Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have produced their annual local elections prediction, using the results in council by-elections to forecast the May local elections:
Based on some 110,000 votes cast in more than 50 council elections since November, the Tories have a national equivalent vote share of 35%, with Labour on 34%. The Lib Dems are on 16% and Ukip is below 5%. This equates to a Tory-to-Labour swing of two points since 2015 with the Lib Dems six points up and Ukip down by about seven points.
If that picture remains the same in May, Labour could make about 150 gains, with the Tories suffering more than 400 net losses. The real winners would be the Lib Dems who could seize back most of the 400 seats they lost four years ago — largely at the expense of the Tories. [Sunday Times]
Last year the Liberal Democrats made more net council seat gains than Labour, an impressive achievement which went mostly unremarked due to the narrowness of the margin and due to these figures not being settled until well after polling day (thanks to a deferred contest in Southwark).
It’d both be a couple of feathers in the Lib Dem cap, and a striking example of Labour’s weakness, if was once again the Liberal Democrats benefiting more from government unpopularity than the official opposition.
A couple of notes of caution, though. That six-point increase for the Lib Dems would return the party to where it was in 2011, the last time but one when this cycle of elections was fought. It would still leave the party well down on its pre-coalition results, and the Thrasher & Rallings forecasts tend to be on the high side for the Lib Dems.
The outlook may be promising for next week, but there’s still an awful lot more than needs to be done.