LONDON — Voting in the local and mayoral election voting finished at 10 p.m. BST and now the results will start to roll in, in what will be the last major electoral test for the main political parties before the general election.
Counting will continue throughout the night and right through to Friday evening. Here is everything you need to look out for over the coming hours.
Will there be any exit polls?
No, there will not. Exit polls are incredibly expensive and difficult to produce and are normally only ever conducted for general elections. We can however expect at least one standard voting intention poll showing how people said they would vote on the day. This should give us a pretty good indication of how things have gone and will be the only real information that we have for some hours to come.
When will the first results come in?
Around 2 a.m. BST we can expect the first results to come out in the Isle of Wight and Swansea in Wales. After that there will be a gradual drip of results that will extend right up until early Friday evening.
Where are the elections taking place?
- England: Voters have gone to the polls in 27 county councils, six unitary councils, and one metropolitan council in Doncaster.
- Scotland and Wales: All council seats are being contested.
- Metropolitan Mayors: Six new metro mayors will be elected in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and West of England.
What should we be looking out for?
Most of those seats being contested are outside of typically Labour-voting areas so the results won’t give us an incredibly clear indication of the parties likely support in the upcoming general election. However, Labour still holds large numbers of seats in those areas being contested and the change in levels of support will give us a good indication of whether current national opinion polls are accurate.
The results will also give us a good indication of whether there really has been a Brexit effect on British politics. If Labour do particularly badly in Labour-supporting Leave areas, or if the Liberal Democrats do unusually well in Remain-supporting areas then we will know something is afoot. Similarly they should give us a good indication of whether UKIP are on course to being wiped out post-Brexit.
Once all the results are in, the BBC will then produce a figure known as a “Projected National Share” and Professors Rallings and Thrasher of Plymouth University will also produce similar figures called the “National Equivalent Vote.” These will seek to estimate what level of support the main parties would have received had the elections taken place everywhere.
So will they allow us to predict the general election result?
Not really. In previous local elections that took place in advance of a general election the main opposition party has tended to do significantly better than in the subsequent general election. This has been the case, even when the general election took place shortly after the local elections, as they did in both 1983 and 1987.
It is very possible that we will see a similar exaggeration of Labour’s support in these local elections and indeed opinion pollsters have already seen some sign of it. In YouGov’s polling of local and general election voting intention in Wales, voters reported significantly more support for Labour in the local elections than in the general election. Indeed, while in the locals, Labour were narrowly ahead across Wales, in the general election the Conservatives held a ten point lead.
Why do people vote differently locally and nationally?
People often choose to vote on the strength of local issues and candidates in local elections whereas national elections are more impacted by the performance and policies of the national parties and their leaders. Because of this, local council elections can sometimes throw up surprising results that are not otherwise supported by national polling. Many voters will discard the significance of party leaders when voting locally as they understand that a vote for Labour or the Conservatives in Swansea will neither make the prospect of prime minister May or Corbyn more or less likely.
What about the Mayoral elections?
This will be even more the case in these elections because of the six new metropolitan mayors due to be elected. Unlike in parliamentary elections, mayoral elections are often based more on the presidential model, where candidates, rather than parties, are the decisive factor in who wins. This was the case in London where both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, when he ran as an independent, defied the wider voting trend in the city.
The two key mayoral battlegrounds to look for in these elections are the West of England where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to ride a Remain-supporting wave to victory and the West Midlands where Labour could lose what in ordinary political times should be a very bankable election for them. Unfortunately this result isn’t due to come in until Friday evening.
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