It is more or less standard for governments to struggle in mid-term, as angry voters become motivated to register a protest. That particularly applies once they’ve been elected three times and are in the midst of multiple crises. Against a backdrop of the Windrush scandal, Amber Rudd’s resignation and Cabinet and parliamentary division over Brexit, the last thing Theresa May needs right now is elections.
How all that pans out will partly depend upon Thursday’s polls across England and the narrative that emerges from it. Betfair has markets on all the major councils plus the mayoralty contests in Watford and Sheffield City – all of which will stay live ‘in-play’ until results are declared. Plenty to keep us entertained overnight!
Labour expected to win big, particularly in London
The nature of councils up for election compounds Tory fears. Labour already hold more than half the seats in play, nearly 900 more than the Conservatives and, according to renowned psephologists Rallings and Thrasher, are on course to gain a further 200. Whereas the parties are tied nationally, they trail by 22% in the latest London poll and have no chance in the mayoralties.
Much has happened since these seats were last contested. The Tories have won two elections, between which their position deteriorated markedly among younger, liberal voters and in ethnically diverse cities. Politics has become a lot more polarised, not least due to Brexit. Labour have been transformed under Jeremy Corbyn.
Inner-cities are fertile territory for Corbyn
These elections are a timely test for Corbyn that he should pass. Labour are now a mass movement with half a million members, a vast number of whom live in London. Momentum have transformed their campaigning skills. After the General Election, one must assume that they will more effectively get their vote out – a historic weakness for the Left that, if improved, has the potential to transform the electoral maths of many areas.
The scale of that improvement will define Labour’s night. They start a long way behind in the flagship Tory council of Wandsworth but are slight favourites to gain control in one of the closest betting heats of the night. That would be a famous gain and their dream scenario would involve also gaining any of Barnet, Hillingdon or Westminster.