Tories braced for heavy losses as Coalition goes head-to-head

UK Independence Party field three times as many candidates as last year

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will go head-to-head in local elections on 2 May in what will be a dress rehearsal for the battles between them at the 2015 general election.

Tensions between the two Coalition parties are rising as they do battle in many areas which include key marginal seats that could decide their fate in 2015 – including Cornwall,  Devon, Somerset  and Hampshire. Campaigning resumed today after being put on hold when the death of Margaret Thatcher was announced on Monday. Elections take place next month for a total of 2,392 seats on England’s 27 county councils, six all-purpose authorities and in Anglesey in Wales.

As ever, the three main parties are downplaying expectations in the hope that their results look better when they are declared. The Conservatives have the biggest presentational headache; they are bound to suffer losses because they did very well when the same seats were last contested in 2009, the low point of Gordon Brown’s fortunes as Prime Minister. A disastrous performance saw Labour lose more than 320 seats, while the Conservatives gained 285. The Tories now control most county councils and hold six out of 10 of the seats being contested. The reversal of Tory and Labour ratings in the opinion polls since 2009 means some Tories are bracing themselves for the loss of 500 seats next month.

Labour officials insist that 200 gains would be a good result for the party because most of the elections take place in Tory heartlands, with 60 per cent of the voters in the South East, South West and Eastern regions. So Labour expects to land a lower share of the vote than the Tories. Labour is looking to regain control of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and will be privately hoping for success in Lancashire and Staffordshire. Labour’s performance in places like Harlow, Dover, Crawley and Ipswich will also matter because Ed Miliband’s party needs to fight back in the South in 2015.

The Lib Dems, who are attacking Labour and the Tories with equal force in the local campaign, say the elections will be “tough” because they are in government. They point to academics’ predictions that they could lose 190 seats and say they hope to do better than that. They have high hopes in Somerset and Cornwall which, if fulfilled,  would reinforce the message from the February by-election in Eastleigh, Hampshire  – that Nick Clegg’s party performs much better in the ballot box than the national opinion polls.

The wildcard on May 2 could be the UK Independence Party. The anti-EU party is consistently in double figures in the opinion polls and is fielding more than 1,700 candidates, a record number and three times as many as 2009.  It could prove a “spoiler” which prevents Tory victories, helping  the Lib Dems in the South and Labour in the North. The party insists it is also winning over former Labour and Lib Dem supporters, and those who did not vote at the 2010 general election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick