Local elections 2019: What to watch for as the results roll in

Voting has taken place to elect more than 8,000 councillors in 248 English councils in an important test of electoral opinion.

Northern Ireland voters were choosing almost 462 councillors in 11 councils.

A total of 114 councils started their counts when the polls closed on Thursday night and results from these authorities began to emerge from midnight. The remaining authorities start their counting during the daytime.

So far, the two main parties - the Conservatives and Labour - have suffered early losses.

The Tories had been expecting a tough night amid frustration over Theresa May's Brexit delay, but Labour also struggled, losing seats amid confusion among voters over the party's stance on Brexit.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats were on course for a strong performance, with predictions it could make as many as 500 gains, while the Greens and UKIP were also picking up seats.

Here is what to watch next for on Sky News as the drama unfolds:


The stragglers will take us through until the close of part one, including a fascinating battle in Stoke on Trent where Labour launched its campaign.

A Conservative/City Independent coalition is currently in control here but Jeremy Corbyn has focused heavily on regaining it for Labour for the first time since 2014.

By this time we will also have a clearer idea of the scale of any Conservative defeat. We will know the result in 1,700 Conservative-held seats.

If the counter shows under a hundred net losses, attention will focus on Labour and the Liberal Democrats for failing to score in front of an open goal.

Losses running at 200 at this point are survivable but fingers are crossed at Tory Central Office. Beyond 300 losses and with most of those going to Labour then stay tuned for day two when Brexiteer Tory MPs will be queuing to go on air.

Friday noon to 2pm

The early starters should be declaring about lunchtime. Labour should kick off with victories in Milton Keynes, Redcar & Cleveland while the Conservatives will be praying that they retain control of Solihull where the Greens are the second largest party.

By now the airwaves will be full of claims, counter-claims and recriminations. In the past we've had cabinet re-shuffles.

2pm to 3pm

Sky News will be reporting from Calderdale where Labour currently forms a minority administration but requires just two gains to secure an overall majority for the first time since 1999.

Should that happen Labour will control every metropolitan borough in Yorkshire. Perhaps, Mr Corbyn will be diverted to join us live there.

He had better avoid Cannock Chase, however, if his party loses one seat and overall control. Another to watch is the ding-dong battle in Amber Valley, often considered a bellwether council.

Last year the Conservatives gained two seats from Labour against the national trend. Labour needs a net gain of three seats to take control.

3pm to 4pm

Some 38 councils make this the busiest hour but the die will have been well and truly cast at this point. Almost 1,000 Conservative-held seats will be declared - an opportunity for the counter to move swiftly.

We should be expecting the result from Dover which the Conservatives could lose and Thanet, the only council that UKIP controlled before fracturing into myriad parts.

Both Conservative and Labour should recover here, and we will be reporting the live declarations.

4pm onwards

The first indications of Northern Ireland's electoral mood may be surfacing as seats are allocated using the Single Transferable Vote system. The DUP is the largest party, defending 130 seats with Sinn Fein second with 105 councillors.

Don't expect major swings in seats but it will be interesting whether Brexit or the failure of self-government sees voters switch to other parties.

Still another 52 councils to go in England but it is now a case of Adam Boulton interrupting his interviewee to helpfully remind them of another council lost and/or another council they failed to win. The seat counter continues.

If Conservative net losses run to minus 500 that might sound like a lot but not when you think of total seats involved - 13 times as many as are fought in a general election.

Eight hundred losses lie at the top end of the party's own expectations of "worst" scenario. More than that is meltdown.

Critical also is the party gaining the most from Conservative misery.

Labour will have made gains but if those are lower than the Liberal Democrat tally then it might struggle to convince its detractors that a general election victory awaits.