On Thursday 3 May, the country goes to the polls. The local elections are the first since the snap general election on 8 June 2017, and are set against a background of national political instability. So as the public have their say, what can we expect as the results start to come through?
The big picture
It has not been the easiest of weeks for the Prime Minister. Following the resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary late on Sunday evening in the wake of the Windrush scandal and confusion over immigration targets – with the opposition arguing that Rudd was ‘carrying the can’ for the Prime Minister – Theresa May has had to mastermind a mini-reshuffle to complete her cabinet.
There is constant scrutiny of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, with last year’s general election weakening rather than strengthening the UK’s Brexit negotiation power. It will be interesting to see whether the split in public opinion on Brexit between London and other regions is reflected in the electoral fortunes of the parties, if Leave-supporting voters prove more willing to back the Conservatives.
The Prime Minister may be preparing for a long election night. A ComRes opinion poll this week revealed, however, that almost half of Britons think Labour would be worse for the economy, which is traditionally a good indicator of electoral performance. Labour, moreover, has had a tumultuous few weeks. Public recriminations about anti-Semitism have been unwelcome so close to an election. And for all that no government wants to lose a Cabinet member in election week, the Conservatives would much rather they were talking about deporting illegal immigrants, where they believe they enjoy public support, than the Windrush scandal.
Ones to watch
Before we look at London – where every borough is up for election, with Labour hoping to make major gains – it is worth a look outside the capital, with seats being contested on approximately 150 councils. Labour had a good year in 2014, when these council seats were last up for election, which means they have more to defend this time around.
Several big cities, including Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, are having all-out elections. Labour is targeting Trafford, currently the only Greater Manchester council it does not control. Since Labour launched its local election campaign in the borough, their failing to take control would be seen as a blow. Across the Pennines, Dan Jarvis MP is the favourite to become mayor of the Sheffield City Region and follow Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram from Westminster to city hall.
Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats are defending six councils, and the Green Party are defending 2,200 seats. In 2014, UKIP was approaching its high-water mark as an electoral force, attracting more votes than any party other than Labour or the Conservatives: they are likely to lose a lot of that ground.
Metropolitan battle lines
London will be a key battleground, and is always a focus for media attention. Labour will be looking to take a number of flagship boroughs from the Conservatives, arguably setting expectations so high that they will be difficult to meet. Boroughs to watch include the traditional Conservative strongholds of Wandsworth and Westminster, heavily targeted by Labour. Similarly, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is likely to be closely watched as the handling of the Grenfell tragedy continues to be scrutinised.
Time will tell…
Political prediction has become a very risky game in recent years, and it is likely that the electoral map will tell different stories in different parts of the country come Friday morning. What we do know is that the election will help us answer some important questions about the state of British politics.
- Will election results in London reflect those elsewhere, or show growing differences?
- Will the Conservatives lose control of electoral bastions, or hold out?
- What happens to the 2014 UKIP vote?
- Can the Liberal Democrats rebuild the local base they need to support a stronger national party?
At Redwood Consulting, we will be watching all of the action unfold, and will keep you updated as England makes its views known.