I joined one of Momentum’s ‘Unseat’ events on Thursday in the marginal constituency of The Cities of London and Westminster. Labour missed out on taking this seat from the Tories by only 3,148 votes in 2017. It wasn’t hard to spot the event: around 70 Labour members were crowded around candidate Gordon Nardell when I arrived, and we were soon joined by Owen Jones. Both gave a quick pep talk before we split into groups for some door-knocking.
I must admit to feeling some trepidation about the campaign in the affluent seat beforehand. The constituency has some of the wealthiest residents in the country, encompassing the exclusive areas of Belgravia, Mayfair and Knightsbridge, and the average house will set you back a cool £1.1m. I was also worried that the 71% of residents who voted Remain in 2016 might be persuaded by the Lib Dems. Chuka Umunna, who defected from Labour earlier this year, is standing for the Lib Dems; although he has a gap of 13,735 votes to make up, he’s a high-profile candidate for the Lib Dems.
But I was pleasantly surprised: the response was positive. The first road returned a lot of Labour votes. The second, a lot of undecideds. We went armed with leaflets emphasising that the Lib Dems came a distant third in 2017, and this two-horse-race messaging seemed to be cutting through. I spoke to a woman who told me she was “really a Lib Dem” but would be voting Labour as the party with the best chance of beating the Tories. She explicitly called out Boris Johnson as a “misogynist”, saying she didn’t “like the way he treats women”.
The extent to which people don’t want to vote for Johnson specifically – and he’s given progressive voters plenty of reasons to dislike him – could tip the vote in Labour’s favour in Two Cities. That certainly seemed to be the case for this voter, who couldn’t bear to let the Tories in, even if it meant voting tactically. This important factor, combined with Jeremy Corbyn’s vow to hold a fresh EU referendum, means the campaign seems to be going well in seats like this one.