Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
Local elections in the UK will be held on May 2, with polls closing at 7am May 3 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). A total of 8,346 councillors in 248 English councils will be up for election. The Conservatives will be defending 5,521 seats and 163 councils where they have a majority, Labour will defend 2,278 seats and 74 councils, the Liberal Democrats 658 seats and four councils and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) will defend 176 seats. Council elections will also be held in Northern Ireland.
The last time most of these seats were contested, the local elections were held concurrently with the 2015 general election, at which the Conservatives won a surprise majority. The most important measure is not the seats won or lost, but the BBC’s projected national vote share; that is, what the vote share would be had council elections been held throughout the UK. In 2015, this projection was 35% Conservatives, 29% Labour, 13% UKIP and 11% Lib Dems. At the last council elections in 2018, the projection was 35% Conservatives, 35% Labour and 16% Lib Dems.
Current Westminster polls have the Conservatives plunging into the mid-20’s with Labour leading with about 30%. Conservative support has gone mainly to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, which has about 14%. The feeling of betrayal over the long Brexit delay is damaging the Conservatives with Leave voters. If this dire polling is reflected next week, the Conservatives will lose a large number of councillors.
There is a perverse incentive for Conservative activists and members to campaign against the Conservatives both at these council elections, and then at the European elections three weeks later. If the Conservatives do very badly at both elections, Theresa May would be under great pressure to resign. However, she cannot be forced out until December, having survived a challenge last December.
If a leadership vacancy were to occur, Conservative MPs winnow the candidates down to two, and those two go to the membership. As the membership is very pro-hard Brexit, a hard Leaver would be likely to become Conservative leader and PM, and that PM would probably attempt to deliver Brexit – deal or no deal.
Left-wing parties could win Spanish election
The Spanish election will be held on April 28, with polls closing at 4am April 29 AEST. The 350 lower house seats are elected by proportional representation with a 3% threshold at the provincial level. The 50 provinces receive at least two seats each, with further seats allotted based on population. This system produces larger shares of seats than votes for the biggest parties; at the 2011 election, the conservative People’s Party (PP) won 186 of the 350 seats on 44.6% of votes. In the Senate, 208 of the 266 will be elected by first past the post; 47 provinces have four seats each.
At the June 2016 election, the PP won 33.0% of votes. the left-wing Socialists 22.6%, the further left Podemos 21.6% and the right-leaning Citizens 13.1%. The PP formed a minority government, but it was brought down in June 2018 on a no-confidence vote. The Socialists were unable to pass a budget in February, leading to the election. The far-right VOX has risen since the last election, now receiving around 10% support in most polls.
Before the campaign began, a coalition between the PP, Citizens and VOX appeared the most likely outcome. However, the Socialists have gained during the campaign. Current polling gives the Socialists about 28%, the PP 20%, the Citizens 15%, Podemos 13% and VOX 12%. While these averages still give the right a 47-41 lead over the left, Spain’s system favours big parties, and the right vote is more split. Left-wing separatist parties in Catalona and Basque could assist the Socialists in forming a government. Senate projections have the Socialists winning a clear majority. Polls are banned after April 23.