UK local elections minus one week

Labour’s poll lead is being reduced, though it’s still a large lead. Also covered: the coming US debt limit crisis and mixed polls in Turkey.

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. The BBC’s Projected National Share (PNS), which converts council elections into national vote shares, showed Labour and the Conservatives tied on 28% each with 19% for the Lib Dems in 2019.

Labour’s national poll lead has dropped a little since three weeks ago, but they still have about a 15-point lead over the Conservatives. The Conservatives are probably gaining owing to lower inflation and greater distance since Liz Truss’ disastrous premiership, but Labour’s ads attacking PM Rishi Sunak for being soft on paedophiles have probably not helped.

The best statistic for the local elections is not the total councillors or councils won or lost, but the BBC’s PNS. In 2022, Labour won the PNS by 35-30 over the Conservatives after losing by 36-29 in 2021. A huge win for Labour could put Sunak under pressure, but if Labour flops, the pressure would be on their leader Keir Starmer, as he approved the Sunak attack ads.  The next UK general election is not due until late 2024.

US House passes debt limit increase with spending cuts

I covered the US debt limit in February. Early this morning AEST, Republicans passed a bill through the House of Representatives by a 217-215 margin that raises the debt limit in return for big spending cuts that Democrats strongly oppose. In the earlier article, I said that the US Treasury has been taking extraordinary measures since January to avert default, but those measures could fail by early June without congressional action.

Democrats could have raised the debt limit while they still held control of the presidency, House and Senate before January 2023. Instead, they’ve allowed Republicans to take the US economy hostage. Republicans have an incentive to cause a recession before the 2024 elections.

FiveThirtyEight has started a poll aggregate of the national Republican primary, which will start early next year, although there’s no national primary “date”, with some states voting earlier than others. Former president Donald Trump has 51.1%, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis 24.3% and nobody else has more than 5%. Trump’s lead over DeSantis has been widening over the last two months.

RealClearPolitics poll averages have Trump leading incumbent Joe Biden by 1.3 points in a general election match-up, little different from a DeSantis lead of 1.9 points against Biden. These averages of very early polls may not be correct, but if Trump was unelectable, Biden would have a large lead. The US general election is in November 2024, by which time Biden will be almost 82 and Trump 78. Biden needs a good economy in 2024 to defeat Trump, which congressional Republicans are unlikely to provide.

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. In the parliamentary elections, seats are allocated by proportional representation with a 7% threshold. Parties can join alliances and avoid this threshold provided the alliance gets over 7%.

In some of the latest polls, the social democratic Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu leads the right-wing incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for president by 4-9 points, but is short of the 50% needed to win outright in the first round. Other polls are very close, with some small leads for Erdoğan. There is one pol showing a large lead for Erdoğan, but that’s from a pollster affiliated with Erdoğan’s AKP.

Other recent elections: Finland, Estonia and Nigeria

At the April 2 Finnish election, the centre-left SDP was defeated after one term. Although its vote share rose slightly, it finished just behind two right-wing parties, while former SDP allies all lost seats and votes A new government has not been formed yet, but it will be conservative.

At the March 5 Estonian election, the liberal Reform was re-elected with an increased vote share as the far-right EKRE went backwards.

At the February 25 Nigerian presidential election, the centrist APC’s candidate won 36.6%, defeating the conservative PDP on 29.1% and Labour on 25.4%. Turnout was just 26.7%.

8 comments on “UK local elections minus one week”

  1. A little extra info that would have made the article above too long: four House Republicans voted against the debt limit increase plan, but these four were all from the right, and opposed a debt limit increase under any circumstances. Three missed the vote: two Dems and a Rep. Reps currently have a 222-213 House majority.

  2. Thanks Adrian.
    Adrian Beaumont @ #1 Thursday, April 27th, 2023 – 2:57 pm

    A little extra info that would have made the article above too long: four House Republicans voted against the debt limit increase plan, but these four were all from the right, and opposed a debt limit increase under any circumstances. Three missed the vote: two Dems and a Rep. Reps currently have a 222-213 House majority.

    So…. if the two dems turned up and voted ‘nay’ it would have been tied?

  3. “The Conservatives are probably gaining owing to lower inflation”

    Laughable to say that.

    The headline rate might be going down slightly (but it’s still very high) but the reality is prices for some items such as food and utilities are still going up.

    Now the direct financial support for utility bills has ended people are going to see an immediate rise in their bills of £60 a month.

    Food inflation is still rampant. I went shopping on Thursday and the price of some basic goods have gone up significantly over the last month or so. A couple of things were 20% higher since the last time I bought them. Some have doubled in price over the last year.

    Many deals have also gone or been made worse. What was 3 for £ 10 is now either 3 for £ 12 or have been shrinkflated to 2 for £ 10. Shrinkflation is becoming more and more noticeable generally.

    My council tax has gone up 4.99% but only because that’s the maximum the government allows it to go up without having to hold a local referendum but I’m getting worse service for it because government grants haven’t gone up so councils are having to make even bigger cuts.. The police and fire elements went up by more than 5%. Even Tory controlled councils are saying they can’t cut anymore.

    The cost of living crisis is still with us.

  4. The tories poll lead rising is too premature. We don’t know how much affect Raabs resignation and bullying scandal which was proven has hurt them.

  5. Daniel

    I would be almost certain that the coverage of the Raab resignation, context and comments around it will have HELPED the Tories in the polls. There was a very clear narrative of ministers like Raab wanting to get things done for the good of the country and being held up by over-sensitive (or simply politically opposed or misaligned) civil servants.

    It’s not nice to call them ‘snivel servants’ but the phrase captures the sentiment I describe well amongst the electorate.

    Having said all that, Labour will make big gains next week and Tories will suffer big losses. The key interest will be in seeing the size of the swing in different seats / regions to get an idea of which seats will be swept away when Lab wins the next election and which may stay blue.

    Rishi will have pulled up their vote share in the Blue wall, Home counties etc, to staunch what may otherwise have been historical bleeding of votes.

    Conversely, I think enthusiasm for his premiership will probably be lower than his predecessors, esp Boris, in the Red wall. Labour will be roaring here much like they historically have been, with perhaps a few surprises where enthusiasm for Lab remains low and Independents pick up the mantle instead.

    Notwithstanding the above generalisms I make, the picture will not be that clearcut and will, I believe, send out some surprises (in all directions) and confusing signals that enable all parties to claim the narrative they want to spin.

    Reform won’t make a ripple because they have too few candidates and just don’t have a good ground game – twas ever thus with right-wing parties at council elections.

    Lib Dem and Green in theory should do well – and will in fact do enough in a few places to claim great headlines – but will overall struggle to meet their high water mark in 2019 and may lose some seats especially to Labour.

  6. @BTSays:

    I’d not call 2019 a “high-water” mark for the Lib Dems; they actually lost a seat that election. Besides that, they did better than 2019 (11.6% of the vote, 11 seats) in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010. I can certainly see them improving on their somewhat lackluster performance in the next UK general election.

    For local elections, the Lib Dems also seem to have done better prior to 2010, generally garnering 20-25% of the nationwide vote. After their ill-fated coalition with the Tories, the Lib Dem vote collapsed to between 10% and 15%. Since 2015, they’ve bounced around between 15% and 20%. I can see their vote going in either direction; much would depend on whether disgust with the two main parties (Tories/Labour) is sustained.

    Speaking out of sheer intuition, I believe that it’s likely to be, leading to a boost for the LibDems, Greens and assorted other third+ parties, mostly at the Tories’ expense. Why? Sir Keir Starmer comes across to me as something of an empty suit – like 1990s Tony Blair with less charisma (much like post-election Albanese, really). And the Tories are doing their damnedest to be unelectable, what with the leader$hit going on, Ri$hi Sunak’s stupidity and so on.

  7. Matt

    Sorry, that was a reference to the 2019 LOCAL (Council) elections, which of course is the subject of this article. The seats being contested next week were generally last contested in May 2019. Greens, for instance, made about 200 gains IIRC and Lib Dems considerably more.

    As per the article, 28Lab/28Con/19LD in 2019 was a very strong result for LD who were cresting a wave as the standard-bearers of rejoin EU at that point whilst Lab seemed to be all over the place.

    ‘High water mark’ may not be the right phrase, especially if you’re looking at pure vote share c.f. pre-2011 rather than c.f. Lab/Con vote shares, but I’m sure you get the gist.

    Regarding your other comments on local elections, you’re not wrong re Starmer but don’t underestimate the Labour poll lead which is real and sustained, this is not Corbyn or even Miliband Labour. Labour will make BIG gains next week one way or another, albeit us nerds will pick apart the detail. . .

  8. Terminology such as Right Wing and Left Wing is always an imprecise short-hand.

    However your reference to Erdogan as ‘Right Wing’ is simplistic – this label perpetuates the western media’s relentless characterisation of him as an undemocratic religious zealot which in turn justifies the west’s endless hostility to him. Although NATO and US rely on him and Turkey when it suits them.

    Many of Erdogan’s draconian actions against dissent in the military, media and politics are characteristic of both the Left and the Right. However a major difference is that, unlike many other strongmen, Erdogan has been routinely democratically elected in fair elections.

    I call for a nuanced portrayal of him.

    His party was denied Government and his Party was abolished by the military twenty years ago and the recent coup attempt was another serious, illegal, bloody attack on the democratic government. The processes used and the extent of the reprisals is another serious matter.

    His regime has retained and introduced reforms that can’t be considered standard right wing, strongman Islamist policies. The record includes:
    – Tolerance of religions and even some Church funding
    – The national health scheme
    – Massive infrastructure (urban environment, public transport)
    – Acceptance of, and care for, 3.8 million desperate Syrian refugees
    – Legal brothels/ prostitution, homosexuality and abortion (although some attempts to make illegal)
    – Shorter and modernised military service with exemptions for gays
    – Expanded university education including high proportion of women
    – Strident campaign against smoking
    – Foreign policy of “friendship with all” including Israel, Russia and Ukraine (was good in theory)
    – Huge reduction in rural and urban poverty
    – Use of Kurdish language in schools and media
    – Easy entry, home ownership and residence for foreigners

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