2018 Local Elections – What to look out for

Local Elections are rarely seen as exciting, usually being left to the political hardcore and locals who are annoyed about dog mess and potholes. Turnout is lower, coverage slimmer and the issues a little more niche.

However, with no national elections in May 2018, the Locals will take centre stage are they are not without intrigue. The political map continues to be in a state of rapid change following the General Election last year, and anyone who can predict with certainty what will happen on Thursday 3 May is bluffing.

With Local Elections taking place every four years, it’s worth remembering the last time these seats were up for grabs in 2014 the EU Referendum was the promise made by David Cameron, who looked certain not to be Prime Minister after 2015. UKIP appeared to be on an irresistible rise and the Scottish Referendum looked like being a rather dull, inconsequential ‘No’ result. How wrong we all were.

So if you’re staying up all night on May 3, or just wondering how to cut through the parties spin the morning after, here are a few things to look out for.

Lib Dem revival in cities?
Ahead of the 2017 General Election the Lib Dems thought they might be in with a chance of capitalising on the Brexit positions of Labour and the Tories by offering a second referendum. While it didn’t work in terms of seats, there are a number of big cities who voted overwhelmingly Remain with elections on May 3. If the Lib Dems can take back ground in Leeds, Birmingham and especially Manchester and Newcastle where they have previously been strong, it may indicate a revival in fortunes.

Mayoral elections
Elections for Mayors in some London Boroughs and the Sheffield City Region are not of interest, with the only question being how big Labour will win. In Hackney and Newham, where the divisive Robin Wales is no more, vote shares of 80% could be on the cards. The interesting race of the evening is Watford where the Lib Dems will be looking to hold on in what could be a three-way marginal.

Can Tories hold on to London boroughs?
London will be the focus of the night, will all boroughs having all-out elections. Labour will be expecting to make big gains, but there are a couple of boroughs that will give an indication of the scale of change in the capital. Barnet is almost certain fall, with the Tory minority administration needing to lose just one seat to Labour to be ousted. The Tories will be most worried about some of the traditional London heartlands though. Watch out firstly for Wandsworth, where Labour will look to improve drastically on their 19 seats won in 2014. If the night is going spectacularly badly for the Tories then Westminster may be at risk, where they current have 44 of the 60 seats. Lastly Hillingdon would be a huge prize for Labour, in Boris Johnson’s back yard, but they’ll need to gain at least 12 seats from the Tories to take control.

What will happen in Kensington and Chelsea?
Perhaps one of the more interesting London Boroughs, less than a year after the Grenfell disaster and the shock election of a Labour MP in Kensington, will Labour be able to take the next step and win control of the council? Labour will need to have an outstanding night to do so; starting off with only 11 of the boroughs 50 seats, but a solid local campaign and well-liked MP in Emma Dent-Coad will increase the chances. However they do face problems with a local party Forward Together postiviely splitting the progressive vote.

What happens to the UKIP vote?
With these council seats last contested at ‘peak UKIP’ in 2014, it will be interesting to see where their vote goes following the collapse of the party since the EU Referendum. UKIP won 163 council seats in 2014, but that number has reduced with by-elections and defections, meaning they go into the night with just over 150 seats on the line. It’ll be especially interesting to watch the result in Great Yarmouth, where UKIP secures over 40% of the vote in 2014 before plunging to just 6% at the 2017 General Election. There are plenty of other councils where the dispersal of UKIP votes could decide new administrations.

Will Labour progress in their target seats?
The surprising results of 2017 mean that there are now a whole host of Labour/Tory marginal seats that will become the focus of much campaigning in the coming months and years. Top of the list is Thurrock, where Labour fell only 350 votes short of taking the Westminster seat in June. Also worth watching are the unitary authorities of Swindon, where one of the parliamentary seats now has a Tory majority of around 2,500, and Milton Keynes, where both Westminster constituencies have majorities around the 2,000 mark. While these councils only have a third of the seats up for election, Labour will be looking to ‘win’ on the day, in terms of vote share and number of seats. Trafford is another Labour target, made up of 3 Westminster seats, which include 2 Labour hold and one now considerably more marginal than before.

What will happen in the 2017 surprise seats?
The first indication of whether Labour will be able to hold on to some of their surprise gains from June 2017 or if the Tories are set to take them back next time round. Look out especially for Ipswich, a perennial battle ground where Labour currently control the council and have the MP. Derby is also interesting, following the re-election of Corbyn ally Chris Williamson in 2017 after he lost narrowly in 2015. Kirklees Council features the Westminster seat of Colne Valley which Labour took from the Tories last year and which may be in play next time round. Also look out for the result in Plymouth, where Luke Pollard won the only Tory constituency in 2017 and where Labour will look to take control of the council this time round.


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