Will Lib Dems make more council seat gains than Labour? This prediction says so

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.

3 responses to “Will Lib Dems make more council seat gains than Labour? This prediction says so”

  1. I so wish I’d been able to stand in these elections.
    I was slated to do so for Maldon District Council but my partner died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of February. I’m still all over the place, so withdrawing was definitely the right thing to do. However…

    There isn’t a single LibDem standing for MDC, there are only five Labour candidates (just one in Maldon itself, which is by far the largest centre of population) and all the others are either Tory or so-called “independents.” With one exception, I know these independents are actually Tories who are just cross with the current lot of Tories running the council. Democracy this is not. It’s so depressing and, for the first time ever, I think Z I’m going to spoil my vote. I don’t see that I have an alternative.

  2. Things have changed since a lot the beginning of April. The average opinion poll rating for April is roughly Con 29% and Lab 33%. Most of the by-elections in the NEV calculation will come from well before April and quite a number when Con and Lab were both polling above 35% and approaching 40%. Normally Con and Lab poll well below their opinion poll rating partly because LDs poll well above and Independents and others poll more. This year the Con and Lab local election performance may be closer to their opinion poll rating than before. However It is tough to see them reaching 35% and 34% NEV respectively on 29% and 33% opinion poll rating as R&T suggest. There have been virtually no by-elections since the dive in the Tory poll rating at the beginning of April so any local election weakness would not be showing up in their calculations. Indeed to be fair they say: “it could be much worse [for the Tories] if recent opinion polls turn out to be accurate.”

    In addition since the beginning of the year I have detected a weakening in the Labour local by-election performance suggesting their NEV will be below their average since November and a strengthening in the Lib Dem performance following a dip for the Lib Dems in November and December, suggesting theirs might be slightly above. (And the lower Labour performance could stem seat losses to them from the Tories).

    Obviously Tories and Labour have been losing out in the opinion polls to parties that are not standing in the locals or don’t win many seats – Brexit, CHUK, UKIP and the Greens and we don’t know how that will impact Labour and Tory votes (or indeed seat changes). I wouldn’t also not be surprised to see a slight resurgent for independents and localists (an election on the same day as in 2015 hits them as people come out (who don’t normally in locals) and just vote the straight party ticket for both General and Locals)

    Obviously British politics and opinion polls etc. have been very unsettled in April so it is more difficult to predict than normal.

    In short I wouldn’t be surprised if the Labour and the Tories get a NEV of around 30% and Lib Dems around 18%.

    FWIW my prediction on percentage of seats won (with those won last time) is roughly in line with R&T’s headline figures – perhaps a tad worse for the Tories:

    Con 50% (59%), Lab 26.5% (24.5%), LD 12% (7%), Others inc. UKIP and Greens 11.5% (9.5%).

    But as you say for Lib Dems what is important is not making a prediction but getting out there and working to change the actual result in our favour!

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