Predictions for the local elections this year are starting to come in thick and fast. Political Betting suggest that the Lib Dem losses might be more modest than generally expected – noting that their showing at Council byelections puts them at 22% just 2% below the 24% vote share they achieved in the 2007 local elections. Could the Council byelections be more reliable than the opinion polls? Even if you split the difference the Lib Dems would do better than expected – given just how dire those expectations are for them.
The MJ says:
The Liberal Democrats’ big remaining northern bridgehead is Newcastle (2004). The Conservatives’ 12 to 15% vote leaves them unrepresented on the 78-seat council, so arithmetic is easy. With the 12% swing since 2007 showing in the polls, Labour would gain the five seats needed to give them an overall majority – but only just. To hold on, therefore, the Liberal Democrats must out-perform the polls, as they habitually did before they joined the coalition government.
Stockport, the Liberal Democrats’ long-standing metropolitan flagship, has lately developed leaks – of both defecting councillors and internal strategy documents (‘Stockileaks’ perhaps).
If Labour is ever to become the largest party, it must be now, but it is challenging from third place in most of the 13 seats Liberal Democrats are defending.
Of the Conservatives’ three mets – Walsall (2000), Dudley (2003) and Trafford (2003) – Trafford may prove the most secure, with the least Conservative-held marginals. There are fewer safe wards for anyone in the two West Midlands’ boroughs, and the Conservatives could lose overall control in both on swings of well under 10%.
Of the 15 metropolitan councils under no overall control, seven are run by minority administrations – one Liberal Democrat, one Conservative, and five Labour – and the rest by assorted coalitions.
Labour’s tastiest prize would surely be Sheffield – Liberal Democrat since 2007 and parliamentary home of Mr Clegg. A 5% swing would win it.
Conservative Bury (2006) is bidding to become the ultimate enabler, with no services at all provided from the town hall, but by a combination of private companies, voluntary groups and possibly other councils. A two-seat switch (401 votes in 2007) would make Labour the largest party, so shame on any stay-at-home voters claiming it makes no difference who runs their council.
The Times predicts (£) heavy losses from the Conservatives to Labour but also a few a gains forthe Conservatives from the Lib Dems. Their chart says a "Bad night" for the Conservatives would mean losing Walsall, Blackpool, South Ribble, Erewash, Staffordshire Moorlands, Dover and North Warwickshire while a "Terrible night" would mean also losing Dartford, Gravesham, Mid Suffolk, Forest of Dean, Dudley, Traffford, High Peak and to cease being the largest party in Birmingham.
The accompanying article says:
The Tories will lose the most — about 900 seats and about 35 councils — but they fight from a much higher base of 156 councils and more than 5,000 councillors in this set of elections. Proportionately the Lib Dems are likely to fare considerably worse.
But thegraph also says under "What to expect" that the Conservatives will gain Winchester, St Albans and Vale of the White Horse (all currently Lib Dem.)