London Elections 2022: Spotlight on Islington – the key facts, big issues and political makeup

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n May 5, voters across the UK will go to the polls to decide who will lead their local authority.

In Islington, it is the Green Party which is the opposition, and which poses perhaps the greatest threat to eat away at the Labor majority.

Key questions

As the Tories have struggled to gain ground in Islington since the turn of the millennium, the party is hoping to capitalize on local anger over the Low Traffic Neighborhood (LTN) schemes.

Seven LTNs were introduced in Islington during the Covid-19 pandemic with the aim of encouraging walking and cycling; but they proved to be a divisive issue with both vocal support and fierce opposition.

Groups of pro and anti-LTN activists gathered in protests outside Islington Town Hall in March as the council debated a petition against the schemes.

While the Tories hope the issue will be enough to eat away at Labour’s support, the results of last year’s by-elections suggest the issue alone will not be enough to win over voters. Labor successfully defended five seats in last year’s by-elections, beating out candidates who campaigned on an anti-LTN platform.

Elsewhere, the Green Party can hope to strengthen its ranks in council after relative success in London Mayoral and London Assembly elections last year, where it increased its share of the popular vote by almost 4 % and won an additional seat in the London Assembly.

The Greens may be hoping to capitalize on their left-leaning progressive party image to win over Islington voters after Labor shifted to the center since Keir Starmer took over as leader in 2020.

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Details

While generally seen today as a stronghold of Labour, the party that has held the majority on the council since 2010, Islington has at various times in its history been under the control of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats, as well as two periods when no party had overall control.

The 2018 local election results in Islington were nearly identical to previous election results, with Labor winning 47 of 48 council seats and the Green Party winning the remaining seat. The only difference in 2018 being a slightly higher share of the popular vote for Labour.

The turnout in 2018 was 38%, just 0.4% lower than in 2014.

Following the findings of the Local Government Boundary Commission, Islington will be divided into 17 wards from this year, an increase of one. There will now be 51 seats up for grabs on Islington Council, up from 48 previously.

A series of resignations, defections and by-elections have upended the political composition of Islington Council since the last local election.

Most notably, Labor councilor Rakhia Ismail quit the party in October 2020 after saying she had experienced racism. She defected to the Tories a month later, becoming the first Tory to sit on Islington council since 1994. Councilor Ismail said she would not stand again in May.

Former Labor councilor Gary Poole, who quit the party in 2019 to sit as an independent councilor citing anti-Semitism within Labour, is also not standing for re-election this year.

A total of six by-elections have been held in Islington since 2018 due to Labor resignations from the council, with the party retaining all six seats. Green Party candidates came second in four of the districts, while Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates finished second in one district each.

In March 2021, council leader Richard Watts resigned and was replaced by Kaya Comer-Schwartz who was chosen unopposed.

Earlier this year, Islington joined many other London councils in raising council tax by 2.99% for 2022/23, which is the maximum allowed without needing a referendum.

Demography

Islington’s population is estimated at around 248,115 according to 2020 figures from the Office for National Statistics. At the 2011 census, the population of the borough was 206,125.

Residents of white British descent make up 47.7% of Islington’s population according to the 2011 census, while people of other white backgrounds make up 16.4%.

About 12.76% of the borough’s population is made up of people of Black or Black British descent, while Asian and Asian British residents make up 9.23%.

Islington has a relatively young population, with a median average age of 34.6 compared to the London average of 35.8.

Working-age adults, aged 18-64, make up 73.8% of Islington’s population, while those aged 17 and under make up 17.4%. Those over 65 represent only 8.8%.

Despite its reputation outside London as an upmarket area home to wealthy professionals, Islington has relatively high levels of deprivation and is the capital’s sixth most deprived borough.

According to Trust for London, 34% of Islington residents live in poverty, which is worse than average. The child poverty rate is 43%. The unemployment rate in the borough is 4.7%.

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