Yesterday voters went to the polls in local elections across England, Scotland and Wales. There were also elections for new combined authority or “metro” mayors in six regions across the country.
With the General Election just five weeks away, the results from these elections will provide a strong indication, if not an exact blueprint, to the parties’ campaign strategies, as well as the final result on June 8th.
Many results, particularly in Scotland, are still to come in, however there are already conclusions that can be drawn.
Labour’s Andy Burnham is confident of winning the Greater Manchester mayoralty, with former Corbyn aide Steve Rotheram also expected to win in Merseyside.
Labour have lost a large number of council seats in England, though this is not hugely surprising. Many of the contested seats were won in 2012 and 2013, when the Party was riding high in the polls. Also, as the majority of yesterday’s elections in England were for larger, county councils many of these seats are in more conservative, rural areas.
However the scale of Labour’s capitulation – having lost 53 councillors at the time of writing and with the West Midlands mayoralty on a knife edge – indicates that the Party’s terrible poll rating is translating into electoral calamity. It is a reality the Party will have to face up to one way or another come June 9th.
The targeting of UKIP votes by the Conservatives has proved massively successful. So far Theresa May’s party has won the West of England mayoralty and control of four English councils, while the insurgent party has failed to hold or gain a single council seat. Expect the Conservatives to continue tacking to the right on Europe and immigration for the rest of the General Election campaign as they squeeze the UKIP vote.
In Wales, where all councillors were up for election, the swing from Labour to the Conservatives has been much smaller than in England. While Labour will be disappointed to lose Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, its retention of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport councils will provide a boost to Welsh Labour going into the General Election.
As results come in throughout the day, watch out for the performance of the Liberal Democrats. Expecting to do well, they have had a patchy night so far, losing seats in the west of England and coming third in the mayoral race there. An indication perhaps that Tim Farron’s enthusiasm for the EU has not gone down well with voters in the region.
In Scotland, it is expected that Labour will lose Glasgow City Council to the SNP. This would be seen as the final nail in the Party’s coffin north of the border. The Conservatives look set to make significant gains, further cementing Ruth Davidson as the real unionist opposition to the SNP’s nationalism.
The aforementioned West Midlands mayoralty will be a key bellwether for Labour’s overall performance. Labour had the vote share and campaign infrastructure to easily win this contest. If they lose it, or are run close, a few seats in the region will be vulnerable at the General Election.
Finally look out for the final national vote share. From what we have seen so far, the Conservatives are doing well. Labour and UKIP are doing very badly and the Liberal Democrats have not experienced the surge they hoped for. As things stand, all signs point to a large Conservative victory on June 8th.
Measurement and evaluation