They did pretty well in middle-class parts of west and north-west London – taking Hendon, Harrow East, Finchley, Brentford & Isleworth, Ealing Central and Acton, and Richmond Park on swings of up to 7 per cent, and recording an even higher swing in Hampstead & Kilburn which was fractionally not enough to win. They got a swing of nearly 10 per cent in a seat they already hold, Putney.

But with only one or two exceptions (Croydon Central) they did not do well enough in those white lower-middle and working-class parts of outer London which swung so heavily to Boris Johnson in 2008. After Cash’s Westminster North, the cruellest result of the night may have been Eltham, which had been thought of as a near-certain Tory gain but where Mr Cameron managed a swing of just 1.8 per cent. In Mitcham and Morden,  the swing was less than 1 per cent.

These huge variations make it quite hard to generalise – though that didn’t, of course, stop some of the stupider partisans trying to spin it as a triumph for Labour. The following generalisations, however, do seem safe. First, candidates clearly mattered in this election. And unlike Boris in 2008, Cameron has not broken through to the working class, in the capital at least.

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