With just two days to go before the UK’s local elections, a survey has predicted that the Conservatives will lose almost 550 council seats.
The party is “heading for a thrashing” as “disaffected voters punish them over Partygate”, said Metro. Boris Johnson became the first serving prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law, just weeks before ballots were due to be cast across the whole of the UK. And MPs within his party expect there are more fines to come.
The newspaper said many see the upcoming elections as a “barometer” of Johnson’s popularity and so “his party getting pummelled could easily renew calls for him to step aside”.
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What elections are taking place?
Elections will take place in local authorities across England, including in London boroughs. These will be held alongside combined authority mayoral elections in some areas of the north, including Barnsley and Doncaster, and local authority mayoral elections in Croydon, Watford and other southern areas.
In Scotland, there will be elections to all 32 councils, while the Northern Ireland Assembly election will be held on the same day. In Wales, voters will elect members of all 22 local authorities.
The Conservatives also face a “potentially tricky” by-election in Wakefield, added the Evening Standard. MP Imran Ahmad Khan has resigned after being found guilty of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, but a date to vote in his replacement has not been announced.
The Conservatives are also facing two by-elections. Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned after being found guilty of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008 and Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish stood down after admitting he watched pornography in the Commons on two occasions. However, the dates for these have not been set.
Do local elections matter?
Yes, said the BBC, because local councils are “responsible for everything from bins, bus routes and potholes, to providing mental health services, deciding planning applications and managing schemes to tackle climate change”.
The results will also have national consequences because the elections will be “the first widespread test for Boris Johnson since the war in Ukraine, the spiralling cost of living and the so-called partygate saga”, said Alex Forsyth, BBC political correspondent.
Although many Tories saw the PM as an electoral asset when he moved into No. 10, “many will be watching closely to see whether that’s still the case – and in particular, whether the tide of support Mr Johnson’s won in former Labour areas continues to rise or starts to ebb”, she added.
Meanwhile, said Forsyth, Labour “needs to show whether it can reverse some of its recent electoral losses, particularly in parts of the country that voted to leave the EU”.
What are the parties saying?
Launching the Labour Party’s campaign in Bury, Starmer claimed families will be an average of £2,620 a year worse off under the Conservatives, reported the BBC.
Flanked by deputy leader Angela Rayner, Starmer told voters: “In exactly five weeks, you get the chance to send the Tories a message they cannot ignore – a message that Britain deserves better than the pathetic response we got to the Conservative cost of living crisis in the mini-Budget.”
The Lib Dems have a similar message, but leader Ed Davey has set a low bar, admitting: “It will be tough for us because we won a lot of councils four years ago – Kingston, Richmond and South Cambs. So we are fighting from a high base. There’s a few we can win, but it’s difficult.”
Writing for ConservativeHome, minister Oliver Dowden said the cost of living was “the first thing people want to talk about when I knock on doors”. The Conservative Party co-chairman and MP for Hertsmere argued that voters should back his party to keep costs down. “Conservative councils charge the lowest taxes in the country, yet they deliver more,” he claimed.
However, one unnamed senior Conservative MP told The Guardian that the elections “could be terrible” for the party. Another predicted that the “spell” over colleagues who have backed so far Johnson “might be broken when their councillors start losing in May and when the Wakefield byelection goes badly”.
How can you vote?
There are three ways to vote in the elections: in person at a polling station, by postal vote or by nominating someone to vote for you.
The deadlines to register to vote and to register for a postal vote or a proxy vote have all passed. However, emergency proxy votes will be available for unforeseen circumstances - including having Covid - up until 5pm on election day.
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on the day and if you’re still in a queue to vote when polls close you are guaranteed entry.
In Wales, the government is trialling new arrangements to allow people in four council areas to vote early. In Northern Ireland, which uses the single transferable vote, voters will need to bring photo ID.
Enter your postcode on the Electoral Commission website to find out what elections are taking place in your area.
What do the polls and odds say?
The latest survey from pollster Find Out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus suggests the Tories are set to lose nearly 548 seats, amounting to what The Telegraph said would be the party’s “worst performance since Sir Tony Blair led Labour in the 1990s”.
The poll of 1,749 adults in the 201 councils facing elections on Thursday predicted that the Conservatives would retain just under 980 council seats and Labour would hold 3,500, a gain of more than 800. The Tories might also lose control of “flagship councils” Wandsworth and Westminster as part of a “voter backlash” over Partygate and “anger over the Government’s handling of the cost-of-living crisis”, said The Telegraph.
In Scotland, the latest Panelbase tracker survey for The Sunday Times suggested the Conservatives will “slip into third place behind Labour for the first time in six years”. The SNP “remains dominant”, added the paper, but support for Nicola Sturgeon’s party has dropped six points since Panelbase’s last survey in November.
With days to go before the Northern Ireland Assembly election, the DUP was “failing to significantly narrow the electoral gap with Sinn Fein”, said the Belfast Telegraph. According to a LucidTalk poll, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill is “on course” to land the first minister position at Stormont.
For the local elections, the Smarkets betting exchange said Labour has a 95.24% chance of winning the overall popular vote on the night, compared to a 2.63% chance for the Tories.
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