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The final countdown: Local Elections 2024

local elections

Over the last six weeks, the Local Advocacy team at SEC Newgate has profiled some of the key battlegrounds in today’s elections: London, West Midlands, Essex, Tees Valley, Bristol & the South-West, Greater Manchester. In all, 107 councils, 11 mayors, the 25 members of the Greater London Authority, and all 37 Police and Crime Commissioners are up for election. There’s also the Blackpool South by-election, which seems a shoo-in for Labour.

For the locals, it’s all about how bad the Conservatives will do and whether Labour can keep up the momentum in a general election year. The Conservatives' dismal poll numbers, not to mention the growing list of their scandal-ridden MPs, means there is not much room for optimism for them.

Come the results, we recommend looking beyond the headlines. The biggest concern for both parties is how many seats are going from blue to red. Direct switches have double the impact and indicate the mood of the country has shifted in a positive sense. Losses to Lib Dems and Independents (the growing local force over the last few elections) could be seen to be more of a sideshow but we’d also be keen to watch for evidence of anti-Conservative tactical voting which was certainly a factor in the run-up to the 1997 election - which Starmer is looking to emulate and surpass in “swing”. There are some notable informal election pacts in Essex this year.

Our sense is that if the Conservatives loses 50% of council seats and/or Andy Street/Ben Houchen, Sunak could face a challenge to his leadership next week. If Susan Hall wins, he will be safe for the election as that would be something of a coup. Many are now rueing not finding a more “star-like” candidate in London. Expectations are high that the Conservatives could deny Labour their chance of a key victory in Harlow, but their leading roles in hung councils in Thurrock and Southend are likely to decline. Losses in the heartlands will hurt the most and more strongly presage collapse at the general election. 

Meanwhile, our Labour intel is reporting upbeat signs everywhere except outer London, where the results of the “doughnut strategy” are becoming apparent. Khan could pile up the vote in inner London while doing even worse than predicted in many outer London boroughs. The success of the attempt to squeeze the already very small Lib Dem vote (“don’t risk a Tory”) is unsure, and in our experience, Green voters (who may be 10% this time) aren’t very susceptible to it at all. Khan should still win, as not enough anti-Labour votes are switching directly to Hall. If the two Conservative mayors hold on, the reasonable response is that they did so despite party affiliation, not because of it. Therefore, voters are still up for grabs for the general election. Overall, Labour wants a vote share increase on 2022 and 2023 elections. We think Labour will end up running more councils in NOC minority administrations and get enough gain to show continuing progress.

Our Local Advocacy team is running CPD sessions to help you make sense of what the local elections could mean for your business, so get in touch with one of our local experts to get yours booked in for your office.