Thursday 7th May 2015 will see a General Election take place in the United Kingdom.
In England most people outside London will also have council elections. Most of seats up for election were last contested in 2011 – which was, astonishingly enough, a good year for the Conservatives. Broadly speaking the losses to Labour were slightly more than offset by gains from the Lib Dems.
This year the vast majority of district councils are up for election. 127 of them have all the seats being contested. Another 67 have a third of the seats up for election.
There will be elections for directly elected mayors in Copeland, Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay.
36 of the metropolitan boroughs have a third of their seats up for election. They include Birmingham. Labour has a comfortable majority there so it would be an upset for them to lose control. But will Labour lose seats after the Trojan Horse scandal? They deserve to. However, the General Election taking place the same day may limit the focus on local issues. Then there is Rotherham where UKIP hadn’t really taken off in 2011 when the relevant seats were last contested.
The most important category, though, are the unitary authorities with all the seats up for election.
The following 30 are in this category:
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Bracknell Forest
- Brighton & Hove
- Central Bedfordshire
- Cheshire East
- Cheshire West and Chester
- East Riding of Yorkshire
- North Lincolnshire
- North Somerset
- Redcar and Cleveland
- South Gloucestershire
- Telford and Wrekin
- West Berkshire
- Windsor and Maidenhead
Will Labour hold on in York? Or in Blackpool? Will the Green Party cling on as a minority administration in Brighton and Hove? Will the Conservatives be able to hold off UKIP in Medway? Then there will some Lib Dem/Conservative battles in Poole and Bath and North East Somerset.
Then even among some of the other unitary authorities where only a third of the seats are being contested there could be some close fights. There is Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea – on both of which the Conservatives will be looking to regain an overall majority. There is Portsmouth where the Lib Dems are still the largest party. Thurrock is keenly fought between Conservatives and Labour and now UKIP is the joker in the pack.
Part of the answer must inevitably depend on what happens in the General Election. In the 2011 local elections the Conservatives were on 38 per cent, Labour 37 per cent and the Lib Dems 16 per cent. But as a keen localist I hope that the council election results are not entirely determined in that way. Surely there will be some councillors who will be rewarded or punished according to their own record rather than being entirely swept along by the national swing?
I will be exploring some of the individual battlegrounds in more detail in the weeks and months ahead.
Happy New Year.