The expectations on Labour in next month’s local elections have been ratcheted up yet again after experts said the party could need as many as 700 gains to demonstrate a clear lead over the Conservatives.
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Updating their previous analysis of the local elections across the UK for LGC this week, Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of the University of Plymouth elections centre said that while 500 gains remained the bare minimum Labour should be expecting, a much higher figure would be needed to demonstrate clear daylight in public support between themselves and the other parties.
In last year’s local elections, Labour failed to register a lead in the nation equivalent share of the vote, registering 37% to the Conservatives’ 38%, despite the Tory-led coalition implementing a swingeing agenda of public spending cuts.
The parties’ performances in by-elections since the turn of the year suggest that Labour’s support has not increased since last year’s local elections. Labour’s national equivalent share of the vote remains steady at 37% while the Conservatives’ has fallen from 38% to 34%.
To register a lead in the national equivalent vote, “Labour needs to register at least 500 gains,” the pair wrote. “An advance of closer to 700 gains would indicate the party was some 4-5 points ahead of its rivals.”
Speaking to LGC in February, David Sparks, leader of the LGA Labour group described his party’s prospects of achieving 500 gains as “over optimistic” and predicted “steady” rather than “dramatic” gains. More recently, sources close to Labour leader Ed Miliband told national newspapers the party’s goal was for around 300 gains.
The elections are likely to see a host of councils fall to Labour control, including England’s biggest, Birmingham City Council.
The Conservatives will be hoping to emerge with fewer losses than their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats who face the prospect of falling below 3,000 councillors across the country for the first time since 1986.
To read Rallings & Thrasher’s latest forecast of next month’s elections, including the councils to look out for, click here