Local elections 2023: Red wall set to abandon Conservatives, projection suggests
Labour will perform strongest in the Midlands and north of England next week, according to an exclusive new local election projection for Sky News, which suggests the "Red wall" is starting to abandon the Conservatives.
The Tories are also likely to struggle in key bellwether seats elsewhere in England - although the pollster did not expect quite so many Labour gains in key general election battlegrounds further south.
The performance of Conservative councils in the so-called Blue wall is also likely to prompt concern among party chiefs, where the Liberal Democrat advances look likely to end years of Conservative control of key councils - with Ed Davey's party on course to make potential gains themselves.
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YouGov is projecting the likely result and voting patterns in 18 key battleground councils for the local elections on 4 May, reflecting different types of electoral fights in different parts of the country.
It projects that Labour could be on course for major success in Swindon - a long standing major battleground between the two main parties.
Currently controlled by the Conservatives, the pollster now says it is leaning towards Labour and there will be significant gains to be made for the party in the area.
Darlington in the Tees Valley - a one time Labour stronghold now under no overall control - could also see a win for Sir Keir Starmer's party.
Many Conservative-held wards have substantial majorities, making the job altogether harder and meaning victory here will cheer party chiefs.
The Tories have been hoping the popularity of the Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, will stem Labour advances in the area.
Labour could also pickup Plymouth from no overall control - a key council closely watched by party election bosses because they believe its demographic represents the country more widely.
The Tories could also lose Rugby in the West Midlands, while Worcester could go Labour from no overall control
The data is based on 6,000 people polled over the last week, with projections for individual councils calculated by MRP, the method used to predict the 2017 and 2019 general election results.
In the Red Wall, the YouGov model found councils including Dudley, North East Lincolnshire, and Hyndburn were likely to see Labour making significant gains.
Sunderland - where as recently as 2021 a surging local Conservative Party was threatening to take away Labour's majority control - now looks to be solidly Labour.
Nearby in the north east, the unitary authority of Darlington is leaning Labour - a gain here would be a significant marker in Labour's road to Red wall recovery.
In Blue wall areas, the Liberal Democrats are looking to build on successive strong local election cycles and take control of a number of councils in these traditionally Tory shires.
The model expects Lib Dem gains across each of Wokingham, Chichester, and Windsor and Maidenhead, but council control in each remains too close to call.
Looking further east, the Blue wall council of East Cambridgeshire is leaning Liberal Democrat.
The party came within a few seats of taking control of this council in 2019, and our model expects that they may well finish the job off this time around.
Dartford, however, is expected to stay in Conservative hands. In fact, there is a possibility that the Conservatives will increase their majority in a council home to one of the House of Common's most reliable constituencies.