Local Elections 2022: What Do They Mean For Boris Johnson And Keir Starmer?

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(Photo: Dan Kitwood via Getty Images)
(Photo: Dan Kitwood via Getty Images)

(Photo: Dan Kitwood via Getty Images)

Voters across the UK will go to the polls on Thursday, with both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer hoping for a boost ahead of the next general election.

Where are the elections?

A total of 200 local authorities across Britain are holding elections. More than 6,800 seats are up for grabs.

Every council seat in Scotland, Wales and London is up for election and there are polls across much of the rest of England.

In Northern Ireland voters are electing members of the Stormont Assembly, with 90 members due to be chosen across 18 constituencies.

What does it mean for Boris Johnson?

Local elections are always seen as verdicts on national party leaders, even if they are notionally about grassroots issues such as when the bins are collected.

At the last set of local elections in May 2021, the Tories, aided by the so-called vaccine bounce, gained 235 seats and took control of 13 councils.

But this year’s elections are taking place in a much different political climate. And the party could be looking at losing between 250-350 seats.

While that number is perhaps relatively small for a mid-term government, if the losses come in the traditional Tory Home County shires, where the Lib Dems are hoping to make inroads, it will unsettle many Conservative MPs and sap their morale.

If the losses reach towards 500 seats, then the prime minister will be seen to have had a disastrous night.

It will be Johnson’s first major nationwide electoral test since the partygate scandal broke and he was fined by police for breaching his own lockdown laws.

Voters are also casting their ballots just as the impact of rising energy prices and increased taxes have begun to bite.

The prime minister’s position as Tory leader has stabilised since the revelations about parties in Downing Street were first reported.

Johnson’s allies, with some success, argued it would be wrong to change leader while the war in Ukraine was ongoing.

The absence of an obvious successor - Rishi Sunak has had a dramatic fall from grace - also helped the prime minister see-off a challenge.

But many Conservative MPs were said to be waiting to see how the party performed at the elections before deciding whether to call for him to go.

Johnson’s main strength within his party is that he is seen as an election winner, possessing an almost magic ability to connect with voters.

Tory MPs will be watching carefully to see if it looks like he has run out of tricks.

What about Keir Starmer?

The elections are arguably as crucial a test for Keir Stamer as the PM, giving clues as to whether he is on course to lead Labour to victory at the next general election, due in 2024.

Since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, Starmer has hauled the party towards the centre.

And he has been able to point to an improvement in the party’s poll ratings as evidence his strategy is working.

Labour had been ahead for months and the latest YouGov survey put the party on 39%, six pints clear of the Tories on 33%.

But the elections in England are largely in places which last went to the polls in 2018 in the wake of Labour’s unexpected surge at the 2017 general election.

The party performed well, achieving its best showing at local elections since 2012.

This means Labour is starting from a high bar and could find it hard to make dramatic across-the-board gains.

A good night for the party would be to pick up 100-150 seats. But crucially, Starmer will want to show Labour under his leadership has breadth as well as depth.

He will be looking to secure victories across England outside of Labour’s London stronghold, and make some progress in Scotland.

For the left of the party, many of whom are angry at the party’s rightward shift and unconvinced by Starmer’s personal appeal with voters, an underwhelming set of results will be seized upon as proof the party is heading for another general election defeat.

Timetable of results

Thursday 10pm: Polls close.

Friday May 6, from 12am: First results expected. Labour is hoping to do well in Conservative-run Bolton in Greater Manchester. The Tories could make gains in Basildon in Essex. Results from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, South Tyneside and Wigan will indicate if Labour’s vote is holding up in its northern strongholds.

From 2am: Sunderland has been run by Labour since 1973 but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are hoping to make enough gains to leave the council in no overall control. Both Labour and the Tories are battling for control of Hartlepool and Peterborough. Stevenage in Hertfordshire could show if Labour is making gains in commuter territory.

From 3am: First key results from London. Westminster is a Labour longshot and has been run by the Conservatives continuously since 1964. In both Hammersmith & Fulham and Redbridge the Tories are fighting to hold on to a dwindling number of councillors. Elsewhere Hull is a two-way fight between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

From 4am: Two crucial results are due from the West Midlands. The Conservatives are defending a slim majority in Dudley and a larger one in Nuneaton & Bedworth; Labour hopes to make progress on both councils. Hillingdon is another Labour longshot in London and contains within its boundary the constituency of Boris Johnson.

From 5am: Labour is hoping to retake Southampton from Conservative control and make gains in Derby. The Conservatives are defending Wandsworth in London which they have held since 1978.

By 7am: The final result is due from Conservative-run Barnet, Labour’s top target in London. All outstanding overnight results are also due.

Around 9am: Counting begins for a further 71 councils in England and all councils in Scotland and Wales.

From 12pm: Results likely to resume in England. The Green party is hoping to make gains in Conservative-controlled Solihull. Labour is hoping to do likewise in Tory-run Walsall. First results are also due from Scotland and for the mayoral elections in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Watford.

From 2pm: Two key councils in West Sussex are due to declare: Worthing, a top Labour target; and Crawley, where both the Tories and Labour are hoping to gain control. The Liberal Democrats could make gains in West Oxfordshire. East Renfrewshire is a three-way battle between the Conservatives, Labour and the SNP. First results are due from Wales.

From 3pm: Another key Conservative-Labour battleground, Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, is due to finish counting. In Wales, Labour is looking to take control of Blaenau Gwent from a group of Independents, while Flintshire is a test of Tory popularity in an area in which they did well at the 2019 general election. Aberdeenshire will be a measure of Conservative support in Scotland, while all parties hope to pick up seats in Edinburgh.

From 4pm: The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are fighting for control of the new unitary authority in Somerset. In Glasgow, the SNP is looking to hold off any sign of a Labour resurgence. The Lib Dems hope to strengthen control of St Albans and the Tories want to keep control of Pendle in Lancashire. The result of the South Yorkshire mayoral election is also due.

From 5pm: The Lib Dems hope to cause an upset in Tory-run Gosport in Hampshire. Labour is defending a slim majority in Cardiff. The result in Labour-run Wakefield could offer clues to the outcome of the expected parliamentary by-election in the city later this year, after Conservative MP Imran Khan was convicted of sexual assault. Tower Hamlets in London is due to declare the result of its mayoral election. Renfrewshire is the last result due from Scotland.

Friday evening: North Hertfordshire could see both Labour and the Lib Dems gaining from the Conservatives. Labour is hoping to improve its majority in Bury in Greater Manchester. Vale of Glamorgan is the final result due from Wales. In London, the Croydon mayoral result is expected.

Saturday May 7, around 9am: Counting continues for the council election in Tower Hamlets in London.

Around 5pm: Final result due from Tower Hamlets.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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