At the last general election, Southwark had three of the longest-serving MPs in the country, who romped home with a combined majority of around 35,000 votes, clocking up an impressive 88 years in office collectively.
But the winds of change are blowing through the borough this year with former Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, stepping down from her Dulwich and West Norwood seat and a predicted national collapse in the national Liberal Democrat vote leaving Simon Hughes fighting Labour’s Neil Coyle to keep his seat in Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
A swing from both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to Labour predicted across London is expected to have an impact on Mr Hughes’s 8,500-strong majority, but experts say it’s just too close to call.
“I wouldn’t write Simon Hughes off even though the Labour party is confident it can win the constituency,” warns Tony Travers, a London politics guru at the London School of Economics.
“The thing about the Lib Dems is they do have an extraordinary capacity to cling on against the odds. Simon Hughes is a particularly well-known Liberal Democrat nationally and locally, who’s positioned himself often against the council and development and gone for the community vote.
“This constituency is going to be pretty tight and the Liberal Democrat vote will fall back and the Labour vote will rise. It’s much more marginal than in the last general election,” added Professor Travers.
Nationally the electorate is tiring of the two party system and voters are turning to the smaller parties in protest or turning away from politics altogether.
“UKIP and the Greens are both going to make some in-roads into voting in London,” said Professor Travers, adding that although both parties were doing better in Southwark than in the past, they were unlikely to pose a real threat to the big hitters.
In Camberwell and Peckham Harriet Harman managed to increase her majority at the last election to over 17,000, making it one of the safest Labour seats in the country.
The contest there will be for who gets silver and bronze. Professor Travers thinks the Greens may be able to “nibble away at the Labour vote” but says the real question is if the practically non-existent Conservative vote in the middle of the borough might increase as they steal votes from disillusioned Liberal Democrats, who came second last time.
For Dulwich and West Norwood it’s all to play for with an empty seat for the taking. Or is it? “Tessa Jowell is clearly a popular figure,” said Professor Travers. The London Mayoral hopeful had a majority of over 9,000 at the last election and even with a fall off from her departure , any loss could be met by a London-wide shift towards Labour.