As Adam Boulton pointed out on Sunday, tomorrow will see an unprecedented combination of elections. The process of devolution and the quirks of the electoral cycle have produced a polling day on which the planets align to produce Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, PCC, council and London elections all take place at once.
That in turn will produce a blizzard of results – through which the political parties will try to duck and dive their way to exceeding targets they will have tried to set for themselves. Here are a few key points to watch out for:
- How many council seats will Labour lose? Nobody likes to concede they’re in for a bad day, but equally parties tend to try to lower expectations beforehand in order to later boast of their result. Somehow, Jeremy Corbyn has managed to mess up on both fronts at the same time. First, Corbyn declared that Labour wouldn’t lose any seats, and now Seumas Milne claims he didn’t mean that at all. The real answer will be illuminating – and could have severe knock-on effects in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
- Will Ruth Davidson come second in Scotland? Another electoral tradition is that all leaders pretend they could win outright, no matter how unlikely that may be. In Scotland, Davidson has quite refreshingly ditched that pretence, declaring her goal to be supplanting Labour as the official opposition. The polls (caveat emptor) all suggest it’s neck and neck between the Conservatives and Labour for second place, but Sunday’s leaders debate showed Davidson as the leading opposition to Sturgeon. Will she pull it off?
- How will Wales turn out? While most of the attention has been on the SNP tidal wave in Scotland, the shifting sands of Welsh politics are just as intriguing. Last year the Conservatives picked up historic victories in some Welsh constituencies, but the Port Talbot crisis has brought a lot of fury against the Government. At the same time, Plaid Cymru are trying to learn from the success of their Scottish cousins, and UKIP have declared that they expect to secure five seats. Any reduction in Labour seats could force them into a coalition or a minority government.
- The slow embedding of the Police Commissioners. One thing that seems certain is that the PCC elections will see a higher turnout than at their inaugural ballot. It would be hard not to – after all, thanks to the clumsy launch of the posts, the turnout in November 2012 was just 15 per cent. A rise in the vote will offer the new PCCs a greater claim to legitimacy, though there is still work to do to accustom the electorate to the idea. Another interesting question is how the vote will split – last time, a lot of independents were elected, while the Conservatives secured the most PCCs with the help of a lot of second preference votes. Will voters opt again for independents, and might they split their vote – backing Conservatives for a law and order job while not voting Tory for their council?
- Will UKIP get a referendum bounce? The approach of the EU referendum inevitably provides huge coverage for UKIP’s central issue, and for their leader. Some in the party are hoping that this will translate to a bumper year in local elections – though 2012, the last time many of these seats were contested, was of course their breakthrough year, so they have a relatively high bar to vault. Have they used the intervening four years to build up their machine, and if they have is it entirely focused on the referendum?
- Are the London polls correct? The pollsters all indicate that Sadiq Khan is on course to resoundingly defeat Zac Goldsmith – but there are rumours of concern in the former camp and hope in the latter that differential turnout across London’s boroughs might produce a very different result. If he does win in the second round by 20 per cent then that will be the Labour Party’s central bragging point – if it’s closer or, whisper it, if he loses, in this normally Labour-leading city then the in-fighting will only intensify.
- If they are, how will Khan and Corbyn share the spoils of victory? Given possible defeats elsewhere and the other troubles engulfing his Party, the Labour leader would obviously be keen to celebrate a Khan victory as an endorsement of his leadership. However, Khan himself has been careful to try to distance himself from Corbyn – he came in for some flak for nominating him for the leadership (though he didn’t vote for him in the end), and understandably he would want to portray a mayoral victory as a personal success for his candidacy. Each man would have a slightly tricky game to play in the hours after the result.