Final day of campaigning begins ahead of Thursday’s local elections

Voters in England and Wales will go to the polls on May 2 for local, mayoral, and police and crime commissioner elections.

David Lynch
Wednesday 01 May 2024 00:01 BST
Voters in England and Wales go to the polls on May 2 (PA)
Voters in England and Wales go to the polls on May 2 (PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Politicians and canvassers are beginning their final day of campaigning ahead of Thursday’s local elections.

Voters in England and Wales will go to the polls on May 2 for local, mayoral, and police and crime commissioner elections.

The polls are the final test of public opinion at the ballot box ahead of the next general election, which Rishi Sunak has said will come in the second half of 2024.

Forecasts suggest the elections could see the Conservatives lose up to half of the council seats they are defending across 107 councils, having lost a third of seats last year.

Most of the seats up for re-election were last contested in 2021, at the peak of Boris Johnson’s popularity as the Covid-19 vaccine was rolled out.

A total of 11 mayoral contests are also taking place, including for the London mayoralty between frontrunners, Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan and Tory challenger Susan Hall.

Conservative mayors Andy Street in the West Midlands, and Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen are also facing key re-election battles, with polls suggesting very close contests with their Labour opponents.

A wave of defeats for Mr Sunak could be enough to push more Tory MPs into seeking to replace him as leader before the general election, though all counts will not be declared until Sunday, May 5.

Political scientist Professor Sir John Curtice told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that as the Tories and Labour brace for the elections “one side is looking for hope, and the other is looking for affirmation”.

He added: “For Rishi Sunak he is trying to give his party a glimmer of hope that maybe not all is lost for the general election that we are now all expecting to happen in the autumn.

“For Sir Keir Starmer, he is in a sense looking for affirmation of the message of the opinion polls that the Labour Party is indeed so far ahead, that it looks now like… Sir Keir Starmer is likely to be the next Prime Minister.”

The Liberal Democrats, who have focused campaigning efforts in traditional Conservative areas, have said Thursday is a chance for voters to send a message to “this out-of-touch Conservative Government”.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who has visited so-called “blue wall” areas during the campaign, added: “In former Conservative heartlands like Tunbridge Wells, Dorset and Wokingham voters are switching to the Liberal Democrats after years of failure from this Conservative Government.

“Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to elect a strong local champion, who will fight for a fair deal for you and your community.”

Ahead of the polls, a Conservative Party spokesman sought to draw attention on the record of their rivals in local government.

“Across the country Labour and the Liberal Democrats have run their councils into the ground, bankrupting local authorities and wasting taxpayer’s time and money on bonkers policies,” they said.

The spokesman added: “Meanwhile we have a strong record. Our Conservative Mayors have delivered record investment and apprenticeships for their areas, and you are two times less likely to be a victim of crime under a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner.

“Only the Conservative Party can be trusted to deliver better quality services for lower tax.”

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