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The Conservatives are braced for the worst when voters head to the polls for the 2022 local elections on Thursday.
But the party may not be in line for the annihilation some have been expecting amid the ongoing Partygate scandal and cost-of-living crisis.
The latest research from Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now finds the Tories are at risk of losing 550 councillors, a downgrade from the 800 predicted less than a month ago. The last time the Tories performed this badly, Tony Blair was Labour leader.
And yet, as Opinium’s Chris Curtis told Reaction, Labour is not doing much better in terms of public opinion than it was under Jeremy Corbyn in 2018, when the majority of this year’s seats were last contested.
Although Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour is in line to gain more than 800 councillors, they may fail to take control of any councils. Indeed, 40 per cent of all contests are being held in Labour-dominated London.
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Then there is the situation across the rest of the UK. In the 2017 council elections, only the Scottish National Party won more seats than the Scottish Conservatives. Now the party is projected to drop to third place behind Labour in second and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP in first, according to Savanta ComRes.
But because local elections north of the border use the single transferable voting system – a multi-winner ranked-choice method – no party, even the SNP, can realistically control a single council, which lessens the impact of any losses.
“I’m not expecting it to be as bad as down south,” one Tory canvasser told the Hound. While Johnson is an issue for some voters, “it seems to be negated by the SNP being worse in their eyes”.
In Wales, all 22 local authorities are up for re-election, with Labour set for a 6 per cent shift away from the Tories.
Even so, Sir John Curtice, in an article for The House Magazine, said a gain of this magnitude last time round in Wales resulted in the Tories winning just one council, Monmouth.
While Thursday’s ballot is unlikely to go down as a success for the Tories, it may not be a hammering either. Nor is it likely to set in motion a leadership bid.
The initial results will be known shortly after polls close at 10pm tomorrow. Stay tuned.