I’m expecting UKIP to top the polls in the Euro Elections, yet their performance in the council elections taking place the same day could be pretty derisory. Our increasingly fractious and sophisticated electorate will, to an unprecedented extent, vote for one party on one ballot paper and, just a couple of second later, a different party on another ballot paper.
This difficulty for UKIP is increased by the focus on London. That is where all full council elections are taking place – in most of the rest of the country it is only a third of seats. In some rather promising UKIP territory – such as places like Medway along the Kent coast – there are no elections at all.
Although UKIP has done quite well with defections, this does not seem to have galvanised them as much as one might expect in terms of campaigning. In Hounslow, for example, I was dismayed by the defection of four Conservative councillors to UKIP last year. However for the 60 council seats, UKIP are only fielding 17 candidates. (Actually 16 as one of them have been ditched after supporting slavery.)
Then there is Merton. Last year three councillors defected to UKIP. But of the 60 council seats there are only a dozen UKIP candidates. (Actually 11 as they also had to ditch a candidate whose views they accepted as “repellent” and which included, er, support for slavery.)
Bexley has no UKIP councillors at present but it might offer better prospects for them. They have 21 candidates there. Similarly Havering, where they have a councillor from winning a byelection. They are fielding 30 candidates for the 54 seats. In Redbridge there are 16 UKIP candidates. I suspect they will mostly help Labour take control of the council – but perhaps one of two UKIP councillors will get elected.
Then there is Barking and Dagenham where UKIP have 21 candidates. So some UKIP clusters may well be seen in council chambers in outer London.
In the county council elections last year UKIP’s interventions clearly harmed the Conservatives more than Labour. With the district council elections it is hard to predict but there could be patchy gains. In Huntingdonshire, for example, there is a full slate of UKIP candidates.
Gaining some seats from Labour in Barking and Dagenham might help UKIP counter the message that all they do is split votes from the Tories and let Labour in. They might also hope that it will create pressure on Ed Miliband from within the Labour Party to offer a referendum on EU membership.
Elsewhere in the country there could be some chances for UKIP to take Labour scalps. They have full slates in Dudley and Doncaster. Given that Doncaster used to have an English Democrat Mayor there should be some potential for UKIP gains.
If UKIP gains over 100 seats that would be a good performance for them. 50-100 would be within expectations, while anything below 50 would be pretty disappointing. Just as important as the tally will be it including a mix of gains from Labour as well as the Conservatives. It is unlikely that UKIP will do well enough in the council elections to indicate that their Euro Elections performance can be applied elsewhere.