There is normally relatively little polling for local elections for a variety of reasons, not least the uneven pattern of contestation across the the country. However ComRes have done one, with interesting topline figures. Local voting intention in those areas with local elections on Thursday stands at CON 31%, LAB 24%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 22%.

Now, we need to make a number of important caveats in understanding this:

It is NOT comparable with normal voting intention polls. It only covers the areas with local elections on Thursday, which are most rural Conservative shires and doesn’t include any Metropolitan counties… hence the fact the Conservatives are ahead. Neither is it comparable with the shares of the local election vote that the BBC and Rallings and Thrasher will calculate (the “Projected National Share” and “Equivalent National Vote”). These are both projections on what support would be across the whole country, not just where local elections are happening.

To understand the figures we need to know the votes last time round, which including the two councils (Durham and Northumberland) that actually last voted in 2008 were Con 44%, Lab 13%, LDem 25%, UKIP 5% – so the changes are Con down 13, Lab up 11, Lib Dem down 13, UKIP up 17. This suggests considerable bigger swings than Rallings and Thrasher have predicted. By my estimates it would produce getting on for 500 Conservative losses and 250 UKIP gains, if it is giving an accurate picture… and local election predictions are not something that there is much track record for. We shall see

UPDATE: Peter Kellner and I have been pondering the number of UKIP seat gains if they do get 22% (the joys of the YouGov office on a morning before an election!) and how on earth you model gains when they are tripling the number of seats they contest. It’s very difficult, but I suspect I have overestimated it a bit… though even assuming a higher base level of support in the areas they didn’t contest in 2009 (and therefore a lower swing in the seats they did) if they do get 22% they should still be looking at well over 100 seats. Suffice to say, how many seats UKIP will get on Thursday is still incredibly hard to predict.

376 Responses to “ComRes poll on local elections.”

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  1. First again I think.
    Thanks AW.
    Labour needs to get into the shires.

  2. “By my estimates it would produce getting on for 500 Conservative losses and 250 UKIP gains, if it is giving an accurate picture”
    What about the Lab/Lib figures?
    Presumably most of the (non-UKIP) Con losses would be split largely in Lab’s favour.

  3. @Chrislane1945 – “Labour needs to get into the shires.”

    Frankly, this is quite tiresome.

    The key question is why? They never have, even when winning huge majorities.

    The second point is that if this the best comment you can manage on a poll that shows a huge 11% Con to Lab swing since the last time, in Tory heartlands no less, then it really doesn’t merit much attention at all I’m afraid.

    As AW tells us, if this poll is accurate (big if) it means Cameron will have a complete disaster on Thursday and the Tory party is likely to enter spasms of self destruction. This result would be very, very good for labour prospects, although I refuse to believe such local election polls until we actually see the counting.

  4. Labour needs to get into the shires.

    They are in large places – I’m in North West Leicestershire and we had a quite left-wing Labour MP until 2009, when he died.

    The East Midlands is fertile ground for Labour in rural areas because there’s a lot of frustration with Tory councils over things like street lighting and poor public transport.

    I expect them to take Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

  5. Apparently being a Clown and a Closet Racist appeals to some in the Great British Public. Particularly in the Shires.

    Which, as I happen to live there, unfortunately I don’t find remotely surprising.

    IMHO The Kippers will get around 15% as will LD the results as predicted by COM RES would mean that the Milibands could start measuring up for new Carpets at No 10

  6. chris

    As far as I can see the election battlegrounds will mostly in the Midlands and some parts of Wales (as well as Lab v SNP up there in Scotland). Lab can’t win in the Shires in the South and the Tories are shrinking ecery wher else.

    The LAST thing Lab want is to appeal to the Shires unless they also appeal in the battlegrounds of Sotland and the Midlands.

  7. I think you have to be very careful bandying around the ‘closet racist’ tag.

    I don’t support UKIP, but as a Green, we share some of their frustration at the failings of the EU. We have different policies to tackle these, but oddly enough, Greens and UKIP both recognise failings in dealings with the EU that mainstream parties have steadfastly refused to acknowledge for many years.

    I have also been impressed by Nigel Farage’s insistence on differentiating himself from other, right wing, properly racist groups. Farage personally has always been remarkably clear in his anti racist stance, although I think it’s clear that there have been some failings in selection that have allowed some with less appealing views onto selection lists. In that, UKIP join the Tories, labour, and probably Lib Dems.

    We can choose to continue to ignore what large sections of the electorate think, and act in a way that could be viewed as arrogant and undemocratic on issues such as the EU and immigration, or we can deal honestly with the benefits and difficulties that such policy areas cause. If we simply do the former, and glibly dismiss concerns with meaningless phrases like ‘closet racist’ we will only have ourselves to blame when disquiet erupts and the real racists have their day.

  8. chrislane1945

    You keep the shires we will have the rest

  9. @CL
    “Labour needs to get into the shires”

    Local government reorganisation has meant that the parts of the shires that most matter to Labour in terms of GE outcomes won’t be voting on Thursday, particularly in the South of England. There are two parts of the shires – the shire counties and the shire unitaries. The unitaries created when their urban parts were split from their surrounding counties are not voting on Thursday, so a large chunk of the marginal seats in the South are excluded from this poll. But all of the residual Conservative counties are voting, as are the more recent Conservative unitaries such as Shropshire, Wiltshire and Cornwall (with Durham being the only Labour exception amongst them).

    So this round of local elections is by far the most skewed, because the vast majority of the contests are taking place in Conservative heartlands. You could come up with several very different sets of “national share of the vote” projections by using different methodologies when modelling, and since an explanation of the R&T methodology remains so elusive I suggest that we ignore it. What is relevant in terms of national GE outcomes are the results in the small minority of seats which are marginal in parliamentary terms. The results in the remaining Conservative heartlands are of relatively little importance even though they could conceivably dominate the calculation of the national vote share projections (depending on how exactly that R&T methodology works).

  10. Alec – I agree with you that Labour does not have to get in to the shires in terms of winning seats.
    However, their are similar voters in semi-rural seats that Labour need to attract a few of in order to win target seats at the GE and a decent performance in some shires albeit gaining few councillors but increasing vote share would be bode well.
    The difficulty with this, though, is that many of the shires are LD/Con contests (with UKIP unknown impact of course) and Lab supporters may well stick with LDs especially locally as the sitting LD councillors may well have a profile.

    The Coms Rec local poll is interesting in that the Con (30% of vote) and LD falls (around half) are in within the moeof the proportionate changes in VI in National polls . Labours’ however almost doubling is way too high so probably inaccurate. UKIPs jump so large on both this and national polls it is not appropriate to compare in this way.

    Suggest to me that the Lab vote is probably well over-stated and will be nearer 17-18% with the LDs and Cons splitting the fall with 3% or so each.

  11. NICKP,

    “The LAST thing Lab want is to appeal to the Shires unless they also appeal in the battlegrounds of Sotland ”

    Where exactly would that be. In most of the rural areas of Scotland it would be a four way fight, so there would probably be less to gain from a share of it here than in England.

    At Holyrood in 2012 the SNP won that fight to the extent that the LibDems who were strongest in the Highlands and Borders lost every mainland constituency they had.

    They now only have Orkney and Shetland at Holyrood… later day Vikings.


  12. “the parts of the shires that most matter to Labour in terms of GE outcomes won’t be voting on Thursday”

    Sorry, that should read “a significant element of the parts of the shires that most matter to Labour in terms of GE outcomes won’t be voting on Thursday”

  13. Alec

    I would entirely agree with you that Farage has succeeded in detoxifying the extreme right. Aided and abetted by the Media.

    A very clever politician and a triumph of style over substance.

  14. Given there are 700 seats with Con in first place, LD second (compared with 280 Lab1st/Con2nd and 65 LD1st/Lab2nd*) – a big UKIP showing means what exactly?

    So far in 2013 local byelections, and especially since Eastleigh it has meant 3 UKIP gains from Con, plus the number of LD gains from Con was also boosted by a strong UKIP showing.

    *NB Labour will need to win every seat where it is currently in second place if it is to come near meeting the R&T target of 350 gains.

  15. Should read:

    (compared with 280 Con1st/Lab2nd and 65 LD1st/Lab2nd*)

  16. That is some poll! Instead of looking at a boring set of elections there is at least a potential for some upsets on Thursday.

    I remain pretty sceptical about the poll. For a start the certainty to vote is way higher than the number of people who will end up voting (unless ‘the shires’ turn up in much bigger numbers than the rest fo the country). Also it must be very difficult to get an accurate picture when there are so many different local circumstances, plus it is just one poll so it doesn’t give me as much confidence as if there were a series of polls.

    The Lib Dem vote seems very low compared to their national polling (unless again it is lower in the Shires which seems a bit odd given the lack of Labour opposition). UKIP vote seems high but not impossible- the question still being that if 22% is evenly spread it doesn’t necessarily mean any more councillors.

    @ AW
    would love to know the answer to the TingedFringe question above about the Lib and Lab gains/losses as well as UKIP/Tory.

  17. Turnout will probably be very low. A good number of people don’t even know there’s an election here (though I’ve been encouraging my classmates to go and vote).

  18. Interesting article on the NS website.

    “But it was on the tricky subject of tax policy that Farage came unstuck. After last week distancing himself from his party’s general election policy of a 31 per cent flat tax rate, the UKIP leader introduced us to the oxymoronic concept of a “two tier flat tax”. One was left with the impression of a man making it up as he goes along (and trying to have it both ways). But for now, ever more appear prepared to come with him.”

    Taxation policy could be the Achilles heel of UKIP as far as potential Labour support is concerned.

  19. Can anyone explain why the the Comres Poll has Labour on 24% and the R & T has them on 38%

  20. Labour did on just one occasion “get into the shires”. In 1945, Labour actually won more seats in English counties than the Conservatives & their allies. They won the Cambridgeshire county seat, all but one seat in Norfolk, Northants & Leicestershire, and some other extraordinary seats (W Derbyshire comes to mind for example). The Tories’s landslide defeat was however kept to proportions slightly milder than 1997 by their comparatively good performance in Scotland, winning no fewer than 5 seats in Glasgow against 7 for Labour & 3 for the ILP. However, all this was the icing on the cake. Labour’s performance in their more usually marginal seats was quite enough to win the election hands down. The only other relatively weak point for the party was the Tories’ tenacity in suburban North Manchester.

  21. I think you meant 2009?

  22. Phil

    Entirely agree.

    However, you are forced to wonder if the support for UKIP has anything to do with their policies, or their obvious inconsistencies, other than a general and ill-defined belief that somehow it is (insert what ever you don’t like) the nasty foreigner’s fault.

    This is then expressed in the form of opposition to the EU which is of course routinely demonised by our right wing media.

    In some respects UKIP’s surge of support must also be down to a simple protest vote. As the natural beneficiaries of this , the LD’s, are no longer an option.

    Fortunately when it comes to a GE people are normally a little more rational in their voting.

  23. Paul Hogan – no, I meant 2008 (but obviously wrote it a bit clunkily!). Most of the councils up for grabs last had elections in 2009, but two unitaries (Durham and Northumberland) last had elections in 2008.

  24. ElectionNow – the Ralling & Thrasher prediction is what they think the National Equivalent Vote will be (that is, what they think the result would be if there were elections across the whole country. This is the measure they calculate to allow comparisons from one years local elections to the next, despite the different groups of councils up for election.

    In contrast, the ComRes poll is of the places that actually have elections on Thursday, so is of support in those places with local elections.

    Local elections this year are mostly in comparatively Toryish county councils, with no Metropolitan councils up for grabs. Hence the difference.

  25. If UKIP make 250 gains, at the expense of the Tories, (mainly) then Cameron’s position will be much weakened. We live in interesting times.

  26. @ Anthony Wells, thanks for that. How accurate do you think the Com Res Poll is?….

  27. South West looks interesting – 4 main parties around 20% each. South East looks like a UKIP vs Tory battle. Eastern is a UKIP vs Labour race. East midlands is Tory vs Labour. West midlands looks like the only remaining region with noticeably stronger Tory support.

    So expect UKIP to create some upsets in the South East and Eastern regions, Lib Dems should benefit from UKIP in the South West and Labour should get some gains in the East Midlands. Tories will lose all round, all other parties will gain.

    Good to see the electorate having more of a choice, looks like coalition governments are here to stay.

  28. Hey guys, where I am from Rugby in Warwickshire it is a mainly Tory vs Lab fight. The interesting thing is that where there are UKIP candidates standing a lot of there vote are ex-Tories. This could mean the rights vote is split and will help Labour.

    If there is a swing to Labour in the urban areas and a swing to UKIP in rural wards predictions of 600 + losses for Tories are a reality.

    So, heres my seat prediction:

    Labour gains of 450 + (aided by UKIP/Tory split/LD in Coalition)

    Will control Notts, Derby, Lancashire, Durham and Bristol. Do well in the Midlands and ok in the South.

    They will easily hold South Sheilds.

    Tory losses of 600 + and will lose 11 county councils.

    UKIP will gain over 100 seats in Tory heartlands.

    LDs will lose 100 + seats. Could actually gain a couple of SW Counties from Tories.

  29. What does everyone think about the big election in the North East, which is not the by-election in South Shields (a Labour shoo-in) but the Mayoral election in North Tyneside? The last remaining Tory stronghold in a Northern metropolitan area, Tory mayor with a council of 43 Labour 12 Tory and 5 LD. Could become a Labour mayor on Thursday based on the way things are panning out here.

  30. .
    What the comparison polls show us is the support for the right has held up but now being split between the Tories and Ukip mainly as to what form conservatism should take.
    This will probably be the first time the centre right voter may have moved in fairly significant numbers to the right wing of what thay still see as a conservative party, but UKip being more in tune with there older core conservative values real or imagined.
    We will see if the same split is present in the next GE personally I don’t think it will and conservative vote will return to the centre right which in turn will lead to a very close GE.

  31. Those polls show a 12% swing from CON to LAB.

    So… using various bits of analysis.. and with innumerable provisos added… Expect, on a UNS, a 5% swing from CON to LAB at the next GE.

    That’ll be around 38% for LAB and 35% for CON.

    A Labour majority – allowing for a few more tweaks – of around 20.


    Put a tenner on it.

    Just in case I’m right.

  32. I’ve worked out that if I take Clacton East on Thursday then,on a uniform swing, the Labour Party will gain just over 1000 seats. So watch out for the swing seat of Clacton East…….

  33. Labour certainly need to well in parts of the Shires, to win next time.

    Marginal seats like Watford, Stevenage, Harlow, Basildon, Thanet North, Dartford, Burton, Great Yarmouth, South Derbyshire, Amber Valley, Norwich North and South, Waveney, NW Leics, Northampton North etc. are all taking part in tomorrow’s elections.

    That’s where one needs to look at the Labour v Conservative performance. UKIP could very well split the right wing vote, in such seats, but it could just as well take the support of swing voters, who would otherwise vote for the main opposition party.

    There are also working class divisions, which Labour lost in 2009, and which it would expect to win back, but where UKIP is strong, and might win in their own right, such as Newcastle under Lyme, and Great Yarmouth.

  34. Mr Farage stated yesterday that a Third of BNP voters had switched from BNP to UKIP .

    He phrased this as a victory against racism which I suppose might have some validity as UKIP is not overtly racist and when it chooses to enforce it’s own rules does make some attempt to deselect those who are.

    But frankly I don’t think these individuals will have made a conscious decision to become less racist, but have switched from One Ultra Right Party to another with a better chance of getting elected.

    IMO UKIP will retain most of the BNP support at the next GE and this will account for much of the rise in their final share of the vote .

    I confidently (ish) predict this will transfer into No MP’s.

  35. “Labour needs to get into the shires”.

    I live in the shires and am standing for Labour in a County Council seat on May 2nd including the most deprived town in district but will still be annihilated – only question is whether they will elect Tories or UKIP – or whether the Right-wing mahority will split so evenly that the Lib-Dem will somehow slip in.

    The South outside of London and a handful of cities and new towns has never voted Labour and never will.

    We are as Gerry Hassan argues not one but multiple nations with supposedly national parties almost as regionalist as those from NI, Wales and Scotland that only stand candidates there – The Tories are now a Southern England party, Labour a party for the North, Wales and Scotland (at least in Westminster elections) and the Lib Dems have various weird little fringe enclaves.

    The only real battlegrounds left are London (and even there only the narrow band of constituencies that are neither inner city or leafy outer suburbs) and the Midlands.

  36. Or to put a slightly different slant on it all.
    Economy slowly but surely on the up (if only by a tiny bit)
    Many Tories will slowly creep back to the fold in time for the 2015 GE
    The UKIP vote will mostly evaporate anyway when people have to vote for a real Government and not a mainly one policy party.
    = Conservative Minority Government or another Coalition with an much reduced LD party.

    Now thats my GUESS just like all the above are GUESSING.
    All good fun though but 2 years is a very long time in Politics.

  37. If this ComRes poll is approximately right, then obviously news on Friday will be about dramatic UKIP gains.
    Surely we will see what we have already seen in local byelections in 2013 – LDs holding or even gaining a few seats where Cons first or second respectively due to both LDs and Cons losing support to UKIP but Cons losing more than LDs!

  38. @Turk – by the way I do like your play on things and is probably very close to the mark :)

  39. What I can’t quite work out is presumably most of the new UKIP votes are from mainly Right of Centre thinking people.
    Surely they must see that by voting for UKIP in 2015 all that will happen is it will allow a Left of Centre Party that is the Labour Party to occupy 10 Downing Street for at least 5 years.
    Wouldn’t that make matters even worse for those voters?
    Am i right or am I wrong in that simple assessment?

  40. Not possessing a crystal ball all predictions including those based on VI are to some extent guesses.

    You have to apply common sense and experience of past performance to produce your onclusion.

    Regarding your guess about 2015 You could of course be right .

    But no incumbent full term post war government with the exception of Margaret Thatcher’s after the Falklands has increased it’s electoral share at re-election .

    So IMHO your guess is basically wishful thinking.

    Mind you this site would be boring if we all agreed.

  41. IM in the shire in the Midlands and there is a lot of poverty, many ex-mining towns. Labour do need to win the shires in the East Mids, look at Sherwood,Amber Valley, Broxtowe, Erewash. They are 4 alone around here that Labour must take. Ashfield also a LIB/LAB marginal. Mansfield/Ashfield are very poor.

    It will be interesting to see where UKIP polls well because in Nottinghamshire there are a massive mix of different types of wards not just “tory shires”, their are very strong labour, Very strong Tory, Lib dem strong wards and and many in the middle.

  42. Mark Johnson

    Right wingers of the country unite? How apt it is for 1 May.

    Of course there will be tactical considerations, but they are not always systematic enough. I think UKIP is more interested in EE than GE.

  43. PeterCairns

    “At Holyrood in 2012 the SNP won that fight to the extent that the LibDems who were strongest in the Highlands and Borders lost every mainland constituency they had.

    They now only have Orkney and Shetland at Holyrood… later day Vikings.”

    LibDem Vikings! There’s an image to conjure with!

  44. To understand the figures we need to know the votes last time round, which including the two councils (Durham and Northumberland) that actually last voted in 2008 were Con 44%, Lab 13%, LDem 25%, UKIP 5% – so the changes are Con down 13, Lab up 11, Lib Dem down 13, UKIP up 17.

    This is a misleading comparison. In 2009, UKIP contested only around 25% of seats, so you can’t compare the 22% in this poll with the 5% total vote share last time round. In the places where they did field candidates, they polled an average of 16%. This time, they are contesting the majority of seats, so we could certainly expect their total share of votes cast to be up very substantially even if their levels of support were the same as last time.

    Perhaps a better comparison is the 18% or so they’ve been averaging in local by-elections in 2013. This suggests they do have momentum and will do very well, but the swing is not quite as dramatic as it looks at first sight.

  45. steve

    “But no incumbent full term post war government with the exception of Margaret Thatcher’s after the Falklands has increased it’s electoral share at re-election .”

    1979 Con 43.9% of vote

    1983 Con 42.4%

    1987 Con 42.2%

    Not even Maggie, in fact.

  46. UKIP are only standing in 5 of the 10 seats in my area, so somebody may say that they are going to vote UKIP but may be prevented from doing so, so the 22% may be hard to reach for UKIP.

    My local branch of UKIP has been started from Ex-Labour members, so will be going after Labour and Lib Dem voters not Tory.

    2015 will be interesting GE and locals, not sure if that will help UKIP or not.

    Then after 2015 once UKIP has “strongholds” and can win seats and councils, how will the electorate respond?

  47. @ Norbold-

    So what do your canvass returns say? Oh please don’t tell me you haven’t done any :-)

  48. One way or the other UKIP will if not dominate then at least share the headlines on Friday and at the weekend.

    If they do well in vote share I suspect to see all the usual suspects in the Sundays wheel out their “Seismic shift” predictions.

    From a Scottish and Yes/SNP perspective much of this might well fit with a narrative of England being politically a different Country.


  49. You are quite right

    I thought Her vote went up with the increased majority.

    I forgot the effect of the SDP/Libs splitting the left of centre vote which might be food for thought to those of a right leaning persuasion.

  50. @NORBOLD

    Good Luck tomorrow.

    You always admire people that stand for election it is easy to complain but not many people have the courage to put themselves forward.

    I hope you win.

    Just get your ground game sorted out and with a low turnout you could be the upset of the night – smile.

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