Getting to grips with . . .

UK elections 2021: why they matter and who is tipped to win

May vote is barometer of what the electorate is thinking after a turbulent year

Elections in the UK are approaching once again, with polling cards dropping onto doormats and political parties mounting their campaigns.

After local elections were delayed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s will be the biggest since 1973, when local government was reorganised, says Stephen Bush in the New Statesman.

And, with many seats last fought over “before the 2016 Brexit vote and the subsequent realignments in voting behaviour”, there is a “greater possibility of surprising results”, he adds.

When are the elections?

Several different elections are due to be held on Thursday 6 May.

What elections are taking place?
  • Local council elections in England
  • Local and combined authority mayoral elections
  • Mayor of London and London Assembly elections
  • Police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales
  • Welsh parliamentary election
  • Scottish parliamentary election
  • Hartlepool by-election
Why do they matter?

The 6 May elections will be “looming large in the minds of politicians and strategists across all the major parties and particularly the Conservatives”, says Mark Wallace on iNews.

The “drought of elections” during the pandemic means this year is the “political equivalent of a lottery rollover”, and will offer a much-needed barometer of what the electorate is thinking. “This is the closest we ever get in this country to a midterm election,” says Wallace.

It will also be the first time that long-term Labour supporters who switched to the Tories in 2019 will have a chance to revisit their decision.

Harry Phibbs at ConservativeHome points out that due to the “extraordinary” general election results 15 months ago, “we have some local authorities with Conservative MPs but no Conservative councillors”.

“The ‘red wall’ has already been breached,” he says. “Will it now be demolished?”

Who is tipped to win?

Betting app SBK has shortened its odds to 7/19 on the Tories winning the highest vote share in the local elections, with Labour on 31/18. The latest YouGov Westminster voting intention figures also give the Conservatives a ten-point lead over the opposition.

But the by-election in Hartlepool, triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Mike Hill, is “viewed by many as the definitive judgment” on the first year of Keir Starmer's leadership, says Patrick Maguire at The Times. While Labour is the bookies’ favourite to retain the seat, a poll carried out by Focaldata for the newspaper found that the opposition’s lead was just three points over the Tories, down from 11 points when Hill was elected in 2019.

“The Labour leadership will have to overcome fierce headwinds if Starmer’s strategy of pitching directly to traditional Labour voters in the so-called red wall is to be vindicated on 6 May,” says Maguire.

Meanwhile, the capital has been declared a “one-party city” by polling expert Sir John Curtice, reports the Evening Standard, as Labour’s Sadiq Khan is on track for the biggest landslide in London mayoral election history.

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