This year’s set of local and devolved elections could be one of the biggest in the country’s recent history. It comes as the four nations begin to come out of lockdown and as the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out, but they are also the first electoral contests since the 2019 General Election, which saw the Conservatives win a number of seats in the North of England and the Midlands that had not gone blue in decades, or even in their history.
All eyes will be on the Hartlepool by-election where the Conservative Party is on track to win the seat for the first time in its history with voters seemingly undeterred by recent scandals involving the Prime Minister. The seat matters as it will provide a strong clue as to whether the government’s ‘levelling up agenda’ is really landing on doorsteps.
This will also be Keir Starmer’s first test at the ballot box as Labour Leader. His political fortunes for the rest of the year could be determined by the outcome of the Hartlepool by-election. Should the Conservatives win this contest and outperform Labour across England in several key councils, there will be big questions to answer for the Labour Leader.
The other interesting fault line of this election is the future of the United Kingdom as we know it. The SNP had looked set for a seemingly assured majority on a mandate for a second independence referendum, however the public battle between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond and the creation of the Alba Party could deny an outright majority and take the wind out of the independence campaign.
Meanwhile, Wales is experiencing a surge in nationalism, and this election could see Welsh Labour not returned to power in Cardiff Bay for the first time since 1999, when devolution began. Plaid Cymru might make its support for any administration dependent on holding an independence referendum and given the nationalist sympathies of many Labour voters, could we see a similar situation as in Scotland, where the once all-powerful Scottish Labour lost its way after its coalition fragmented on the constitutional question?
Whatever the outcome in these elections, we know one thing – these aren’t normal times and any wins shouldn’t be treated as such. The Conservative Party is enjoying a higher than normal boost at local elections aided by a successful vaccine rollout following a global pandemic, one that has seen the Opposition relegated to the metaphorical back bench. But as the rollout ends, Labour has every opportunity to come back with a revitalised Shadow Cabinet and a revolutionary manifesto.
If history has taught us one thing, the Conservatives have been the party for the emergency but the rebuild has been in Labour’s favour, something I’m sure will be on the Prime Minister’s mind as the author of Winston Churchill’s biography.
But focusing on the immediate issue at hand, this document is your need-to-know guide for election night and the days that follow.
Thanks to our newly appointed account managers, Dan Julian and Blair Campbell, this guide sets out how the campaign unfolded, and what to look out for as the votes are counted.
Once the dust has settled, Cicero/amo will help you understand the results and their implications as we enter the next phase of British politics.
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