#GE2015 isn’t the only election happening next week. The 2015 local elections will be as fiercely contested
While the General Election inspires various states of excitement across the UK, there is of course another set of elections taking place – the 2015 Local Government elections.
Between General Elections, local elections are seen as the bellwether for the national mood. They are where the Lib Dems first managed to see considerable breakthroughs building the strong on the ground organisation that saw them make their General Election push in 2010. And it was of course the local elections last year that saw UKIP make significant in-roads that sent the national parties into a near collective breakdown and set the narrative for this May.
But in General Election years, local government is often overlooked – which is a shame considering it is these elections that are most likely to impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
And 2015 is a big election year for local government. In total there are 279 English councils holding local elections this year; 161 of them have all their seats up for grabs while the remainder have 1/3 of their councillors standing for election. Along with those, there are six mayoral contests in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesborough, Torbay and Copeland.
The Conservatives hold 136 of the councils up for election, and thus have the most to lose. However, unlike last year – where the traditional Tory stronghold shire councils were the focus – this set of councils tends to chop and change much more. In total there are 194 non-metropolitan districts, 49 unitary authorities and 36 metropolitan boroughs.
Labour control 78 of the councils, including 30 of the metropolitan boroughs, 19 unitary authorities and 29 non-metropolitan districts. The Lib Dems hold eight of the non-met districts.
So what constitutes a good local election for the parties? The UKIP effect is what rocked the boat last time, and Labour and the Conservatives remain vulnerable to their impact.
For Labour, it is about targeting the remaining mets that currently elude their grasp and taking Calderdale MBC from the Tories (held since 1998) would be a good result. A bad night for Labour would see UKIP making further inroads into Rotherham, where it took 10 seats last year or Newcastle-under-Lyme.
It is the same for the Conservatives who will be looking nervously at the Farage/Reckless effect in Thanet and Medway respectively and hoping for some split ballot voting. Lib Dem eyes will be on Three Rivers, which it managed to hold in 2014. But the General Election running at the same time may test their ability to hold on to the vote and it looks vulnerable to a national swing away from them.
This year’s local elections are going to be an important set, revealing a lot about the national mood. Sadly their results are likely to be missed in the immediate frenzy of coalition speculation – but they are likely to reveal the strengthening of the UKIP machine as it makes more local gains. And that will have a lasting impact on our politics.
PS if you want to stay on top of the local elections, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting the LGiU