Labour is likely to advance in key battlegrounds in the local elections but may struggle to win significant numbers of new councils outright, according to a major new results projection by YouGov for Sky News.
Labour looks set to make slower progress tomorrow in the north of England than elsewhere in the local council elections, despite Sir Keir Starmer putting regaining the "red wall" lost in the 2019 general election at the top of his agenda.
YouGov project the numbers voting Conservative are likely to decrease but not all necessarily swing to Labour. They expect Liberal Democrats and Greens to take votes off both Tories and Labour.
YouGov expects Labour to advance in London, where every council is up for election, despite coming from a very high baseline in 2018.
Elsewhere in the South, Labour will also make progress on 2018 but is less likely to win battleground councils while the Tory to Labour swing in the north is expected to be smaller than elsewhere, YouGov said.
Overall this means that Labour could face a potentially complex picture once the votes are counted on Friday, gaining potentially significant numbers of seats - experts suggest this could be in the hundreds - but few overall councils.
YouGov interviewed 5,026 people across England over the last week, allowing them to project results in 16 key councils.
The model is cautious in its projections. Five councils - two Tory, one Labour and two councils with No Overall Control - are listed as "too close to call" by the model.
However, it does point to some potentially significant changes in control in some key seats.
The YouGov model projects that in Southampton and Wandsworth voters are "leaning towards" ousting the Tories and installing Labour-led administrations.
These would be significant gains for Labour: Southampton is a fiercely contested Labour-Tory bellwether while Wandsworth has been Conservative since 1978 and is notable for low levels of council tax.
What are the councils to watch?
The Tories can no longer trust on controlling Barnet and Westminster after Thursday after YouGov judged them both to be "too close to call".
A failure by Labour to take Barnet would be a disappointment after the party talked up its chances of winning the symbolically significant council, which fell to the Conservatives during the last council elections there in 2018 in a result the party put down to the antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn from the large Jewish community.
Worryingly for Labour, Kingston upon Hull, which is currently Labour controlled, is now listed as "too close to call" because of a fierce challenge from the Liberal Democrats
Croydon council is now "likely" to stay Labour, according to YouGov, despite suggestions that it would be under threat.
Hillingdon is likely to remain under Conservative control, despite Labour advances.
In the north, the councils of Bolton, Wirral, and Kirklees look set to remain in No Overall Control, with strong independent presence and a more stubborn Conservative vote hampering Labour progress there.
Looking elsewhere in the north, YouGov believe Labour has a chance of holding on to wafer-thin majorities on Bury and Calderdale, which are both "leaning Labour".
In the south, YouGov expect Milton Keynes to stay firmly in No Overall Control (NOC), while ultra-marginal Hastings is projected to be "leaning Labour". Crawley and Worthing remain on an absolute knife edge.