It’s all about me. If I hold my seat in the marginal ward I represent, then it is likely that the Conservatives will retain control of Hammersmith and Fulham. If Ed Miliband is heading for Downing Street in a year’s time then really the Labour Party ought to be able to reinstate the Red Flag onto the roof of Hammersmith Town Hall – where it fluttered for some decades. London is a key battleground as all the seats are up for election – elsewhere, with only a third of seats being contested, it is harder to achieve thrilling outcomes. Of those boroughs in contention, mine is the highest profile. My own hunch – having knocked on many doors and dialled many phone numbers – is that I will survive.
But let us assume, for a moment, that some may have a passing interest extending beyond the Ravenscourt Park Ward. What of the rest of the country? The last time most of the seats were contested was in 2010. The turnout was high due the general election being the same day. I think this probably helped the Labour Party and the Conservatives lost 121 seats. When it is just council elections taking place I suspect council taxpayers are the ones most likely to vote, and they are also the ones most inclined to vote for a party that will exercise some restraint on the amount of money it is spending. So the lower turnout may well help the Conservatives.
Then there is a joker in the pack. This time we have the euro elections the same day. This will surely increase the risk of UKIP helping Labour by taking rather more votes from the Conservatives. But what impact will it have on the turnout? 29 per cent of people have told YouGov they will “definitely” vote. (And the voters complain about politicians telling lies…) I suspect that some Labour supporters may give it a miss due to their Party’s unpopular opposition to an in/out EU referendum – thus hitting Labour council candidates.
At the 2010 general election, the Conservatives were seven points ahead of Labour nationally – we are now (at best) neck and neck in the polls and usually a few points behind. However there may not be such a significant swing in London.
Some Conservative losses are pretty likely. The Rallings and Thrasher projection is net losses of around 200 of the 1,574. That would imply losing Croydon, West Lancashire and Trafford. These are all councils with tiny Conservative majorities. There is also Redbridge, where the Conservatives already rely on Lib Dem councillors to form an administration. Losing these, but nothing else, and not gaining any councils would be a neutral outcome for the Conservatives. Holding any of these – or gaining any councils – would be a good night.
Losing Trafford would be a particular blow, although it would not be an unexpected one. There are a couple of seats that the Lib Dems are defending – where the Conservatives came in second place last time. This is also a council where the Conservatives have a strong record of achievement. However, should the Conservatives hold on here, it would be an achievement that Ministers will trumpet on their tours of the radio and TV studios – and be quite entitled to do so.
In West Lancashire the maths is straightforward. The Conservatives have 28 council seats, Labour have 26. There are a few Green Party candidates – but rather more from UKIP. Labour must be the favourites.
A bad night for the Conservatives would involve not only losing Croydon, West Lancashire and Trafford but also Barnet and Peterborough – both Labour targets but rather more ambitous ones.
I expect the Conservatives will gain Kingston from the Lib Dems, which would do much to dilute bad news elsewhere. Then there is Harrow, which the Conservatives might win. The real celebrations would be if the Conservatives gained Enfield from Labour – which would be a stretch but not impossible.
In terms of seats, net losses of under a 150 would be good. Losses between 150 and 250 something to be shrugged off. Losses above 250 would be more disappointing.