Lewisham East by-election: The stats behind the political story

Catford cat
Fur flying: Catford is the largest town centre in Lewisham East

The Westminster circus is parking its caravans in south-east London ahead of the Lewisham East by-election on 14 June, caused by the departure of Labour MP Heidi Alexander. Yet many of the statistics about the area spouted in the early stages of the poll have been misleading or just plain wrong. 853‘s resident stats geek CLARE GRIFFITHS sets the rccord straight. Note: you will learn something from reading this.

This article presents demographic data followed by information on social deprivation and child and adult health. Following that is some data on recent general elections and the EU referendum. Data sources are given on the maps and tables and links provided at the end.

This is not a piece about the runners and riders in the Labour selection process, nor in the by-election itself.

(Saturday 19 May update: Janet Daby has been selected as Labour’s candidate.)

Where is Lewisham East? It’s not quite where you think is

Lewisham East

This map shows the boundary of Lewisham East overlaid on Open Street Map data. Its largest town centre is actually Catford – it only covers one side of the centre of Lewisham itself, around Lee High Road and Lewisham Hill. It borders Greenwich borough – the Greenwich & Woolwich and Eltham constituencies – in Blackheath, Lee and Grove Park, whilst its southern border, at Downham, is with the Bromley & Chislehurst constituency.

To the west, around Bellingham and Sydenham, it borders Lewisham West & Penge, and once you go back north of the South Circular, it borders Lewisham Deptford at Blythe Hill Fields. Much of Lewisham itself is actually in Lewisham Deptford, as is most of Hither Green.

Population data

Population: Lewisham East is full of families

Lewisham East has more children than England as a whole, slightly fewer young adults, more working age adults, and fewer pensioners.

Population data

The population pyramid shows fewer 10-24 year-olds compared with what you might expect. This could be a result of a number of factors. Perhaps parents are happy to stay here when their children are babies or in primary school, but that they leave in search of secondary schools. The further deficit in the early 20s could suggest young people away at university. It could also suggest that people are starting to decide not to move here for work, possibly as a result of increasing costs.

There is a big bulge in the later working ages. Then the population declines dramatically as a result both of people leaving to retire elsewhere and, of course, mortality.

Ethnicity: Lewisham East is a little whiter than you might expect

Ethnicity data

The BME population as at the 2011 census was slightly lower than in Lewisham borough as a whole, though these figures are clearly seven years out of date. The population giving their ethnicity as anything other than “white UK” is also lower than for the borough as whole.

Recent estimates from the Office for National Statistics give the white British population of Lewisham borough as a whole as 48.7%, and an estimate of the BME population as 37.1%, which is lower than other figures I have seen quoted.

How deprived is Lewisham East?

Deprivation stats

On all measures Lewisham East is more deprived than England but slightly less than Lewisham borough as a whole. Child poverty in 2015 stood at 28.3%.

housing data

Just over 10% of households in Lewisham East are fuel poor, meaning they cannot afford to heat their homes properly, this is slightly higher than the borough as a whole. The constituency does worse on overcrowding and on pensioners living alone than England.

How do Lewisham East’s children grow up?

Child health statistics

Lewisham East does better then England as awhole on child development at age 5 (as measured by the Early Years Foundation Stage data from schools), and its GCSE results are similar to England as a whole.

Child obesity stats

In common with most of London, Lewisham East does poorly on measures of child obesity and excess weight.

Child healthcare

The picture of children’s emergency attendances at hospital is mixed. Injury admission rates are either lower than England as a whole or similar, but A&E attendances for 0-4 year olds are worse.

How do Lewisham East’s residents fall ill?

The picture for overall emergency hospital admissions is also mixed – lower rates for heart disease – coronary heart disease (CHD) and MI (heart attacks) shown in the green columns, and higher rates for all causes combined, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), shown in red.

How do the people of Lewisham East die?

Deaths data

Respiratory disease death rates are also worse than for England as whole, cancer and stroke similar and for circulatory disease death rates are lower than for England.

How does Lewisham East vote?

These wards returned 21 out of 21 Labour councillors at the most recent local elections, on 3 May.

How Lewisham East voted, 1992 to 2017

Lewisham East was Conservative from 1983-1992, when the seat was held by Sports Minister Colin Moynihan. The Conservative victory in 1983 was largely as a result of Labour losing votes to the SDP, whose candidate was Polly Toynbee. In 1992 it was won by Bridget Prentice and when she stepped down in 2010, Heidi Alexander took the seat. There have been boundary changes over this time, so the populations aren’t identical.

Colin Moynihan - © Private Eye
Colin Moynihan is best known for being Margaret Thatcher’s minister for sport ( © Private Eye)

Only four parties contested the seat in 1992 – Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and the Natural Law Party. James Cleverly, now an MP in Essex, contested the seat in 2005, gaining 7,512 votes for the Conservatives.

When the seat was created in 1918 the Conservative, Assheton Pownall, was elected unopposed. Herbert Morrison was elected MP for Lewisham East in 1945. The constituency was abolished in 1950 and didn’t reappear until 1974, when a Labour MP, Roland Moyle, was elected.

Lewisham East vote share

It’s difficult to speculate how things will go this time, other than that we might expect a Labour win given past results. Heidi Alexander commanded a large personal vote so it’s possible that the size of the majority will fall, depending on who is selected as the Labour candidate.

Labour sticker
Heidi Alexander commanded a strong personal vote

How did Lewisham East vote in the EU referendum?

The remain vote in Lewisham borough as a whole was high (86,995 (70%), compared with Leave 37,518 (30%)). Unlike neighbouring Greenwich, there is no formal data on how each part of the borough voted, but Chris Hanretty estimated the remain vote in Lewisham East to be slightly lower at 65%.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the Liberal Democrats secured their lowest ever percentage vote in Lewisham East (4%) in 2017, even lower than their pre-referendum 2015 vote share of 6%.

Ukip were the third party in 2015, gaining 9% of the vote and that party did fairly well in the south of the constituency in the 2014 council elections. There is not much therefore to suggest a post-Brexit-vote bounce for the Liberal Democrats in the by-election.

Catford centre
The eyes of the political world are already on Catford…

About the data

All of the demographic and health statistics in this piece have been generated using Public Health England’s Local Health tool: localhealth.org.uk. This tool allows you to generate statistics for a selection of areas of your choice, so I generated this information using 2016 wards, selecting the seven wards that make up Lewisham East parliamentary consituency (Blackheath, Lee Green, Grove Park, Rushey Green, Catford South, Whitefoot and Downham). This has the advantage of meaning that only the area of interest is included, rather than the whole of Lewisham borough. It’s very easy to produce a report like this for any selection of areas you wish, why not give it a go yourself? (Note: the author works for Public Health England in the team that produces this web tool, PHE does not endorse this report or any opinions in it). Electoral data comes from Wikipedia.

Clare Griffiths tweets at @statsgeekclare. For more information about voting – or standing – in the Lewisham East by-election, visit Lewisham Council’s website.

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