Voters head to the ballot box in the 2022 local elections

Elliot Chappell
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Today is polling day. Up for grabs in the local elections are: 4,411 seats across 144 of the 333 councils in England; 1,226 Scottish seats; and 1,234 seats in all 762 wards in Wales. Importantly for Labour (and for anyone making those early-morning election takes), the party is coming from a high baseline in 2018. Half of the English councils with elections today are already controlled by Labour, for example. And, in those authorities electing by thirds (around 31%), the third of seats where Labour has already won most of the seats is the third up for election today. It is also important to note that large swathes of the country are not heading to the polls today – which should temper any attempt to draw conclusions about what the results mean for the next general election.

Having said all that, these elections are important for Keir Starmer. He was picked for leader in 2020 in large part because he is seen as ‘electable’, and each set of locals is used to measure how party leaders are doing. With a government overseeing a stark cost-of-living crisis and with Boris Johnson and the Tories miring themselves in ‘partygate’, the Labour leader is in the hot seat to show that he can capitalise on Conservative troubles. After a decidedly mixed bag for Labour in the 2021 local elections, which was very much more a Covid election, the Labour leader will be hoping to do better today. Labour has been cautioning against hoping for large numbers of councils changing hands, however, as the good performance in 2018 and the seats available make this unlikely – regardless of how many seats Conservative MPs and commentators are saying that their party might lose in the frankly wild expectation management we have seen.

YouGov released its forecasts last night. Its model suggests that Tory-controlled Southampton is “leaning towards” Labour. Barnet looks like it could turn red for the first time in its history – although YouGov has it down as “too close to call”. The pollster has Tory ‘flagship’ council Wandsworth “leaning Labour” – with the LBC’s Benjamin Kentish reporting that the Conservatives are diverting resources to the borough. YouGov also puts Westminster council in the “too close to call” bracket – Tories and media commentators have been talking up the prospects of Labour winning here, but the distribution of party support gives the Conservatives a strong advantage. Labour-held Kingston Upon Hull is now listed as “too close to call” as a result of a strong challenge from the Lib Dems. Bolton, Wirral, and Kirklees all look set to remain in ‘no overall control’.

We have been to visit the Labour campaigns in GlasgowManchesterWorthing and Exeter. Readers can peruse the insights from those contests today (although if possible you should be busy getting out the Labour vote), and Luke Akehurst did his customary analysis of what a good set of elections would look like last month. Polls are open until 10pm – make sure you vote. Katie and I will be bringing you all the latest as the counts take place overnight with our LabourList liveblog. If you are going to a count this evening, or if you have any tips/stories/polling day photos, my DMs are open or you can drop me an email.

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