18 Apr 2012

What the 3 May elections mean for the UK

On the final deadline for registering to vote for May’s local elections, Channel 4 News looks at what is in store across the UK, as some cities vote whether to elect a mayor.

What the May 3 elections mean for the UK

It is a case of déjà vu in the capital, as Boris and Ken once again battle it out for the position of London mayor: already there have been acrimonious debates, extravagant pledges and some colourful language, all of which make the run up to the local elections more exciting for voters.

But now a number of other cities across England will get their first taste of such a contest, while others decide whether it is something they want to have in the future.

Liverpool and Salford will join London on May in voting for a directly-elected mayor.

And a further ten cities will hold referendums on whether they should have elected mayors in the future: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

However Doncaster, which has had an elected mayor since 2001, will be voting on whether to scrap their existing mayor.

“Doncaster, is bucking the trend. They’re actually holding a referendum on whether to scrap their existing elected mayor. Which rather suggests the system hasn’t been a great success.”

Read more from Political Correspondent Michael Crick

Local elections will be held in 131 local councils across England, and almost all councils in Wales and Scotland, and mark the halfway point for the coalition’s first term in government – exactly two years after the 2010 general election. However in some councils, only a third of seats are being contested.

David Cameron has called for a “flat-out full-throttle fight” by Conservative activists. The party’s heartlands traditionally lie in the south of England, but Mr Cameron is insistent that the Conservatives can speak for all of Britain.

Launching the Conservative local election campaign in Derbyshire, Mr Cameron said: “You want a better future for your children – that is what the Conservatives are creating; you understand what’s right for this country – and so do we. That’s what we need to tell people.”

Election predictions

Labour look set to win around 650 seats, Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of the political forecasting unit at the Nottingham Business School told Channel 4 News, meaning that there could be a 9 per cent swing from Conservative to Labour.

Conservatives could lose around 250 or 400 if it’s a particularly bad night, while the Liberal Democrats could also lose around 250.

But despite the fact that opinion polls are putting the Liberal Democrats at 11 per cent, they could poll between 17 or 18 per cent, estimates Professor Vaughan Williams, compared to 33 or 34 per cent for the Conservatives, and 37 per cent for Labour.

“The Lib Dems always do better in local elections – it’s an historic polling bias,” he told Channel 4 News. “People don’t think ‘Lib Dems’ for a local election, so when you ask them outside of an election, even though they are members of the government, it still seems to be not in people’s heads.”

Across the Midlands, Birmingham, Walsall and Derby will all be a test to how well Labour is doing.

And pollsters will be watching Glasgow closely, the jewel in Labour’s crown. “If they lost that, it would be a game-changer for SNP/Labour balance in Scotland,” says Professor Williams.