Following my article on contact rates in marginal seats last Friday, and Harry Phibbs’ piece this morning on the potential impact of councillor numbers on the campaign, we’ve got some interesting new information on the ground war. By looking at the nomination returns for the local elections taking place in May we can see how many seats each party is contesting.
Based on 99.48 per cent of the nominations data, and 277 of the 279 councils in which elections are taking place (Calderdale and North Kesteven were late making the information available), we can see that:
- The Conservatives are contesting 93.26 per cent of seats
- Labour are contesting 75.13 per cent
- The Lib Dems are standing in 45.98 per cent…
- …which is only slightly ahead of UKIP, who have candidates in 43.67 per cent of seats
- Despite claiming higher membership than the Lib Dems or UKIP, the Greens are only standing in 37.75 per cent.
Of course, having a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in contention to win, but it is a sign of a local activist base and a willingness to compete at minimum.
There are a few interesting points to note:
- There is a lower proportion of UKIP candidates than in 2013. Their targeting effort is visible, though – they’re contesting all the seats in Thurrock and Thanet, for example. In Boston, supposedly a stronger area, they’re falling short, contesting only 18 out of the 30 available seats.
- While there’s always talk of Conservative grassroots decline, it’s striking that there are quite a few areas where Labour appear to be almost extinct. They are only standing for: 1 seat out of 53 in Herefordshire; 1 seat out of 37 in South Holland; 2 seats out of 38 in Eden; 3 seats out of 29 in East Dorset; 3 seats out of 26 in Rutland; 4 seats out of 34 in Richmondshire; 6 seats out of 59 in East Devon; 7 seats out of 34 in the Cotswolds; 7 seats out of 40 in Mid Suffolk; 9 seats out of 38 in the Malvern Hills; and 9 seats out of 43 in North Devon. That looks like a party which is giving up in some sizeable areas.
- By contrast, the number of councils in which the Conservative candidates can be counted in single figures is much lower. We are only contesting 4 seats out of 37 in Bolsover; 4 seats out of 36 in Mansfield; and 9 seats out of 22 in Knowsley.
There’s always some variation in figures for different years, because different batches of seats come up, but it’s interesting nonetheless. These are quite heartening – news of the death of the Tory grassroots is greatly exaggerated.