The real tests for Labour lie outside of London

The real tests for Labour lie outside of London

On Thursday 3rd May, there will be 4,350 seats up for election across 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.

Much of the spotlight of this Thursday’s local elections has been on London, which is home to some of the most fiercely fought battlegrounds.

However, with 152 UKIP seats up for grabs, a range of election cycles, boundary changes in some areas and a number of councils with slim majorities, elections outside of the Capital are likely to give a better indication as to the strength of the respective parties.

With a strong result in metropolitan areas expected, Jeremy Corbyn will be keen to make gains in more suburban areas to show that his radical message has a broader appeal. Labour will be targeting a number of marginal Conservative held councils such as Plymouth which has regularly switched between a Labour and Conservative administration, and Trafford in the North West where Conservatives have been a longstanding presence in a primarily red region.

Other targets which are hotly tipped to go Labour include Amber Valley in Derbyshire, an authority surrounded by other Conservative-led councils. The Conservatives currently only hold a one seat majority and with 15 seats up for election (five of these held by Conservative councillors), it is currently too close to call whether Labour can tip the scales in their favour to gain these all important seats to demonstrate their political muscle.

Despite having clear targets for seat gains, the pressure on Labour will also come from their traditional strongholds like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Whilst Labour have strong majorities in both Manchester and Leeds, they will be keen to ensure that the Lib Dems and Conservatives are completely eradicated or at least, do not make gains themselves.

After the election of a Conservative Mayor in the West Midlands last year, the Conservatives are hoping to make some gains in Birmingham. The Council has not always been Labour run and recent local issues could potentially curtail Labour’s dominance. A boundary review has reduced the number of council seats available from 120 to 101 and most recently, the Labour run-authority has had to weather a three month bin strike causing the Council’s leader to step down late last year. This has been a key issue in local campaigning so it will be a defining moment in ‘Bins vs Brexit’ and whether the electorate is voting for local issues over national politics.

With a long list of both Labour and Conservative held marginal councils, it is still all to play for. As would be expected of an incumbent party in midterm elections, Theresa May and the Conservatives will be focusing on damage limitation.

The Labour Party on the other hand, has struggled to manage expectations so will really need to make significant gains both inside and outside of London to claim a good result.

Nonetheless, the question really comes down to the accuracy of these election results as an indicator of national sentiment. The British Election Study has shown that many people vote differently in local elections to national ones and many canvassers have indicated that the issues on the doorstep have focused on local issues.

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