Bermondsey & Old Southwark

2015 Result:
Conservative: 6051 (11.8%)
Labour: 22146 (43.1%)
Lib Dem: 17657 (34.3%)
Green: 2023 (3.9%)
UKIP: 3254 (6.3%)
TUSC: 142 (0.3%)
Independent: 72 (0.1%)
Others: 79 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4489 (8.7%)

Category: Semi-marginal Labour seat

Geography: Greater London. Part of the Southwark council area.

Main population centres: Bermondsey, Borough, Rotherhithe, Elephant & Castle and Surrey Quays.

Profile: This covers central London south of the river, facing the City of London across the Thames. The riverfront has undergone massive redevelopment and gentrification, and is now backed with offices, luxury apartments, the cultural quarter of Tate Modern and the Globe theatre and skyscrapers popping up around City Hall, whose crash helmet style home sits on the riverfront here. The seat also includes Guys Hospital and the fashionable Borough market. Alway from the trendy apartments to the north though, the rest of the area is still poor, racially mixed and struggling with problems of crime and deprivation though the process of regeneration of troubled estates like Heygate is rolling slowly onwards.

Politics: Demographically you would expect this seat to return a Labour MP: a poverty striken inner city seat, over 20% afro-carribean, over 40% of properties council owned. In fact it returned to the Labour party only in 2015, having been the Liberals and Liberal Democrats for over twenty years. Simon Hughes long tenure was probably due to his own performance as MP, but he only became the MP for Bermondsey in the first place because of the unusual circumstances of his election. The Bermondsey by-election must be one of the most infamous in recent political history. The local Labour party had selected as their PPC the left-winger Peter Tatchell, who was disowned by the then Labour leader Michael Foot. He was opposed by a Labour right-winger, John O`Grady, who stood as a "Real Labour" candidate and was backed by the former MP Bob Mellish. The by-election was notoriously dirty, Tatchell was consistently attacked for his sexuality, received hate mail and a bullet in the post. The Liberal party took the seat on an overwhelming swing and remained here for almost a quarter of a century.

Current MP
NEIL COYLE (Labour) Born 1978, Luton. Educated at Hull University. Former policy director. Southwark councillor since 2010. First elected as MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 7638 (17%)
Lab: 13060 (29%)
LDem: 21590 (48%)
BNP: 1370 (3%)
Oth: 993 (2%)
MAJ: 8530 (19%)
Con: 4752 (13%)
Lab: 12468 (33%)
LDem: 17874 (47%)
GRN: 1137 (3%)
Oth: 1728 (5%)
MAJ: 5406 (14%)
Con: 2800 (8%)
Lab: 11359 (31%)
LDem: 20991 (57%)
GRN: 752 (2%)
Oth: 960 (3%)
MAJ: 9632 (26%)
Con: 2835 (7%)
Lab: 16444 (40%)
LDem: 19831 (49%)
Oth: 1140 (3%)
MAJ: 3387 (8%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005, name changed from Southwark North & Bermondsey

2015 Candidates
JEAN-PAUL FLORU (Conservative) Born 1969, Belgium. Educated at Leuven University. Author. Westminster councillor since 2006. Contested London region 2009 European election.
NEIL COYLE (Labour) Born 1978, Luton. Educated at Hull University. Policy director. Southwark councillor since 2010.
SIMON HUGHES (Liberal Democrat) Born 1951, Cheshire. Educated at Llandaff Cathedral School and Cambridge University. Barrister. Contested London Mayoral election 2004. MP for Bermondsey 1983 by-election to 2015. Environment spokesman 1983-1988, education spokesman 1988-1992, environment spokesman 1992-1994, health spokesman 1994-1997, home affairs spokesman 1997-2003, President of the Liberal Democrats 2004-2008. The second longest serving Liberal Democrat MP, Hughes was first elected to Parliament in the notorious 1983 Bermondsey by-election. Contested the Liberal Democrat leadership elections of 1999 and 2006, during which he was outed by the Sun newspaper.
WILLIAM LAVIN (Green) Born 1956. Contested Huntingdon 1987.
STEVE FREEMAN (Republican Socialist)
DONALD COLE (All People)
LUCY HALL (Independent) Born 1989. Educated at Waldegrave School and Manchester University.
KINGSLEY ABRAMS (TUSC) Former Merton councillor, Lambeth councillor 2006-2013. Contested Wimbledon 1992, North Southwark and Old Bermondsey 2001 for Labour.

Comments - 651 Responses on “Bermondsey & Old Southwark”
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  1. Lord Ashcroft’s poll of marginals has Lib Dems being wiped out in seats they are defending against Labour, including this one. Personally I can’t see Hughes losing but that would be a great scalp for Labour! It would be the 2015 ‘Portillo moment’! Labour supporters would be asking each other the next day, ‘were you up for Hughes?’

  2. It would personally give me a great deal of pleasure. I’d go there to help out without any hesitation if it were on the cards & results nearer to where I live were in little doubt.

  3. Labour would almost certainly have gained Bermonsey & Waterloo, but with no BC, Hughes is likely to hang on.

  4. Hughes has been a strong supporter of the coalition so his credentials must be severely damaged with voters who consider themselves progressive.

    It’s going to depend very much on whether he can continue to persuade sufficient numbers of Tories to vote tactically to keep out Labour, and interestingly the Tory vote was significantly up in 2010.

    Here’s an interesting recent news report.

    But I agree it would be a great political moment to finally see him defeated.

  5. I expect the Lib Dems to lose lots of seats to Labour such as Sarah Teather’s. But this is the least likely Labour-leaning seat for the Lib Dems to lose.

    I expect the local elections for Southwark to be fiercely contested next year as a precursor to the GE. The Lib Dems hold most of the wards in this constituency.

  6. It will be interesting to see how the Tories do here in 2015. They’re still a long way from being competitive of course but there have been some signs that they could be more of a force.

  7. I agree with ‘Glen in Eastleigh’. I would love Hughes to lose his seat but it just isn’t going to happen. I know people who live here and have told me he’s got a huge personal vote and is very popular. I’m no fan of Hughes but I have to admit he’s a good constituency MP who works hard for his constituents. He’s so popular that allegedly the Minister of Sound nightclub in this seat contributed a huge amount of money to his campaign in the 2010 General Election.

    I think his majority will be drastically reduced but he will hold on here.

  8. The Ministry of Sound is perhaps the only nightclub in Britain which manages to be pompous. Reading that didn’t improve my opinion of it.

  9. I think Tory has a point.

    A substantial degree of tactical unwind could happen here in 2015 due to a loathing of the Lib Dem part of the coalition amongst an increasing number of Tory voters. It’s very possible that there will be a sizeable number of Tories who would rather Labour win the seat than the Lib Dems.

    But I agree that Hughes is a shrewd operator and is wise to have turned down a cabinet position in the coalition (assuming he was offered one).

  10. My personal view is that Hughes will retain a large part of the natural Tory vote here and therefore hold his seat by a couple of thousand.

    The Tory-inclined vote here is much bigger than it used to be due to gentrification along the river. It is very city influenced, and therefore younger and more small-l liberal than the average Tory voter. As someone said above, Hughes has been more carefully supportive of the coalition than most left-leaning Lib Dems, almost certainly because he knows he has to keep this demographic on-board in his own seat.

    This is also the kind of place where, due to the large amount of city workers, the Tory vote might prefer a Lib Dem approach to Europe than that of a Tory party that’s inexorarbly moving towards exit.

    Lastly this seat is Eastleigh-esque in terms of Lib Dem presence on the ground and on the council. I agree with the earlier comment that next year’s council elections will be an interesting pointer to the general election. Not just whether Labour win seats from the Lib Dems, but whether the Tories can make any breakthrough in the increasingly wealthy wards like Rotherhithe.

  11. ‘The Ministry of Sound is perhaps the only nightclub in Britain which manages to be pompous. Reading that didn’t improve my opinion of it’

    I used to go there in the 90s

    Reading the above has certainly improved my opinion of it

  12. 2010 local elections:

    LDs won all 3 seats in Cathedrals, Grange. Riverside, Rotherhithe, South Bermondsey, Surrey Docks.

    Labour won all 3 seats in East Walworth.

    2 LDs, 1 Lab: Chaucer.

    2 Lab, 1 LD: Newington.

  13. After 2nd preferences, in May 2012 Boris carried Riverside and Surrey Docks wards.

    He was less than 5% behind Livingstone in Cathedrals, Grange and Rotherhithe.

    South Bermondsey, East Walworth, Chaucer and Newington were won easily by Ken.

    I think that neatly characterises which of the Lib Dem wards have natural Tory-leanings and which are vulnerable to Labour.

  14. Boris carried South Bermondsey in 2008 which was perjaps the most bizarre of all the results that year

  15. Maybe it was the last bastion of old WWC Bermondsey.

    Just look out of the train window on the way in to London Bridge and you will see how it has changed very fast since then.

  16. Hughes has backed the govt on all the key issues. Millionaires tax cut, tuition fees increase (20% of the constituency are FT students), VAT increase, bedroom tax, cuts to HB/Tax credits/Child Benefit.

    Lab needs circa 4.5k LibDem voters to transfer and Hughes has lost. There must be at least that number willing to punish him for backing what many progressive voters would describe as classic Tory policies.

    That’s notwithstanding Tory tactical voters who might still back Hughes. But it’s unlikely given the hatred so many Tory voters now have for the LibDems..

    I think Hughes loses in 2015.

  17. According to the polls, Hughes will lose in 2015. My gut feeling is that it will be very close. Labour has achieved very strong swings in council by-elections and there is a strong possibility they might just make it. What the party will do is paint Hughes as a Tory – Hughes is Clegg’s deputy and Clegg is Cameron’s deputy. They will use his voting record and by that he will lose support. Labour is likely to select Prem Goyal who is a very strong campaigner and local activist who is very popular around Bermondsey. In May 2015, ‘were you up for Hughes’ will be something that we surprise even the Labour party.

  18. As almost everyone who knows me is aware, I absolutely hate Simon Hughes. However, I have to point out to Bob that there’s only been one by-election in the constituency since 2010, in E Walworth ward, and though Labour did hold it (it’s the only 100% Labour-held ward in the constituency), it was only with a modest swing – not the “very strong swing” he speaks of. I do still believe that a properly focussed campaign could still make this a good contest, but at the moment there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that Hughes is on his way out. I’d love to be proved wrong but my gut feeling is that he will stay.

  19. I think you are wrong. It was a strong swing to Labour, which if replicated could be toxic for Hughes. Also, you are failing to take into account other by-elections in other council seats across Southwark. I ahve also been privy to information on his seat and Labour made 1,000 contacts in that seat and less than 3% said they’d vote for him. Also, the polls show that under a national swing, he’s gone. With a strong campaign and a strong candidate, he’ll be on his way out. Come down to BOS and campaign!

  20. It looks like Simon Hughes is going a bit fey on same-sex marriage. I honestly don’t think there are many seats where this would make a difference, but if there was something designed to irritate the young, socially and culturally liberal voters in the more Yuppified bits of Bermondsey that Hughes needs to win, it would be this.

    “I ahve also been privy to information on his seat and Labour made 1,000 contacts in that seat and less than 3% said they’d vote for him.”

    That number is so small that it translates to me as Labour going door-knocking in a reliably Labour area, or even knocking up their own supporters, and being told that they won’t be voting for Simon Hughes. Well, knock me down with a feather. It’s a completely useless figure, even before you get to the fact that people lie to canvassers (‘Hello, I’m Jim from the Labour Party. Will you be voting for Simon Hughes, Spawn of Satan and Father of Lies at the election in three years time?’). I’m somewhat more pessimistic about Hughes’s chances than Barnaby, but as I’ve said elsewhere we really don’t have any solid idea of what chance any of the London LDs actually have.

  21. Please don’t imply I’m “optimistic”! I absolutely cannot STAND Simon Hughes. But history suggests he is very difficult to write off. Current opinion polls suggest it would be very, very close here, but it would only take a very minor LD recovery between now & 2015 for the LDs to be the favourites even before one considers his personal vote, which is, I deeply regret, quite considerable.

  22. Also, do I really need to go back just a few posts and remind people yet again that this seat is no longer a simple Lib-Lab fight.

    The areas along the riverside, perhaps equating to one third of the seat’s population, have gentrified beyond recognition, with the banker demographic now stretching all the way from London Bridge to Rotherhithe.

    Simon Hughes’ voter base is fast moving from one based almost entirely on Labour-leaning council estate votes to one based at least partly on tactical votes from Tory-inclined city workers. It probably won’t do Hughes as much harm to be seen as a pro-coalition Lib Dem as it would have done 5 or 10 years ago due to these demographic shifts. Certainly a campaign trying to incite left-leaning voters to punish his treachery is much less likely to succeed here than it is in Brent South or even Hornsey & Wood Green. Lastly, the Lib Dems here have dominated most of the wards of this seat for the past 20 or 30 years, to an Eastleigh-esque degree which pre-dates their success almost anywhere else in London except possibly Richmond and Sutton. As Barnaby says, that factor alone will make Hughes as hard to shift as he has been when Labour have had wind in their sales nationally before – as in 1992 and 1997.

  23. In the mid term of the 1987 to 1992 parliament with the SDP Liberal Alliance reduced to single figure ‘Salads’ and ‘Owenite SDP’ I did feel that Hughes with a majority that had fallen from over 5000 to under 3000 was not just doomed but would have lost by several thousand.

    In the 1992 BBC Election coverage DD commented “He was throught to be in some diffuculty there but appears to have been in absolutly no difficulty whatsoever” to the news that Hughes had retained his seat by over 9000.

    Hughes had a history of pulling things off in a very working class constituency (with a thin layer of riverside gentrifcation that made the seat appear to outsiders as much more mixed than it actually was).

    In the past Hughes needed to take large numbers of traditional Labour votes to win because there was no Tory vote left to squeeze.

    That Riverside layer has now expanded massively, and there is now a Tory vote of nearly 8000 for Hughes to squeeze in 2015.

  24. “That Riverside layer has now expanded massively, and there is now a Tory vote of nearly 8000 for Hughes to squeeze in 2015.”

    Even that significantly understates the gentrification that is taking place. A fair number of banker types will have voted for Hughes and Lib Dem councillors in 2010 based on the Tories being in a poor 3rd in the seat.

    And there has been a lot of further new development since 2010.

  25. @Bob

    For sure no-one in a call centre or similar will ever vote for an Indian.

  26. Labour drew up their shortlist yesterday. I don’t have the full list but Prem Goyal, Richard Livingstone (Livesey Cllr), Neil Coyle (Newington Cllr) and Gavin Edwards (Peckham Rye Cllr) are in it.

    If somebody else has been shortlisted (up to 2 more), it’s probably a woman.

    Anyway, the 4 with the biggest online presence are the ones listed.

  27. is richard livingstone related to ken

  28. I really hope the progressive, socially liberal vote here abandons Hughes and mobilises behind Labour. Hughes makes great play out of being a strong ‘liberal’ and the conscience of his party. Yet his behaviour around the equal marriage Bill and his support for enshrining anti-gay discrimination in law (registrar opt-out) shows he has a very strange and distorted view of liberalism indeed.

    I will be watching this seat very closely on election night and will cheer strongly if Hughes goes down to defeat.

  29. Outside of Islington, Camden, Haringey, Brighton, and a few university campuses, the “progressive, socially liberal” vote would fit inside a phone box.

    It certainly isn’t any meaningful presence here.

    As with your previous comment on Brent Central, I’m guessing Hughes voted with his mind on pleasing the quite considerable black vote here, and contrasting it with the more liberal views of his likely Labour opponents.

    While many of his other voters may be broadly in favour of gay marriage most will not consider his views on it to be all that important, certainly not given that his only vote against it was on a small technicality in the bill.

  30. The Labour shortlist is the 4 men I mentioned above + Stephanie Cryan

    Selection on June 8th

  31. Going back a couple of weeks, but the fact that only 3% said they’d vote Lib Dem is anything but surprising. Only a tiny proportion of the Lib Dem vote will actually admit it’s the Lib Dem vote.

  32. There are progressive, socially liberal people in just about every urban seat.
    They are actually very important on the left because they vote. Always. So they have an influence which outweighs their number
    But if we think about the number of public sector/higher degree level jobs there are – and the fact they do vote Labour heavily – they are by no means just a few.

  33. It depends of course what you mean by progressive and socially liberal.

    Progressive can also mean support for high taxation etc, which many socially conservative people also support.

    Socially liberal can include many people who simply have a live and let live attitude to life.

    But in the context that Adam was talking about – I stand by my view that outside of a few key areas there will be hardly any people who are so obsessed by gay marriage that it will affect their vote one way or the other.

    Incidentally it is a mistake to assume that all or even most people in the urban public sector are progressives and social liberals – even if most do vote Labour.

  34. socially liberal means snearing at things like marriage, monarchy, patriotism, etc,
    but from a comfortabe position.

  35. human rights lawyer types

  36. That wouldn’t be my definition of socially liberal, but it means different things to different people.

  37. Well, there are different kinds of social liberal. I suppose conservative-liberals (or libertarians as one might call them) are concerned with negative freedoms whereas left-liberals are more interested in positive rights.

  38. “socially liberal means snearing at things like marriage, monarchy, patriotism, etc,
    but from a comfortabe position.”

    What a ridiculous comment.

    I would see ‘social liberalism’ as a positive attitude towards matters such as immigration, gay rights and other changes in society over the past 20-30 years. It is more associated with the politics of the centre-left, but many Conservatives could also be regarded as socially liberal.

  39. I would query that definition of social liberalism, not least because not all changes in society have furthered the freedom of the individual- but I see what you’re getting at, James.

  40. Let’s put all this social liberalism or not aside. There are very strong candidates in particular Prem Goyal and Neil Coyle – both men have proven track records and would bring excellent qualities to the Labour Party. Prem would be an excellent MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark in my view, but we will see. According to the national swing, BOS would be a Labour seat in 2015 but he has a strong personal vote. However, this personal vote could easily be demolished and turned to dislike if Labour exposes Hughes’ voting record on spending cuts, tax changes, bedroom tax (which would effect BOS in particular), gay marriage and the fact he is the deputy of Nick Clegg. Labour can win here but it needs to start from day 1 of the selection.

  41. A few quick points in response:

    *Equal Marriage and human rights/equality issues more generally are very important to many socially liberal activists who I would think make up a strong component of the Lib Dem membership. With his opposition to this reform (and the same goes for Teather in Brent) he will have alienated and annoyed many Lib Dem foot soliders who may not be very inclined to campaign for him come 2015.

    “Equal Marriage, while clearly important in its own right, also has a symbolic appeal beyond the issue itself, particularly for younger voters in urban areas who quite correctly see it as a kind of litmus test for the political and social values of a candidate. If I was Hughes Labour opponent, I would seek to mobilise and reach out to this vote. Obama certainly benefited from such a strategy in 2012.

    *I also don’t regard Hughes opposition to equal marriage as a technicality and neither should most voters when confronted with his quotes. He takes a religious fundamentalist line on the issue (which is ok for him personally) but then seeks to have such a view codified in law – all the more incredible when he waxes lyrical about his ‘social liberalism’. A double standard which raises wider questions about his credibility.

    Labour have a real shot at this seat and the socially liberal vote could play a significant role in any victory.

  42. “socially liberal means snearing at things like marriage, monarchy, patriotism, etc,
    but from a comfortabe position”

    Perfect description JJB

  43. Really? All socially liberal people sneer at marriage?

  44. “Really? All socially liberal people sneer at marriage?”

    Certainly not all Barnaby, but there is definately an element of sneering at traditional marriage (meanwhile they love the idea of Gay Marriage). Maybe it’s not sneering at marriage… but more the traditional roles of men and women that used to come with marriage.

    I also think the socially liberal are not so social or liberal if you disagree with them.

  45. Many – even most – of the people who elevate the institution of marriage on a pedestal to such a ridiculous degree are not married themselves!! In all probability the commentators here prove the point.

    I consider myself happily married and mildly socially liberal (as opposed to a more extreme liberal like Merseymike). Marriage is about give and take and compromise, companionship and providing a safe and loving environment for children. But although it works for me and my family I’m not so arrogant as to think there are not others who lead equally happy lives who do not believe in marriage….that is their right and I have no right to sneer at them.

  46. “but more the traditional roles of men and women that used to come with marriage.”


    Try getting married these days and trying to get your wife to fulfil her “traditional role”.

    Best of luck with that one!!

  47. No LBernard, what a lot of us who consider ourselves social liberal object to is not differing opinions but when you try to curtail the rights of others. As a gay man, I demand nothing more and nothing less than equality, which includes the right to marriage. Something that will not effect your life in the slighest but which has the potential to bring great joy to mine. That is the crucial distinction here and I’m fairly confident most liberal minded people would agree with me.

    Simon Hughes, although parading as a liberal, has decided to put his religious beliefs ahead of his much vaunted liberalism and I hope he pays the price at the next election.

  48. “I’m fairly confident most liberal minded people would agree with me.”

    They probably do, including myself, but – horror of horrors – at the same time as vaguely agreeing with you on the point of principle, the vast majority of liberal minded heterosexuals are not especially bothered about this issue and it’s certainly not going to determine which way they vote over more pressing things like the economy.

    Someone should have told David Cameron that as well.

  49. “Simon Hughes, although parading as a liberal, has decided to put his religious beliefs ahead of his much vaunted liberalism and I hope he pays the price at the next election”

    So in other words, because he didn’t blindly follow suit he should lose his seat? And there’s me thinking that Liberal minded people are supposed to be tolerant of others beliefs. This is why I wrote

    “I also think the socially liberal are not so social or liberal if you disagree with them”

  50. There’s a massive black church on the Elephant & Castle roundabout which has a congregation of thousands. There are numerous others nearby, particularly at the poorer Camberwell end of the seat where he will be most under threat from Labour.

    Hughes is politicking for conservative black votes, whether or not his views on gay marriage are sincerely held.

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