What will happen in the May 2011 local elections?

The Guardian takes a look today at the Lib Dems’ prospects in next year’s local elections, focusing on England rather than the national assembly and parliament elections due in Wales and Scotland.

Not surprisingly, they come to the conclusion that Nick Clegg’s party is likely to be most vulnerable in those areas where the Lib Dems face a strong Labour opposition — and most likely safer in areas where the local fight is with the Tories.

Here’s their assessment:

In England, the Liberal Democrats will be defending 1,830 seats, Labour 1,600 and the Conservatives just over 5,000. In the equivalent elections in 2007, the Liberal Democrats polled 26% of the vote, about twice its current poll level. A third of the seats in Metropolitan councils and all the seats in the 30 unitary councils are up for election. A total of 124 district councils have all their seats up for election, and 70 have a third.

Nearly 1,300 of the Liberal Democrats’ seats are in district councils, and only few of these districts represent realistic hunting ground for Labour gains.

Liberal Democrats will be worried they will lose many seats in Metropolitan councils such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Stockport and Sheffield – the constituency town of Nick Clegg. Widespread defeats would undermine the story that the Liberal Democrats could replace a tired Labour party in the north.

In the unitary councils, the Liberal Democrats are likely to lose most seats in areas where Labour is the challenger such as Bristol, Bedford, Hull, Luton, Portsmouth and Redcar.

By contrast Nick Clegg will hope to retain the relatively large groupings of Liberal Democrat-held seats where the Conservatives are the main opposition such as Poole, South Gloucestershire, West Berkshire, Bath, Windsor and Maidenhead, and Cheshire East.

In the district councils the Liberal Democrats will be vulnerable to a Labour resurgence in Chesterfield, Cambridge, Ashfield and Warwick. But Labour will need signs that it is starting to rebuild its withered local government base in areas that have been dominated by the Tories and Liberal Democrats over the past decade.

The concern for Labour is that after polling day it may still look electorally irrelevant in large swaths of the countryside, or if swings to Labour in Liberal Democrat-held council seats merely let in Conservatives. In seats such as North Norfolk where the single largest group of Liberal Democrat councillors are up for election, there is very little sign that there will be a Labour resurgence.

Where do Voice readers think the party can do well — and where do you think the biggest threats lie?

(I’ve set up a thread on our members-only forum here for those wishing to continue the conversation in private.)

Interestingly, the Guardian report also refers to the party publishing “a checklist of 67 party manifesto commitments already or nearly achieved in eight months in office” — as yet there’s nothing on the party website, nor an email to members. But such a list is long-overdue, and will be welcomed by supporters looking to point to Lib Dem achievements in the Coalition.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • @Jailhouselawyer

    Not totally clear what you are going on about.

    Isn’t “votes for (some) prisoners” about complying with the ruke of law? In this case a judgement of the ECHR.

  • if the recent IPSOS MORI figures are to be believed, the only areas in which LD support hasn’t collapsed are the SE (excluding London), the Midlands and in Wales and Scotland. Everywhere else, the outlook is pretty dire. Like it or not, the local elections will be treated as an opportunity to pass judgement on the Coalition.

    The polling for the IPSOS MORI study was carried out between Jun. and Nov. 2010, when average LD support nationally was registering as around 15%. Since the current level is more like 10%, the actual situation on the ground may now be even worse than these polls suggest.

    For the first time ever I will definitely not be voting LD in the local election. I cannot in good conscience support the party whilst it stays in this Coalition.

  • paul barker 28th Dec '10 - 5:55pm

    My prediction is that our vote share will fall from 2007s 26% to around 21% but with only small net losses in the numbers of councillors & alot of local variation.

  • Dave Warren 28th Dec '10 - 6:18pm

    I believe Labour will see its vote recover a bit in its heartlands of the North and Scotland.

    That would have happened in my view if we had a majority Conservative government because
    Labours’ share of the vote was always likely to recover in opposition.

    In the South they don’t even put up candidates in a lot of seats so the battle is between
    the Tories and the Lib Dems.

    In those situations i think the Lib Dem vote will hold up ok.

  • @Benjamin
    “the last time these seats were contested in 2007, we had an awful night, making huge losses in authorities like West Berks, Windsor & Maidenhead and Waverley.”

    This means that any losses will be even more significant at a time when the party would be hoping to regain seats…

  • In urban areas the Lib Dems are heading for a massacre.In these areas the Lib Dems have attacked Labour from the left and the coalition with the Tories will not go down well.In areas such as Liverpool and St Helens recent by elections have shown large swings to Labour on top of the huge swings achieved in May. As for polling as high as 20% I’d be amazed if the Lib Dems did any better than 15% at best.

  • Jailhouselawyer
    “Mark Harper, LibDem MP in the Cabinet Office”

    Sorry, still don’t understand what you are going on about – especially as there is no Lib Dem MP called Mark Harper.

    Are you in favour or against the UK complying with the ECHR ruling?

  • Paul Griffiths 28th Dec '10 - 10:57pm

    I’ve just had a quick look at both the Hirst and Frodl judgements, and I’m baffled by Frodl’s reference to a so-called Hirst test. As far as I can see, no such test is established by Hirst. The Hirst judgement refers to “restrictions on
    electoral rights … imposed on an individual who has, for example, seriously abused a public position or whose conduct threatened to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations” (para 71). The Frodl judgement seems to have leapt from “for example” to “if and only if”. But then, I’m not a lawyer, jailhouse or otherwise.

  • With local elections it is much more difficult to make firm predictions of outcomes than for national elections.

    Irrespective of what you and others say, Red Rag, “the massacre that is coming in May”, there has to be someone else worth voting for for a massacre to occur. So unless you are postulatingthat

    1 There is at least one worthwhile Independent in each LD held seat.

    2 People exclusively blame the Lib Dems for cuts and not the Tories.

    3 Labour makes miraculous Lazarus – like strides in areas it hasn’t seen any activity for years, or

    4 No candidates can be raised for the LDs anywhere,

    The scale of such a massacre is going to be quite limited, and probably generally in strong Labour areas – still a smallish minority of seats being defended this year. It would be interesting to see any contrary evidence.

  • @SimonShaw, @jailhouselawyer supports the UK complying – he is John Hirst, the convict who brought the case initially (click on the link on his name.)

    Personally, I’m with most of the Tories on this one. If you accept that a key part of liberty is the right to participate in a democratic decision, then you must also accept that any punishment which denies liberty should also deny the right to vote. I have no problem with allowing people on bail, released on license or on community service to vote. However, if your liberty has been removed then the right to particpate in elections should be also.

  • @Tim 13

    I think you are underestimating the sense of betrayal felt by many former LD voters/supporters (I think this is less true of actual members, as they will be more inclined to “wait and see”, or try to change things from within).

    I won’t be voting LD from now on, having done so since I could first vote. My parliamentary constituency is a safe Tory seat (in fact their share of the vote actually increased at the GE to 55%, more’s the pity!), so that probably doesn’t affect the LD’s too much. It may however have an impact in local elections, where I will now either vote for a suitable independent candidate, or even vote Green.

    I think the evidence you seek is out there, and will increase over coming months. Look at the IPSOS MORI site, and it will make sobering reading for you – the collapse in the % saying they will vote LD is NOT confined to metropolitan areas, it is worst in the NE and SW, and in London.

  • The elections in May

    I suspect the Liberal Democrat support has been reduced quite dramatically to mainly those voters, who regard the alliance to the Conservatives in good favour, those voters who cannot abide the Conservatives (vote for us to keep the cons out) as well as those who thought they had found a home from Labour, the majority of those have already left the building, so to speak.
    There may be a consensus among the Liberal Democrats that Conservatives view the Liberal Democrats as allies rather than enemies, the keep Labour out contingency, but I would caution against thinking that way; but after saying that what other choice is there, I think the Liberal Democrats have ostracised and driven away quite a large section of core people, and to be honest I don’t think even a leadership change will make things better, those people will feel betrayed not just by the leadership, but by the section of the Liberal Democrats who are supporting the leadership, right, left or middle there has been a cut, our way or the highway take it or leave it, and the more the Liberal Democrats keep trying to SPIN to make things look ok the more damage is being done.
    (Oh and 12 months in is not midterm, before that spin starts)

    The AV referendum

    The Liberal Democrats opted for the AV referendum instead of playing hard ball and saying this is a red line, we want a better electoral system; and in doing that you sold your goose, Liberal Democrats have shown the electorate what will happen if AV or PR is introduced as our electoral format, I think the Liberal Democrats have scuppered any chance of that happening for the next 20 – 30 years, that is if the Liberal Democrats are still any sort of political force after the next GE, I don’t think Labour will find the thought of AV appealing nor do I think the electorate will like the thought of coalition governments after this one.

    So if the Conservatives and Labour campaign for a no vote?

    The real question is what happens if the referendum result is NO, what then for the Liberal Democrats.
    Leaving the government then would be like rats leaving a sinking ship, but again what can you do, any credibility Liberal Democrats had was lost when “a better way to do politics” failed, and lying to the electorate is a big no, no, the pictures of your MPs holding pledges up to the media will haunt Liberal Democrats for generations.

    There was a belief, a promise of hope, an air of righteousness that after the expenses scandal Liberal Democrats were above the dirt that clung to other parties, and you were given a small chance to show us that your intent was to do as you say, as you promised in election broadcasts.

    You are not to be trusted, that is what Liberal Democrats have shown the electorate, you blew it.

  • @ Jim

    “You are not to be trusted, that is what Liberal Democrats have shown the electorate, you blew it.”

    Blew what, precisely? 8% of the MPs for 23% of the vote (with no alternative government possible with Labour due to parliamentary arithmetic and also our pledge to work with the party with the most support) does not give us the ability to rant about “red lines” and demand everything we want or walk away in a huff.

    I am frankly sick and tired of your type of wisdom after the event. Pity you weren’t so vocal in May, when Labour had just been kicked out with just 29% of the vote. What precisely were you saying then? That we should be propping up a corpse of a government hated by 71% of the population? Many people’s memories it seems are both short and distorted.

  • I am Sorry, Robert C

    If you do not know, or have forgotten so quickly, I am sure the next lot of protests will remind you…

    As for being vocal in May… jeez I am not the one who said “no more broken promises” a “different kind of politics” and a pledge on national TV in election broadcasts… do you really expect the people who voted for Liberal Democrats to forget that?
    Surely Liberal Democrats are not so blind…

    “*There was a belief, a promise of hope, an air of righteousness that after the expenses scandal Liberal Democrats were above the dirt that clung to other parties, and you were given a small chance to show us that your intent was to do as you say, as you promised in election broadcasts.*”

    No, Liberal Democrats had made it quite clear in March/April they were not going to do business with Labour, before a single vote had been cast… I am not sure but I think it was said as early as Nov /Dec or at least implied, so no, I did not expect Liberal Democrats to prop up the corpse of a government, what I did expect was Liberal Democrats to keep their own identity and fight for the people that voted for them, instead Liberal Democrats use the “we are the junior partner” to become a conservative patsy.

    The speed at which the coalition talks took place was astounding, as though preliminary talks had already taken place… something for future memoirs maybe?

  • @Robert C – Actually Robert, none of the parties were “kicked in”. Being on the left of the party, at the moment, there is no way I can vote for the party while in remains in government with Tories. While I can’t vote Lab, I will be moving my vote to the Greens. I’m not sure if you are aware, but the current arrangements have left us with a support base of 9%. When the do alarms bells start ringing?

  • I voted Libdem in the general election, like many voters I cant wait to cast my vote to protest and get the message over to nick glegg that we are discussed by his betrayal – just to get the taste of power.
    In Birmingham we have sufferd the results of the last few years of a LIB/CON coalition – its been a total let down !!!!!! – and not a good example of joint party goverment.
    My prediction thats to Nick and his Tory mates is that Birmingham will return to Labour control in May 2011 – perhaps this might make Libdems sit up and take noitice – they came a poor 3rd place in the national elections !!!!!! – they will lose lots of seats and council control – the british public are not stupid – it will take years for them to recover

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