Millions of people in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are set to vote on Thursday morning in the most significant set of elections since last year’s general election. The results will provide the first true barometer of public opinion since the 2015 election.
Amid the heaps of stats and forecasts, are some key questions — what do these elections actually mean for the country? And who needs what to emerge as a “winner”?
Here’s a breakdown of the elections taking place in the UK on Thursday and what they could mean for national politics.
English council elections
- Held a year after the general election, the results of the English council elections typically indicate how satisfied people are with both the national government and the opposition.
- The party in opposition usually gains hundreds of seats in these elections. The average gain since 1974 has been 434 seats.
- This year though, pollsters have put Labour two points behind the Conservatives. This would mean the opposition would lose at least 170 seats.
To be exact, 2,743 seats are up for grabs across 124 English councils. The opposition party historically performs well in these elections, mainly because people grow frustrated and tired of the government a year into its rule. This was certainly the case last time out, when Labour under Ed Miliband gained a whopping 857 seats. In fact, there’s only been two occasions since 1974 where the opposition party has lost seats.
With this in mind, Thursday could be really bad for Jeremy Corbyn. If polling expert Prof John Curtice is right, and Labour loses nearly 200 seats, it would be a severe indictment of Corbyn’s leadership. Furthermore, not once since 1974 has an opposition party lost seats in the local elections to go on and win the next general election. Today’s outcome therefore really matters for Labour and its leader.
If Thursday pans out as badly for Labour as some pollsters are predicting, then this would be really good news for David Cameron, especially given the reasons the public could have to dislike or distrust his party right now: the ongoing conflict between Jeremy Hunt and the junior doctors, the Prime Minister’s involvement in the Panama Papers revelations, and the internal civil war over the EU referendum.
London mayoral election
- The campaign to be the capital’s next mayor has been a battle between Labour and the Conservatives.
- Labour candidate Sadiq Khan had a 20 point lead over Goldsmith in a recent Survation poll.
The campaign to become the mayor of London has been heated and at times pretty personal. Labour MP Yvette Cooper described Goldsmith’s campaign as racist because he accused Khan of providing “cover” to Islamic extremists. Insults aside, recent polls have said Khan is more popular with key social groups, like the young and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) voters, and is likely to return the Labour party to City Hall.
This result would be a blow for the Conservatives as the party would lose an important seat in the country’s biggest city. It would a blow to the Prime Minister, too, who has enjoyed the luxury of working with a mayor of the same party in Boris Johnson over the last few years. In Khan, he would have to work with someone with who he shares very different political opinions.
- The SNP is widely expected to retain a strong majority.
- The interesting talking point in Scotland is the battle between Labour and the Conservatives to be the SNP’s official opposition.
- Labour had a six point lead in a Panelbase poll published last week.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party dominated in last year’s general election — winning 56 of the 57 seats available in parliament. The pro-independence party wiped out Labour in the process, and that’s why Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is under pressure to deliver a second place finish to make sure the party remains the official opposition in Scotland.
Labour and the Conservatives have been neck and neck in the polls until recently when a Panelbase poll published last week gave Labour a six point lead. If Conservative leader Ruth Davidson manages to replace Dugdale as Scotland’s new opposition leader, it would be a fantastic result for David Cameron who would establish a stronger presence across the border.
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