Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 11:14 UK

London to vote in borough elections

By Karl Mercer
BBC London political correspondent

London political map
1. Hillingdon
2. Harrow
3. Barnet
4. Enfield
5. Waltham Forest
6. Redbridge
7. Havering
8. Brent
9. Camden
10. Haringey
11. Islington
12. Hackney
13. Ealing
14. Hammersmith & Fulham
15. Kensington & Chelsea
16. Westminster
17. City of London
18. Tower Hamlets
19. Newham
20. Barking & Dagenham
21. Hounslow
22. Richmond
23. Wandsworth
24. Lambeth
25. Southwark
26. Lewisham
27. Greenwich
28. Bexley
29. Kingston
30. Merton
31. Sutton
32. Croydon
33. Bromley

Election day in London will be about more than just putting MPs back in Westminster, about more than just voting in a new national government.

Because for the first time since the present boroughs were formed in 1965, town hall elections are taking place on the same day as the national ones.

In many ways, for those who ask, 'What's politics got to do with me?' this is the frontline.

The boroughs are where politics meets the public head-on - whether its collecting your rubbish, or cleaning your streets, running your libraries, or overseeing schools, fixing potholes, or charging you to park - your local town hall will be making those decisions.

'Longing eyes'

The last time London's 32 boroughs went to the polls was in 2006, a night when the local political map of the capital turned a distinct shade of blue, with the Conservatives winning nearly half of the town halls.

The Liberal Democrats painted a small corner of south-west London yellow - winning three councils there.

Labour had a terrible night, going from being the dominant force in London's local government, to running just seven councils and Lewisham with the directly elected Labour mayor.

It polled only around 27% of the vote, one of its worst performances in the capital.

The Labour vote in 2006 was right at the bottom of any performance in percentage vote terms by the Labour party ever in London, so they can, in a sense only go upwards
London government expert Tony Travers

So what of its chances this time round?

Tony Travers, a London government expert from the London School of Economics says, to use a New Labour phrase, "things can only better".

"The Labour vote in 2006 was right at the bottom of any performance in percentage vote terms by the Labour party ever in London, so they can, in a sense only go upwards."

Labour strategists say that holding on to what they've got on the night will be a success.

Privately they admit to casting longing eyes over boroughs like Islington, the birthplace of new Labour, and even Merton.

The big challenge for the Conservatives on 6 May in London will be keeping hold of the dominant position they secured four years ago.

They currently run nearly half of the capital's councils - but will have their eyes on possible further gains.

A bigger turnout, with more people dragged out by the general election means the pundits will have a hard time predicting just how fortunes could go.

Turnout 'key' for local election

But London's Tories are talking bullishly about picking up extra town halls such as Kingston and Richmond.

Both are currently held by the Lib Dems but both in the past having flown the blue flag.

Mr Travers though warns it may be more about keeping a tight grip on what they've got.

"I think the Conservatives probably have most to lose this time round simply because last time round they ended up well ahead of Labour."

For the Liberal Democrats, the south-west of the capital provides their key battleground.

Holding on to Sutton, Kingston and Richmond Councils would be seen as a success, but party insiders have talked too, of making gains.

List of targets

Top of the list of targets is Haringey.

A council still reeling from the Baby Peter scandal, and an area where the Liberal Democrats have already enjoyed success at Parliamentary level.

They will fight hard too in Islington, a north London town hall they once ran, and look to build in areas where they are currently running the council in coalitions, area like Southwark, Brent and Camden.

For the smaller parties, these London local elections offer the chance of getting on the electoral score sheet too.

The Greens are standing more candidates than ever and hoping to add to the 13 councillors they currently have.

The British National Party is also standing in more London seats than before - targeting Barking and Dagenham and Bexley in particular.

The UK Independence Party too is fielding a number of candidates - hoping to repeat the success they had back in the 2004 London Assembly elections when they won two seats.

And whatever you say about a lack of interest in politics generally, just remember, there are more than 6,000 people out there, pounding the streets in a bid to become one of 1,800 local councillors at a town hall near you from 7 May.

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