UK local elections live

Live coverage from Friday morning; national polls have Labour lifting in the last week. Also covered: upcoming Turkish and Greek elections.

Live Commentary

12:12pm After 229 of 230 councils, Labour has 2,674 councillors (up 536), the Tories 2,299 (down 1,061), the Lib Dems 1,626 (up 405) and the Greens 481 (up 241). The final council won’t be completed until Tuesday owing to a recount in one ward. Both late councils went to No Overall Control, no change.

11:58am At the 1996 UK local elections, held a year before Labour last gained power at a UK general election, Labour routed the Tories on the PNS by 43-29 with 26% for the Lib Dems.

10:31am Given that Labour’s performance in the two national vote measures was well below their current national polling lead, I think these elections are a much bigger disappointment for Labour than is currently being portrayed.

10:20am Sky’s National Estimated Vote share is worse for Labour than the BBC, with Labour only seven points ahead of the Tories, 36-29 with 18% for the Lib Dems. If this were the result at a general election, Labour would probably fall short of a majority in the House of Commons.

There are still two councils outstanding. The BBC’s report said Labour is now the largest party in local government, surpassing the Tories for the first time since 2002. The council the Greens won control of is mid Suffolk.

7:34am In my Intro post, I talked about the importance of the BBC’s Projected National Share. The PNS for these council elections was 35% Labour, 26% Tories and 20% Lib Dems. This nine-point Labour lead is the largest since Labour lost national power in 2010, but a big underperformance for them on the current national polls that give Labour about a 17-point lead.

From the last time these council elections were held in 2019, Labour is up seven on PNS, the Tories down two and Lib Dems up one. From the 2022 council elections, Labour is steady, the Tories down four and the Lib Dems up one.

7:19am Saturday After 227 of 230 councils declared, Labour have 2,657 councillors (up 527), the Tories 2,282 (down 1,061), the Lib Dems 1,608 (up 416) and the Greens 478 (up 240). Councils controlled are Labour 71 (up 22), the Tories 33 (down 48), the Lib Dems 29 (up 12), independents two (up one), Residents’ Association two (steady), the Greens one (up one) and no overall control 89 (up 12). I believe this is the first time the Greens have won control of a council.

11:42pm After 101 of 230 councils, Labour has 1,092 councillors (up 208), the Tories 739 (down 338) and the Lib Dems 521 (up 88). Currently Labour is gaining at a 24% rate, the Lib Dems at a 20% rate and the Tories are losing at a 31% rate. Extrapolations give Labour a gain of 501 when everything is counted, the Tories a loss of 1,056 and the Lib Dems a gain of 249. But the Tories’ projected losses are down now on what was earlier projected.

Time for bed now, and I’ll restart this early tomorrow morning AEST.

11:32pm Labour has GAINED Blackpool and the Lib Dems have GAINED Stratford-on-Avon.

10:50pm Labour has GAINED control of Swindon and East Staffordshire councils.

9:36pm In council control, Labour has a majority on 25 councils (up three), the Tories on 13 (down 12), Lib Dems nine (up one), independents two (up one) and no overall control 25 (up seven).

9:32pm After 74 of 230 councils, Labour has 787 councillors (up 148), the Tories 509 (down 262), the Lib Dems 385 (up 65) and the Greens 73 (up 38). The extrapolations have Labour finishing up 494, the Tories down 1,143 and the Lib Dems up 248.

5pm Looks like a lull in the counting until this evening AEST, when the remaining 170 councils start reporting.

4:41pm The Lib Dems have GAINED Windsor and Maidenhead council from the Tories, with a 22 year old Lib Dem ousting the Tory leader in his ward.

4:33pm After 60 of 230 councils, Labour has 633 councillors (up 110), the Tories 419 (down 209), the Lib Dems 308 (up 57) and the Greens 51 (up 29). The extrapolations now suggest a total loss of over 1,100 for the Tories, with Labour up almost 450 and the Lib Dems 278.

3:44pm Labour GAINS Medway council from the Tories, winning 31 of 53 seats declared so far with six still to come. That’s a nine seat gain for Labour at the direct expense of the Tories.

3:21pm After results from 52 of 230 councils, Labour has 564 councillors (up 103), the Tories 388 (down 171) and the Lib Dems 294 (up 49). Current projections are for Labour to end up with 2,607 (up 476), the Tories 2,336 (down 1,029) and the Lib Dems 1,468 (up 245).

2:18pm Putting the latest figures in has the Tories losing 33% of their current seats, and would extrapolate to an overall loss of nearly 1,100 councillors.

1:52pm Labour has GAINED control of Stoke-on-Trent after it was previously hung and the Tories have lost NW Leistershire to no overall control.

1:41pm I’ve done some extrapolations on the current results. Labour has 415 councillors (up 74), the Tories 222 (down 92) and the Lib Dems 160 (up 20). The percentage gains/losses are Labour up 22%, Tories down 29% and Lib Dems up 14%. Projecting these to the seats held before these elections (see the intro post below) gives Labour nearly 2,600 councillors (up 462), the Tories 2,380 (down 986) and the Lib Dems 1,400 (up 175).

12:32pm Labour has gained control of Plymouth council, which was previously hung.

12:22pm Counting has slowed down, and we’ve only got 35 of 230 councils declared so far. Labour has 322 councillors (up 48), the Tories 128 (down 70), the Lib Dems 107 (up 18) and the Greens 18 (up ten).

11:43am With results in from 249 of the 792 key wards that the BBC is using for its Projected National Share (PNS), Labour is up 7.4% on 2019, the Tories down 1.2% and the Lib Dems up 1.1%.

11:11am Labour made gains in seven of the ten Tamworth councillors up for election this year, to reduce the Tories to 14 of the 30 total seats, depriving them of a majority.

11:05am Now 181 Labour councillors (up 29), 71 Tories (down 44), 72 Lib Dems (up 14) and ten Greens (up four). The Tories have lost another council to No Overall Control.

10:47am Labour has 126 councillors (up 13), the Tories 61 (down 26), the Lib Dems 59 (up 13) and the Greens eight (up two). The Tories have lost control of Brentwood council, the first council so far with a change in party control.

9:49am So far the Tories have lost ten councillors, with the Lib Dems up seven, Labour up two and the Greens up one.

8:47am The BBC’s live blog says that only 64 of the 230 councils will be counting overnight (it’s nearly midnight UK time). These councils tend to be where only 1/3 of seats are up for election.

8:32am Friday You can follow the live council scoreboard at the BBC. So far Labour has won three councillors, making two gains, both from UKIP.

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 today, with polls closing at 7am Friday AEST; they will be held in 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.

A total of 230 councils in England hold elections today, although in many of them only one-third of seats are up for election, as other seats are elected in alternative council election years. The Conservatives are defending 3,365 councillors, Labour 2,131 and the Liberal Democrats 1,223. Results will come in until at least Saturday AEST.

UK national polling in the last week has shown a small lift for Labour when compared with the previous week’s polls, and they are now about 17 point ahead of the Conservatives

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.

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, a total of 600 seats are allocated by proportional representation with a 7% threshold. Parties can join alliances and avoid this threshold provided the alliance gets over 7%.

Polling continues to be mixed, with the social democratic Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu leading the right-wing incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for president by 20 points in one poll in the first round, but he trails by nine points in another poll.

Greek election: May 21

All 300 seats will be allocated by proportional representation with a 3% threshold at the May 21 Greek election. In previous elections, there was a large seat bonus for the party that won the most votes, but that was scrapped by the left-wing Syriza government before the 2019 election. Unless electoral law changes are approved by a 2/3 parliamentary majority, they apply not at the next election, but the one following that election.

The conservative New Democrats won the 2019 election with the help of the seat bonus, and are the leading party in the polls with mid-30s support. But left-wing parties (Syriza, the centre-left PASOK, the Communists and the left-wing MeRa25) have more votes combined than the right.

US default possible on June 1: Last week I covered Republicans’ passage of a bill through the House of Representatives that would raise the debt limit but at the cost of spending cuts that Democrats strongly oppose. The US Treasury said on Monday that the US could default on June 1 without congressional action to raise the debt limit, though the actual day of default is probably further away.

61 comments on “UK local elections live”

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  1. Any comments I make are subject to the same reservations as Mr Earlwood.

    However, I note that the British media reporting I have seen (BBC and Guardian) is reporting the outcome as very negative for the Conservatives.

    I have also got my head around the PNS number – which seems to be rather like an opinion poll, in which raw numbers are adjusted for a number of variables. In this case, the raw numbers come from the large number of votes cast in elections in much of England (not the whole of the UK).

    I don’t know what the variables are that are taken into account. However, one of the key differences is tactical voting at General Elections and it’s possible that the 2 major parties will have a higher vote share as a result. In the absence of preferential voting, a thinking voter will consider how to preserve the vale of their vote by choosing which of the 2 most likely winners is their preference and voting accordingly, rather than “wasting” their vote on a minor party candidate with no prospect of winning. I understand that the Greens (in particular) do much better in Local Government elections than in General Elections, for this very reason.

    I quite like our preferential voting system!

  2. I think some context is needed here. Those change in vote numbers shown in the last few posts are 2023 compared to the last council elections, which were for a different batch of councils as to those up for election in 2023. So apples aren’t being compared with apples.

    The swathe of councils/councillors up for election in 2023 are actually broadly the same batch as those in 2019. Therefore it is more instructive to compare with 2019 (which by the way was during the Theresa May pre-Boris nadir). At those 2019 elections, both labour and the Tories did relatively poorly, both polling 28%, with Lib dems on 19%. So actually, Labour’s vote is up 7% from those particular elections. So … considering on a like-for-like basis, the Tories lost 1300 councillors in 2019 and at least 1000 this time, I think the interpretation of the results should be somewhat different.

    In my opinion, UK Labour are clearly on track for majority government, particularly considering their revival in Scotland.

  3. Andrew_Earlwoodsays:
    Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 9:14 am
    I do not pretend to be an expert on all things ‘local government’ in the UK.

    However, the analysis being thrown around by Ven and company seems to be … a fair bit out of kilter with reality.

    The first thing to note is – and this is the confusing bit for me – the UK seem to have local elections for different sorts of local government entities fairly regularly BUT – according to the commentary I’ve been able to absorb since my mind turned to the exercise – the seats that were up for grabs yesterday last went to the polls back in May 2019 (at which time the Tories were in the middle of leadership crisis and a brexit crisis), at which election Labour did rather ok on the national vote, securing an estimated 28% share of the total vote (which apparently was itself an improvement on 2015 when labour got smashed in the corresponding local government election).

    Adrian Beaumont: 7:34am In my Intro post, I talked about the importance of the BBC’s Projected National Share. The PNS for these council elections was 35% Labour, 26% Tories and 20% Lib Dems. This nine-point Labour lead is the largest since Labour lost national power in 2010, but a big underperformance for them on the current national polls that give Labour about a 17-point lead.

  4. Andrew_Earlwood says:
    Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 9:14 am
    I do not pretend to be an expert on all things ‘local government’ in the UK.
    Like you AE I am no expert. But “bed wetters” here interpreting it as a bad night for Labour should compare apples with apples.

    London, Wales and Scotland didn’t vote. Strong Labour areas. Going on these results Labour will easily be the biggest party after the next GE.

    I hope they get a majority but if minority I am sure the Liberal Democrats will back Labour. The Liberal Democrats are only now taking back some of the areas they held for decades after they “did the deal with the Devil” to form Cameron’s first Ministry.

    This is a good election for Starmer and Labour.

  5. That’s a very reasoned analysis AE. I was wondering where the “no swing” to Labour was coming from, given the last time these seats were up Labour got 28% of the vote. Also, there’s likely to be more tactical voting in the GE, and some Lib-Dem voters could vote Labour in the general to ensure the Tories are kicked out in particular seats.

  6. Thanks guys.

    It has to be said however, as far as ‘tea leaf’ punditry goes, Labour stuck on 35% is probably 2-3 points below expectations.

    I think Starmer’s Labour had been deliberately underwhelming for the past year for tactical reasons: why interrupt and enemy making a mistake – or in this case tearing itself apart – and make yourself the story? Starmer seems determined to do the Tories slowly: just like Albo.

    Of course the risk is that this sort or small target will deny him momentum going into the election and hence he could be just scrapping into government instead of straying off with a thumping majority.

    The other problem for Starmer is that he now faces a technocrat, not a mad populist. Sunak could still scrap back in on the back of demonstrated basic competence and a possibly a rebounding economy. Just like Major in 1992 and Morrison in 2019.

    I think that Starmer had better find another gear later this year, or it could all fritter away for him, just like it did for shorten. However I rate Sir Keir very highly: he is a far better labour man and leader than our resident Trotsky death eaters would have us believe; so at this stage in the cycle I think he will win majority government next year.

    Edited to ad: I also think that ‘Rishi loves pesos’ was a truly bad tactic: politically and in reality. Hopefully Starmer learns from that as he spends the next 6 months ‘finding his range’ against sunak.

  7. There is quite a difference between the PNS in 1996 compared with 2023. In 1996, the combined PNS tallies of Labour, Conservatives and LD was 98%. In 2023, it is only 81%. This skews the relativities. That said, its very unlikely the next general election will be anything like a repeat of Labour’s astounding 1997 performance. There’s a good chance that whether Labour gets a majority or not is likely to turn on how it performs in Scotland – which is ironic because if Labourt falls short of majority its governing partner would likely be the SNP.

  8. They are some excellent points Outsider.

    I doubt that the greens or various cooker parties will trouble the scoreboard very much in next year’s GE (although the SNP, Welsh and Irish nationalists probably will to some degree), so Labour’s 35% (out of 81% for the three majors), probably equates to something very close to Labour’s 43% out of the 98% vote it received in the 1996 local elections.

    Similarly, the Tories 26% (out of 81%) probably exceeds slightly their 1996 performance of 29% out of 98%.

    However, I think that when you get a diverse vote, such as on Thursday, tactical voting plays an increasingly significant role: ie. labour and lib dem voters voting Greens in that council to toss the Tories out; similarly Labour voters voting lib dem in other tory controlled councils and so on. But when it comes to the lost ‘heartland’ ‘/ ‘red wall’ seats, it seems like labour was smashing the Tories like guitars. Just like 1996.

  9. Remember too tactical voting, Labour people will vote Lib Dem in the areas where the Lib Dems have a better chance of knocking off the Tory MP.
    And for those trying to suggest this was a bad result for Keir Starmer, you guys really know very little about British politics.

  10. Good coverage Adrian, thank you.

    Outsider 2.36pm – vg point.

    Andrew Earlwood 12.36pm – good summary. (not sure about Lab deliberately being underwhelming, Starmer is underwhelming but he’s been very visible all the same)

    Evan – I’m from and in the UK. Of course it wasn’t a ‘bad’ result for Starmer, but I’d make a couple of points about that:

    1. It is true that privately Lab will be disappointed not to be at least in a PNS double-digit % lead of some sort.

    2. It is still also plausible for Lab to claim that they are on course for majority government. I was interested in that tactic, they obviously want to normalise the idea in people’s minds rather than sneak in. Risks involved as people know that Lab majority is a likelihood not just a hopeful prospect; but also projects confidence. If a party doesn’t seem enthused about running the country, why should you give them a chance. So I admire the tactic in a way.

    3. It’s all about the narrative. Lab might privately be underwhelmed but it’s all over the media as a great election for them (and an even worse one for the Tories), which sets the narrative and helps put Lab on course for greater things.

    In truth, it was more patchy for Lab than it’s made out – esp in the North and parts of the Midlands. OTOH, there were some great results for them in ‘high swing’ seats that constitute the centre-ground e.g. Staffordshire, Kent – and at least big swings against Tories in other ‘high swing’ seats that usually go with the winner, even if Lab was somewhat less clearly the beneficiary, e.g. East Suffolk, Berkshire, Derbyshire.

    Then there’s Leicester!

    Tories will be very concerned indeed about the blue wall though many who voted against them will have been venting anger and will return from LD/Green/Ind rather than risk a Lab government. Whether ‘many’ turns into enough to save most of those seats remains to be seen.
    Conversely, they will have been quietly relieved at Peterborough, Gt. Yarmouth, Thurrock, Dartford and Torbay (the latter their only gain).

    One factor that the headlines are overlooking are that in a number of councils in ‘red wall’ type seats that Labour won a majority from NOC (no overall control), the Tories either avoided losses or made small seat gains as well. Suggests that if Boris returns before the next election these seats could turn into their saving grace.

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