Sean Fear’s Friday Slot
picture Mike Smithson
The 2008 Local Election – The Districts
Seventy Eight District Councils will hold elections on May 1st, with around 1,300 seats being contested. Most will just contest one third of the seats, but six will contest half the seats, and three, Barrow-in-Furness, South Lakeland, and Welwyn Hatfield will witness all-out contests, as a result of boundary changes.
The majority of councils will see no change in control. Adur, Amber Valley, Basildon, Bassetlaw, Brentwood, Broxbourne, Cherwell, Chorley, Colchester, Cherwell, Crawley, Daventry, Epping Forest, Fareham, Great Yarmouth, Havant, Hertsmere, Huntingdon, Mole Valley, North Herts., Purbeck, Reigate & Banstead, Rochford, Rugby, Runnymede, Rushmoor, South Cambridgeshire, Stratford on Avon, Stroud, Tamworth, Tandridge, Tunbridge Wells, Waveney, Welwyn Hatfield, West Lancs., West Lindsey, and Worthing will all remain Conservative, barring some political earthquake over the next few days. Cambridge, Eastleigh, Pendle, South Lakeland, West Lindsey, Three Rivers, and Watford will remain Liberal Democrat, although, in the case of the last two, it will be interesting to see if the Conservatives can at last advance in the wards making up the Watford Parliamentary constituency, the closest three way marginal in 2005. Stevenage will retain its anomalous status as a safe Labour authority in the South of England.
Among those councils remaining under no overall control will be Burnley, although the Liberal Democrats should strengthen their position as largest party; in all likelihood, the BNP will also pick up a seat from Labour; Carlisle; Cannock Chase, currently run by a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition; Craven, once Conservative, but now with a strong Independent presence; Exeter, where the Conservatives should emerge as the largest party; Gloucester; Harlow; Hart; Harrogate, where the Conservatives are close to outright control, but which sees mostly Conservative seats being contested this time; Ipswich, although the Conservatives should come very close to taking outright control; Newcastle under Lyme; Norwich, where the Green Party, currently with ten councillors, stands an excellent chance of becoming the official opposition to Labour; Oxford, where the Conservatives will be doing well if they can even hold one or two seats. Remarkably, the Conservatives are now the fifth party in a city whose council they controlled for decades. Preston should remain under no overall control, as should St. Albanâ€™s, although the Conservatives should gain some seats from the Liberal Democrats in that key marginal. Weymouth and Portland will see no change. Wyre Forest, where the Kidderminster Hospital Campaign remains strong, will remain under no overall control, as should the other two Worcestershire authorities up this year, Redditch and Worcester.
Among the rest, the Conservatives should gain overall control of Barrow-in Furness, Basingstoke & Deane, and Gosport, being just one seat short in each authority. They should also take Cheltenham, which they currently control in alliance with a minor local party, and will either gain, or come close to gaining, overall control of Elmbridge, where they form a minority administration. They should be able to take Maidstone, where they repeatedly fall just short of overall control, They should be able to gain overall control of Nuneaton & Bedworth from Labour, although a likely big vote for the BNP in that authority could prevent this. Hastings, where half the seats are up for election, ought to be a Conservative gain, although two poor by-election results last year make this uncertain.
The Conservatives are vulnerable in Castle Point (particularly after the defection of Robert Spink) where local independents have been gaining ground, although they should just hold on this time round. In both Lincoln, and Hyndburn, they are just one seat away from losing overall control, and Labour are very close to gaining outright control. I would expect the Conservatives to hold on in what I think will be a bad year for Labour, but they will be vulnerable in future. Rossendale has witnessed some dreadful Conservative performances in by elections, and will probably be lost to no overall control, with Labour as the largest party. Swale is another likely loss to no overall control, given the success of local independents. Both Winchester and Woking are vulnerable to the Liberal Democrats, but should be held narrowly by the Conservatives this time round.
What are my overall predictions? I think Boris Johnson will win narrowly, by about 52% to 48% . On the London Assembly, I expect to see Labour lose at least two constituency seats, with a final tally of Conservative 10, Labour 5, Lib Dem 5, Green 3, and BNP 2, although UKIP might just make it back if enough Conservatives give them their list vote.
In terms of national vote projection, I would expect to see something like Conservative 42%, Lib Dem 25%, Labour 24%, with around 200 gains for the Conservatives (excluding the Shadow authorities), 250 losses for Labour, 50 losses for the Liberal Democrats, and the balance made up of gains for Plaid, minor parties and independents.
There were just two by-elections last night:-
Dover District – Little Stour and Ashstone: Conservative 1109, Lib Dem 459, Labour 113. A safe Conservative hold.
Hinckley and Bosworth Borough – Hinckley Castle: Lib Dem 802, BNP 264, Conservative 226, Labour 116. A safe Liberal Democrat hold, with another strong BNP performance in Leicestershire.