Setting the scene for next Thursday’s local elections

Setting the scene for next Thursday’s local elections

CON position better than LE2016 but worse than LE2017 – the years when most of the seats last fought

Next Thursday, I think I’m safe in asserting, we will see the largest set of local elections ever to take place in England. This is because the group of seats that should have been voted on last year had their elections postponed and of course this year we have the 2017 cohort. On top of that we have several hundred local by-elections which have been delayed again because of the pandemic ban on election activity in England.

This is going to make the interpretation of the outcomes very challenging – a situation that has been exacerbated by the considerable changes in boundaries and councillor totals because of local government re-organisations.

No doubt many parts of the media will simply take figures of seats won/lost overall for each party and produce headlines accordingly. This is going to be much more complex and I am grateful to David Cowling, the BBC’s former director of political research, for preparing the following tables.

Monthly averages for Westminster voting intention polls

2016 (April)3532  727
2017 (April)47271016
2019 (April)2933  930
2021 (April)*4334  716

* based on 20 polls with fieldwork dates up to the 28th. The average of the most recent five polls gave exactly the same party shares as the full 20.
The next table sets out the differences between 2016, 2017 and 2019 compared with 2021.
Differences in April monthly averages of Westminster VI polls with April 2021

2016  +8+20-11
2017   -4+7-3   0

It should be noted that Westminster polls are not designed nor intended to predict the likely outcome of local or devolved elections. I publish this here because they provide a very broad indication of the relative popularity of the main parties for the relevant periods.

I am hoping that the media will take each segment – the 2016 cohort, 2017 cohort and the by-elections -separately for analysis.

What is challenging for Johnson is that what was then TMay’s party did exceptionally well at LE2017 and on the face of it could see losses now which is very much against the current narrative. Four years ago, of course, saw GE2017 being declared during the campaign and on the day before the election the news was dominated by TMay going to the Palace.

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