UK coalition government faces drubbing in today’s local elections

David Cameron who on the final day of campaigning acknowledged that difficult decisions had been made. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

David Cameron who on the final day of campaigning acknowledged that difficult decisions had been made. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

Thu, May 2, 2013, 06:06


British government parties are braced for significant losses in key local authority elections today in England and Wales, which could sharply increase tensions between them.

The Conservatives alone could lose 300 seats, or more – senior party figures are setting the bar even higher at 500, and the Liberal Democrats are equally worried.

During a final day of campaigning, prime minister David Cameron sent out a series of dog-whistles to supporters, hinting at tougher immigration rules “within weeks” and legislation before the 2015 election for a subsequent referendum on EU membership.

In addition, ministers announced that the fees lawyers can charge for handling simple uncontested compensation claims for traffic injuries will be cut by more than half – from £1,200 to £500.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that difficult decisions have been made: “I think people understand that, but often it’s not welcome and often it can lead to people feeling frustrated.”

The Tories are particularly vulnerable because the seats in play today were last contested in 2009 when Labour’s fortunes were at their nadir as they struggled through their last year in government. Equally, post-election analysis for the Tories will be coloured by the fact that most of the councils in England facing re-election are controlled by the party.


Focus on Ukip
The majority of post-election attention will focus on the UK Independence Party: on if it makes significant gains and, or if, it causes the Tories to lose seats to other parties it could not win itself. A late Comres opinion poll claimed Ukip could win 22 per cent of the vote, nine points behind the Tories and two points behind Labour, but a clear 10 percentage points ahead of the Lib Dems.

The anti-EU party could equally become the protest option for voters of all persuasions, and none – though the significance of this may depend on turnout. This is unlikely to be higher than 50 per cent and could struggle in many places to even reach a third of the electorate.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has his own challenges, since Labour must make gains if he is to convince doubters that he can win the 2015 general election – even though the councils being contested are traditionally Conservative.