The upcoming European Elections that were never meant to happen are getting all the attention, thanks largely to the campaign launches of the two new parties, the colourful Brexit Party and the faltering Change UK The Independent Group.

All eyes are on the Conservative party’s performance, and the question of how low the Tories can go in vote share thanks to their handling of Brexit and the appearance of Nigel Farage’s latest outfit.

First, though the Tories face the voters in council elections happening across the country this Thursday. Are the Tories about to be smashed at local level too?

Elections are happening in 248 councils, with 8,425 seats up for grabs. The Conservatives are defending just over half of these seats – although most have not been contested since 2015, when The Tories were enjoying electoral success nationally pre-referendum. Circumstances have, to put it mildly, changed since then. And, while local elections are intended to be about local issues, we will likely see voters using these elections to express dissatisfaction with the party’s national performance.

Tory polling expert Lord Hayward has predicted the Tories will lose as many as 800 seats.

Presciently, he told the Financial Times last month that Tory performance will depend on May passing a Brexit deal before voting day: “There will be a Brexit benefit if there is a deal, but a clear deficit if not.” Obviously – May has not passed her deal and Britain looks to be stuck in a long extension to Article 50 at least until the end of the summer.

Attention will focus on Conservative councils in strong leave-voting constituencies. Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea are among Tory councils pitched to lose their majorities this week.

Since Farage’s Brexit Party are not contesting locally, we might expect disaffected leave voters to channel their anger with the national government into a local vote for UKIP, who are fielding 1400 candidates, although the party’s recent implosion (Nigel Farage calls his old party extreme now) could mean not.

The Lib Dems, hoping to hit home with their anti-Brexit stance, look poised to do well. Labour’s performance will be closely analysed amongst those wondering whether they are positioned to challenge the Conservatives in a general election too. Labour has majored on issues such as bus services and it appears to have cut through.

Brexit is not the only dynamic at work. Councils have come under immense financial pressure in recent years, with Northamptonshire declaring bankruptcy and the likes of Norfolk, Lancashire and Surrey among others being in crisis. Somerset too approved £15m of cuts following a threat of bankruptcy.

Despite May declaring late last year that austerity was over, there is little sign of the government allocating extra funding to these struggling councils. According to The Local Government Association, councils have experienced deep cuts in “core funding” that are impacting heavily on services.

Of course, turnout at local elections is usually low. Just one in three registered voters voted in local elections last year. However, we might see an energised voter base largely heralded by headlines seemingly permanently dominated by the government’s messy handling of Brexit.

Tory losses are expected, but they may not be ruinous. With parliamentary recess two weeks ago and Brexit out of the headlines voters may have been given space to contemplate local issues unclouded by the party’s national performance.

It is the upcoming European elections, in which the UK’s participation is all but inevitable, that the Conservative Party is in real existential danger.

Farage’s Brexit Party looks set to clean up the Leave vote. The Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK will take Remainer support. It is in those European elections – that the Tories stumbled into – where mass wipeout looms.