Voters in many areas in England will head to the polls on 5 May to elect their new local representatives.
More than 4,350 seats will be contested next month on over 140 councils.
While these elections will directly decide who is responsible in an individual’s area for planning issues, housing and rubbish collection – they will also allow voters to have their say on national issues including the cost of living crisis, the ongoing row over parties held in Downing Street and across Whitehall and the government’s response to the war in Ukraine.
But what would constitute a good day in the office for both the Labour party and the Conservatives when it comes to reading the results?
Leading pollsters Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have given their interpretation of how we should view the possible outcomes of the polls.
As Boris Johnson faces increasing pressure over the partygate scandal, the local elections will be seen as an indication of what voters have made of the matter.
Mr Rallings and Mr Thrasher suggest that more then 350 losses would be the figure that the Conservative Party won’t want to reach.
This could lead to many Conservative MPs – in both former Red-Wall marginal seats and seats across the south – to be particularly worried.
The party will attempt to write off losses of between 100 to 150 as ‘mid-term blues’, the pollsters suggest, but this level of decline will still indicate that the Tories trail Labour in terms of popular support.
Meanwhile, gains of over 100 would show the Conservatives are continuing to make inroads in former-Labour heartlands and would be seen as a great success for Mr Johnson’s government.
Labour, on the other hand, will be wanting to capitalise on their growing popularity, according to recent polls.
Mr Rallings and Mr Thrasher suggest that 200 or more gains – which would be the party’s best local election performance for a decade, would be seen as a triumph for Sir Keir Starmer.
Gains of between 50 and 100 would also be seen as a positive step forward, illustrating the party has made progress since 2018 and possible even targeted some key council seats in London.
However, minimal or no gains would be seen as disappointing given Mr Johnson’s current declining popularity ratings.
Over 100 losses would be portrayed as a particularly poor result, shadowing the woes of 2021.
Key councils to look out for
London, which accounts for more than four in ten of all the English seats in play, could witness some upsets for either of the two main parties.
Wandsworth and Westminster – both currently controlled by the Conservatives – are two London councils which are particularly in the spotlight.
Labour won more votes but fewer seats in the local Wandsworth elections last time around – but hold all the constituency MPs – and will be wanting a different outcome next month.
The Conservatives are also expected to face a challenge in Westminster.
Meanwhile in Croydon, currently Labour-held authority dogged by financial woes as of late, could see Labour face a battle amid rising voter dissatisfaction.
Outside of London and currently Labour-held Wakefield, where a key parliamentary by-election is forthcoming following Tory MP Imran Ahman Khan’s sexual assault conviction, is also worth a watch.
Could the Tories face backlash over the partygate scandal and cost of living crisis?
Writing for The Sunday Times, Mr Rallings and Mr Thrasher say the Conservatives may be affected in the May elections as scandals and the cost of living have relegated the issue of Brexit.
“Most of the more than 4,350 seats falling vacant were last contested in 2018 when the party posted its best performance at local level since 2012.”
They continue: “Since then the [Labour] party has fallen back, especially in parts of so-called “red wall” England at the 2021 local elections. Its record in council by-elections has also been patchy during the past year, making fewer gains from the Tories than losses.
“However, any swing to Labour now will make the Tories lose ground and confirm Labour’s current opinion poll lead. And the bigger the losses, the more the prime minister’s position will come under threat from his own MPs.”
The polls will take place on Thursday 5 May with results expected in the early hours and throughout the day on Friday, with some also likely to declare on Saturday.