Labour aiming for Clegg powerbase

Nick Clegg's political powerbase of Sheffield is among the prizes being eyed up by Labour as it seeks a resurgence in local elections on May 5.

Hundreds of seats are expected to change hands - mainly to Labour's advantage - when voters choose councillors in 279 authorities in most parts of England outside of London.

When the same set of elected positions were last contested, in May 2007, the then governing party was at a very low ebb, trailing the Tories by 13 percentage points in a BBC survey.

David Cameron's party gained more than 900 seats as Labour lost more than 500.

A reduction in the number of councils and seats means Labour probably needs nearer 400 gains to reverse those losses - taking it close to the 7.3% Conservative 2010 General Election margin.

If it pushed the seats advance to 1,000 this would indicate a lead for the party.

But if the sweeping spending cuts generated enough Government unpopularity to take the gains total to 2,000, Labour could be ahead by about 20%.

That would be in line with its last 1995 peak in the dying years of John Major's Tory government.

The one crumb of comfort for ministers in that nightmare scenario would be that in 123 of the 279 councils involved - including the 36 metropolitan authorities covering the big conurbations - only a third of the seats are at stake. And many of the councils where all the seats are up for election are in rural or small town areas where Labour is traditionally weak.

In more than 70 full council contests the two main contending parties are Tories and Lib Dems. In some others the main challenge comes from independents.

Much will depend on the size of the widely forecast Lib Dem seats slump. There are suggestions that it could top 1,000 losses - more than half the seats they are defending.

This may be an exaggeration. In council by-elections since the General Election they have just held their own, offsetting losses to Labour with gains from Tory coalition partners.

If Labour is ahead nationwide it would have hopes of taking Sheffield - where Mr Clegg has his Commons seat - from no overall control and nearby Chesterfield - where it made a surprise General Election gain - from Liberal Democrats.

Metro targets for Labour include Bolton, Leeds and Oldham.

It would also have hopes of capturing Thurrock among the unitary authorities and Ipswich in the non-metropolitan districts.

Tory losses could include Walsall, one of their few metros, and Gedling, in a Labour marginal constituency they failed to win in the General Election.

Other vulnerable Conservative districts include High Peak, Maidstone, Mid Suffolk, Rossendale and Stroud.

They also face losing North Devon to the Lib Dems but might in turn take Lewes from their coalition Government partners.

Among the unitaries Tories may gain Bath and North East Somerset from no overall control.

But Lib Dems might also have hopes of that council, in addition to Mendip, Mid Sussex and Taunton Deane.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'