Voters head to the polls across the UK to elect new local leaders

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Voting is under way in the local elections, with council seats in Scotland, Wales, London and many parts of England up for grabs, and Northern Ireland electing its new Assembly.

Boris Johnson joined millions of voters casting their ballots to select the local representatives they want to run services in their area.

The Prime Minister arrived at a polling station in Westminster on foot early on Thursday morning, appearing in good spirits despite predictions that the Conservatives could lose hundreds of council seats.

Mr Johnson was not with his wife Carrie but was accompanied by his dog Dilyn, taking part in a tradition of recent years of people taking their canine companions with them when they vote.

Social media users have been sharing photos of their dogs at polling stations across the UK since they opened at 7am.

After voting, the Prime Minister tweeted a selfie video in which he said he voted for his party because “it’s Conservatives who deliver, Conservatives who get the bins collected”.

Sir Keir Starmer held hands with his wife as he arrived at a polling station in Kentish Town, north London.

After casting his ballot, the Labour leader tweeted: “Today is our chance to send the Tories a message they can’t ignore: Britain deserves better.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, casting his vote at Surbiton Methodist Church in south-west London, said the Conservatives will be punished in the local elections for their handling of the cost-of-living crisis.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the case to vote for the Scottish National Party at her local polling station in Glasgow, while Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford wore a red tie as he cast his ballot in Cardiff.

The Conservatives will find out in the coming days as votes are tallied whether they will be made to pay the price for the so-called partygate saga in Downing Street, which has seen Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined for breaking coronavirus laws.

Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria arrive to vote at a polling station in Kentish Town, north London (Aaron Chown/PA)

A former Conservative minister revealed that he voted Labour for the first time since Tony Blair’s 1997 general election landslide.

Nick Boles, former MP for Grantham and Stamford, who left the Conservative Party in 2019, tweeted: “First time I’ve voted Labour since an equally glorious May morning in 1997.”

Tory Party chairman Oliver Dowden sought to emphasise to the electorate the local choice they are making amid reports that some candidates had attempted to distance themselves from Westminster during campaigning.

In a statement to mark polls opening, Mr Dowden said: “The elections today are about one thing: who do you want running your council?

“The choice couldn’t be starker – between Conservatives who keep council tax down and offer good services, or the opposition parties who waste money on political games and vanity projects.”

Education minister Michelle Donelan argued that Mr Johnson is “an asset, not a liability” in elections.

She told Sky News she could “understand” why councillor hopefuls want to show they are “going to be working hard on all of those things that impact daily life” rather than focusing on what is happening in Westminster.

POLITICS Elections
(PA Graphics)

Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence from Tory MPs.

Mr Johnson, during a visit to Southampton Airport on the last day before polls opened, stressed that he was “absolutely confident” he has the “right agenda for the country”.

Tory supporters are likely to anxiously be watching out for results in true-blue London local authorities such as Wandsworth – under Conservative control for the past 44 years – Westminster and Barnet where pollsters YouGov believe Labour could cause an upset.

Sir Keir used his election rallying call to highlight the “constant drip-drip of sleaze and scandal” in Mr Johnson’s administration.

As well as partygate, the Tories have been hit with a string of controversies, including former Wakefield MP Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy, and veteran MP Neil Parish quitting after admitting he watched pornography in the Commons.

Sir Keir said the Government had broken the Covid regulations they had put in place “over and over again” and said the Tory “failure” to tackle the cost-of-living crisis had been a “disgrace”, along with the Chancellor’s decision to increase national insurance last month.

There have been Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether the Opposition leader broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election.

But Sir Keir said it was a “smear” to suggest he breached the regulations while having “a takeaway and a beer while I was working late at night”.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed said voters have a chance on Thursday to “send Boris Johnson a message he can’t ignore”.

“The Conservatives have failed to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, voted to pollute our rivers, and abandoned our ambulance services,” he said.

The Lib Dems are hopeful of causing an upset in Hull by dislodging it from Labour’s control, while also vying for victory against the Tories in places such as Wokingham and Sutton.

 Sir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey leaves the polling station at Surbiton Methodist Church (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In England, more than 4,000 councillors in 146 local authorities are standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales are also holding elections, with polls open between 7am and 10pm.

Meanwhile, tensions were high in Northern Ireland ahead of Stormont elections where voters are going to the polls across 18 constituencies to elect 90 MLAs.

Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Fein is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting