One of our most venerable pre-election rites consists of the political parties predicting that their results will be worse than they really expect…

…So that they can claim afterwards they did better than anticipated.

Thursday’s will be no different.

Labour will be at it no more or less than the Conservatives – or anyone else – but what looks like the latter’s attempts are easier to spot.

This is because the working assumption all round is that the Party will lose seats (a reasonable enough premis).

Previous experience would therefore suggest that CCHQ is expecting losses of under a thousand.

However, it is very hard to be sure.  And even 800 seats going elsewhere (say) would be a very bad result indeed. By way of comparison, the Conservatives lost over 2000 councillors in 1995 – very much the low local election watermark of modern times for the Party.

Mind you, these parallels can be deceptive.  There are fewer and different seats up for grabs on Thursday than there were in that year. The 2015 elections, the last ones in this particular cycle, saw Tory turnout swelled by the general election, on the same day that the Liberal Democrats took a hammering.  There are boundary changes and new councils: Harry Phibbs refers to Somerset West and Taunton in his guide this morning to blue-yellow marginals.

At any rate, don’t be bounced by the spin.  In cricketing terms, this would be a rather tricky operation.  In political ones, it can be just a bit easier.