New poll shows the economy is the number one issue in Britain with days to go until local elections

New poll shows the economy is the number one issue in Britain with days to go until local elections

The economy is the most important issues in a majority of constituencies in Great Britain ahead of Thursday’s local elections, according to new research.

A new tracker from Survation and Royal Holloway University of London shows that economic issues are the most important in 460 (73 per cent) of the 632 parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain.

The modelling will strike fear into Tories as several polls now show that they are less trusted on the economy than Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour – in the wake of the controversial National Insurance hike and skyrocketing inflation.

Pressure is growing on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over their party’s response to the cost-of-living crisis with the Cabinet being reported to have resorted to a desperate roundtable discussion to generate ideas on how to tackle the crisis last week.

Sir Keir took the Tories to task on their handling of the crisis during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday – comparing briefings that the Government was planning in scrapping MOTs to ease cost burdens to Sir John Major’s maligned cones helpline.

An Ipsos poll published in the Evening Standard on Friday showed that Labour (32 per cent) are seen as the best party on tax with the Tories lagging behind on 25 per cent.

Despite the strong focus on the economy, the pandemic still remains the focus of voters in some British cities.

Covid (24 per cent) featured heavily in the minds in London, Manchester and Liverpool among the 153 constituencies which rated it as the most important issue for them ahead of Thursday’s poll.

Some way back in third is Brexit (three per cent) which still lingers in the mind of 17 constituencies, 13 of which are in London – including Battersea, Bermondsey and Old Southwark and Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Other issues which were featured in the modelling included Conduct of Government, Crime, Housing and Immigration amongst others.

The tracker uses multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) techniques to show which issues matter most to voters.

It does this by predicting what survey respondents say using information on the respondents’ characteristics and the characteristics of their area and extrapolating that to constituencies.

Commenting on the release of the tracker, Professor Chris Hanretty from Royal Holloway’s Democracy and Elections Centre, said: ‘MPs often talk about what’s important on the doorstep – usually when they want to deflect attention from another issue.

‘Now for the first time we’ve got some insight into what’s important at local level. It’s going to be interesting cross-checking these results against what MPs say people are telling them.’

The focus on the economy will worry Conservatives ahead of the Thursday’s local elections – which will see over 200 local authorities elect new councillors across the UK – with more than 4,000 seats up for grabs in England.

They include parts of the ‘Red Wall’ such as Bury, as well as Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs – as well as every seat in Scotland and Wales.

The elections are widely billed as an acid test for Boris Johnson’s premiership after a year marred by multiple scandals. – including his fixed penalty notice for his part in the Partygate scandal.

A Survation poll released yesterday found Labour has a 13-point advantage in the parts of England choosing councillors next Thursday.

Signs are not looking good for Johnson after research by Survation showed the 46.9 per cent to 33.7 per cent margin is even bigger than the 41 per cent to 32 per cent recorded the last time the seats were contested.

There have been claims that the Tories are facing losing up to 800 seats – a scale of disaster which Mr Johnson would not be able to dismiss as a mid-term dip.

But the outcome could be tricky to interpret as many of the seats were last contested when the UK was still in the EU, Theresa May was in No10 and Labour was led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Experts have pointed out that Labour had a very strong performance in 2018, suggesting the party could struggle to make further big gains – despite polls showing a national lead and massive advantage in London.

Although many of the issues that decide local elections remain the same – such as bin collections and services – they will inevitably be interpreted through the prism of Partygate in the wake of Mr Johnson’s fine.

Restive Conservatives have been holding off a decision on whether to mount a coup until the results come in, meaning the aftermath is likely to be the moment of maximum danger for the PM.

In a number of boroughs such as Wandsworth, Conservative candidates have been adding ‘local’ to ballot papers in an effort to offset the impact of Partygate.

Labour and the Lib Dems have been accused of giving each other clear runs in seats where they are taking on Conservatives.

However, there are signs that Sir Keir party has been struggling in some areas, with mixed results in council by-elections.

Here are some of the key contests to look out for in each region of England, as well as in Wales and Scotland.

There have been claims that the Tories are facing losing up to 800 seats – a scale of disaster which Mr Johnson would not be able to dismiss as a mid-term dip.

But the outcome could be tricky to interpret as many of the seats were last contested when the UK was still in the EU, Theresa May was in No10 and Labour was led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Experts have pointed out that Labour had a very strong performance in 2018, suggesting the party could struggle to make further big gains – despite polls showing a national lead and massive advantage in London.

Although many of the issues that decide local elections remain the same – such as bin collections and services – they will inevitably be interpreted through the prism of Partygate in the wake of Mr Johnson’s fine.

Restive Conservatives have been holding off a decision on whether to mount a coup until the results come in, meaning the aftermath is likely to be the moment of maximum danger for the PM.

In a number of boroughs such as Wandsworth, Conservative candidates have been adding ‘local’ to ballot papers in an effort to offset the impact of Partygate.

Labour and the Lib Dems have been accused of giving each other clear runs in seats where they are taking on Conservatives.

However, there are signs that Sir Keir party has been struggling in some areas, with mixed results in council by-elections.

Here are some of the key contests to look out for in each region of England, as well as in Wales and Scotland.

North-west England

Bury – estimated declaration time, 8.30pm Friday May 6

Bury has all of its 51 seats up for grabs this year. Labour has run the council since 2011 but has only a small majority and will want to improve its position in what is the party’s traditional heartland of Greater Manchester. Bury’s status in this year’s elections was reflected by the fact Sir Keir and Mr Johnson both visited the town during the campaign. (E)

Bolton – 12.30am Friday May 6

Bolton is another key test for Labour in Greater Manchester, but here it is hoping to take back control from the Conservatives who have run a minority administration since 2019. A third of the council’s 60 seats are being contested. (12.30am)

Pendle – 4.30pm Friday, May 6

Pendle is being defended by the Conservatives, who won a slim majority last year. If the Tories lose two seats, the council will slip back into no overall control. Elections are taking place for 12 of the 33 seats. (4.30pm)

Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness – 1pm Friday, May 6

Two new unitary authorities that will elect councillors for the first time this year. The two authorities cover the whole of Cumbria. Cumberland is comprised of the former district councils of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland, while Westmorland & Furness covers Barrow-in-Furness, Eden and South Lakeland. All the main parties will be jostling for prominence in these new ‘super-councils’ and the outcome in both contests could be close. (Cumberland 2.30am, Westmorland & Furness 1pm)

North-east England

Sunderland – 2am Friday, May 6

Run by Labour since 1973, but both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have made advances in Sunderland in recent years. A third of the council’s 75 seats are up for grabs this year, and if Labour suffers six or more losses it will lose overall control. Although Sunderland is part of Labour’s so-called ‘Red Wall’ – areas of the country that saw many Tory gains at the 2019 general election – all three Sunderland MPs are Labour and the party defied predictions in 2021 when it retained its majority on the council.

Hartlepool – 2am Friday, May 6

The Conservatives and Labour are fighting to be in with a chance of taking overall control of the council – or failing that, end up the largest party and lead a minority administration or a coalition. The Tories won the parliamentary seat of Hartlepool from Labour at a by-election in May 2021. A strong showing by independent candidates could spice up the outcome of this year’s contest. Some 13 of the council’s 36 seats are being contested.

Yorkshire & the Humber

Kirklees – 6.30pm Friday, May 6

Currently run by Labour but the party does not have a majority in Kirklees. A third of seats are being elected and just two gains by Labour would give it overall control. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are also hoping to do well.

Wakefield – 5pm Friday, May 6

A Labour stronghold and is not likely to change hands, but the party will be hoping for a solid performance ahead of the expected parliamentary by-election in the city later this year, after Conservative MP Imran Khan was convicted of sexual assault. A third of seats are being contested.

Hull – 3.30am Friday, May 6

Hull is a two-way fight between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Labour’s majority has been whittled away in recent years and the party goes into this year’s election defending a majority of one. A third of the council’s seats are in play and the Lib Dems are hopeful of victory. (3.30am)

West Midlands

Dudley – 4am Friday, May 6

A crucial test for both the Conservatives and Labour. The Tories hope to build on the slim majority they secured at the 2021 local elections, while Labour will want to halt the blue advance and make gains themselves. A third of the council is up for grabs. (4am)

Solihull – 1pm Friday May 6

Another West Midlands metropolitan council under Conservative control, but the main opposition is the Greens. The party has been slowly eating into the Tories’ majority and will hope to take a few more bites this year. One third of Solihull’s seats are being contested.

Nuneaton & Bedworth – 4am Friday May 6

Dominated by the Conservatives after a bumper performance in last year’s elections. Labour will hope to demonstrate it is making a comeback, having controlled the council as recently as 2018. Half of the 34 seats are holding ballots.

Newcastle-under-Lyme – 3pm Friday May 6

Set to be a battle royal between Labour and the Conservatives, with every council seat up for grabs and the Tories defending a tiny majority. Success here for Labour would suggest the party is winning back support in one of its target areas of country. The parliamentary seat of Newcastle-under-Lyme was won by the Conservatives in 2019 after being held by Labour for the previous 100 years.

East Midlands

Derby – 5am Friday May 6

Derby is currently run by the Tories as a minority party. Labour will be looking to make gains in another test of party’s ability to win back support in urban areas of central England. An unknown factor is the popularity of the Reform Derby party, based on the former Brexit Party, which is standing candidates in all the seats being contested. There are 17 of the council’s 51 seats up for grabs.

Eastern England

St Albans – 4pm Friday May 6

St Albans saw the Liberal Democrats make enough gains in 2021 to take overall control, but with a slim majority. The party will want to improve its numbers this year as an example of how it is now the main opposition to the Conservatives in parts of the so-called ‘Blue Wall’ of southern England. The entire council is up for election. (4pm)

Peterborough – 2.30am Friday May 6 

A long-running Conservative-Labour battleground and for decades the council has see-sawed between a Tory majority and no overall control. It is currently run by a minority Conservative administration and Labour will want to make gains to show it is recovering in a city it lost to the Tories at the 2019 general election. A third of seats are being contested.

Basildon – 1am Friday May 6

This Essex battleground could provide clues to how the Conservatives are doing in the commuter belt around London. The party won control of the council last year and will hope to consolidate its position in elections for a third of its 42 seats.

Stevenage – 2.30am Friday, May 6

A commuter-heavy area in Hertfordshire, but this time it is Labour who will be hoping to make progress. The party has controlled the council continuously since its creation in 1973 but will want to show it can reverse the losses it made last year. A third of the seats are up for grabs.

London

Barnet – 7am Friday May 6

Labour’s top target in London for the third election in a row. The party failed narrowly to win control in 2014, while 2018 saw the council swing further towards the Conservatives, with local Labour members blaming the row over antisemitism in the national party. Labour needs to gain nine seats to form a majority. As with every council in London, all seats are being elected.

Wandsworth – 5.30am Friday May 6

Another long-standing Labour target, but here the party managed to increased its number of councillors in both 2014 and 2018. The Tories have held the council since 1978 and have made a point of charging residents one of the lowest average levels of council tax in the country, so a Labour victory would be of symbolic significance.

Hillingdon – 4am Friday May 6 

This borough contains the constituency of the Prime Minister and has been controlled by the Conservatives since 2006. Labour is hoping to make gains, but the outcome is hard to predict as the size of the council is being cut from 65 to 53 seats.

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Restive Conservatives have been holding off a decision on whether to mount a coup against Boris Johnson (left) until the results come in, meaning the aftermath is likely to be the moment of maximum danger. Meanwhile, a failure to make significant progress could cause serious problems for Keir Starmer (right)

Westminster – 3am Friday May 6

A flagship borough held by the Tories continuously since its creation in 1964. But Labour has slowly increased its number of councillors at recent elections and will want to make more progress this time. Given the current volatile political climate, plus a reduction in the size of the council from 60 to 54 seats, the final result could be close.

Harrow – 5pm Friday May 6

A council where the reduction in the number of seats from 63 to 55 could work in either Labour or the Conservatives’ favour. Labour won a narrow majority in both 2014 and 2018 but the borough’s electoral districts have been substantially redrawn for 2022 and both parties could profit from the new-look map.

Sutton – 4am Friday May 6

A Liberal Democrat-Conservative battleground that has been run by the Lib Dems since 1990. The party should retain control again this year, but the Tories will hope to make gains and chip away at the Lib Dems’ small overall majority.

South-east England

Crawley – 2pm Friday, May 6

Has tilted between Conservative and Labour control in recent years but neither party has an overall majority. It would take only a couple of gains for either the Tories or Labour to take full control of a council deep in the commuter belt of West Sussex. A third of seats are being contested.

Gosport – 5pm Friday May 6

The council sees the Conservatives, who have only a small majority, under pressure from the second-place Lib Dems. All the seats are up for grabs and boundary changes across the borough means the outcome will be even more unpredictable.

Worthing – 2pm Friday May 6

A top Labour target and the party goes into the election level-pegging with the Conservatives on 17 seats each. The Tories currently run the council as a minority administration but Labour has made steady gains in recent years and is hoping to take full control this year. A third of seats are being elected.

Southampton – 5am Friday May 6

Another Labour target and winning control from the Conservatives would help demonstrate the party is building back support in southern towns and cities. The Tories are defending a majority of two and a third of the seats are being contested.

South-west England

Somerset – 4pm Friday May 6

Undergoing major changes this year in its system of local government. Until now the area has had a county council and four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Somerset West & Taunton) but these are being scrapped and replaced with a single unitary authority. Elections are taking place for all 110 seats in the new-look organisation, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats fighting for control.

Wales

Blaenau Gwent – 3pm Friday, May 6

This council has been run by a group of independents since 2017, some of whom used to be in the Labour Party. Labour is keen to take back control and might be helped by a reduction in the number of seats from 42 to 33.

Cardiff – 5pm Friday May 6

A key council for Labour, where the party will hope to defend its slim majority. The number of councillors is being increased slightly from 75 to 79, which might make the outcome more unpredictable.

Flintshire – 3pm Friday May 6 

Sits in an area of Wales, the north east, where the Conservatives did well at the 2019 general election. The party won only six council seats in 2017 compared with Labour’s 34, so they are hoping to make an advance this year. For its part, Labour will want to remain the largest party and even win a majority, although the total number of seats is being cut from 70 to 67.

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