Miliband fears he has more to lose in elections than just council seats
Meltdown in mid-term voting on 3 May would seal the fate of Labour's under-pressure leader
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 11 April 2012
Normally, mid-term elections pose the biggest headache for the government of the day. But council and mayoral elections on 3 May will be widely seen as a test of Labour's progress under Ed Miliband.
Labour looks certain to make some gains – if only because it did so badly when the seats up for grabs were last fought in 2008, when Gordon Brown's government was becoming unpopular. Like all the parties, Labour is playing the low-expectations game, saying its target is to gain 350 council seats in England and 120 in Wales. Election experts say Mr Miliband should be able to count more than 600 overall gains. "Labour can make almost 300 gains simply by repeating last year's pincer movement against the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the metropolitan boroughs," Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, professors at Plymouth University, said.
Almost 5,000 seats in 181 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales are being contested. But the highest-profile battle will be in London, where Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor, and Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor, are doing battle. London is viewed as a "Labour city" and the party did relatively well there in the 2010 general election. Mr Johnson performed strongly in the outer London boroughs when he ousted Mr Livingstone four years ago; his test will be to "get out the vote" in equal numbers in the suburbs again. Yesterday, a ComRes poll for the London Evening Standard, London Tonight and LBC showed Mr Johnson on 53 per cent and Mr Livingstone on 47 per cent.
Many eyes will also be on Glasgow, where Labour has controlled the city council since 1977 but could be ousted by Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party. A better prospect for Labour will be Birmingham, England's biggest local authority, where the prize of dislodging a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition would be won by gaining just five seats. Another Labour target is Bradford, but that is suddenly looking more problematic after George Galloway's surprise victory in last month's Bradford West by-election.
The Conservatives did well when the same council seats were last fought in 2008, winning 43 per cent of the votes compared to Labour's disastrous 24 per cent and the Liberal Democrats' 23 per cent.
The Liberal Democrats are braced for the loss of up to 300 of the 770 seats they are defending as Labour benefits in the North of England from Nick Clegg's decision to join the Tories in the Coalition. The Liberal Democrats will argue that the rate of losses has slowed since the ones they suffered a year ago but that may not prevent bad headlines. They are standing in fewer council seats than previously, but there may be a crumb of comfort in the small print: Mr Clegg's party hopes to do well in the 57 parliamentary seats it holds by targeting its resources.
Pressure points: May battlegrounds
Elections take place on 3 May in 36 metropolitan boroughs, 18 all-purpose unitary authorities and 74 districts councils in England, 32 councils in Scotland and 21 in Wales. Mayors will be elected in London, Liverpool and Salford. 10 areas will have a referendum on whether to have an elected Mayor – Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.
Councils to watch
Birmingham Labour should oust Conservative-Liberal coalition.
Bradford Labour needs 1 per cent swing to win control but faces late challenge from George Galloway's Respect Party.
Glasgow Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party could push Labour out for first time since 1977.
Cambridge Liberal Democrats under pressure.
Stockport Liberal Democrats may lose control of hung council.
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Zayn Malik gives first interview since quitting One Direction: 'I've never felt more in control of my life'
Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...