by Stephen Tall on April 29, 2014
Lib Dems in England will need no reminding that 22nd May isn’t just European election polling day: it’s also local election day across all 32 London boroughs, all 36 metropolitan boroughs, 74 second-tier district authorities, 20 unitary authorities and five directly-elected mayoral posts.
There are 4,216 seats up for grabs. No party is contesting them all, though as you can see both Labour and Conservatives are fielding candidates in more than 90% of them, while the Lib Dems are contesting 65%. Ukip will be standing in just under 50% of seats and the Greens in 42%.*
The Lib Dem figure is down markedly on 2010, when these seats were last contested – then the party stood in 500 more seats, around 75%, though that did also coincide with the general election. Here’s a reminder of what happened in the local elections held that day, with the party winning 728 seats, 17% of those it contested.**
What might happen on 22nd May? Well, Mark Pack has pointed out in his latest Newswire that the Lib Dems have lost an average of 40% of seats in previous rounds of local elections during the Coalition. On that basis, the benchmark this time round is that the party will retain around 437 of the seats it’s defending and lose 291.
If that’s the case, then the number of Lib Dem councillors will fall to 2,285 – the lowest number since 1983, when 2,171 councillors were affiliated to the SDP/Liberal Alliance.*** It’s unlikely we’ll see ‘Others’ including Ukip, who currently total 1,991 councillors, overtake the Lib Dems this year. I wouldn’t bet against it next year.
* Figures sourced from the London Evening Standard (28 April 2014).
** Table from Local elections 2010 – Commons Library Research Paper (22 June 2010).
*** Graph from Local Elections 2013 – Commons Library Research Paper (22 May 2013).
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.