Local elections 2024: What to watch out for

Today, voters across England head to the polls to cast votes in elections for Mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners, local Councillors and, in Blackpool South, a new MP. Consultant Callum Nimmo take you through what to watch out for.

Today’s set of elections will likely be the last before the General Election, expected in the autumn. While it’s difficult to say what the results will mean for the national voting picture, the geography of the votes will contain important clues as to whether Labour is on track to win back the ‘Red Wall,’ as well as being an important test for all parties’ election machine.

Much of the commentary has centred on two pivotal mayoral elections for the Conservatives: Andy Street in the West Midlands and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley. Both areas were once Labour strongholds, and both mayors have made considerable efforts to distance themselves from the national Conservative Party by focusing on their records in office. Losing both races for the Conservatives would be nothing short of a disaster, suggesting that even with a strong incumbent, the national brand may be too toxic for voters to stomach. Anti-Sunak MPs will likely be on manoeuvres in the event of a double defeat, as suggested by many of those in the media. Retaining both may give the PM some breathing room and suggest to his MPs and activists that all hope is not lost.

The results of the new mayoral race taking place in York and North Yorkshire will be interesting to monitor. Covering a diverse electoral area, from Labour-held York to the PM’s own constituency in Richmond, Labour’s victory in nearby Selby and Ainsty last year will give Labour some confidence that it can make progress in this area. As there is no incumbent mayor, no candidate has a record to defend meaning perceptions of the parties nationally will be an important determiner. Should the Conservatives lose in this heavily rural area, alarm bells will be sounding that nowhere can be considered ‘safe.’

Also happening today is the Blackpool South by election, triggered following a successful recall petition against Scott Benton. Differently from other recent by elections, Labour’s activist base will be spread out among all the other elections. Therefore the masses of activists descending upon Wellingborough and Kingswood, as happened in February, hasn’t been replicated in the past months. While a Labour win is expected in Blackpool, it will be a crucial test as to whether their electoral machine can produce similarly remarkable results in different circumstances.

Lastly, voters in 107 councils will vote for more than 2500 councillors. These seats were last contested in 2021, before Partygate and the Liz Truss ‘mini-budget’ when the Conservatives enjoyed a healthy lead over Labour, therefore heavy losses are already assumed. The Liberal Democrats particularly are eyeing up several council areas where they are targeting Westminster seats, such as in Wokingham and Dorset. The same goes for the Greens in Bristol and Norwich. Winning in these areas will give the Greens and Lib Democrats momentum going into the General Election, and help establish themselves as credible alternatives to the two main parties in these areas.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss what the results of today’s election could mean for your organisation: 020 7618 9100