Professor Rawlings of Plymouth University has analysed two dozen recent by-elections for BBC2’s Newsnight and has predicted that the Conservatives may lose 75 seats at next month’s local elections.  The same analysis predicts Labour losses of 130 and LibDem gains of 190 seats.  The Rawlings/ Newsnight analysis is based on a 33% (C) 28% (Lab) 29% (LD) projection of the vote.  The predicted retreat reflects the fact that the Tories enjoyed a large lead when the seats were last fought.

The Tories may secretly welcome the lowering of expectations but George Osborne, interviewed on Newsnight, said that the Tories would not lose seats at the local elections and that David Cameron’s change agenda was on course.

The Tory conference closed at 4pm this afternoon to allow delegates to canvas and leaflet target wards in Manchester.  Busloads of Conservative activists travelled to unsuspecting wards is the most tangible sign of the party’s determination to turn the tide on its retreat from urban Britain.  With the Conservatives in fourth place in many inner city seats a big breakthrough is unlikely, however.  The election of one Tory councillor in Manchester is at the top end of CCHQ’s expectations.