Clegg braced for town-hall backlash over Tory coalition

The Liberal Democrats are braced for the loss of hundreds of town hall seats on Thursday as voters take revenge for their decision to go into government with the Conservatives, party sources acknowledged yesterday.

A dozen councils to watch: click HERE to upload graphic (133k jpg)

They fear they could lose control of several major councils, including Nick Clegg's home city of Sheffield, in the biggest test of public opinion since the Coalition's creation almost a year ago.

Among other Lib Dem authorities that could fall are Bristol, Portsmouth, Hull, Newcastle, Stockport and Chesterfield, threatening the party with its worst local election performance for more than 20 years.

The Tories are also prepared for the loss of up to 1,100 seats, because they are defending councils fought on a previous high-water mark four years ago when they took advantage of Tony Blair's unpopularity.

Labour is aiming to make 600 gains, although some analysts claim the party could pick up twice that number as they regain the backing of previous supporters who had defected to the Lib Dems. But the main focus will be on Mr Clegg's party, which is defending 1,800 seats, nearly half of its councillor base. Its problems are reflected by the fact that it is fielding four per cent fewer candidates than in the same seats in 2007.

The party has performed more strongly in local elections than its opinion poll ratings imply, but Lib Dem sources admit they expect to lose one-quarter of the seats they are defending, or some 450 councillors. One said: "There's no denying that we're going to take a hit – we will struggle."

Even if the party wins 16 per cent support – five points higher than its average national poll performance – that would still be its worst showing since shortly after its creation in 1988.

Although the Tories are the main challengers in three-quarters of the Lib Dem seats, Labour is expected to make the most eye-catching gains.

One of its top targets is Sheffield, where the Lib Dems run a minority administration – Labour needs to make just five gains for overall control.

Ed Miliband's party is also attempting to win back two previous strongholds – Newcastle, where it needs to make six gains to take overall control of the city council, and Hull, where it has to make seven gains. Labour also has a fighting chance of retaking Chesterfield, where it needs to make 13 gains from the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile the party is under attack from its Tory coalition partners in St Albans, Winchester and Lewes.

Many Lib Dem incumbents are inevitably fighting highly parochial campaigns, portraying themselves as powerless to resist the cuts on council budgets being imposed by central Government.

The Liberal Democrats run 23 councils after years of building up their local government base. Losing control of several of these, as well as hundreds of councillors, would have a damaging knock-on effect on the party activist base vital for the next general election.

Lib Dem aides insist the party will begin to recover support within the next year and point to several councils – including Ashfield in Notts, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset – where they believe they can make gains next week. They also hope to raise morale by performing strongly in the parliamentary by-election being contested on Thursday in Leicester South, following the resignation of its Labour MP to stand as the city's mayor.

While Labour will certainly emerge as the main winner in the town hall contests, it needs to demonstrate revival in all parts of the country to prove it is recovering under Mr Miliband. It will want to regain Wolverhampton and North Warwickshire, and to perform strongly in Birmingham (currently run by a Tory-Lib Dem coalition) to show it is reviving in the West Midlands.

The importance of the East Midlands battleground will be demonstrated today by a visit by Mr Miliband to the region. He will attempt to win over disillusioned Liberal Democrats by accusing Mr Clegg of betraying them by acting as the junior partner in a Tory-led administration. Such councils as Bristol, Dover, Gravesham, Harlow, Norwich, Crawley and Ipswich are also in Labour's sights to demonstrate it is capable of improving on recent dismal showings in the south and East Anglia. Labour is fielding more candidates in previously unpromising parts of the country, contesting 65 per cent of seats in the South-east, compared with less than half four years ago.

The Tories privately predict they could lose up to 1,100 seats, and control of 35 of the 150 authorities they currently run, arguing that governing parties always struggle to energise their supporters during mid-term elections. Almost 9,500 English council seats will be contested this week, the largest number in the electoral cycle, with the Tories defending 5,024, Labour 1,614 and the Lib Dems 1,862.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
football

Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday

News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
i100
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

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker