Keith Prince vs Damian White: 2022 Conservative Leadership Contest

Keith is a Conservative superstar1 and fancies himself. He was re-elected a GLA Member in May, 2021 but it was a joyless victory. Sadiq Khan’s London Labour are tightening their grip and that’s the kiss of death for Keith who wants to be a mover-and-shaker. Keith now has his sights on Havering. The Havering Conservative Leadership election, 2022, could be blood-thirsty.

Political ironies pile up. Damian is vacating his seat in Squirrels Heath and moving to Havering-Atte-Bower. And who steps into Squirrels Heath ward? Keith!

Damian shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s politically adroit and built a coalition in 2018 out of nothing. For four years he’s used Special Responsibility Allowances2 for the only electorate that matters: Conservative councillors. But that was then. What can Keith offer?

It takes a very brave Leader to re-jig allowances when it’s going to cost councillors money. Neither are going to do that. So the election depends on other things.And what might they be?

Damian has amiable contempt for his colleagues, which he conceals badly. The Bob Perry revelations about possible gerrymandering showed Damian’s unpleasant side. He’s also keen on councillors pulling their weight when it comes to campaigning. This is unpopular with elderly Conservatives who want a quiet life. Perhaps Keith will be more understanding?

This is predicated on the Conservatives forming an administration in 2022, which is far from certain. Keith could find himself rejected by Squirrels Heath’s voters and nursing even more thwarted ambitions.

Notes

1 Keith was a Havering councillor 1990-5; a Redbridge councillor 2003-18 (Leader 2009-14); GLA member 2016-present. He was re-elected in 2021 with a majority of 15,327

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) For the allowances of individual councillors see Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary This is slightly out of date but gives a reasonable idea.

Havering’s 2022 Election: Is Damian White Doomed?

Local elections are usually a verdict on mid-term governments, except in east Havering where Resident Associations (RAs) dominate.

Damian knows that in a ‘good’ year, 20181, he didn’t get a majority. He used nifty political footwork and created a majority from renegade RAs.2 Damian looks doomed in 2022 because of his reliance on Romford’s heartlands.3 Romford Conservatives have massive majorities and look impregnable. This is an illusion. No-one survives a vicious political swing, as John Major found out in 1997.

Brexit isn’t the Promised Land of milk and honey. The details will be forgotten by the electorate but there’s a feeling it’s been badly handled. Who’d have expected foreign HGV drivers to be imported to rescue Christmas? And the hospitality sector is reeling from staff shortages.

Damian is facingnational tax increases four weeks before the election. Inflation is rocketing, with electric, gas and petrol leading the way, closely followed by the price of poultry. And saving rates are a joke. Poor council finances means tax increases will be substantial. More trivially, after 20 years the electorate’s bored with Conservatives.

2022 should produce an RA majority but they might implode 2018 style.4 Damian Lazarus White wants to be Leader and knows how to get it. Is there an RA who’s as keen on power as Damian?

Isn’t Havering fascinating?

Notes

1 Jeremy Corbyn was the Labour Leader and Brexit was the Promised Land.

2 See Damian White’s Political Arithmetic – Politics in Havering

3 Local Elections 2018 | The London Borough Of Havering

4 What will happen to the Harold Wood 3? Can anyone work with Jeff Tucker? These are just two significant challenges for an in-coming RA Administration

Damian White’s Political Arithmetic

Damian is a politician, which is a precarious job. In 2018, he finessed a brilliant coup.1 Building on his Romford heartlands he’s maintained a minority administration ever since. Now it’s unravelling.

Michael Deon Burton (South Hornchurch) 48 hours after being elected a Residents’ Association (RA) councillor he joined Damian’s Conservatives, seizing his baubles. His chances in 2022 are nil.

Sally Miller (Elm Park) An RA convert to Damian’s Conservatism. Her Elm Park seat will be RA again after she abandons it.

John Mylod (St Andrew’s) Left his RA group immediately before the 2018 election after a row. He retained it on a personal vote. This seat will probably revert to the RAs.

The Harold Wood Three They discovered the joys of Damian’s baubles but stayed in the RAs. I think they’ll lose in 2022. It’s problematic who’ll win with multiple candidates.

Damian’s arithmetic = minus six?

Damian might win six seats. Rainham is unlikely but South Hornchurch is a lottery with poor RA councillors leaving a poisoned legacy. Beam Park is an unknown and it’s only two seats. New wards in Romford are competitive and Damian can’t take them for granted. He might lose. RA heartlands are as safe as Romford and so the bizarre world of Havering politics jogs on.2

The Conservatives need a terrific 2022 Election. If the RAs unite, Damian is looking at an enormous pay-cut.

Notes

1 Havering Council: Damian White gets power, May 2018 – Politics in Havering

2 The Bizarre World of Hornchurch and Upminster Politics – Politics in Havering