UK local elections minus four weeks

Labour likely to win big at the local elections. Also covered: Trump’s improving chances to win the US Republican nomination, and upcoming New Zealand and Turkish elections.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Local government elections will be held in England on May 4 and Northern Ireland on May 18. Most of the English seats up were last contested in 2019, at which Labour and the Conservatives tied on 28% each with 19% for the Lib Dems. Labour’s national poll lead is down a little since February, but they still have about a 17-point lead over the Conservatives.

If Labour wins these council elections by the crushing margin polls currently give them, there would be a huge number of Conservative losses, and PM Rishi Sunak would be under pressure, with Boris Johnson a chance at a comeback. The next UK general election is not due until late 2024.

The Scottish National Party’s members elected Nicola Sturgeon’s successor, with the result announced on March 27. Humza Yousaf, who was viewed as the continuity candidate, defeated the socially conservative Kate Forbes by a 52.1-47.9 margin after preferences.

Trump polling strongly for the Republican nomination

Most of this section is based on last Saturday article for The Conversation. Former US president Donald Trump was indicted on March 30 over hush money payments made to a porn star before the 2016 election.

Republican primaries to select their nominee to contest the November 2024 general election start in early 2024. There is disagreement over the size of Trump’s lead, with recent polls rated B+ or better by FiveThirtyEight giving Trump between a five-point and a 30-point lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when other candidates are included. This polling was taken before the indictment, and Trump has surged further ahead since the indictment. No other potential Republican candidate polls higher than mid-single digits.

While the polls disagree on the current size of Trump’s lead, they agree there’s been a recent swing to Trump. A Fox News poll had Trump by 15 points in February, and it recently gave him a 30-point lead. A Quinnipiac poll gave Trump an eight-point lead in February; in late March he led by 14.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, he has a good chance of defeating Biden. Biden’s disapproval rating has been higher than 50% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate since October 2021. He will be almost 82 by the November 2024 election, while Trump will be 78.

On February 21, Democrats held a federal House seat in Virginia at a by-election by a 74.4-25.6 margin, up from 63.8-36.2 at the 2022 midterm elections. On Tuesday (Wednesday AEST), the left-wing Wisconsin Supreme Court judge candidate defeated the right-wing candidate by a 55.5-44.5 margin. The left now has a 4-3 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after long dominance by the right.

These results are encouraging for Democrats, but turnout will be much higher in a presidential election, and Trump is attempting to distance himself from hardline anti-abortionists.

Turkish elections: May 14

Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, with a presidential runoff on May 28 if nobody wins a first round majority. The right-wing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been PM or president since 2003, and his main opponent will be the social democratic Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Some polls show a large lead for Kılıçdaroğlu, but others have it much closer.

In the parliamentary elections, seats are allocated by proportional representation with a 7% threshold, down from 10% previously. Parties can join alliances and avoid this threshold provided the alliance gets over 7%. The main right-wing parties are Erdoğan’s AKP and the MHP. Erdoğan has formed the People’s Alliance, while his major opponents are either in the Nation Alliance or the Labour and Freedom Alliance.

NZ Labour and Greens were just behind National and ACT in early March

The New Zealand election will be held in October using proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member seat. There were three polls taken in early March, with all three giving Labour a lead over National. However, the right-wing ACT has been doing better than the Greens, so the overall right vote is still ahead of the overall left. If the election result is this close, the Maori party would be the key.

There’s a hint that support for Labour and the Greens has peaked since Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as PM. The March Morgan poll gave the right a 45-43.5 lead, after a 45.5-45.5 tie in February.

21 comments on “UK local elections minus four weeks”

  1. Turkey is economically a basket case. The Lira is now 19 to the USD and inflation is out of control. The vast majority of this is due to the governments own policies too. In a sane society Erdogan would be shown the door but the Turkish electorate has been manipulated for the past 20 years into believing he is something special.
    Traditionally, the military of Turkey was the steadying force but the world has moved away from coups and Erdogan has filled the military with his backers anyway now. If opposition wins, there might even be a coup in Erdogan’s favour.

  2. Adrian Beaumont
    If Trump is the Republican nominee, he has a good chance of defeating Biden. Biden’s disapproval rating has been higher than 50% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate since October 2021.

    I had thought – although I am not an expert – that President Obama had the lowest approval (~38%) and highest disapproval (over 50%) in mid/late 2011. Yet he won comfortably against Mitt Romney in 2012.

    Of course, President Obama was not as old as President Biden. 🙂

  3. You can see how Biden compares with past presidents in the FiveThirtyEight charts at the link in the article. Obama was always ahead of Biden, though other past presidents (not including Trump) have briefly been behind Biden.

  4. I’m certain a Trump nomination will lead to a 2nd term for Biden. Trump barely scraped over the line versus a historically weak candidate and couldn’t best Biden with Incumbency advantage. The unpopular overturning of Roe vs Wade will continue to boost Democrat turnout with demographic factors trending advantageously in key states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan.

    A Desantis nomination would be much more challenging for Biden, provided he doesn’t lurch too far right in order to win the primaries.

  5. Thanks Adrian, very interesting.

    UK: do you know what gains / losses would, say, Railings and Thrasher predict based on Labour’s current poll lead converted for local elections?

    It will be interesting to see if Reform make any headway in May local elections. Historically the right-wing / Faragist parties (UKIP then Brexit then Reform) have won very very few seats at a local level. For some reason they don’t seem to put the grassroots effort in that Greens/Lib Dems/Residents Assoc etc do.

  6. USA

    I have tended to think two things about the 2024 Presidential election that are, on the face of it, counter-intuitive to each other but I’m sticking with it for now.

    1. Trump is possibly the only Republican that Biden could / would beat.

    2. Biden is probably, again, the most likely Democrat to beat Trump and I think Dems would quite likely lose to Trump with a different candidate.

    Biden is not thrown off-guard by Trump’s volatile behaviour, nor does he hide his disdain when on a debate stage with him. He doesn’t look weak like other (even very good) candidates might do alongside a bullying Trump.

    On the other hand, if Biden were Trump’s age or just below he’d probably do better still. At least this time, he’s got incumbency and a record to hold up that shows he doesn’t need to be the youngest, most energetic president to get things done, etc, but meanwhile he’s very fit for his age.

  7. Most significant re the Republican primary is that Trump’s support is around 50%. I suspect thats a hard number given his personality cult. Given that he’s going to win, and I’ve seen articles suggesting that de Santis may not even run. I guess we can have the amusement if the media desperately trying to mine content from an all but dead primary process.

    I also expect Biden to absolutely crush Trump. Trump ‘distancing himself from hardline anti-abortionists’ is a manoeuvre that could only convince people with the attention span of infants like the US national political media, and election deniers also tend to do more badly than par at the polls. Trump being himself less than mentally sharp (and boringly repetitive about it) will defuse the ‘Sleepy Joe’ claims.

    That said, the bigger story is the continuing damage to democracy that the state level and at what point it shows up in a national election (and the consequences when it does).

  8. Adrian re NZ polling

    If you ignore Morgan and focus on the three other, more credible pollsters then the shift, however small, is toward Labour + Greens not to the right.

  9. If you think that Turkish election is going to be free and fair, I have a bridge over the Hellespont I’d like to sell to you.

    Anyone got a read on the Finland result from last weekend? I was honestly kind of surprised that the left did so poorly, although I suppose I should not have been given that every incumbent government in existence has been getting tossed out on its ear since the inflation wave hit. Still, my impression was that Marin was well-liked, and countries under external military threat traditionally are reluctant to change horses.

  10. Paul Thomas


    Marin still is quite well-liked in Finland, though perhaps a bit polarising. Her ratings are still quite good.

    Her party did slightly better than last time in the polls, but Finland like Holland has oodles of parties and guaranteed coalition governments.

    In this context, her party falling narrowly to 3rd place from 1st in spite of marginal gains means she is out.

    Fortunately all main parties are equally enthusiastic regarding NATO accession / defence vis-a-vis Russia (incredible given the position 14 months ago), so there’s no change there and it was barely an election topic.


    The main ways it’s rigged are through the air time and relative control of the media that the President and party have.

    In spite of this there is a clear mood for change, though it’s not a forgone conclusion even if the poll itself is broadly fair.

    Dodgy activities around voting can’t be ruled out, but if Erdogan’s main opponent polls convincingly (e.g. 52%+ in the 1st round I would suggest would be convincing in this context, maybe lower if Erdogan is well behind still), then Erdogan is gone.

    The only alternative to a fair-ish win by either side is the rather melodramatic ‘nuclear’ option posed by BS Fairman above of an Erdogan coup with the help of the military.

    Ageing authoritarians do strange things that defy logic sometimes (imagine how this would destroy Turkey and Erdogan’s credibility with the West / NATO overnight), but even if the military is enough in his pocket not to bow to public pressure it really seems a stretch to see Erdogan doing that.

    If anything, I’d expect his antics to be more likely to be before the poll if he feels sure he’s going to lose in a fair count – e.g. trumped up charges against opposition of a serious enough nature to question their legitimacy at all, etc. But even that just doesn’t seem likely any more at this late stage.

    Who knows, perhaps the grumpy old man is looking forward to a bit of retirement and family life?!

  11. For all the sectarian bluster, the Turks still like to think of themselves as a democratic, free society, at least if you’re not a Kurd.

    It’s a mistake to read Erdoğan as any more dictatorial than Trump, which is to say, he’d probably prefer to ignore the constitution but there are enough sensible people around him that those tendencies are likely to be reined in, not to mention that enough of the saner parts of his base would likely swing against him if a permanent dictatorship did end up being rubbed in their faces.

    There’s no realistic prospect of the military intervening at this point. They’ve been burned very recently and there is no appetite to revisit.

    Erdoğan’s best chance of subverting the outcome is via the judicial system, however this won’t necessarily work out in his favour. When the judiciary overturned the Istanbul mayoral election the opposition candidate improved his results on the re-run.

  12. Imagine looking at the wreckage that conservatives left in Australia, the UK and America and thinking “Yeah, that’s what New Zealand needs, our own version of Scott Morrison or Trump or Boris or Truss.”


  13. Leading into the Northern Irish council elections, latest polling (for the assembly):
    Sinn Féin 31
    DUP 24
    Alliance 15
    UUP 11
    SDLP 7
    TUV 5
    Other 7

    Nationalist 39
    Unionist 40
    Other 22

  14. Elected Members of the Assembly (and I presume local councils) are required to designate themselves as “Nationalist”, “Unionist” or “Other”

    Of the parties likely to win seats:

    Nationalist = Sinn Féin, SDLP
    and possibly Aontú. Sinn Féin consider themselves “Republican” rather than Nationalist but close enough

    Unionist = DUP, UUP and TUV, there are also some prominent independent unionists

    Other = Alliance and most of the others

  15. OC,
    Thanks for informing this poor wretch about the ‘designation’ process. I hadn’t heard about that previously. So, the identity of the errant Nationalist no. 39 is the sole representative of ‘Aontu’ (without the accent), whom I believe to be a conservative, pro-Catholic, anti-abortion Republican. Is that right, or is s/he included as an ‘other’? Whatever, but methinks your sums still don’t add up. In such a tight election, that extra seat may make all the difference.

  16. Santa
    Sorry didn’t make my self clear
    Sinn Féin 31% + SDLP 7% + Aontú <1% = total Nationalist 39%
    DUP 24% + UUP 11% + TUV 5% = total Unionist 40%
    Others 22%

    The extra 1% is due to rounding

    Aontú is a socially conservative split from Sinn Féin which has the most liberal abortion policy of all the Irish parties (north and south). It is basically a 1 man band – Paedar Tóibin who sits in the Dáil. It may not win seats in this election

  17. Bob

    The Conservatives haven’t left yet in the UK.

    And given that the alternative at the last 2 elections was Jeremy Corbyn as PM, our ‘wreckage’ as you mystifyingly identify the UK to be, can be considered a lucky escape.

    However, the winds of change are clearly here now and so I expect we will have PM Keir Starmer after the next election. Starmer’s not very popular – actually a drag on the Labour party – but is at least significantly better than Corbyn so I guess we’ll learn to live with him.

  18. @BTsays

    Yet the Tories are introducing many of the policies Corbyn would have implemented including the effective renationalising of the railways, the windfall taxes on oil and gas companies and many green policies for starters,

  19. OC,
    ‘Rounding’, hey. It’s Cromwell and those devilish ’roundheads’ again! My thoughts immediately go to my long-gone grandma’s frequent reference to ‘may the curse of Cromwell be upon youse’ whenever she was cross with me.

  20. In the USA we have seen of late a few Trump favourability polls with a favourable rating as low as the mid-20s (with disapproval in the 60s), while at the same time other polling outfits have Trump even on a slightly positive net favourability. Polls are all over the place and it seems that polling companies simply publish what their targets want to read not the objective data.

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