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Local Election test for the Government tomorrow

2nd May 2018

It’s looking likely to be a tough week for Theresa May’s Conservative Government. Following the resignation of Amber Rudd, the highly regarded Home Secretary, after her dismal handling of the Windrush scandal, and an increase in activism and rogue briefings from other Cabinet Ministers tied to the Brexit negotiations, the Prime Minister will be looking for a welcome respite from her troubles in Westminster. However, it is unlikely that they will get this from the local elections taking place tomorrow, with the polls giving Labour a 22% lead in the capital and suggesting that the metropolitan boroughs will remain in the control of Labour.

Will Theresa May go into the Bank Holiday with anything to smile about? Grayling’s Head of Manchester looks at some of the key areas for Thursday night.

Greater Manchester

Labour are looking to strengthen their control over the 10 local authorities. Already in control of nine, Labour have focused their local campaign on Conservative-held Trafford, with Jeremy Corbyn launching the campaign in the authority. A Labour victory will be a tall order but, having seen Andy Burnham win more votes than the Conservative Leader of Trafford Council in his own authority area during last year’s Mayoral election, confidence is high. Elsewhere, Labour will be looking to increase their control of Stockport Council and fight off challenges from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the leafier suburbs of the city region. Within Manchester City Council, Labour will remain in control, but there is a possibility that the Liberal Democrats could increase their number of councillors, but when you’re starting with one seat, the only way is up! This is because, unlike the other councils in Greater Manchester, all the seats are up for election following changes to the city’s ward boundaries.

Sheffield City Region Mayor

The next city region in the north to join Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, and Teeside in electing its own Mayor is Sheffield. Despite extremely high-profile criticism of the Labour-controlled Sheffield City Council over their tree-felling scheme locally, Dan Jarvis, the MP for Barnsley Central, should win without too much of a challenge, with turnout expected to be low. The appetite for a Sheffield City Region Mayor has been limited to say the least, with the desire to see a devolution deal for the entire county being far more popular. Barnsley and Doncaster Councils, both of which are part of the city region, held their own local referendum declaring they wanted the ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal over the Sheffield City Region deal. Despite this, the healthy majority Labour holds across the region should see Jarvis join the Metro Mayor Club.


Although likely to remain firmly in Labour control, the Conservatives will be hoping to try and make some gains on the back of their victory in the West Midlands Mayoral Election last year, and the negativity the local authority has built up following the waste collection strike last summer. The election of Andy Street as Mayor was a real coup for the Conservatives within a Labour stronghold, and the long-term hope is that similar results could take place where Labour Mayors currently sit when their initial three-year term comes to an end in 2020. So, look out for their election campaigns starting in earnest once tomorrow’s election is out of the way.


The capital is gearing itself up for some big wins for Labour where some have predicted a record number of councillors being elected for Jeremy Corbyn’s party. This is in stark contrast to the rest of England where the Labour leader’s popularity isn’t as strong as it is in the capital.  Labour have thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at authorities such as Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet, hoping that they might be able to take control.  Whist Westminster and Wandsworth might be an outside bet for Labour, Barnet looks likely to turn red. However, should Labour fail to take Barnet, it’s likely that links will be made to the authority’s large Jewish population and Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of his party’s anti-semitism crisis.

Conservative Central Office has been managing expectations for the last couple of months, preparing for a bruising tomorrow. Any surprise wins, or failures of Labour, will provide some positive energy for the Prime Minister who will be hoping that the results won’t rearm the critics within her own party. Once again, the Prime Minister is looking in a precarious position, but we’ve been here before. The forecast results seem unlikely to affect May’s position. Despite the repeated challenges she’s had to face as Prime Minister, her personal polling is slowly rising whilst Corbyn’s is falling. So, it’ll be a case of business as usual for her after the bank holiday, until the next crisis emerges.  

Grayling Team

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