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Labour failing to gain ground in local elections

Chris Holbrook Find Out Now Market Research

Chris Holbrook

5th May, 2021 | 7 mins read

In an exclusive MRP poll for The Telegraph, election experts Electoral Calculus published predictions for the 123 district councils in the local elections on 6th of May, using polling data from 11,506 voters through Find Out Now.

The poll asked whether and how respondents intended to vote on Thursday. (Note the Isles of Scilly council is excluded, as national parties do not contest it.)

The headline voting intention for these council areas is:

Party Share of vote (%)
CON 30
LAB 38
LIB 13
Reform 3
Green 8
Independent/Other 8

The fact that Labour are ahead in the vote share is expected, since many of the councils are traditional Labour areas in the north of England and Labour already holds more of these councils than the Conservatives.

The number of councils predicted to be controlled by each party is shown in the next table:

Party in Control of Council Current Number of Councils Predicted Number of Councils Predicted Change
CON 27 39 12
LAB 52 54 2
LIB 6 7 1
Reform 0 0 0
Green 0 0 0
Independent 1 0 -1
NOC / Coalition 37 23 -14
Total 123 123 0

The prediction is that both the Conservatives and Labour will gain councils from ‘No overall control’, though the Conservatives are likely to gain more.

This would be a good result for the Conservatives given the recent sleaze allegations.

In terms of the number of wards won, the prediction is:

Party Current Wards Predicted Wards Predicted Change
CON 1,844 2,183 339
LAB 2,749 3,029 280
LIB 851 754 -97
Reform 11 3 -8
Green 106 98 -8
Independent/Other 567 364 -203
Vacant 162 110 -52
Total 6,290 6,541 251

Note the number of wards has increased by around 250 because of the newly created unitary councils of Buckinghamshire, North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire.

The figures show that the Conservatives and Labour are both predicted to gain seats, with the Liberal Democrats and Independents predicted to lose some seats. Again, the fact that the Conservatives are gaining a similar number of seats to Labour should be encouraging for them. As we approach the parliamentary mid-term, the governing party often starts to suffer electoral losses.

Councils Predicted to Change Hands

Conservative gains

From Labour: Amber Valley
From ‘No Overall Control’: Basildon, Cannock Chase, Crawley, Dudley, Gloucester, Nuneaton and Bedworth
New council boundaries: Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, North Northamptonshire, Pendle, West Northamptonshire

Labour gains

From ‘No Overall Control’: Bristol, Burnley, Wirral,
New council boundaries: Hartlepool

Liberal Democrat gains

From ‘No Overall Control’: St Albans

Councils switching to ‘No Overall Control’

From LAB: Harlow

Predicting councils with new boundaries can be difficult because voters have not had the chance of voting in those new wards before, and local voting patterns may vary. In particular, Cornwall, Hartlepool and Basingstoke and Deane, and Stroud are not certain predictions and may behave idiosyncratically.

Additionally, Adur council is quite marginal are could easily go the other way.

The predictions show that the Conservatives could gain a couple of councils directly from Labour, while Labour gains no councils directly from the Conservatives. If that transpires, it would be a good result for the Conservatives.

The Conservatives are also predicted to gain some councils in the Midlands (such as Cannock Chase, Dudley, and Nuneaton and Bedworth) which is encouraging for them. But they are not making further inroads into the ‘Red Wall’ of northern England.

“Our polling suggests that recent controversies surrounding the Prime Minister haven’t changed voting intention, or at least it hasn’t reached a tipping point yet. If further stories develop, there may be only so much that the Conservatives’ newest constituents will tolerate.”

Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now

“Labour look like missing an opportunity to make real electoral progress, and the Conservatives have successfully steadied their ship. That would deprive Labour of some political momentum, and bring relief to the government.”

Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus

About the survey

Find Out Now polled 11,506 residents of 123 English district councils online between 27-28 April 2021. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade and past voting patterns. Regression techniques were used to infer ward and council results.

Find Out Now is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Full tables can be downloaded here.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash