Polls are closed! Here’s some election reading to keep you going for the loooong wait…

by Stephen Tall on May 2, 2013

Lib Dems winning hereThey’re over! Nothing more to be done now but wait. And it’ll be a long wait for most, with many of today’s local elections not due to be counted until tomorrow. I offered my preview of today’s local elections earlier this week. To keep you going, here’s a clutch of analysis.

Local Election Preview (Anthony Wells)

With the Conservatives starting from an extreme high, it is almost inevitable that they will lose a lot of seats and lose control of a substantial number of councils. It also means that Lib Dem councillors up for re-election are overwhelmingly in LD-v-Con areas, not LD-v-Lab areas. In recent local elections the Lib Dems have done OK against the Conservatives, but been massacred where they are up against Labour in metropolitan areas. With very few LD-v-Lab urban areas having elections, don’t expect huge Lib Dem losses this year.

Local Elections 2013 – Seat Projections Too ‘Conservative’? (Patrick Briône and Damian Lyons Lowe for Survation)

If UKIP do perform better than the Rallings & Thrasher projection then the Conservatives would be expected to suffer equivalently worse losses. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile could slightly outperform expectations, as a high UKIP vote share will help them hold onto seats that the Conservatives would otherwise have threatened, in the style of the Eastleigh by-election. The Liberal Democrats’ strength has always been in their local party organisations and since last November they have gained 8 council seats through local by-elections as well as holding 6 more whilst suffering no losses. Overall, then, Conservative losses might be looking closer to 400 rather than the 300 or so seats predicted. If UKIP does even better than expected, however, then their gains may start to eat into Labour and Liberal Democrat seats as well.

Making sense of the local elections (Peter Kellner)

One key finding from YouGov’s surveys is that many people give different answers when asked how they intend to vote this week compared with how they would vote in a general election. So both Labour and the Tories are likely to underperform their normal poll ratings, while the Lib Dems and very possibly UKIP will do better than their conventional polling numbers suggest. That, too, should be borne in mind if the BBC and Rallings/Thrasher national vote projections show the Tories well below 30% and Labour well below 40%. All in all, what voters do today will be important, both locally and nationally, fascinating for those of us who follow these things, and possibly dramatic. But if you are looking for simple winners and losers this weekend, stick to soccer, the Voice or Britain’s Got Talent.

What do the polls tell us about local election results? (Steve Fisher)

Local elections are often said to be about local issues but actually most of the changes over time in shares of council seats won the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats can be accounted for by changes the popularity of these parties at the national level. Just as in general elections, as the electoral pendulum swings so do the fortunes of councillors and would be councillors. … So what do the opinion polls suggest will happen in today’s local elections? The seats being contested today were last up for election in 2009. Since then the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have dropped by 8 points each in the polls, while Labour are up 16 points. So we should expect to see Labour gain and coalition party losses.

2013 local elections: Votes cast in the sorts of places where general elections are decided are the most accurate indicator of party prospects in 2015 (Lewis Baston)

Some of the best UKIP areas are having elections this year. The party did reasonably well in 2009, benefiting from the Euro elections being on the same day and the climate of the expenses scandal, but it is riding higher in the polls now. The difference between a breakthrough in terms of seats, and merely getting respectable second places in lots of wards, is whether UKIP gains in votes are concentrated in winnable seats or whether it increases its votes evenly. It could also tip seats to the Lib Dems in the South West and South East, and Labour in the East of England and the Midlands, as it did last year in places such as Great Yarmouth.

Local Elections Vote Shares: the BBC PNS and Rallings & Thrasher NEV compared (Steve Fisher)

… perhaps the best indicators for what the local elections tell us about how the parties are faring generally are what the BBC calls the Projected National Share of the vote (PNS) and what Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher in The Sunday Times call the National Equivalent share of the Vote (NEV). Both of these essentially aim to be the same thing, an estimate of what the share of the vote would have been if (1) all parts of Great Britain had local elections and (2) the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats fielded candidates in all wards/divisions. … Although politicians on election night may be tempted to pick the historical comparisons that are most flattering to their parties, there are two main things to bare [sic] in mind: the PNS and NEV rarely differ by much, and if you want to understand whether the parties are doing better or worse than in previous years, compare PNS with PNS or NEV with NEV, but not PNS with NEV or vice versa.

Polling Observatory #24: Blue revival, purple advance (Robert Ford, Will Jennings and Mark Pickup for Ballots & Bullets)

The Lib Dems will be hoping to avoid another local election bloodbath, having endured two already since joining the Coalition. Their poll ratings provide little cause for solace, slipping back to 9.1% but they will hope that deep local roots and the predominance of competition with the Conservatives rather than Labour will help them hold on in many seats on Thursday night. Nigel Farage may even help them by cutting into the vote of their national partners and local rivals, the Conservatives.

Local election night on PB: Your guide – Harry Hayfield and your interactive chart to see what happend [sic] last time (Harry Hayfield for PoliticalBetting.com)

Overall, a cursory glance suggests a minimum of 300 net losses for the Conservatives, but the potential disaster does not stop there. As was mentioned yesterday UKIP are polling at (or near to) record highs and with the average estimate that UKIP have the potential to skim 19% of all Conservative votes, that figure of 300 net losses could be very conservative indeed. In fact it everything goes pear shaped for the Coalition, then we could see a 1993 style result with the Conservatives losing to everyone everywhere, Labour mopping up the Liberal Democrats in the north (Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria and Lancashire) and the Liberal Democrats perhaps picking up a few gains from the Conservatives themselves in places like Somerset and the Isle of Wight.

Today’s local elections. How to judge who polls well and who polls badly (Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome)

Liberal Democrats

Very good result: Winning a single one of the 37 councils and mayoralties up for election: their best bet is Cornwall.

Good result: Holding their own in terms of numbers of councillors after heavy losses last year and the year before.

Bad result: The Rallings and Thrasher projections from council by-elections imply a loss of 130 seats. If they do much worse – say lose half their seats and/or come in behind UKIP then that really will be a pretty dismal night for them.

Have I missed any must-reads? Please leave your links and comments below…

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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