Could central London change hands for the first time?

Cities of London and Westminster, the home constituency of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul's Cathedral, has never woken up to a Labour MP since its creation in 1950.

Stretching as far east as Liverpool Street and as far west as Hyde Park, the heart of London may be one of the most diverse constituencies.

It has some of the capital's most exclusive areas such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge, some of the most bustling ones including Soho and Convent Garden - areas which make up a large part of London's £14bn tourism industry - as well as residential estates in Pimlico and Paddington.

This seat is up there on Labour’s wish-list for Thursday's election - and Conservative candidate, Tim Barnes, a local resident who has been a councillor for many years, may have a battle on his hands.

Resident David, who has dark hair and small beard and is wearing a blue Nike top
Pimlico resident David says he has been a Tory voter for eight years [BBC]

Labour took control of the borough council, Westminster Council, in momentous local election results two years ago.

The party's parliamentary candidate Rachel Blake is a councillor in Tower Hamlets in east London.

The Tory share of the vote dipped by 7% at the last election in 2019, while pro-Remain and anti-Corbyn feeling combined to benefit the Liberal Democrats in the shape of Labour defector Chuka Umunna who came second.

"For the past eight years, I've voted Conservative," Pimlico resident David told BBC London near Churchill Gardens estate.

"My wife votes Labour most of the time - this time we're in the middle, maybe we can vote together."

Resident Kay
Resident Kay believes the Conservative Party did a good job through Covid [BBC]

Another resident, Kay, said: "A lot of us have very short memories, it was only four years ago that we had Covid, and I think the government did a really good job of getting us all vaccinated."

It is a view Conservative candidate Mr Barnes shares.

"The unwinding of Covid problems, pushed up debt inflation, and if Rishi hadn't put the Furlough Scheme, our economic situation would be a lot worse," he says.

Conservative candidate Tim Barnes, who has a grey beard and is wearing a shirt and sitting on a bench
Conservative candidate Tim Barnes thinks the contest is anyone's game [BBC]

As for whether the constituency could be changing colours, Mr Barnes says he is not expecting any "surprises" but that nothing is set in stone.

"I read about what's happening nationally, but it isn't what I find is happening here," he says.

"Weirdly, the politics here is quite inward looking and they're concerned about local issues

"Our [the Conservative] support is pretty much where it was before, it was always a three-way marginal."

He said e-bikes and crimes such as shop-lifting and phone theft were some of the issues that he found residents cared about, and that he planned to focus on, if elected.

Labour candidate Rachel Blake, who has dark hair, is wearing a sleeveless white shirt and is sitting on a bench, smiling at the camera
Labour candidate Rachel Blake says housing will be one of her major focuses [BBC]

Labour candidate Rachel Blake says problems that also exist on a national scale - such as housing, the NHS and the cost of living - are her focus.

"Some of the issues we face here around short-term lets are particularly significant," she says.

"We're losing thousands of homes here and that's something I'd really like to tackle.

"The first step is to establish economic stability because that will create the conditions for investment for affordable homes."

She says the seat is an "absolute target" for Labour.

Liberal Democrat Edward Lucas says his aim is to beat Labour to "squeeze the Tories".

"It's absolutely clear that Labour are in the running to be the government and also in this seat, but they're not winning this 50% of the vote," he says.

"They can be beaten and they are vulnerable to changes and indecision, they don't care about Europe the way voters here care about Europe."

You can find a full list of candidates for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency here.

Additional reporting by Alpa Patel and Tim Donovan.

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