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General Election 2017: Is Labour under threat in London?

London Taxi outside polling station Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour currently hold 45 of the capital's 73 seats in Westminster

Many may think it's a foregone conclusion but in London this election is very difficult to read.

Long-standing Labour dominance in the capital, along with a Remain majority, make it more complicated to assess the impact of Brexit and the concerns over Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

In these circumstances exactly how feelings over Europe will cut across constituency and party boundaries is hard to predict.

General Election 2017

Here's a key seat which exemplifies the potential forces in terms of Brexit, while ignoring for a moment questions over Labour.

In Ealing Central and Acton, Labour is defending a majority of 274. It's an area which voted strongly for Remain.

Image copyright Labour Party
Image caption Rupa Huq refused to vote for triggering Article 50

Rupa Huq, the Labour candidate and the MP here for two years, burnished her Remain credentials when she refused to vote, against the whip, for triggering Article 50.

Her position may have been boosted by the Greens withdrawing - assuming that a fair few of the 1,841 voters who backed them in 2015 will now support Labour.

However, UKIP have also withdrawn leaving their 1,926 supporters facing, it's assumed, a choice between staying at home, and the Conservatives.

The unknown quantity - but potentially key determinant - is how the Liberal Democrats fare.

Not long ago this was a seat characterised as a three-way marginal, but the Lib Dems' vote share collapsed by 21% in 2015.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Green Party has no candidate in Ealing Central and Acton

If support returns for the party because it is seen as providing the only true Remain alternative to May's Brexit, then Huq enters the danger zone.

If that support comes from previous Tory voters, then she should be safe - and a useful gauge of the extent of anti-Brexit feeling established.

The west London constituency is one of those which has assumed significance in a bigger Brexit conflict, with Huq promised support by the Best for Britain lobby group.

There's an arc of seats curling out to west and south-west London which could theoretically tell us how far anger at the Brexit decision is holding, or whether it is already shifting to a more pragmatic assessment of who is best able to make it happen to the least disadvantage.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May will be hoping to end Labour's dominance in the capital

Hammersmith, Westminster North, Harrow West, Brentford and Isleworth are the kind of seats that - in the normal run of things after seven years of Tories in government and with Remain instincts strong in London - Labour should have felt confident of retaining.

But this is by no means the case.

In fact, some now think that the fortress of support for Labour, created by Tony Blair and durable for the past two decades, could at last be stormed.

Going into this election Labour have 45 of the capital's 73 seats, against the Conservatives' 26. Yet might this be the point where the Tories achieve numerical superiority for the first time in a quarter of a century?

It is the Labour nightmare.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption UKIP has mustered 48 candidates in London's 73 constituencies

The reason it has become more conceivable is not just the general mood of the moment: the crises of confidence, dissolving alliances and changing loyalties.

It's UKIP.

Caught on the hop organisationally and licking its wounds after a virtual wipe out in the local elections, the party has mustered candidates in only 48 of London's 73 constituencies.

It has branded this as a strategic withdrawal - in the country's interests - from seats where it is encouraging its supporters to vote to protect incumbent Brexiteer Tories, or to back Tory challengers to unseat Labour Remainers.

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Many will see this as jumping before being pushed.

But if those previously voting for UKIP have decided the party has now served its purpose, are those that beforehand voted Labour going to return to the fold? Or journey onto the Conservatives?

If it is the latter, a handful more Labour-held seats including Eltham, Enfield North, Dagenham and Rainham, could fall to the Tories.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Will Sarah Olney be able to defeat Zac Goldsmith for a second time in Richmond Park?

And so much for the Lib Dems storming back in Twickenham, holding on from Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park, and restoring Kingston.

A collapsing UKIP could well mean the Lib Dems' longest-standing erstwhile London MP Tom Brake being at risk of defeat in Carshalton and Wallington.

One little note of caution on the extent of any Labour crisis.

The latest YouGov poll of voting intentions in London for the Evening Standard has the Conservatives on 36%, up 2%, but Labour up 4% on 41% - and this is since the election was called.

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