It’s a big week ahead, with various different elections coming up on Thursday. Here’s what we’ve got to look ahead to:

Scotland

There are local elections across all of Scotland, delayed from last year in order to de-couple the Scottish local election timetable from Scottish Parliamentary elections. Seats up for grabs are, very roughly 150 Con, 350 Lab, 150 Lib Dem, 350 SNP, 200 Others.

Scottish councils are elected by STV, meaning that the majority of Scottish councils have no one party with a majority (the exceptions are some councils with a majority of Independents, and North Lanarkshire which has a Labour majority. Glasgow did have a Labour majority, but has lost it through defections, and how well Labour does in its heartland of Glasgow given the SNP’s success there last year will be one of the main things to watch.)

The question in Scotland will largely be the battle between the SNP and Labour – the SNP made sweeping landslide gains in the Scottish Parliamentary elections last year, will that be reflected in the local elections this year, or will their support have started to fade? There has not been much recent Scottish polling to judge it by. Scottish councils are all counting on Friday, with results coming in from around lunchtime until late afternoon.

Wales

There are also local elections throughout almost all of Wales (the exception being Anglesey, currently being run by Commissioners and having its boundaries redrawn). All councils in Wales are all-out elections, and there are roughly 170 Conservatives, 340 Labour, 140 Lib Dems, 180 Plaid, 375 others up for election. In contrast to Scotland Labour did very well here in the Assembly elections, so should expect some solid gains. The Conservatives currently control 2 councils – Monmouthshire (quite solidly) and Vale of Glamorgan (quite narrowly), Labour control two, but can expect gains. Most of the Welsh councils are counting on Thursday, but with multi-members wards to count the results will be quite late into the night.

English local elections

The English district council councils are few this year compared to last year, although it’s still more than Scotland and Wales. English councils that elect all-out went to the polls last year, so apart from a handful of councils with boundary changes it is only councils that elect by halves or thirds. Altogether there are about 2400 English council seats up for election (about 1125 Conservative, 575 Labour, 530 Lib Dems, 150 others). With only a third of seats up for grabs it is harder for control of a council to change hands, but in many cases Labour already made advances in the 2011 elections, so this year they are looking to finish the job.

Attention here will be paid to the numbers of seats won and lost, and the shares of the vote won. Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings estimate that the current positions in the polls should equate to about 700 gains for Labour, with the Conservatives and Lib Dems losing seats. Last year the Conservatives bucked expectations by gaining enough seats from the Lib Dems to cancel out their losses to Labour – that won’t happen this time as all those all-out district councils where the Conservatives picked up lots of gains from the Lib Dems are not up for election; proportionally the Metropolitans make up a much bigger chunk of the seats up for grabs.

Secondly there are the shares of the vote or, more accurately, the BBC’s projected national share of the vote which is calculated on the night by Professor John Curtice, based upon numerous “key wards” across the country where all three of the main parties are standing both this time and last time the ward was contested, allowing changes in the vote shares to be calculated and built into a picture of what the shares would be if there were elections across the whole country. The projection is for the whole country, but it is based only on local elections in England, not the Scottish and Welsh locals and not the mayoral or London Assembly elections. In 2011 the BBC figures were CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 16% (these have been revised slightly since the figures released on the night), in 2010 on general election day they would have been CON 35%, LAB 27%, LDEM 26% – note how the Lib Dems do a bit better and Labour a bit worse than the general election vote on the same day. People vote differently in local and general elections.

Rallings and Thrasher make a similar calculation (called the Equivalent National Vote) which normally turns up at the weekend following the elections. The basic principle is the same, but the actual figures differ slightly – presumably through choosing different key wards and comparing to different baselines.

London Mayor & assembly elections

Perhaps the highest profile election is that of London mayor – the Boris vs Ken rematch. I think most people will already have a good idea of this one, one man, elected through the Supplemental Vote (i.e. people get to give a first and second preference, but not rank all candidates. If no one gets fifty percent on the first vote, all but the top two are eliminated and their voters second preferences reallocated). All the polls so far suggest that the final two will be Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, with Boris consistently holding a small lead.

The London Assembly meanwhile is elected from 14 large constituencies, and 11 top-up seats awarded by the d’Hondt system, based on a second “list” vote. In contrast to Boris’s lead in the polls for London mayor, all polls for the London assembly have shown Labour with a solid lead. The things to watch will be whether the Conservatives get enough seats to pass a budget (the assembly needs a two-thirds vote to amend the mayors budget) and the representation of smaller parties, who need to get over the 5% threshold to win representation. In 2008 the Greens and BNP managed this, in 2004 the Greens and UKIP did.

The London election doesn’t count until Friday. Results for constituencies should start arriving in early afternoon, the mayoral result should turn up in late afternoon or early evening.

Other mayoral elections and referendums

11 cities have referendums on whether or not to have an elected mayor. Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield and Wakefield will vote on whether to adopt an elected mayor system. Doncaster, who currently have an English Democrat mayor, will vote on whether to abolish the position. Salford and Liverpool will actually elect their mayors on Thursday (Salford has already voted YES in a referendum, Liverpool didn’t hold one).

Do they matter?

Yes – it matters deeply in terms of shaping the narrative, in terms of whether a party is seen to be moving forwards and doing well, or unpopular and doing badly. In 2011 the narrative emerged that Labour had rather flopped in the local elections and the Conservatives had done well. Labour didn’t get the gains that had been expected and on the same night did very badly in Scotland; the Conservatives made gains when they had been expected to make large losses.

This week should be different – Labour are almost certain to do well in the local elections in Wales and England. The question marks are over whether Labour or the SNP will look like winners in Scotland, and the outcome of the London mayoral election. If Labour do well across the board it will give them a big boost, giving them the aura of winners and the sense of making a step towards victory (conversely, it will yet another bit of bad news for the government). If there is more of a mixed bag then the political parties will have the normal battles of each trying to portray themselves as having done well and their opponents badly. The Conservative’s best hope for a victory is Boris Johnson in London, so if he wins they’ll be focusing on that and trying to use it to draw a line under recent difficulties before moving on to the Queen’s Speech (and perhaps a reshuffle?). The Lib Dems will be hoping that they can take something from the inevitable losses to suggest they have bottomed out and got over the worst of it.

Of course, there will also be the practical impact – councillors are often the ground troops, the activists who knock on doors and deliver leaflets, so Labour’s gains will help them in the future, Conservative and Lib Dem losses will slowly hollow out their respective organisations. And, let us not forget, they also determine who actually runs some local councils for the next 4 years.


53 Responses to “Local and mayoral election preview”

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  1. Am I first?

  2. I always try to read between the.lines of AW’s posts.

    Tonight he seems to be saying.Boris has it sewn up. Has he seen Monday’s YG poll?

  3. “Labour didn’t get the gains they’d expected [in 2011].

    Is that a fact?

    The predictions varied from 400 (Labour’s expectation?) to 1300 (Conservative expectation, or Rallings & Thrasher?).

    “… the narrative emerged that Labour had rather flopped in the local elections and the Conservatives had done well.”

    That is 857 gains for Labour, 86 for Conservative.

  4. “Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings estimate that the current positions in the polls should equate to about 700 gains for Labour, with the Conservatives and Lib Dems losing seats”

    Is this strictly correct? I was under the impression, from comments on previous threads, that the 700 figure was based on their interpretation of local by-election results over the previous 4 months.

  5. @ RAF

    I always try to read between the.lines of AW’s posts.

    Tonight he seems to be saying.Boris has it sewn up. Has he seen Monday’s YG poll?
    ———————————
    AW’s comment (from above the line)

    All the polls so far suggest that the final two will be Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, with Boris consistently holding a small lead.
    ——————–
    If there’s an accidental hint here about Monday’s poll, I’m wondering how small is “small”?
    8-)

  6. Salmond seems to have scraped through the Murdoch revelations without too much damage (with no media pressure to publish his interactions with the Murdochs, he’s walking off Scot-free, if you’ll pardon the pun).

    I expect Labour will not do well in Scotland, which is a shame, because we need them to challenge AS if the papers won’t.

  7. Phil – they’ve been saying that Labour would have to gain 700 “to justify their current poll lead” (though I think their normal method will also have been factored in).

    Raf & Amber – I wrote all this a couple of days ago.

    Billy – corrected it. It should have been the gains expected by observers. I haven’t the foggiest what Labour’s private expectations were.

  8. Current odds (Paddy Power) for Lab seat gains in England, Scotland and Wales

    <500 4/1
    500-599 3/1
    600-699 15/8
    700-799 15/8
    800-899 11/2
    900-999 8/1
    1000+ 10/1

  9. @Amber

    It’s the “consistently” that worries me. It means AW may consider the Comres and Survation Boris +8’s last week as “small”, as well as last Monday’s YG Boris +2.

    My view is that Ken really needs Boris to be no more than 3% ahead at this stage. In fact Ken actually said about a week or so ago that he expected the polls to show hin 3% down on election day, and that he would still win. Probably a joke, but he obviously still feels confident.

    I do sense locally (and i’m in a Tory heartland) that no-one is quite sure which way it will go. There was a lot of enthusiasm for boris last time. That isn’t ad much in evidence now. He will still win in this constituency, but maybe not with as big a winning margin as last time.

  10. @AW
    “Raf & Amber – I wrote all this a couple of days ago.”

    You see, now i’m thinking the YG poll shows a tight race! I won’t try to drag it out of you. It wouldn’t work anyway :)

  11. @ Anthony Wells

    Thanks for clearing that up… no hints for us. :-(

  12. @ RAF

    There’s a call to arms, on behalf of Ken, over at Labour list written by the other legend of the left: Tony Benn.
    8-)

  13. Anthony – Thanks. Maybe that’s a tacit admission that it’s more of an art than a science.

    Anyway, a much more reliable forecast is the one on Phil’s betting slip from a week back, namely 600-699 Lab gains (at very generous odds of 9/2, since shortened to 15/8).

  14. Anybody know what time the YouGov poll is out tomorrow? YouGov definitely the gold standard for London Mayoral Elections – if Ken is 4% behind, Boris has won. 3% behind, game on but Boris likely winner. 2% or 1% behind and it’s all a game of turnout – Boris the natural winner of that battle, but Team Ken really striving hard for it (in a much more visible way than Team Boris).

    Also, how do I get my posts to show my party colours (red)?

  15. @Scotswaehae

    SLAB are poor at getting anything on AS. They’re over-aggression is at odds with him being as popular as he is, or the fact many consider his/SNP’s policies as fair. In the end SLAB need to calm down and stop shouting, calling him ‘wee eck’ etc. ain’t going to go down well.

    Its the same as Cameron’s flash man moments, but sadly it seems all of Scottish Labour are going through it :/

    The press here are generally negative to Salmond. So your being a bit unfair, the problem is Labour give them nothing really to work on. There just isn’t a perception of him being seriously damaged by this…and so the press don’t do much damage.

    The BBC seemed to have a go and I’ve seen a few people over-egging the Trump stuff on here; ignoring the fact it played up to Salmond not giving into the likes of Trump/Murdoch. Whilst the truth with the Murdoch thing is simple…people don’t really care, they are willing to ignore and accept it as necessary as long as they get SNP in return. The Tories wouldn’t have a problem (Blair was always criticised, his entire government had an underlying narrative throughout that is similar to what Cameron is seeing now – the point is, people will ‘put up with it’ but with the Tories people are rightly asking what they get in return) if they weren’t being bogged down by other issues – Coulson was a huge thing, and most people guessed there was a ‘Murdoch deal’ even if it didn’t exist. The only issue here is it ‘piles up’ onto a terrible 2 months or so for the government.

    Local elections are not the place to control a leader. SNP/Salmond have much more specific policies for local areas. They’ll do well I suspect, and a lot of that is down to their local teams.

  16. “There are also local elections throughout almost all of Wales (the exception being Anglesey, currently being run by Commissioners and having its boundaries redrawn).”

    Intriguing! How does one redraw the boundaries of an island?

  17. Good early morning, clearing skies here in Bournemouth.

    AMBER STAR.
    Is that the same Mr Benn who was so influential on the 1983 Manifesto which delivered the worst result since 1918?

  18. My eyes will be firmly on Birmingham. Bigger than Glasgow. Prime example of a Lib/Tory coalition. Home of bellwether constituencies like Edgbaston and Yardley. Wards with 23-25k voters. Full slates of candidates from Labour, Tory, Green and (well nearly) Lib Dem. Home of late 19th and early 20th century corporate Conservatism…

  19. Thank you Anthony.

    Btw, I wasn’t disputing your account of the “narrative” which emerged after the 2011 locals, just contrasting it with the seat totals.

    There does seem to be a bit of a vacuum when it comes to predictive analysis, and subsequent informed interpretation wrt local elections… filled to some degree by R&T. They are not infallible though. According to the Wikipedia page for the 2007 locals: “… these predictions, as in 2006, were largely inaccurate.” I would suggest ditto for 2011.

  20. I have some exciting news to share. Guess who was elected a DNC Delegate for his Congressional District today? Me! :) Yes, I will be representing my Congressional District in Charlotte this September. I ran with a slate of “progressive” candidates (that’s what we called ourselves anyway). I’m still somewhat in disbelief over this.

    When I watch vote returns come in on television or on my computer screens as precincts update and the electoral picture becomes clear, it’s a great deal of fun to watch. There’s just something about that part of politics that’s so enjoyable. But I realized today that it’s only fun when you’re an observer. If you’re an actual candidate in an election (or during a 1 hour Sunday afternoon caucus), it’s the complete opposite. As you watch volunteers count every single paper ballot up and watch those numbers trickle in, it’s absolutely nerve wracking.

    @ Scotswaehae

    “Salmond seems to have scraped through the Murdoch revelations without too much damage (with no media pressure to publish his interactions with the Murdochs, he’s walking off Scot-free, if you’ll pardon the pun).

    I expect Labour will not do well in Scotland, which is a shame, because we need them to challenge AS if the papers won’t.”

    I have a feeling that Labour will do slightly better in the Council seats. It seems like those are far more tied to how voters feel about national politics (whereas the Scottish Parliamentary elections seem to operate on their own).

  21. A couple of predictions: Firstly, the Greens will make a net gain in the English council elections. Secondly, Coventry will vote no to an elected mayor. Thirdly, there will be Greens on the London assembly. Fourthly, Jenny Jones will either get a strong fourth place, or overtake Brian Paddick to get fourth place in the London Mayoral election.

    I’ve listed those predictions in decreasing level of confidence.

  22. @ Chris Lane

    “Is that the same Mr Benn who was so influential on the 1983 Manifesto which delivered the worst result since 1918?”

    Don’t you think you guys would have been beaten really badly in 1983 anyway? I mean, it’s kind of like saying Walter Mondale would have won if he had not campaigned on raising everyone’s taxes. Sure, it cost him support but he was going to be destroyed anyway.

    I’d have to read the article by Tony Benn to accurately comment on it of course. But a call to arms for Ken Livingstone may be the wrong approach here. See, for sure there are a lot of leftwingers (or “progressives”) in London who love Red Ken and worship the ground that he walks on. But, most of them are probably going to be voting for him anyway. The only thing with those voters to worry about is effective turnout. If there are voters who are considering dumping the incumbent mayor, they’ve got to be given a reason to do so. The fact that Ken Livingstone has been a voice for leftist politics ain’t a good enough reason.

  23. @ Green Christian

    “A couple of predictions: Firstly, the Greens will make a net gain in the English council elections. Secondly, Coventry will vote no to an elected mayor. Thirdly, there will be Greens on the London assembly. Fourthly, Jenny Jones will either get a strong fourth place, or overtake Brian Paddick to get fourth place in the London Mayoral election.

    I’ve listed those predictions in decreasing level of confidence.”

    I hope you’re wrong on the last one. I like Paddick. I wish the Victory Fund could help him. It’s probably illegal for them to raise funds for him or donate to his campaign but perhaps they could give him some candidate training, send him some strategists, and help train and recruit volunteers for him.

    My slate running mates this weekend would probably fit well as Greens. We made sure that we got our campaign flyers printed on all recyclable paper (they insisted on only using a union shop too). And I brought in this mobile cupcake suite and the biggest concern was making sure that the boxes we handed out the cupcakes in were made of white cardboard or some other type of recyclable material. Plastic was a no-go material for them.

  24. @AW

    Is there a YouGov London Mayor poll out tonight or ‘just’ the normal one?

    A London voter here, have seen all the main parties out and about canvassing, makes one quite proud, democracy in action :-)

  25. @SocialLiberal
    Congratulations!!!
    You reminded me of my student years in Paris, when I was elected for a year as a representative of PhD students in the university administration council. I ran then as an independent on a far left list, opposed to the far right one, since all other options in-between could not find enough candidates to file, so all social democrats, greens and centrists voted for me, the list got 75%, despite the initial prediction for a 50-50 race, and for a year I did my best to represent all sensibilities and do the right choices, but I admit it was a very tiresome and time-consuming thing, so the year after I did not run for reelection, and supported instead the socialist list which this time found enough candidates to stand by itself and it indeed topped the poll. It was, though, an exciting experience, despite the fact that, as you said, I prefer by far following an election as an observer (or as a supporter of a candidate or a list) than as a candidate myself.

  26. Will the Conservatives kindly tell us how many all Scottish local government, mayoral and London assembly elections (i.e. all the non-FPTP ones) are unfair once the results come out, and what was so undemocratic about them?

    I mean, after making that oh so compelling case last year, surely this year the evidence will come flooding in to support their claims?

  27. Phil – thought about a small wager on 700-799 gains just to cover your stake?

  28. Well by Friday afternoon I might have to drop the Cllr from my name, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

    To be honest Scotland is hardly on fire over this and I expect that encumbrance might be a key factor with low turn out.

    It’s a funny thing and similiar to MP’s but people tend to think their Councillor is okay but Councillors and Councils in general are duff.

    Having said that I expect the SNP to make gains across Scotland.

    The significance of Glasgow is that it will tell if the SNP’s progress has filtered down to grass roots and that could be significant.

    Councillors bring focus, coordination and resource to local parties and campaigns and losing that can hurt a party in the long term.

    Here in the Highlands LibDems linked well with Councillors tied in to MP’s and more recently MSP’s offices, often on very coordinated campaigns.

    Since last year they have lost most of their MSP’s office support and if their Councillor tally drops that will hurt too.

    The LibDems control in the Highlands has taken years to build up and with at least two of their best and most vocal Councillors from 22 stepping down, any serious losses will make it a lot harder to build back and recover from the effect of joining the coalition.

    If I have noticed anything it is that people are far less willing to believe what the LibDems say.

    All their opponents tend to complain about their standard dodgy graphs with “Only the LibDems can challenge here!”, but that is partly because it has been so effective over the years against us.

    Now I think it is, if not backfiring, at least having less effect because of the coalition and tuition fees.

    Up here the LibDem appeal to voters was a always, ” if only we were in government, things would be different because you can trust us unlike the other parties”.

    That is a far harder sell on the doors now because;
    they are in government,
    things are different but not in a nice way and
    they are felt to have broken promises.

    One final point before I go off leafletting.

    This is the second election under PR and therefore the first time that the public has had a term to compare Councillors in the same ward.

    As well as being proportional and therefore in the eyes of many fairer it was always hoped that over time the standard of representation would improve as the weakest Councillors failed to get elected and were replaced by better.

    It will interesting to see what “churn” there is.

    If four Councilors in the same ward who were all Councillors in their own wards six years ago stand again, they are now being judged not on their own performance against challengers, but also on their relative performance against each other.

    As well as the SNP doing well I really hope that their is a cull of the jobs worths as well.

    Cllr Peter Cairns (SNP).

  29. Yougov mayoral poll in today’s Standard has Boris – Ken as 52 – 48

  30. Yougov has Boris on a 4% lead in new poll just out.

    Boris-52% Ken-48% after second preference votes.

  31. @ Anthony Wells

    Graun reporting the latest YouGov poll for the London Evening Standard gives Boris a lead of four percentage points (52%-48%), is that correct?

    Thank you :-)

  32. @ Amber Star,

    Apologies for butting in but it is indeed correct hence my last post and it is now on Yougov’s website if you still need confirmation.

  33. So…neck and neck and Boris in hiding.

    It’s all up for grabs.

  34. @ Lee Tay

    Thank you :-)

    Our comments must have crossed. I didn’t see yours until after I posted mine.

  35. @ Nick P

    A 2% swing to Ken needed (give or take MOE). That may be do-able. Let’s hope there are some Ken voters flying under the radar or a last minute change of heart by some Labour supporters who were thinking of voting for Boris.

  36. @Amber

    I said Ken needed to be within 3%, but 4% will do. It’s perilously close and closer than at the same stage last time.

  37. ‘Let’s hope there are some Ken voters flying under the radar or a last minute change of heart by some Labour supporters who were thinking of voting for Boris.’

    I don’t imagine many of them will be Jewish. ;)
    Ironic really that Ed Milliband is actually campaigning with Ken given his own Jewish background.

  38. Labour still 19 points ahead in London VI. I think Ken can still win this. Boris seems to be relying quite heavily (9%) on Labour VI people coming out for him. If they stay home, or even better, have an 11th hour change of heart: Then Ken is back!
    8-)

  39. @Amber

    I think this is very possible. Boris has been a recluse for the past week, desperate not to be seen with DC or the rest.of his party. That is not thr behaviour of a confident man.

  40. @ RAF

    Boris strategy seems to be: Avoid any last minute clamities by staying away from the press & TV.

    I think that Ed & popular London MPs can swing this for Labour by getting out in their constituencies & actively campaigning for Ken.
    8-)

  41. Whooft, just seen the Labour election broadcast for the locals. Pretty hard-hitting stuff for the coalition in this state (though surprisingly LD-light).

  42. If EM gets out into London itll definitely swing the result. Id argue not the way you would like it to though. Id offer you 3.5/1 now Amber :p

  43. “(though surprisingly LD-light).”

    And quite a sensible decision. Labour’s got pretty much as many LD defectors as they’re going to get. That alone won’t be enough to win a majority at the next election and, worse, only really gets them votes where they least need them.

    (There’s also the issue of keeping your options open with a Lib-Lab coalition should their be another hung parliament, although at this rate it’s not going to matter.)

    No, if Labour are serious about winning the next election, they’ve got to prise votes away from the Tories. The Lib Dems are the easier targets, but they’ve wisely decided that’s not enough.

  44. Weekend polls are usually kind to the Tories. So tonight’s YouGov could be a real eye-waterer.

  45. @Chris Neville-Smith

    I think its more being able to form local coalitions on councils and not so much after a GE.

    Labour also have probably identified that last time round the Tories gained from Lib Dems by successfully attacking the party, Labour just need to toxify local Tory brands and they should stop a repeat of last year.

  46. Given the widespread concerns about electoral fraud in London with police being called in and Ken supporters delivering block votes from voters in highly suspicious circumstances, it may be that the polls will significantly under-state the Ken vote because non-existent persons AFAIK aren’t part of the YouGov panel.

  47. nbeale

    That might help, too.

  48. Guardian reporting that Urgent Question on the Hunt question has been granted by Speaker, but Cameron might dodge it by sending somebody else.

  49. Now they are saying it will be DC.

    Seconds away, round two…

  50. @ Joe

    Ed M is pretty popular with important communities in London; he could definitely help Ken to pinch this from Boris.
    8-)

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