Many voters in England, Wales and Scotland will head to the polls on May 5 to elect their new local representatives.
Over 4,350 seats will be contested in England in over 140 councils, with Scotland’s 32 councils and Wales’ 22 councils also holding elections.
While these elections will directly decide who is responsible in an individual’s region for matters of town planning, housing and refuse collection, they will also give voters a say in national matters, including the cost of living crisisthe ongoing row over Downing Street parties and through Whitehall and the government’s response to the war in Ukraine.
With a large number of contested seats, the results will likely paint a vivid picture of the national mood for the first time since the snap general election in 2019.
But how do they work, what are the key areas to monitor and what will be a good or bad outcome for the main parties?
How can I vote?
To vote in the next local elections you must be registered and over 18 in England or over 16 in Scotland and Wales.
EU or Commonwealth citizens who live in the UK can vote in England, while any foreign citizen legally living in Scotland and Wales can vote.
Polling stations will be open from 07:00 to 22:00 on May 5 – but as long as you are in the queue at 22:00, you are eligible to vote.
Voting usually takes place at local schools, churches and recreation centers and you will receive a ballot when you arrive.
In certain circumstances, for example if you have covidyou can request an emergency proxy vote – where someone votes on your behalf – until 5:00 p.m. on Election Day.
What am I voting for?
Local councilors are elected for a four-year term by the local community to represent their views.
They are responsible for a wide range of issues ranging from transportation, garbage collection, planning applications and the management of mental health services.
Participating in the polls allows residents to have a say in what is happening in their locality.
Local residents can vote for as many council seats as there are in their ward – which will be clearly marked at the top of the ballot.
What are the main results to look for?
London, which accounts for more than four in 10 of all English seats at stake, could see upheaval for either of the two main parties.
Wandsworth and Westminster – both currently controlled by the Conservatives – are two London councils that are particularly in the spotlight.
Work won more votes but fewer seats in the Wandsworth local election last time out – but holds all the constituency MPs – and will want a different result next month.
An early adopter of Thatcherite policies, including social housing sales and privatization, the Tories will want to retain valuable south London advice.
Westminster has never been under the control of any other party, but some commentators believe the Tories may come under pressure here as the party row rages on.
Other southern councils where Tories are also expected to face a challenge include Westminster, Barnet, Harlow, Southampton and Thurrock.
Meanwhile, in Croydon, the authority currently held by Labor which has been struggling financially of late, could see Labor face a battle amid growing voter discontent.
Hartlepool, which the Tories won in a by-election in 2021 – winning more than half of all Labor votes for the first time since it was formed in 1971 – will likely be in Labor’s crosshairs.
Labor lost control of the authority in 2019 and it is currently led by a coalition of Conservatives and Hartlepool Independent Union councillors.
Peterborough was won by Labor in a 2019 by-election, only to have the party lose it to the Conservatives in the general election months later.
The result could therefore be considered a good indicator of public opinion on the current government.
In Wales, where the majority of councils are currently led by coalitions, it will be interesting to see if that changes and if Labor can hold Cardiff while the Conservatives can maintain a strong position in the north east of the country.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, all eyes will be on whether the Tories can at least maintain or even improve on the gains they made through Labor in 2017.
When will we know the results?
Results are expected in the early hours and throughout the day on Friday, with some tips also likely to come out on Saturday.
In England, around half of the councils are due to start their vote count on Thursday night, with the remaining councils starting on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, in Scotland and Wales, counting won’t start until Friday, with first results not expected until this afternoon.
A fuller picture should be clearer from Friday evening.
What will the main parties see as a good or bad result?
Leading pollsters Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher gave their interpretation of how we should view possible polling outcomes.
They suggest that more than 350 losses would be the number the Conservative Party will not want to reach.
That could lead many Tory MPs – both in the former Red-Wall fringe seats and in the southern seats – to be particularly worried.
The party will try to reverse losses of between 100 and 150 as “medium term blues”, pollsters suggest, but that level of decline will still indicate the Tories are trailing Labor in terms of popular support.
Meanwhile, gains of more than 100 would show the Tories continuing to make inroads into former Labor hearts and would be seen as a major success for Mr Johnson’s government.
On the other hand, Labor will want to capitalize on their growing popularity, according to recent polls.
Mr Rallings and Mr Thrasher suggest that 200 or more wins – which would be the party’s best local election performance in a decade – would be considered a triumph for Mr Keir Starmer.
Gains of between 50 and 100 would also be seen as a positive step forward, illustrating that the party has made progress since 2018 and possibly even targeted some key council seats in London.
However, minimal or no gains would be considered disappointing given the current decline in Mr Johnson’s approval ratings.
Over 100 losses would be described as a particularly poor result, darkening the woes of 2021.
What happens now?
Like Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure over the partygate scandal, local elections will be taken as an indication of how voters felt about the issue.
If the Tories do poorly in this election, his premiership could be even more strained – with a potential leadership challenge about to be unleashed.
Tory MPs will likely fear that, if repeated in the next general election, a similar outcome could see Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer become Prime Minister.
In late November, rumors swirled that letters of no confidence were being sent to the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers as the issue of the party gate surfaced.
the Conservative party the rules state that at least 15% of Tory MPs must write a letter of censure to make a challenge to the leadership possible.
There are currently 359 Tory MPs, meaning 54 letters are needed to trigger a competition.
Before the election, more than a dozen Tory MPs were calling for Mr Johnson to step down.
This number could now increase. But as the letters are delivered confidentially, no precise total of the number of letters submitted to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham, is available.
But Mr Johnson has been adamant that he will still be Prime Minister in six months despite rumblings of discontent from the backbenches over partygate.
On the other hand, if Labor performs poorly – at a time when Tory approval ratings are plummeting – Sir Keir’s leadership is also likely to come into question.
This will be particularly the case if Labor fails to claw back ground in one of the former Red-Wall areas where the Tories made general election gains in 2019.
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