Local elections are set to take place in England, Wales, and Scotland on 5 May, with voting expected to reflect public opinion of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives following the “Partygate” scandal, as well as the escalating cost of living crisis.
The Conservative Party may lose more than 800 council seats in the local elections in England and Wales on 5 May, with the “Partygate” row likely to swing five percent of the voters to favour the Labour Party, pollsters Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now revealed, as cited by The Telegraph.
If such voter intentions were to be manifested at the next general election, expected to take place in May 2024, the Labour Party might emerge as just 15 MPs short of an overall majority in Parliament.
These figures, the pollsters’ forecast, could propel Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to the post of prime minister.
Furthermore, such an outcome would potentially require that the Labour Party seek a power-sharing deal with the Scottish National Party (SNP) to form a government.
Over 12,000 people in 201 district and unitary councils were surveyed by Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now between 4 April and 8 April. The accumulated sample of voting intentions was then weighted by gender, age, social class, and previous voting pattern.
The results showed the Tories as likely to lose 810 seats, while Labour could gain 835. Thus, the Conservative Party would witness a drop in wards (electoral districts for local authorities) from 1,965 to 1,155. The Labour Party could wind up with 3,722 wards.
Specifically, Labour could snatch up such traditionally Tory councils as Wandsworth, in south-west London, Barnet, Harlow, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Southampton, and Thurrock, along with Blaenau Gwent, Bolton, Bridgend, Burnley, Crawley, Flintshire, Milton Keynes, and Plymouth.
According to the polls, the Liberal Democratic Party is anticipated to lose 13 council seats, remaining with 447 wards, and Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales – is forecast to gain 64 seats, with 190 wards.
The current survey was carried out before the Labour and Liberal Democratic Parties slammed Johnson as “criminal” after news broke that the prime minister, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were served with fines for breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Weighing in on the results of the study, Martin Baxter, the founder of political consultancy Electoral Calculus, told Chopper’s Politics Podcast:
“If the actual results are similar to our predictions, then Boris Johnson will be spared new backbench pressure to unseat him. Although the Conservatives will lose some ground in these local elections, it doesn’t look like a catastrophic defeat and that is a good result for them after their poor poll ratings post-‘partygate’.”
Recalling the dramatic swing away from the Tories in the mid-1990s that brought Labour’s Tony Blair to the PM’s seat, Baxter voiced the opinion that the Labour Party was yet to generate any real “enthusiasm” among voters.
“If you can cast your mind back to Tony Blair, he generated a lot of enthusiasm at the time. People were encouraged to vote for him. Keir Starmer has not yet shown that. There’s not yet been electoral victories without a proven enthusiasm by the British public to get Labour in and the Conservatives out”.
Nevertheless, Baxter described the survey outcome as a “central forecast” and “quite a likely outcome”, saying: “We’d probably be looking at a Labour minority government that might be supported by the Lib Dems if they’re lucky. But it would probably be more likely to lead to SNP support. And obviously, the price of that SNP support would probably be a second independence referendum”.
Boris Johnson’s popularity took a major hit amid allegations that his Downing Street staff enjoyed wine and cheese soirees after work hours during strict COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. The PM himself had claimed he was “ambushed” with a cake and a surprise gathering in the Cabinet Room for his 56th birthday in June 2020.
When Johnson became the first British leader to be criminally sanctioned after he, along with his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, was fined by Scotland Yard for attending a lockdown-busting party at Downing Street in June 2020 he defied calls by the opposition to step down.
In a TV address on Tuesday, Johnson offered a “full apology” and confirmed he had paid a fixed-penalty notice (FPN), which is said to be worth £50 ($65). He claimed that the 2020 birthday gathering lasted less than 10 minutes and that it “did not occur” to him that the event was wrong.